Monthly Archives: April 2012

A craftsman at work – the sailmaker

It was a really cold, wet day, and as we sat aboard Cambria waiting for the Gravesend crowds to come and view her, we were not that surprised that they didn’t flock down on to the new pontoon.   Some came, a few brave souls with children wanting to see what it was all about.

And then, about 4 o’clock my day was made really worthwhile.

Cambria had a tear in her topsail that needed to be repaired before she goes back to Faversham at the end of the week, and she was expecting the sailmaker.   A dripping wet figure in wellies and waterproofs descended the ladder, and it was Steve Hall the sailmaker from North Sea Sails of Tollesbury.   He is one of the very few traditional sailmakers left.

He set to work, expertly measuring the size of the piece of canvas he needed, cutting it, and then sewing it neatly into place with small, regular stitches.    This all done on the splendid topsail that he himself had made not that long ago.   He made it look easy, but it’s only easy if you know how and have years of experience.   And all the while he talked in the wonderful real Essex tones, (not that rubbish you hear on TOWIE and similar programmes, which is actually part London and part transatlantic TV speak).

We had a long discussion as fellow enthusiasts of Jeeves and Wooster, but Steve’s much better at it than I am, and can quote reams of it.

And I felt then as I watched him, and I still feel now, that I have been truly privileged to spend the afternoon in the company of a master craftsman and watch him at his work.  

(Tricia)                                                                                       (photo – Dave Brooks)

Support for Westmoreland

The Thames Sailing Barge Westmoreland now has her own Facebook page.    Please “like” it and show support for her restoration at Lower Halstow.

Support the Westmoreland!

Thames Sailing Barge ‘Westmoreland’

The last surviving Kent brick barge and famous racer, Westmoreland has lain derelict for 40 years.     A Heritage Lottery Bid is now underway to save her.

Cambria is at Gravesend and open for visits

Cambria will be lying at the new Town Pier Pontoon, Gravesend, until 3rd May.

She will be open for visits on any day in that period at the following times, 10.30am, 12 noon, 2.30pm and 4.00pm.    Every effort will be made to stick to that programme, but some time slots may need to be dropped if there are insufficient people to man the barge.

Cambria brought the first of this year’s groups of young carers, (part of the Rotary International scheme), up from the Swale at the weekend  –  a successful charter.

Hilary Halajko said, “the new bowsprit is fab.   We had a lovely beat up sea reach on Saturday night.   Bit too windy for the jib topsail but we had it set earlier in the day.”

(Photographs  –  Dave Brooks)

Update on a home for Westmoreland’s restoration

Dave Brooks has started a thread on the Lower Halstow parish website, urging the Council to allow Westmoreland to return home.

If you agree, please put a comment on the thread started by Dave, which is at:

The more comments we can generate, the more it will send a message to the Council.

You can read the whole story here:


BBC2 programme is Wednesday, not Tuesday – Sorry

Ed Gransden has kindly pointed out that your Editor is totally confused about the days, (put it down to the bank holiday last week which made everything different), and that the “Our Food” programme is actually on Wednesday at 8.00pm on BBC2.

I’ve checked the schedules myself now, and confirm that it will be Wednesday that we will see Lady of the Lea and Edith May.   Apparently it will be Giles Coren presenting from on board Lady of the Lea on the Medway.

So NOT Tuesday, but Wednesday. 

Two ladies to star on BBC2 next Tuesday

Edith May Trading Company has let us know that she will be starring in a television programme next week, together with Lady of the Lea.

The programme is on BBC2 on Tuesday 17 April, at 8.00pm, and is called “Our Food”.   It’s a series, and this particular edition features Kent, and will tell how Thames sailing barges used to take fruit to London.   It was filmed aboard Lady of the Lea, with what is described as “a special guest appearance from Edith May”.  Can’t wait to see them both.

Here’s Edith May about to  go under the Orwell Bridge to the Ipswich Parade of Sail 2011, and proudly flying all her winner’s pennants.  (photo – Dave Brooks)

And this is Lady of the Lea finishing, (last we are afraid, but she is little), in the 2010 Thames Match.  (photo – Tricia Gurnett) 


Thalatta dresses up for return to Maldon

Lovely little film report on the BBC Essex site this week about Thalatta after her million pound restoration.    She left St Osyth, dressed overall, to return to Maldon, which will be her base.   She will be giving children a taste of barge life, where they will be sleeping in hammocks and each have their own sea chest.

Click here to watch. 

Pudge and Centaur get ready for the season

Roger Newlyn sends us news that Pudge left Faversham last weekend, Sunday the 1st of April, following  completion of the shipwright’s work, and she arrived back in Maldon on  the evening flood tide.    Work has now commenced on fitting out the restored  stern section down below.    Her gear was being lowered this weekend for routine  maintenance, ready for the forthcoming season.

Meanwhile Good Friday saw Centaur  rigging out alongside Pudge, preparing for her shakedown  sail.

Save the Barge “WESTMORELAND” says Roger on

There’s news about the present plight of Westmoreland in a post by Roger on the Web Forum,  

He writes that Geoff Gransden, who is Project Manager for Westmoreland’s restoration, had hoped to carry out the work at Lower Halstow, her home port for sixty years.

After Colin Frake bought her, some immediate repairs were carried out at Standard Quay, Faversham, but she had to move from there.   At present she is in a lighter at Otterham.   A lottery bid is being made for funding to carry out the restoration.

Lower Halstow Parish Council was asked to agree to the restoration of Westmoreland being carried out at the dock.   There is apparently considerable public support in the village for Westmoreland to “come home”.   At first the Parish Council was split on whether to give permission, but now its members have voted unanimously to refuse, so Westmoreland has no base for her restoration.

Roger is asking for support in trying to change the Parish Council’s decision.   Here’s the link to the story:;topicseen

Roger also gives some websites where well-wishers can record their views, and here they are:-

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