Retired skipper Captain H Morris describes how he started in Thames sailing barges

Carr and Mason on barges2

Thames sailing barge illustration fromVanishing Craft, written by FGG Carr and illustrated by Frank Mason

Reading Hervey Benham’s book Down Tops’l yesterday eveing, I was very struck by the contents of a letter from Captain H Morris to the author. Captain Morris’s career in Thames sailing barges began when he decided to spend a holiday on a sailing barge, well away from his usual job in town.

‘I said to myself, this is the job for me, not sitting on an office stool making out invoices all day long. Of course my parents were all much against it. “All beer and bad language,” they said. However, the call was too great and I went to Faversham and got a job for two more trips as third hand and then mate. Incidentally, there was no beer and no bad language with my first skipper, and he never got under way on a Sunday if he could help it. The two other skippers at Faversham never sailed on Sundays.

‘There were then 125 sailing barges and 14 coasters working to and from that little port.’

Of course, I do understand that all 139 vessels were unlikely to arrive and try to tie up at the same moment, but it’s still very difficult to imagine where all those craft put themselves – much more of the creek must have been in use as wharves than can be seen today.

And speaking of Faversham I have three items of news.

First, the new Faversham Creek Trust will be manning a stall in the town’s market square on Saturday. Do get along to chat with Trust officials and offer your support!

Second – the Westmoreland is afloat after years of being washed by each tide. Read all about it here.

Third – Giacomo de Stefano (Man on the River), who is rowing and sailing his Iain Oughtred-designed small open boat from London to Istanbul plans to leave Faversham’s Standartd Quay on the 1st May, in order to draw attention to efforts to save it. Naturally I plan to be there if I can find out what time he’s planning to go (the tides suggest it will be some time after 11am) and will share any information I get…

PS – Here’s a photo of Giacomo and pal rowing his Iain Oughtred-designed Ness Yawl named Clodia just after 12.30 on Sunday. The last I heard was that he had wisely decided to get a tow over to the River Stour however – the idea of sailing a small open boat round the North Foreland in yesterday’s winds didn’t appeal and I can’t blame him!

Giacomo rowing Clodia off Standard Quay, Faversham Creek Giacomo rowing Clodia off Standard Quay, Faversham Creek 2

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