Sea Change Trust commissions new Thames sailing barge


It’s great to see that the Sea Change Sailing Trust has commissioned shipwrights to build its new steel Thames sailing barge.

The yard involved is C Toms & Son of Polruan in Cornwall yard. See a story published by the Cornish Guardian here.

(Naturally, I’m aware that the claim that this is the first steel built sailing barge in 85 years isn’t quite true… but it might be the first cargo carrying steel-built barge.)

Sea Change currently provides residential opportunities for young people and vulnerable adults to learn and develop life skills on board chartered Thames sailing barges, including taking responsibility for their contribution and making group decisions. The target groups include those not in employment, education or training (NEET), young offenders and those in danger of offending, those experiencing social exclusion, those with special needs or who struggle in traditional educational settings, and those considering a maritime career.

The new sailing barge to be built for the trust is to be a replica of the steel-built Horlocks vessel Blue Mermaid, which in 1930 was the last sailing barge to be built, but which was sadly lost during the war.

The new Blue Mermaid will continue the trust’s established work, and extend it by carrying cargo and trainees who will gain sea time learning traditional seamanship skills.

The Sea Change website includes a nice quotation from Frank Carr, the first curator of the Greenwich Maritime Museum, original saviour of the Cutty Sark and noted author. Considering the diminishing fleet of trading sailing barges in 1951, he wrote that it might ‘be possible to run a fleet of sail-training barges as a venture almost economically self-supporting, in which, under ordinary trading conditions, large numbers of apprentices could receive a short period of training in sail, counting for sea-time, in which they would receive a very valuable grounding in real seamanship of a kind which they could never gain in steam.’

Check out the organisation’s appeal here.

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