It’s a barge, but not quite as we know it

The thing about The Barge Blog, the SSBR Facebook page, and the websites and pages of the individual barges is you learn a tremendous amount from them.   Between us, we have contributors and “commenters” who are not slow in coming forward to give us information about the snippets of news we feature, or photographs we publish where we don’t know very much about them.  And speaking from The Barge Blog perspective, we are very glad that they do.

This week, for example, Ryan Dale has posted a link to a picture, and has said, “not a Thames barge but it’s a spritsail rig in Italy!!”

He gave this link to the Caravan Stage Company which performs on the deck of a 30 metre tall ship as the Caravan Stage Tall Ship Theatre.   The boat, the Amara Zee, is based on the traditional design of a Thames Sailing Barge, and has the best of contemporary marine and theatre technology. With its shallow draft of 1.2 metres and its self-lowering masts via on-deck winches the boat can access virtually any waterfront community.  The Amara Zee uses the masts and rigging for the scenery, light and sound equipment and special effects.   The shows are staged on the entire deck, on the masts and rigging, on the water and land surrounding the vessel with the audience sitting on the shore.

It was not long before Martin Phillips joined in to tell us:-   “She was built in Canada, I believe by a guy called John Dearden who was a bargeman in the UK.   I sailed with him on Pudge back in the early 70s, (when I was a teenager), and I think that he had got involved with the TBSC through Silvertown Lighterage which ran May, Ethel and other barges at the time for Tate & Lyle.   John emigrated, (not sure but I think he went to Montreal when the May or the Ethel were shipped over there and decided to stay).   He started his own shipyard which designed and built this Thames Barge.   This is not a new thing because actually barges were built for UK trade in Sweden and Holland in the old days!!   It might be worth mentioning this to Geoff Harris as he went to Canada on May too, so I am sure he knows about John Dearden.”



Posted on 04/07/2012, in Amara Zee, sb Ethel, sb May, sb Pudge and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Colin Swindale

    The other two barges which operated througth Silvertown Services around this period were Olive May owned and rerigged by Alan Nelson(1969) and the Maldon built Lord Roberts bought out of trade from Rankin 1963 and rerigged in 1964 by Tony Winter. I believe Tony sold her to Albert Groom (of Albert’s Line fame)in 1974/5.
    The Olive May was nearly disqualified from one of the very early Swale matches as the crew had drunk all their free beer before the start gun…I was fortunate to sail on the Olive May around this time for various charters and matches as crew.


    • Dave Haggis

      hi Colin just red your blog! I was sailing on olive may with Alan nelson he is back in australia i’m still in contact with him we were just talking about the olive may just last week. I WAS TOLD she was laying redee to be broken up some time ago but I wasn’t shar were it was. I looked it up for alan and found she had sunk some were.if you have any photos or info let me no as I have none myself.


  2. I have pictures of this vessel which I took in Catolica some years ago. I,ll post them on the barge site soon.


  3. John Linard

    My name is John Linard and I have a wonderful picture of the barge May,can’t make out a signature on the picture. Probably the picture came through my wife’s father, Mr Ron Woods who worked for Tate & Lyle for many years, anyone interested? Regards John


  4. Dave Horsfield

    I lived on Olive May in the late 60s with Alan Nelson he bought her for £2000. We brought her up from the Medway to Teddington Lock there to discover she had death watch beetle, the previous owner was so sorry that he retuned a £1000 we had her total treated and thats where the refit all started


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