Author Archives: The Barge Blog
Time to pack up at the end of a cold and tiring day. It was TSBT’s Open Day at Maldon Hythe Quay yesterday.
Large number of visitors enjoyed tea and home-made cakes on board sb Centaur and were no doubt pleased to sit down out of the wind for a while with a warming cuppa. Wonderful TSBT volunteers were showing adults, children and dogs round the barge. Funny to see little dogs with short legs not liking the steep slope up to the deck at high tide. Several stopped half way and didn’t want to move.
TSBT generously invited SSBR to have a table in their tent on the Quay. Don Wright and I talked to lots of visitors and acted as a Scooter Park for all the children, but sadly did not sell a single book! Still at least we were there showing the SSBR banner.
Sb Thistle went out for an afternoon sail to Osea. Here she is nearly home.
Because she lives at Gun Wharf, Portsmouth, where she is the only Thames sailing barge, we tend not to hear much about sb Alice.
But My Classic Boat has a lovely film showing the mast being re-hoisted for the winter after the sails had been removed, with owner Alan Gick telling us about Alice’s history, the work done on her, and how he uses her now.
Things seem to be moving fast now with Blue Mermaid.
Today we get these great pictures of her topsail being worked on at James Lawrence Sailmakers, where sponsor Maldon Little Ship Club’s logo is being applied.
It’s clearly a Gravesend week. Two days ago we highlighted the coming auction of West Street Pier in the town. Some barge people have since suggested it would make a good base for Thames Sailing Barges – lot of money, lot of work needed, as ever with barges.
Now today there is an article in The Times about that whale which came for an autumn holiday in the Thames at Lower Hope Reach, and liked it so much it stayed around the area for several months, even being seen off Gravesend Promenade. Although nobody knows whether it is male or female, it was christened Benny by local people and seems to have contributed considerably to the town’s economy. Postcards, mugs, fridge magnets and cuddly toy whales appeared in the shops, and there was even “Bennie’s Ale” at one of the pubs.
When we went over on the ferry for the SSBR Committee meeting at the marvellous Three Daws last autumn we all had our eyes peeled but didn’t have the luck to see Benny.
The last sighting was January 6th and even that is just a maybe. Has Benny gone? Did it decide the Thames in December was not the place to be? Gravesend businesses hope not. They hope Benny may be in the outer estuary, or if it has gone that it will come back again. They say Benny had adapted well to life in the river and was happy.
For the sake of all those Benny fridge magnets, they hope to see the whale again.
Read the story here.
Many thanks to Gravesend resident and SSBR Vice Chairman, Roger Newlyn, for bringing to my attention an advertisement for the sale of West Street Pier.
The pier has been the Kent terminal of the Tilbury – Gravesend Ferry for as long as I can remember. In my young days the foot ferry was surpassed by the vehicle ferry used by Essex people on their way to the south coast holiday resorts. This involved many hours queued on the Tilbury side to drive down on to the pontoon and then on to the boat, or on the return journey lined up along West Street which seemed in those long lost days much narrower, much darker, and, dare I say, rather seedy. Somehow though it all added to the excitement of the holiday.
When the car ferry was no more – after the opening of the first Purfleet – Dartford tunnel – the passenger ferry had the use of the pier with just a narrow exit on to West Street. But it was shared with the Princess Pocahontas as the base for her pleasure trips up and down the river. Then the construction of the pontoon at the Town Pier meant the ferry transferred to that, and the West Street Pier stood empty and deteriorating.
The advertisement is from Network Auctions and is headlined “Rare River Thames pier to be sold at auction”. It appears the sale is on behalf of the receivers and is to take place in London on 28th February. Stuart Elliott, the auctioneer, says it is a rare and unusual opportunity for buyers, “How often can you purchase a pier on the Thames!” The guide price is £55,000 plus. The freehold pier is being sold with a separate adjacent vacant office building. According to the auctioneer the pier offers redevelopment opportunities ,subject to planning.
There is an historical plaque at the site recording it as one of the South East’s oldest transport routes. Originally there were two routes, the “Long Ferry” between Gravesend and London, and the “Cross Ferry” over to Essex.
In 1401 King Henry IV granted the Gravesend townspeople sole rights to operate the Long Ferry. At first sailing “Tilt” boats were used, with paddle steamers being introduced in 1815, but the growth of the railways meant the Long Ferry went into decline around the middle of the nineteenth century.
The Cross Ferry is even older, being recorded in the Domesday Book of 1083. Wherry rowing boats were used until they were replaced by a small steam tug in the 1840s, and by paddle steamers in 1856.
Roger feels West Street Pier is not the bargain that it seems as there have been expensive problems with the structure in the last few years.
Here’s the link to the advertisement.
Very shocked today to learn of the sudden, tragic death of Matt Care.
Matt played a huge part as a volunteer in the restoration of sb Cambria, spending many hours wielding a paint brush. He also ran the Cambria’s website and wrote a blog about the restoration, even continuing for a considerable time after he and his wife Elizabeth moved to Ireland, her home.
There they lived in a farmhouse with a smallholding and began keeping animals, expanding the variety over the years and keeping us all avidly reading about the pigs, the sheep, the goats, the ducks, etc, and of course all the work done on the house.
Matt was a man of many interests – from the lovely little westies to Citroen 2CVs, to fishing smacks. He was posting on Facebook regularly.
From a chance remark I made about how Tilbury power station in the background spoilt a picture of Cambria, he wove together a story that I loved pictures of power stations and kept posting them! Here’s how I shall remember Matt. He said he wasn’t asleep, in a hammock on Cambria at St Kat’s.
From the photograph at the top of the page it can be seen how full of life he always was. What a tragedy that he has been taken at such an early age.
We send our deepest sympathy to Elizabeth and all the family.
Thought some of our readers might like to see this photograph from The Times today. It’s from Northern Bangladesh and shows a boat on the Jamuna River loaded with dried grass. The stacks are 60ft long and 10ft high and sometimes rest on two boats floating side by side. And look the crew are up on top of it. It’s an Asian Stackie. Not sure what the one standing up is doing. He could be desperately pulling on the strapping to stop the load shifting or maybe there’s some sort of controller to steer the boat. The one sitting down looks every bit as if he has a mobile ‘phone clasped to his ear!
Here’s a nice story in Kent on Line from Bill Sutherland about his family.
The Medway bawley Thistle is currently at Faversham for restoration. She was owned by Bill’s grandfather and the family for many years. Here’s the link
SSBR was at Fambridge River Festival yesterday in its fourth year. But no sunlit pictures this time. We were all drowned SSBR rats, and the picture shows two of us together with hastily boxed up books, sopping wet table covers, wet posters shredded by the high winds, and plastic covers over the tables.
From opening at 10.00 to about 11.45 everything was lovely: fine weather and lots of people; Pudge and Ironsides on the pontoon, together with Pioneer, Marigold, the tug Barking and the Burnham on Crouch RNLI inshore boat; a classic car show; a climbing wall; music from the stage so old that even I knew the lyrics; Kevin Finch with some of his shipwright tools, “I just went round the workshop and picked up some things I thought would be of interest”; lots of food and drink stalls from Posh Coffee to Pimms, from lamb shank to hot dogs, from crêpes to ice cream – and no, I didn’t have an ice cream, too wet and cold; yes, I did have a crêpe. We sold a very respectable number of books including Jimmy Lawrence’s new one, “London Light, a Sailorman’s Story,” and the last “Sailing Barge Compendium”. We took some membership subscriptions and found some potential new members.
But by 12 noon the rain was steady. Can’t sell books and magazines in the rain. We covered the table tops with plastic sheets. The high wind seemed determined to rip the SSBR banner away from its pole – the usual two cords tying it to the tent frame had to be increased to four and still the wind pulled the metal pole out of shape. We tied our splendid new gazebo by its legs to the tables, themselves so heavy with books they were unlikely to move. We stuck it out for well over an hour while the wind increased and the rain got heavier. Surprisingly the visitors stayed for quite a long time, all getting drenched, but eventually they drifted away and the place became deserted
We packed up and took all the stuff back to the Archive. There are a lot of things that now need mud removed and drying out – not least me. Clothes went straight into the washing machine. Still, at least we were all home much earlier than expected.
Many thanks to Don Wright, Graham Dent and Tim Mileson who all responded to the plea for help, and to Dilys Renouf who also came along.
I’m beginning to think that someone on The Times’s editorial or photographic staff is a Thames barge fan.
Again today there is a superb barge picture, this time by John Lewington of barges in “a Thames barge race in Southend”. Difficult to work out from the description whether it is a Thames Match at Southend, or a Southend Match.
The photograph has been entered for the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society’s photography competition, now in its 179th year.