Tag Archives: Thames Estuary

A film history of Thames Estuary gravel carriers Prior’s

A beautifully made film history of Prior’s – their small gravel-carrying ships are a familiar sight for anyone sailing the north side of the Thames Estuary.

My thanks to Paul Mullings for the link.

Here’s a photo of one of Prior’s vessels that I took earlier this year.

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Business plan for boat moorings and maintenance at Faversham Creek would be in surplus after four years

Standard Quay, Faversham

A business plan examining the financial feasibility of developing repair and maintenance of traditional vessels in Faversham Creek has concluded that a net present value of £560k could be achieved over 15 years after including all costs.

The project would lead to 10 new full-time jobs and would be be in substantial surplus in its fourth year, says the report, which was written by a group of business-minded individuals follows a request by Faversham Town Council for an assessment of this kind in support of the local neighbourhood plan.

Achieving these benefits would be dependent on public support and funding, including providing a new opening bridge however.

The authors conclude that the Thames from London to its full outer estuary includes some 51 Thames sailing barges, 170 Dutch/motor barges and approximately 533 smacks and other traditional vessels, and that in business terms restoring, refitting and maintaining these vessels amounts to a turnover of £6m a year, with a significant secondary revenue from moorings.

They concluded that Faversham should be able to attract 18 per cent of the available Thames barge work, 10 per cent of Dutch barges and 7 per cent of smacks, which would require three extra dry docks to be available for mainstream repair, and maintenance along the tidal Creek and light maintenance and general moorings elsewhere.

The predicted annual income including from mooring fees is £700k gross, or £200k net of operating costs – which it is thought would lead to 10 additional full time jobs in the town.

Some £1.3m of capital expenditure would be required, including £860k for an opening bridge and sluices £280k for quay structures, £50k for initial dredging and £140k for dry docks and other equipment – and if the Council were to invest in an opening bridge, the report argues it would be feasible to raise the remainder from bank loans and private investment.

Read the report here.

1940s and 50s barge crewman and skipper Jimmy Lawrence tells his story

Jimmy Lawrence barge skipper talks on Southend Pier 7

Jimmy Lawrence has fabulous recall of his days sailing on barges in the 1940s and 50s, and has an entertaining way of telling stories about those times. So when we heard that he was going to be talking on Southend Pier as part of the Southend Barge Match last week, we took the opportunity to hear him again.

It was only a shame that there weren’t more people – but Jimmy tailored his talk to the interests of the smallish assembled party of mainly sailing barge racing crew.

It was fun too to travel on the little railway that runs along the pier – at more than a mile long, it’s a considerable feature of that bit of coast.

Here’s one of his stories from the time when he got his first job as third hand on the sailing barge Gladys, which is now a wreck on Deadman’s Island, on the north bank of Stangate Creek. The third hand’s job was not a great one in many ways, not least for an experienced young man who was the butt of a lot of the older men’s jokes, some of them gentle and some less so.

Third hands were also expected to act as cook, and so the skipper might shout ‘Put plenty of salt in boy and pr’aps they’ll cry their bloody eyes out!’ or ‘He couldn’t cook hot water, not without burning it he couldn’t.’

‘This was just after the war and there was no lights on the Thames Estuary at all and it was ever so dark, and you just come down to the skipper’s knowledge, his compass and the leadline. It weas marked at every fathom and you had to call them out properly… You couldn’t just say ”two fathoms skip”, it’d have to be ”by the mark two”, or ”and a quarter two” or ”less a quarter two” with everything done ever so promptly.

‘As third hand you’d start to worry because if the barge went aground, you knew it would be your fault and you’d get a kick up the arse. When it got to ”and a half one” you’d get really worried.

‘The skipper would start making out he was a bit nervous too and he’d call out ”What’s the bottom like boy?” and you’d have a look [at the tallow at the bottom of the line] and you’d say ”Just soft mud skip.”

”You sure boy? It should have some grit in it. Lick it boy lick it!”

”It’s soft mud skip.”

”Right he said. We’ve brought up just by that bloody sewer outfall.”

I’m pretty sure there aren’t too many like Jimmy still around, so I hope someone somewhere is getting it all down!

Btw, there are instructions on how to use a lead line here.

A Finesse rally on the Medway

The assembled fleet...

Well, this looks like it was fun. Author and weblogger Nick Ardley and a bunch of other Finesse yacht folks around the Thames Estuary have held their first rally – it seems to have been a varied affair, with some weather, some sunshine and a few engine problems.

The group of boats, including Finesse 21s and 24s visited Stangate Creek, the  marina at Chatham, and then Lower halstow and Stangate again. Good for them – I gather it will all happen again…

Read Nick Ardley’s account at his website.

For more posts about Finesses, click here.

Gotty and the Guv’nor

Gotty and the guv’nor: a true narrative of Gotty’s doings ashore & afloat, with an account of his voyage of discovery on a shrimping bawley in the English channel

There are many smiles and a few laughs in this daft old book published in 1907 – though it might reasonably be subtitled ‘a true collection of the sorts of stories waterside blokes are apt to tell even today’.

Read a writerly little piece about the author, novelist Arthur E Arthur Copping, here.

My thanks to Nigel who runs the the Bexley London Borough Blog for leading me to this one!

PS – I gather from Dick Johnson (see comments below) that there’s another Gotty book Gotty in Furren Parts, but I’ve been unable to find an archive link, and it does seem to be pretty scarce… Shame!

Fabulous new publications from Lodestar Books include classic yachting authors Conor O’Brien, H Alker Tripp, H Lewis Jones and WE Sinclair

Inshore of the Goodwins sample

Shoalwater and Fairway - H Alker Tripp - Christmas gifts from Lodestar Books Swin, Swale and Swatchway  - H Lewis Jones - Christmas gifts from Lodestar Books On Going to Sea in Yachts - Conor O'Brien - Christmas gifts from Lodestar Books Cruises of the Joan - W E Sinclair - Christmas gifts from Lodestar Books

I have good news as we come up to the Christmas season – Dick Wynne’s wonderful Lodestar Books is republishing four more sailing classics that will make great gifts for the sailing man or woman:

  • Shoalwater and Fairway – The casual explorations of a sailing main in the shoal seas and tidal waters of Essex and Kent by H Alker Tripp, illustrated by the author. Click on a the image at the top of this post for a sample chapter
  • Swin, Swale and Swatchway by H Lewis Jones – Jones pre-dates both Maurice Griffiths and Francis B Cooke, and gives us the the Thames Estuary and the boats and characters inhabiting it in late Victorian times. His charming adventures and human encounters have an engaging immediacy, and are enhanced by the author’s many photographs, which provide a priceless glimpse of a time long gone
  • Cruises of the Joan by WE Sinclair – the cruises of an engineless, 22-ft Falmouth quay punt in the 1920s, first around Britain, then to Madeira and to the Baltic, and finally across the North Atlantic to Iceland and Greenland. Sinclair’s dry, phlegmatic humour and observation makes his accounts highly entertaining account – and one we might not have today if luck had not played its part
  • On Going to Sea in YachtsConor O’Brien’s distilled experience in selecting, equipping and handling sailing craft from the smallest beach cruiser to the ocean-going yacht. The author’s choice of topics and anecdotes, all related in a characteristically down-to-earth manner, makes valuable and engaging reading. His many clear drawings leave us in no doubt as to the practical details, which are born of his own experience over many years and many thousands of sea miles

If these aren’t quite what’s needed, don’t forget Lodestar’s previous publications, Francis B Cooke’s classic Cruising Hints – The Traditional Yachtsman’s Compendium and the outstanding Holmes of the Humber collection of material by and about legendary canoe yawl sailor, boat designer, artist  Humber Estuary figure, George Holmes. Get your great boating reading here!