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the gentle author sails on Repertor in the Swale Match

My Google alert today told me about a really nice article on the Spitalfields Life

sb Repertor, Swale Match 2015

sb Repertor, Swale Match 2015

website entitled “Barge Racing on the Thames Estuary”.   It is written by the gentle author and is about his day last Saturday on board sb Repertor for the Swale Match.

First our author outlines the history of the barge matches, and then goes on to write about his own experience of the day.   I was struck by this paragraph which sums up his reaction:-

“For an inexperienced sailor like myself, this was an overwhelming experience – deafened by the roar and crash of the waves and the relentless slap that the wind makes upon the sail, dazzled by the reflected sunlight and buffeted by the wind which became the decisive factor of the day. The immense force of the air propelled the vast iron hull, skimming forward through the swell at an exhilarating speed, yet required immense dexterity from the crew to keep the sail trimmed and manage the switch of the mainsail from one side to the other, accompanied by the raising and lifting of the great iron  ’leeboards’ – which serve as keels to prevent the flat bottomed barge capsizing while sailing upwind.”

Like many before him, our author’s conclusion at the end of the day was:-

“Observing these historic vessels in action, and witnessing the combination of skill and physical exertion of a crew of more than eight, left me wondering at those men who once worked upon them, sailing with just a skipper, a mate and a boy.”

And as we know, many barge skippers sailed without a third hand.   Here’s the link to the full article.   All photographs courtesy of the gentle author.

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A round-up of the Swale Match

We’ve seen some really great photos of Saturday’s Swale Match.   So, to start with, here’s one that Hugh Perks sent us together with his reflections on the Match.   He was lucky enough to be on board Cambria so was able to observe his fellow SSBR Committee member, Dave Brooks, at work.

 

Swale Match 2013 (RHP)

 

Hugh writes, “Yesterday’s Swale Match  –  Plenty of wind, Force 6, got up to 33mph at one time and on Cambria we had chine out of the water frequently, lying over nicely as photo shows.    Dave Brooks was on the port bowlin’ all day;  he must have lost two stones with all his hard work.”

More pictures to come.

Niagara Rejoins the Fleet

If you had been in the vicinity of Berry Wiggins Jetty on the river Medway today, 6 August 2012, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were watching Reminder sailing.   How wrong you would have been, for today Niagara made her welcome return to the active barge fleet.   She slipped her mooring at Hoo and made her way out into the river in the late afternoon.  All around thunder rattled and lightning flashed, but unperturbed the crew of the Niagara was determined to set sail.

Niagara was built of steel in 1898 by Forrestt of Wivenhoe, who also built Atrato and Wyvenhoe.  Niagara was the biggest of the three barges by some 30 tons.  Originally built for Augustus George Hughes of East Greenwich, she was sold to the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Co Ltd of London in 1906, and by 1916 she was sold to John George Hammond of London. 

Niagara as a motor barge, India & Milwall Docks, June 24 1973

By 1924 her owners were the London and Rochester Trading Co Ltd, and, after being requisitioned by the Ministry for War Transport, she was fitted with a 3 Cyl. Kelvin engine in 1940.   After another spell requisitioned, she was sold in 1970 to William Mulcuck of Chatham who was her skipper at the time, and then in 1975 to Richard Twining of Battersea.

Niagara spent many years trading as a motor barge and her end was destined to be at a scrap yard, but her present owner, Peter Sands, acquired her in 2001 and set about returning her to sail.  Almost unnoticed down at Hoo in Kent, Niagara slowly started to take shape. And today Peter finally saw his hard work pay off as the Niagara set sails for the first time in over 70 years.

For just over an hour the crew put her through her paces, even boldly sailing her into the creek for a triumphant sail by at Whitton Marine where her rebuild took place.

It was a pleasure to witness, and to my untrained eye she looked to be going quite well.  It is hoped that she will sail in the Swale Barge Match on Saturday 11th August.

Well done to Peter and we wish you and Niagara well for the future.

An exclusive for The Barge Blog  –  words and pictures by Dave Brooks

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