Update on what we are doing

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2020  –  Well, here we are again, once more in Lockdown although a little less severe this time.   Work on maintaining barges goes ahead as that’s something that can be done in isolation, or with  sufficient room for social distancing by a few volunteers.

We at SSBR cannot hold meetings in person, but have met by Zoom so the admin gets done and decisions get made by Zoom, email or telephone.   One of those decisions was that we could not hold The Bargeman’s Award competition in 2020, but let’s hope we can get back with it in 2021.  Incidentally, it was good to see one of our former winners, Laurie Watkins, on Channel 4 TV last week, when he and skipper Andy Taylor took sb Lady Daphne up river to the Pool of London with Gyles Brandreth and Sheila Hancock on board.   They were making an episode of the Great Canal Journeys programme, and were very excited when Tower Bridge lifted for Lady Daphne to pass through.

Members of SSBR will, in the last week or so, have received this year’s edition of Topsail and the autumn issue of Mainsheet.   How’s that for a bumper bundle of treats!   Congratulations to Editors, Richard Walsh and Charles Traill, and indeed their respective printers, for getting them out in these difficult times and keeping up contact with our members.


Since we wrote in May about how SSBR’s programme would be affected by the Coronavirus pandemic life has continued in much the same way for many of us.   The easing of lockdown has meant that some travel is allowed, but most people seem to think it is better to stay as near home as possible.

The Committee feels it is unlikely we shall be able to hold any meetings this year, but we are in frequent contact to deal with matters as they arise.

Meanwhile Sue Reed has had to stand down as Membership Secretary.   We thank her for her work since mid 2019, including handling the start-of-year subscription renewals.

For the time being Richard Walsh has kindly agreed to be Acting Membership Secretary and he will be dealing with both new applications for membership and annual renewals.   He looks forward to hearing from new members  –  there is a membership form which can be accessed via the SSBR Membership tab above, and it includes Richard’s address.   Any existing members with queries about their subscriptions can contact Richard.   We apologize to anyone who received a reminder letter when they had already paid.   Unfortunately in the hand over of records and scramble to get out the mailing a few errors occurred.

If you need to contact  Richard about membership, his details are:-  Richard Walsh,  39 Friars Road, Braughing, Hertfordshire, SG11 2NN.   Telephone:  01920 821683.   Email:  Richard@chaffcutter.com

Advance Notice about AGM

SSBR usually has its Annual General Meeting in May, but, having considered the Coronavirus road map published last week, the Committee has decided to postpone the meeting until the autumn.

The Committee held a virtual meeting on Saturday at which it was agreed that we would aim to have the AGM in early October in order to avoid clashing with any Barge Matches which might be moved to August or September. It was also agreed to hold the meeting in Gravesend.

We can now confirm that the SSBR Annual General Meeting will be held on the afternoon of Saturday 9th October at The Three Daws, West Street, Gravesend, starting at 3.00 pm.

This is, of course, subject to there being no Coronavirus restrictions at the time which would make it impossible. The meeting will be in the Function Room on the lower floor, which is large and airy.

We are looking forward to seeing our members again, having missed them during 2020 with no AGM and no events.

New Barge of the Month published today

The Barge of the Month for January is published today.   Click on the Barge of the Month page to see it.

New Barge of the Month published today

The Barge of the Month for December is published today.   Click on the Barge of the Month page to see it.

New Barge of the Month published today

The Barge of the Month for November is published today.   Click on the Barge of the Month page to see it.

Berthing fees at Hythe Quay Maldon could reduce

Maldon District Council has this week been discussing charges for its services, and one of the items on the Agenda was berthing fees at Hythe Quay. Talks are continuing but could result in fees for Maldon’s historic barges being reduced because of covid 19.

Councillors were told that some of the barge owners and organizations have lost over 70% of their expected income because of the pandemic.

The Council’s Commercial Manager said that officers frequently communicate with the barge owners.

The members decided to meet the barge owners and council officers with a view to discussing the fees in the current situation of the pandemic.

Here’s the link    to the story in Maldon Nub News.

New Barge of the Month published today

The Barge of the Month for October is published today.   Click on the Barge of the Month page to see it.

Pudge Project Update

We are reproducing an article here by the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, which is an update about the work on sb Pudge:-

Pudge Project Update – An update on the work that has been carried out by Kevin Finch at KJ Finch Shipwrights at Fullbridge during September and early October.

The steel beams that we awaited have now arrived. These beams go right across the barge at deck level to support the forward and after ends of both hatches known as headledges. However, this gave the shipwrights the opportunity to work on another necessary job at the bow.

For some time we had been concerned that some cracks in the timber of the stem had been getting wider and had already purchased a piece of timber to fashion a new stem. To remove the old stem it is necessary to first remove the stemband. This is a steel bar around 4” wide and 1” thick which is fastened right up the front of the wooden stem. At its top end it has a forged eye to which the forestay is attached and bolt holes spaced along its length for fitting it to the stem. The shipwrights have now fashioned and fitted the new stem and are waiting for the blacksmith to complete fashioning a new stemband which will be changed slightly in design in order to give the new stem a longer life.

It was also necessary to make some repairs to the inside edge of the covering board, the deck plank that goes all the way round the outside edge of the barge, covering over the top of all the framework and to which the rails are fastened. We knew that in places there were small amounts of rot along the edge of the covering board which would need to be repaired before deck planking could begin.

The new beams duly arrived and as Kevin Finch had made patterns of all the bolthole positions in the old beams he was able to transfer them directly to the new beams using a magnetic base drill. This speeded up the process and they were soon being craned on board into position and bolted in place.

The shipwrights were then able to start work on the deck planking, beginning with the mast deck. All the deck planks had been previously cut to length with caulking grooves running down the side. Thicker and stronger timber is used under the mast, which also sits on top of a 9” square wooden beam with a steel pole going down to the keelson. This ensures that the deck can take the extreme load and pressure exerted by the mast, especially when sailing in heavy weather conditions. As each area of decking is completed all the caulking seams are covered with tape to keep out any dirt, shavings etc. and they are given a coat of primer.

In the latter weeks of September the weather began to change. Fortunately Pudge already has a purpose built cover which was immediately brought to Fullbridge Quay by a few of our volunteers and under the guidance of the Trust’s ‘tent erector in chief’ the shipwrights soon had it in position and bowsed down firmly. This enabled work to continue on the deck at a pace and in the dry.

The next area to be tackled was the foredeck, but before that could be started the windlass bitts, which had already been prepared in the yard, had to be put in place. The bitts are the large timber posts on each side of the anchor windlass which hold all the operating parts in position. Normally only the upper, above decks section of these timber posts are seen, however for maximum strength they go through the deck and right down to the bottom of the barge. Directly in front of them is the last of the five new steel beams which have been fitted. We call this the thrust beam because it helps take the thrust of the massive force that the anchor can place on the windlass at times. Once the bitts were completed it was time for the majority of the foredeck to be laid from the stem back to the forward headledge of the forehatch.

The shipwrights followed on by completing the afterdeck in the same manner from the transom up to the after headledge of the mainhatch.

Once these three areas of decking are complete it is time to fit the king planks. The king planks are the double width deck planks that go right along the length of the barge from stem to stern and also act as a base for the sides or coamings of the forehatch and mainhatch. At the time of writing the king planks have been cut and laid in position on both sides. The scarfs have been cut and are in the process of being glued.

How to de-rig a barge for the winter

Excellent film by Ed Gransden, of sb Edith May, about de-rigging for the winter – a step-by-step guide.

Greta has her new engine

Wonderful news that the crowdfunding has raised over £8,000 and the new engine for sb Greta has been bought.

New Barge of the Month published today

The Barge of the Month for September is published today.   Click on the Barge of the Month page to see it.

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