A proposal: a Kent Traditional Boat Association

Watermen’s skiffs

Maritime historian Edward Sargent has a dream – that there should be an organisation celebrating the wide range of traditional boats that have been used and developed in the County of Kent.

The proposed Kent Traditional Boat Association would be to carry out research into the various types of traditional boat used in Kent in the past, produce a register of the types and also a register of surviving boats. It would encourage and support those wishing to restore and preserve existing Kent boats, and if possible would set up workshop and storage facilities where the boats could be kept and worked on.

Other aims would be to encourage the building of replicas of traditional Kent boats, and organise events to promote the project and to engage the supporters.

Here’s what he says about the plan:

‘The Kent Traditional Boat Association is a project that grew out my interest in the Gravesend skiffs and a general interest in the historic working boats of Kent. There are so many different types of working boat around the Kentish coasts and, while some types are well-catered for by existing organisations such as Kentish Sail and the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, others are not catered for especially the smaller craft.

‘I would like there to be within the Association a series of local groups that would cater for different areas. One of these would be based at Gravesend and deal with the Gravesend waterman’s skiffs.’

Edward’s an interesting chap. He has largely retired from a career as an architect specialising in historic building conservation, but comes from a family with a long maritime history stretching back to about 1800 – his father, grandfather and two great-grandfathers were master mariners, and he has a strong interest in maritime history. During 1980s he was conservation officer for the London Docklands Development Corporation. He is currently chairman of the Docklands History Group, and is personally working on a history of the building of the docks in London up to 1909, as well as an in-depth historical analysis of the ropery at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.

He’s also been active on the water. For three decades he has also been involved in helping with the running of historic steamship VIC56, which built at Faversham in 1945 for the Admiralty (it spent its working life up until the 1970s supplying ammunition to warships at Rosyth) and has competed in each of the Great River Races, many of them in waterman’s skiffs – and owns and maintains two  Gravesend waterman’s skiffs originally built for the Gravesend Town Regatta Committee.

For more information about the proposed Kent Traditional Boat Association, click here.


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