Thames Sailing Barges Racing – The Passage Match 2021

This year’s match was a bit different.  Just two barges took part, Edith May and Blue Mermaid, and what a match it was.  Closely fought along the way, with changes of leader, and a neck-and-neck finish.  Congratulations to both skippers and crews.

Here’s the link to the video of the match, compiled by Tiller & Wheel (Ed Gransden)

Passage Match 2021 Blue Mermaid & Edith May

Picture courtesy of Jake Robshaw

Well deserved praise for Don

sb Raybel has posted a really nice story today all about a visit to Essex by Matt Houston, a former owner of the barge. He went to Maldon where he met three well-known people of the Thames sailing barge world, Barry Pearce, David Patient and Carol Greenhaugh.

Here’s the link that will tell you all about the visit.

But before that Matt went to North Fambridge to visit the Society for Sailing Barge Research’s Archive, giving him a chance to see the items about Raybel that are held there. And he was shown round by our Archivist, Don Wright. We are delighted that Raybel’s post praises Don so generously. He does an amazing amount of work for the Society. He often opens the door at his house to find boxes and boxes of photographs, books and papers that one of us has collected from a kind donor. (Former barge crew skippers and mates, and those who just like to watch and take photos, are good enough to hand over their collections to the Society when downsizing, or leave them to us in their wills.)

Don then spends many hours at his computer carefully cataloguing the contents of all those boxes. We are now at well over 40,000 items in the Archive. He then stores them in the appropriate way and is able to locate a specific item when asked for it by authors, film companies and individual members. Not just that, though, he cuts the grass outside the Archive and does all the necessary maintenance. What would we do without him?

Below is a picture of Matt Houston with Don, which gives a sneaky look inside the Archive. Don is the one on the left. Do wish you had smiled though Don.

Don Wright & Matt Houston at Archive July 2021 re Raybel former owner

Picture courtesy of sb Raybel

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.

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