Faversham Nautical Festival 21st-22nd July – barges, smacks and other traditional boats in Faversham

Well doesn’t that sound like fun? Hopefully it will also draw locals’ attention to the creek, and its historical and continuing importance to the town.

Other items of really good news from Faversham in recent days have been the recommencement of regular flushing in the creek, and dredging operations by Medway Ports. See the Faversham Creek Trust’s posts on this here, here and here.

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A shout out for: the Faversham Creek Trust weblog

Faversham Creek Trust weblog

I’m greatly enjoying the Faversham Creek Trust’s weblog.

One the news side, the FCT folks are making real progress, with volunteers clearing pigeon poo and other nastiness out of the old purifier building in preparation for it to become the home of the new apprenticeship scheme in 2013, thanks in part to Morrison’s.

Another positive step came when the sailing barge turning area was dredged recently – this will make it possible for barges to turn around without fear of being grounded and then left stranded across the creek supported only at each end. The resulting strain could cause serious and possibly terminal damage to a barge. (I don’t know whether the Trust had anything to do with this, but it’s good news, and an interesting preview of what will come later further up the creek.)

But some of the best reading here is Arthur Percival’s terrific history of the place: recent instalments have included Thomas Arden’s tide mill at the head of the creek, the story of how deepening the channel enabled Faversham’s port to compete with Whitstable after that town’s harbour was constructed, and final the collapse of trade in the creek in the late 20th century.

If you’re interested in Faversham and this part of North Kent – perhaps for its excellent coastline for sailing and boating generally – the FCT’s weblog is essential reading.

An enquiry from folklorist Bob Walser – what do we know about Firth of Forth oyster boats?

This Illustrated London News engraving from 1862 is the latest clue in Bob Walser’s  continuing investigation into the background of a series of ‘dreg songs’ recorded by folklorist James Madison Carpenter from families in the Firth of Forth area.

Bob asks whether intheboatshed.net readers can provide any information about the boats pictured, the use of two sweeps simultaneously, and about oyster fishing in the Firth generally please?

I haven’t any specialist knowledge of the area, but I’d say that the boats rather resemble the early fifie shown in the Washington Report of 1849, though rigged with a single mast rather than two – which makes sense what appear to be fairly small boats. The full sized early fifies are described by the Chatham Directory of Inshore Craft as beamy, double-ended entirely open boats with upright stems, which seems about right. The boats were made to be full ended at the sheer and had hollow waterlines forward but were a more bouyant shape aft.

The two sweeps make practical sense to me, not least because they would enable the boat to travel in a reasonably straight line, without using the rudder so far over that it acted as a brake and made hard work for the crew.

These are just my untutored guesses. What do the rest of you think – or, even better, know about Firth of Forth oyster boats of this era please?