28th July 1960:
Princess Elizabeth

28th July 1960:
Princess Elizabeth
Princess Elizabeth alongside Torquay. // John Megoran

On Thursday 28th July 1960 Princess Elizabeth was scheduled to leave Torquay at 10am for a day trip to Plymouth due back at 8pm.

Princess Elizabeth Steamer Notice Torquay 1960.

I have the engine room log for the Lizzie for that season here with me and that shows the timings for the day as well as other technical matters relating to the engine room. It shows that for some reason, not given in the log, it was nearly 10.30am before the Lizzie finally got away that morning half an hour late.

The course for the 4 mile run across to Berry Head is 135 degrees which would have been passed at 11am. Then it was onto 210 degrees for the 12 mile run down to Start Point passing the entrance to the River Dart at 11.30am and then rounding Start Point at 12.20pm. Then it was 245 degrees for the 4 nautical miles to Prawle Point which was rounded at 12.45pm and then onto 280 degrees for the two and a half miles on to Bolt head off Salcombe which was passed at 1pm and then 295 degrees for the 20 nautical mile run along the Devon Coast to the entrance to Plymouth Sound which was entered shorty after 3pm with the Lizzie finally tying up in the Millbay Docks by 3.25pm.

This was a long old day trip of 41 nautical miles along an exposed coast with no shelter from the seas rolling in from the Atlantic. The Lizzie was capable of about 11 knots but with this trip taking almost 5 hours on this day her speed over the ground was just 9 knots so she had been knocked back by as much as 2 knots by adverse tides and the effect of the wind and the waves.

In my experience it can often be a bit lumpy off Start Point. And the course from Prawle Point on to Plymouth put the Lizzie broadside on to the waves caused by the prevailing south westerly winds which would have made her roll as well as slowing her down. And while a bit of rocking and rolling is fine and may be fun for a short time, doing it incessantly for two whole and long hours can wear a little thin particularly with not much to look at in terms of scenery with the coast at some points now more than 2 nautical miles distant.

Dining Saloon on Princess Elizabeth with the ladies’ lavatory at the aft end through the door.

For those with better sea legs and stronger stomachs this sort of cruise extending over the lunchtime would have been ideal for a nice sit down lunch to pass away the time but the Lizzie didn’t really offer that, at least not on any scale.

Her catering facilities were on the wrong side of basic with her main deck dining saloon being able to seat only about sixty six at any one time out of her then passenger capacity on her BOT Class III Passenger Certificate of 420. There was a second saloon beneath that on the lower deck aft but one of the alterations the Board of Trade had required of her new owners was the fitting of a bulkhead across the middle of it so what was left wasn’t very big.

The steamer notice declared that the Lizzie was “Equipped with every comfort aboard, ample covered accommodation, fully licenced spacious saloons and parties specially catered for” but it doesn’t say anything about food or catering for individuals who were not members of a pre-booked party.

Having given the passengers just one hour ashore on this long day cruise, the Lizzie set off on the return voyage at 4.25pm passing Salcombe at 6pm, Start Point at 6.40pm and arriving back in Torquay at 8.50pm, almost one hour late. She was advertised to run an evening cruise at 8pm but because she was so late back this had to be cancelled.

The passengers had been at sea for nine and a half hours on a boat with limited catering facilities for a long day out. They had spent just 1 hour ashore in Plymouth. And any who had booked an evening meal at their hotel might have lost it a she was so late back. I look at this and I don’t see this as a winning formula amongst the main holiday-making market segment.

The following week the Thursday Plymouth sailing was moved to the Tuesday and the Tuesday day trip to Lyme Regis was moved to the Thursday as you can see from the red amendment on the timetable above.

Lyme Regis is a shorter run with a distance of just 28 nautical miles. And the course of 55 degrees out and 235 degrees back meant that the prevailing south westerly winds were pretty much directly behind her on the way out and dead ahead on the way back so there wasn’t any rocking and rolling. And the whole trip was in the lee of Start Point in the SW winds where on the Plymouth run the next land on the port bow was America.

This trip also enabled a later departure time of 10.45am and an earlier return time of 5.45pm which suited a lot of holiday-makers better particularly if they were on bed, breakfast and full board in their accommodation. A shorter trip meant burning less fuel. And Lyme Regis is a delightful and pretty little town. Plymouth may have many virtues but with its industrial hinterland it is not that.

The Lizzie ran to Plymouth on three further Tuesdays in August but loadings continued to be poor and from Tuesday 23rd August these long day trips were abandoned and instead she ran afternoon cruises along the Devon Coast leaving Torquay at 2.45pm back 5.45pm on all subsequent Tuesdays up to 20th September.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 28th July 2021.