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.
Pudge is going to the Ipswich Maritime Festival and you can visit her there on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th August. She will be moored at Orwell Quay, Ipswich, and will be open to the public from 10.30 to 18.00 each day. Entry on board is free, although donations to the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, which owns and maintains Pudge, will be very welcome and will go towards her upkeep.
If you’re in the Ipswich area this weekend, do pay Pudge a visit and find out about the story of her involvement at Dunkirk.
Here’s the link to the Maritime Festival’s website, which has all the details.
There’s a good article in The Daily Telegraph about Thames barges. Written by Adam Lusher, it describes his joining the crew of Centaur for the 2013 Pin Mill Match.
Adam was clearly smitten by the barges:-
“As the red ochre sails clustered around the mouth of the Orwell, it was as if the river had returned to the days when the Thames sailing barge was the East Coast’s cargo vessel of choice, not the giant container vessels that now unload at Felixstowe, more maritime tower blocks than ships. It felt all the more dreamlike because it had seemed so improbable.”
He joined Mate, Chris Martin, on a winch but not for long:-
“…….paying crew members can choose their own activity level. Those who wish can take a turn at the winch. The seriously enthusiastic can train to be mates and skippers. Others, however, prefer to help cook lunch or simply to admire the view.
“I strongly recommend the latter. When your smiling crewmate offers you a winch handle, remember that the leeboards both weigh 1.5 muscle-sapping tons. I lasted precisely one tack, before I gasped my excuses and abandoned my station.”
Here’s Adam taking a turn on the winch with mate, Chris Martin.
We would just point out to Adam, though, that tremendous as TSBT’s work with Centaur and Pudge is, there are other Trusts working hard to preserve individual barges, several of them now proudly sailing as members of the active fleet.
Here’s the link to the full story. Well worth a read.
We were delighted today to hear from Jennifer Franks. This is what she says:-
“I am 68 now, but spent lots of time in my childhood on my Dad’s barge. In those days there was the Azima, then later the Ardwina. My brother was on the Pudge.
“My Dad took part in lots of barge matches on the Sirdar and Mirosa, amongst others, and often sailed the Sirdar advertising Bell’s whisky. In 1964, when the Queen opened the new Forth Bridge, my Dad sailed the Sirdar under it. I’ve got the photos and newspaper reports.
“My Dad was fabulous and, as far as I am concerned, Thames bargemen are the best – after my Dad of course!”
The Match was well advertised on the Quay and Promenade at Maldon, but it was disappointing that so few people were at either place for when the barges returned. Probably the time, the last one arrived at about 5.30pm, and the very cold wind by then put them off. Certainly, apart from The Barge Blog, there were only two people at the far end of the Promenade by the statue who knew what was happening.
Click here for the Results, courtesy of the Sailing Barge Association.
Why not visit them at Maldon Quay and have a guided tour of their two Thames Barges, Pudge and Centaur.
Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully received to help keep the barges sailing.
Monday 6th May – There will be shanty singers performing on board throughout the day. Barges open from 10.30am.
There will be displays showing the work of the Thames Sailing Barge Trust on board and refreshments will be available.
The Trust looks forward to welcoming you aboard.
Via Peter Ferguson we have learnt of yet another loss to the barging community. Peter has passed on the sad news that long-time member of SSBR, Mike Stammers, has died from cancer.
Mike had a great love of and interest in Thames barges. He and Peter had been close friends since their twenties, and shared many a week’s sailing together on Pudge and Centaur. His maritime interests were both professional, as Keeper of Merseyside Maritime Museum, and, in retirement, bringing his vast knowledge of vessels to publishing a number of works.
Martin Phillips has today posted a comment to our piece about the film of “The Quay”. It appears of course on that post, but it is necessary to click on “Comment” in order to see it. It deserves more prominence, so we repeat it in full here:-
“It is very sad that the landowner’s wish to develop the site has destroyed what had been developed at Standard Quay; however I feel that the coverage of this to date rather ignores reality of what has been achieved by the Thames barge and trad boat community in East Anglia.
It is depressing to read such statements as: ‘A centre for ancient maritime crafts, the quay is a haven for the few dozen surviving Thames sailing barges. But Standard Quay’s latest owner, a property developer, plans to turn it into a tourist trap with shops, restaurants and luxury houses….’
This publicity would give the impression that this was the last home of sailing barges and that the preservation skills of barge shipwrights and the home of barges has been destroyed for good by a property developer’s greed.
However this is simply a false picture. What had been achieved at Faversham in the comparatively recent past particularly around the rebuild of Cambria was great, and of course Tim Goldsack is still operating his business (albeit not at Standard Quay). The Iron Wharf is still thriving as are the regular Faversham barges Mirosa and Repertor and Lady of the Lea.
Why can’t someone make an optimistic film publicising the achievements of the TSBT (formerly the barge club) in keeping its barges sailing over the last 64 years, rebuilding two (Pudge and Centaur) WITHOUT Lottery support and taking thousands of people sailing? The Trust’s third hand/mate training has produced about 8 of the current Sailing Barge masters (including myself). It has done so much good to preserve barges and helped to bring people into the barge scene who go on to work on barges. Let’s celebrate this success please!
Maldon and the Blackwater are home to a very active fleet of barges and two barge yard (Cooks and Blackwater Marina) with blocks and 2 drydocks operating. Then there is Andy Harman’s yard at St Osyth not to forget the Pioneer rebuild and all the smacks. TS rigging has a thriving trad boat business (rerigging the Cutty Sark for example) and there is a host of evidence that the area is a hot bed of traditional skills and specialist shipwrights, riggers, metal workers, a blacksmith and much much more all based around the rich maritime heritage of the area. Topsail Charters have built a successful business over a quarter of a century preserving a fleet of active barges carrying thousands of passengers a year and employing a group of skippers and mates.
Then there are the barges themselves and the unseen efforts and huge financial commitments of private owners that has produced the wonderful sight of beautifully restored and maintained barges like Marjorie, Adieu, Edith May, Lady Daphne, Repertor, Wyvenhoe, Lady of the Lea and Phoenician and many others . Private owners are rebuilding barges like Melissa and Niagara, Ethel Maud etc, with more on the way and two new builds completed and more on the way.
I deplore the problems that have ruined all Brian Pain’s efforts to achieve a laudable goal but the picture is far from gloomy! Traditional skills are actually thriving in East Anglia and the fleet of barges and smacks is an often unpublicised gem. Where else in the UK has a fleet of traditional craft in their home waters been preserved and transformed from cargo carriers and fishing boats to working and pleasure vessels?
Yes what happened at Standard Quay was bad for one person’s dream and destroyed his hopes for the future. I dare say it was undoubtedly bad for Faversham – but that is quite a big issue and no doubt many will debate what is best for the town and the use of its creek for many years to come.
Let’s celebrate what we are really achieving guys! Please can someone make a film to show what has been achieved and what a wonderful tradition we have kept going. Tell the public and above all encourage them to join in and come sailing on our wonderful craft.”
Martin has set out a view with which I certainly agree. It does often seem that Maldon and the other places on the Essex and Suffolk coast are somewhat ignored by some leaders of the barge world. As he says, there is a thriving barge community in East Anglia, with barge yards, wonderful craftsmen, and a fleet of magnificent vessels who call it their home.
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.”