On Wednesday 1st September 1937 Cosens’s Victoria (pictured with her bow on the beach at West Bay) was scheduled to run a day trip from Weymouth at 9am around Portland Bill and along the Dorset coast to call at West Bay at 12noon before sailing on along the Devon Coast to Lyme Regis (12.45pm) where passengers could have had about three and a half hours ashore or to Seaton (1.45pm – 3.45pm) for about two hours ashore.
Sometimes Victoria put her bow into the entrance to West Bay Harbour and landed passengers on the quay wall. At other times she put her bow onto the beach just to the west of the harbour entrance.
At Lyme Regis she berthed at the end of the small jetty sticking out from the harbour on the south side at the end of the Cobb. At Seaton she put her bow onto the beach.
Loading over the bow from the beach was a tricky manoeuvre which required a fairly steeply shelving shingle beach onto which the bow could be pushed and only really worked in places with a modest tidal range. A kedge anchor was often dropped over the stern on the way in to steady the ship but once the bow was firmly in place the engine was put full ahead with the wash from the paddle wheels over the rudder at the stern keeping the ship steady on the beach.
All sea-going paddle steamer rides are weather dependent. This route calling at the Dorset and Devon beaches was particularly so as the prevailing wind is from the south west blowing straight onto the beaches from the sea and without any shelter. Also, the pattern of the prevailing SW wind is that whatever it is in the morning it is likely to be more in the afternoon so collecting passengers for the return trip was often more difficult than landing them in the morning.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 1st September 2020.