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.”