We visited The Barge Tearooms at Maldon on Sunday as part of our family Christmas.
We hadn’t realized a charity rowing race would be taking place on the river in aid of RNLI, which meant there were large crowds both on Hythe Quay and all along the Promenade. It was a pretty miserable windy, wet day, and we were glad to get on board sb Hydrogen and into the tearooms. There were six of us; four scurried below into the warm, but two hardy souls stayed on deck. The cream tea was excellent, and so, apparently, was the cake. They even provide blankets and umbrellas for those who stay outside! Well worth a visit.
Because of the repairs which are taking place to the Quay there were only the three Topsail Charters barges present: sb Hydrogen, sb Thistle and sb Reminder. At Cooks Yard, sb George Smeed is now looking very smart;
still without leeboards, but two freshly painted specimens were lying nearby in the yard so could be destined for her. And sb Dawn was also there, wrapped up in her winter cover.
While we were there sb Kitty came back from a sausage-and-mash cruise and passed us on her way to Fullbridge where she is based at present.
First Peter Phillips sent us this picture, which shows Thistle with some visitors stranded on board. Apparently the children enjoyed it, but the adults were not too keen.
Then The Barge Tearooms posted some pictures showing that it can be difficult sometimes to get a cup of tea on a barge!
Today’s message from Topsail Charters tells us that thick fog is hampering barges returning to Maldon. Thistle is in a “pea souper” off Harwich, and Reminder is out at Brightlingsea.
A round-up from some of the barges as the season draws nearer to its close.
Peter Phillips records that Thalatta’s last day sail of the season was on 3rd September. She then went to St Osyth, and then on to Heybridge. He says: “thanks for everything Cyril and Roger, and let’s look forward to next season.” Meanwhile he tells us: “Thalatta has a new book, Thalatta, Spirit of the Sea; I suppose you could call it her biography.”
Thistle had a Public Open Day in Ipswich Dock last Sunday. As well as free entry, she was offering a competition for two free places on a barge cruise.
Edith May was wondering how it could be that the last week of her summer season was approaching. She reports that the Tea Room will be re-opening on Thursday 25th October, 1030 to 1600.
Cambria finished her extended charter to the Sea Change Sailing Trust, and is now doing several short charters for young carers, who are sponsored by the Rotary Club, which pays for replacement carers while the young people are away. The professional crew members at the moment are Ian Ruffles (Skipper) and Denis Johnson and Ryan Dale (Mates). On Sunday Ryan posted this photograph, which shows Cambria’s GPS recording a speed of 14.2 knots. He goes on to say they “Maxed out at 15.9 knots not long after. I know the tide accounted for a lot of it, but still find this incredible!!”
Kitty has been working really hard. Annie Meadows tells us: “Lovely two hour sail on the Blackwater this evening; back as the sun was about to set – pair of egrets by our mooring and four cormorants diving for their dinner.” The next day she says: “Third day out in a row; we had Topsail, Mainsail, Staysail and Mizzen set and engine off for over an hour. The barge was full to capacity with lots of smiling faces.” And there was more the next day: “Out on the Blackwater with a full barge again today. Sunshine for most of the day, with Lyndon March doing a great job as Acting Skipper.” And Annie’s latest report is: “Another lovely but slightly chilly sail on sb Kitty, this time with JP Lodge as Acting Skipper, and Kevin Burtonshaw and Lyndon March wandering about, dazed and unsure what to do once control had been handed over to someone else. It was funny to watch.” Not to be outdone, JP Lodge joins in: “I had a good day yesterday on sb Kitty. It was my turn as Acting Skipper! Learnt a lot, didn’t break anything. I still reckon my approach alongside Hydrogen was smooth. Thanks to Kevin, Lyndon and Annie. Refreshments afterwards in the Queens, then later that evening to Curry Nights for a really good meal.”
There have been pictures in the newspapers and on television this week of the Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Ocean, sailing up river to London to take part in the practices for security during the Olympics which have been going on over the last few days. Ocean will be back on the Thames for the actual event, and will also be providing accommodation for some of the armed forces involved in Olympic security. The Royal Navy’s Facebook page has been publishing pictures of Ocean taken by members of the public during her journey, and whilst she was moored at Greenwich. Some of them are quite amazing, as are the videos showing how close she was to the piers of the Thames Barrier as she went through it. She was pulled by two tugs, which kept the bow straight, but by the time the stern was going through it looked like the Captain must have been having a few nasty moments. Amongst the latest pictures put up today is this lovely one of Thistle, on a trip from Tower Bridge to Gravesend, passing HMS Ocean.
Picture courtesy Ollie Steed