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.
Our Archive will be open and one of our committee will be there to show you the vast collection of photographs, books, documents and other artifacts about Thames sailing barges. Sterling work has been done over the years by our Archivist, Don Wright, ably assisted by Society Secretary, John White, in getting all this treasury of information catalogued and properly stored. (Picture shows John and Don outside the Archive.)
Then down by the river, we shall have a gazebo with display panels and literature about the Society of Sailing Barge Research, and our committee will be very
happy to talk to visitors about barges and the Society. Our books and magazines will be on sale and we shall, of course, also have membership forms there. At £20 a year it is great value and you will receive our two excellent publications, Topsail annually and Mainsheet twice a year. And members receive occasional books published by the Society for Sailing Barge Research free of charge; last year there were two excellent such freebies, Still in the Samphire, the Society’s 50th anniversary history, and The Prowess of Charlie Fielder.
The festival will coincide with the Old Gaffers Association 30th Anniversary Crouch Rally visit to the North Fambridge Yacht Club. There will be gig racing on the river, and stands including those taken by the Coastguard, the RNLI, a sail-maker, and many more. sb Ironsides will be present.
More details nearer the date.
At last week’s SSBR Committee meeting we talked about sb Ironsides and heard that Toby Lester, owner of Ironsides, hoped to have her sailing again this summer, with more restoration work after that. A lot of new steel has been put into the barge.
Today the Ironsides Facebook page has noted that she is about to come out of dry dock and has published a series of photos of the restoration. It says:-
“Ironsides – So far this has been a very busy week as we are due to leave the dry dock next week, so lots of anti-foul and painting has been done inside and out, but hopefully she is now looking smart. Next job the rigging. “
Here are the facts about Ironsides – Staysail Class; Bob:- Swallowtail with ‘tower’ emblem on blue ground. Official No 112710, 78 ton; Built of Dutch iron at West Thurrock in 1900 by Clarke & Stanfield; 85 x 20.3 x 6.4. Owned by A.P.C.M. and sold to L.R.T.C. in 1928; she was converted to a motor barge in 1938 and traded to northern France. She was sold to Alan Reekie in 1968; re-rigged at Brentford and became a successful racing and charter barge. Afterwards owned by Mark Tower, she was based at Maldon / St Katherine’s. From 2003 she has been at Faversham for refitting. Now owned by Toby Lester and Linda Hoy who plan to have her sailing this year after an extensive refurbishment to her hull, deck and topsides.
We wish Toby and Ironsides all the best for the sailing season.
Photos courtesy of sb Ironsides.