The sailing barge world was stunned by the recent news of the death at age 55 of Capt Mark Boyle, the organising secretary of the Thames Sailing Barge Match, since it was revived by him to celebrate the 50th anniversary of V.E. Day in 1995.
Mark’s love of sailing barges was kindled by the gift of a model kit when he was a child. He built the model and was later taken to Maldon, Essex to see the real thing. To his disappointment he realised that his model was full of inaccuracies, and on returning home he set about putting it right!
Mark was a gifted historian with a wealth of knowledge on subjects as diverse as sailing barges and the Spanish Peninsular War. He was also a talented author, writing articles for magazines about the sailing barges and his experiences afloat, having ‘gone to sea’ in his teens in the coasting trade aboard ex. ‘sailormen’ by then trading under power alone. Through later years he crewed aboard the charter and hospitality barges that plied the coast, gaining his Sailing Barge Master’s ticket in 1987.
Not content with working aboard the last of the trading barges, Mark developed his shipwrighting skills which have left their mark on many of the genre. These include the Cabby, Dawn and, most recently, the magnificently restored Cambria to which he applied his talent and satisfied his barge preservation aspirations at the same time. He recognised that for the restoration movement to have lasting relevance, it is equally important to preserve the environment of the sailing barge. Sadly, the wharves and bargeyards have fallen prey to much questionable re-development, but Mark realised the equal importance of the ‘on the water’ activities, and saw an opportunity to contest the Championship of the London River again through the conduit of a revived Thames Sailing Barge Match.
The enormity of the task before him in restoring this, the original barge match, to its rightful place in the sailing barge calendar would have scuppered many a capable organiser. In the wake of the success of the 1995 race, there was an appetite for more. Mark sought out the families which had played their part 100 and more years ago, with the result that the iconic names of sailing barge owners Everard, Clarabut and Goldsmith became associated with the Match once again. The outcome of his effort and commitment is evidenced by the current series being the longest ever continuous revival of the race since its founding by Henry Dodd in 1863.
The sailing barge fraternity has lost one of its stalwart supporters and his passing will have a significant impact in many ways. The Thames Match committee has met and decided to continue with the organising of this year’s event, the 150th anniversary of the first, which will take place on Saturday 13th July and be known as The Mark Boyle Memorial Thames Sailing Barge Match in honour of his vision and dedication to a sailing contest almost as old as the America’s Cup.
(This tribute to Mark Boyle was written by Richard Walsh, who is Acting Match Secretary for this year’s Thames Match. It is reproduced from the Thames Barge Match website, where the photograph of Mark also appears.)
Heard quite by chance that a flotilla of 14 tall ships was going up river from Tilbury. They are to provide short sails on the Thames in London during the Olympics under the banner Sail Royal Greenwich, and gourmet catering is promised plus a view of all the London sights.
Normally when I go to Tilbury Landing Stage for such an event, there are only a few hardened watchers there, but this morning, driven no doubt by the school holidays and the excellent weather, it was packed. People everywhere; the ferry passengers had a great view; and over there at the new Gravesend Town Pier pontoon was a lady I thought I knew – a grey and black lady with fresh paint. Cambria back ready for the Thames Match on Saturday.
The tall ships were moored at Tilbury Landing Stage overnight, and took passengers on board this morning, who, we were told, had been brought down river by Thames Clipper. They left the landing stage under motor, but soon the sails began to unfurl.
Then, on a sparkling sunny morning, they formed up into a wonderful stately parade of sail for the journey up to Greenwich. Standing on the landing stage, unfortunately I was facing straight into the sun so the pictures I took are darker than the beautiful day would have suggested.
Once the sails had disappeared behind Tilbury docks, I raced by car back to Grays and down to the riverside by the old Wouldham works. I missed the frontrunner, but was in time to see all the rest as they came past. It was low water, so they had to be right in the middle to pick up the channel. And luckily the huge Cobelfret ships stayed well back until the parade had passed.
Then they were gone. The Sail Royal Greenwich website here tells you all about what the ships will be doing, and also mentions that today’s sail had to be curtailed. They were not allowed to go right to Greenwich for security reasons, presumably Olympics security. A friend tells me it was disappointing earlier as the river front at Greenwich was packed with people who had come to watch, but the ships had to turn back. Tonight though they eventually made it to Greenwich.
(Words and pictures – Tricia Gurnett)
Much better weather around the Thames area makes it a grand weekend for the barges. Here’s what some of them have to say over the last couple of days:-
Peter Phillips says, “Thalatta doing what she does best! Cyril, Roger, Rita and a barge load of children cruising the Blackwater.” (photo – Peter Phillips)
Thames Barge Orinoco says, “Fantastic charter yesterday! And again today; all sitting in the sunshine on the deck watching the world go by.” (photo – sb Orinoco)
Annie Meadows says, “We have 45 artists on board today; hoping I will be allowed to photograph some of their work.”
Cambria is at Pin Mill, where Richard Titchener, Hilary Halajko and the Sea Change youngsters on board have been busy. Dave Brooks went to visit them and took some pictures.
Dave says, “Cambria is on the blocks at Pin Mill, and Skipper Richard Titchener is showing the way as Sea Change do a fantastic job of painting her up in readiness for the Thames match next weekend.” (photo – Dave Brooks)
Dave goes on to say “The locals didn’t recognize her with the black leeboards, so when in Pin Mill do as Bob Roberts would have done and paint them.” Cambria now has tri-colour leeboards. (photo – Dave Brooks)
Dave had something else to tell us too. “For the first time in over 40 years Cambria returns to Pin Mill. It stirred a few memories of some of the people living there who remember her from the Bob Roberts days.” (Photo – Dave Brooks)
Meanwhile two special events are going on today:- the Harwich Sea Festival and Lifeboat Day and the Nautical Festival at Faversham. Lovely weather for both of them, with lots of good things to see and do, and a great atmosphere.
And now Ed Gransden joins in to tell us, “Sailing past Horrid hill, riverside. Cracking day today – I knew this summer would be a good one….”
The Barge Blog has been so busy that there was no time to publish Dave Brooks’s winter report from Cambria earlier, but here it is.
“It has been a busy close season for the Cambria. Many of our objectives have been achieved, though some will have to carried forward to next year.
“The main focus of this close season was to have the Rotary Club Logo painted into the tops’l, (Rotary International is a sponsor of Cambria), which has been completed, and to replace our old ‘whippy’ bowsprit, which has been fitted.
“Sailing plans started with Cambria leaving Faversham on Friday 20th April, under Richard Titchener, and arriving in Gravesend on the 22nd to sit on the new pontoon at Gravesend Town Pier as part of its opening event. We had the barge open to the public as much as possible, although the weather didn’t do much to encourage visitors. She left Gravesend on the 4th May to return to Faversham where her re-dedication ceremony took place on Standard Quay on the 9th May.
“We expect to be racing in the Medway Match on the 26th May, the Thames Match on the 28th July and the Colne Match on the 8th September.
“The sailing season is back.”
Photo by Dave Brooks shows Cambria lying at the Gravesend Town Pier Pontoon, and yes, Matt C and Jeremy T, that is the power station!