Sailing barge Raybel is overwintering at Heybridge Basin for what is expected to be the last time before her restoration begins at the rebuilt Dolphin Barge Museum at Milton Creek.
She was built and launched at Milton Creek in 1920.
Raybel has won funding support from Swale Borough Council and a Heritage Lottery Fund application goes in this month.
She is said to be in remarkably good condition and is still largely original. The main work she needs is on her hull, covering boards, rails and deck planking, and she need a need a new rudder and winches.
Ales Mears of Axmouth boat builders HJ Mears & Son has written to tell us about a recent job, that he has clearly greatly enjoyed.
We’ve had lots of work since we last spoke and many boats have been through our barn doors, but I thought this recent restoration may be of particular interest to you and your readers.
She is an 18ft LOA river launch, double-diagonal spruce construction with laid mahogany decks. She is believed to have been built in the 1920’s.
Her beautiful shape evident for all to see despite her poor condition.
She’s now had the thorough Mears Boatyard treatment. She needed lots of extra strength added due to her lack of ribs and longitudinals. It would’ve been quicker to build from scratch but we were faithful to her and her original builder and reused as much of her original timberwork as feasible during her restoration.
Her original means of propulsion isn’t known but she is now 100 per cent electric and a joy to use; peaceful, powerful, smooth, simple and very responsive. I think o0f her as a a 1920’s Tesla of the Waterways!
Her owner is chuffed and looking forward to showing her off on the Thames soon. Hopefully your readers will enjoy the photos and seeing the 21st century Mears treatment being faithfully applied to something from the early twentieth century!
Merry Christmas, Alex
Thanks Alex. I think she’ll be something a little different and will surely cut a fine dash along the river this summer!
Our pals Tina and Vic Smith visited Shetland earlier in the year and took these photos.
Here’s what Vic says about them:
‘The excellent, very impessive new Shetland Museum has been built on the waterfront of Hay’s Dock in Lerwick, and includes Hay’s Boatyard, an old boat shed on the same site
‘The present boat shed was built around 1900 to replace an earlier shed built in 1844, though there has been boat building on this spot since at least the 18th century.
‘The shed was restored in 2015 and fulfils the same role today as when it was a commercial going concern: repairing, renovating and building craft to traditional Shetland designs including the famed sixareens. An entry from the museum building next door leads to a gallery where visitors can see the work in progress.
‘When we visited, one of the current projects was the Loki, which was originally built in the Boat Shed in 1904 under her original name of Maggie Helen. More than a century later she had returned for restoration. This is a long term project.
‘The small island of Mousa is the location of the oldest surviving ‘broch’ – an Iron Age roundhouse in Scotland (and therefore the world). Visitors to the island use a small ferry to get there.
‘In the ferry terminal on the mainland side is the Robina, a rowing boat that ferried visitors across in times gone by.’