Sittingbourne locals celebrate the return of Raybel Saturday 30th November

Saturday 30th November sees a celebration a the new Dolphin Barge Museum to celebrate the return of Raybel to Sittingbourne for her restoration by a social enterprise Raybel Charters

This is also a chance to learn more about the project and how Sailing Barge Raybel will support the regeneration of Sittingbourne.

There will be some food, some music, a chance to buy some sail trade goods, get involved as a volunteer, take a look around Raybel before the year-long restoration gets underway.

The event is runs from 12 noon until 4pm, with the formal proceedings taking place in the new Dolphin Barge Museum Building at 12.30pm. They are offering public tours from 2pm – 6pm.

Sailing Barge Raybel was built in Sittingbourne in 1920 by Wills and Packham for Bargeowners GF Sully. She is 89 feet long with a capacity of 150 tons. For 50 years she carried cargoes between London and east coast ports and the continent.

During WWII Raybel was commandeered by the Admiralty.

In the 1970s Raybel passed into new ownership and Raybel Charters was founded in 1974, continuing to carry general freight for a few more years. Her sails and rigging were fully restored by 1976 and she undertook several decades of varied work taking adults and children sailing and host to educational activities, theatre, dining, hospitality, and promotional events.

Now the challenge is to complete the circle of history by returning the Raybel to the work she was built for – the delivery of cargo under sail – whilst also creating a modern purpose for her. Support from Heritage Lottery Fund, Sittingbourne Council and Dolphin Barge Museum is allowing a restoration and return to full sail and a community programme. More at www.Raybelcharters.com

How to get there
This is tricky. Raybel and the new Dolphin Barge Museum are at Lloyds Wharf, The Wall, ME10 2XD. Close to Sittingbourne station you will see the new retail park. You need to go between Pizza Hut and KFC (the access road to the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway). Turn right into the access road  called The Wall behind KFC. After 100 yards there is a concealed left turn through the Skate Park Construction site onto Lloyds Wharf. There is parking for approx 30 cars on site so it may be expedient to park elsewhere in town or the retail park. Let the organisers know if you need disabled access.

Safety and access
Lloyds wharf is an ex-industrial space that has uneven surfaces and unfenced sheer drops. Access to the Dolphin Barge Museum is by stairs or ramp to the ground floor level. There is not yet disabled access to the upper floor level.

Access to Raybel will be by gangplank and ships ladder. Moving around the boat requires personal agility and good eyesite as there are several low hanging obstacles on deck and down below. Decks may be slippery in wet weather and surfaces may be dirty from the recent voyage. Machine surfaces may be greasy or sooty. Please wear sensible warm clothing and shoes or boots.

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