Red Sails DVD is a cracker… get it for Christmas!

Stills from the film Red Sails about the working boats we call sailing barges Stills from the film Red Sails about the working boats we call sailing barges

Stills from the film Red Sails about the working boats we call sailing barges

Stills from the film Red Sails

Last night Julie and I finally grabbed some time to watch Mike Maloney’s splendid Red Sails film on DVD. I can report that it’s a cracker.

The new footage is wonderful, but the old footage Mike found is really something, not least because it reveals so much. I thought I’d read enough to know a little about these old working boats but had no idea, for example, that when they were loaded with bricks they were brought on board by hand, in small numbers by each man.

Again, I hadn’t realised that Conyer and Halstow had been such busy centres for the brick trade, and I’d forgotten if I ever knew it that the ‘rough stuff’ hearth ash brought down the estuary by the barges was mixed with clay to make the bricks. Presumably that’s what makes the dark markings that make the characteristic London brick so handsome.

The footage also of the old barge skippers Jimmy Lawrence and Don Satin adds to the value of the film – we’re so lucky it has been made at a time when there are still old barge skippers around to be interviewed. Needless to say, they’re both excellent value in this film – having seem Jimmy Lawrence telling his stories before I knew what to expect, but Don Satin’s a great find, for me at least.

I’d like also to thank Mike Maloney for taking the trouble to include some good, useful stuff about the last of the barge skippers Bob Roberts, including his role as a singer of old and traditional songs. This aspect of Roberts seems often to be neglected by enthusiasts for these old boats, and I think it’s a great shame. I remember him singing years ago, and it will probably surprise some readers that I sometimes take singer friends over to Faversham to show them the Cambria, as a kind of pilgrimage.

Red Sails, the new film about the story of the sailing barges, is available on DVD from the Countrywide Productions website.


A trip to Oare in June

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Oare in June

Clouds and light in the Swale towards evening. Click on
the images for larger photographs

We took a trip to Oare this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as despite a less than wonderful weather forecast we had some near perfect sailing conditions, interesting light and cloud, and some good looking old boats. I can’t imagine a more powerful reminder of why we like to sail.

Oare in June

Julie’s shot of the Thames barge Mirosa. The object on Horse Sand
to the left is a beached yacht with someone on board – hopefully
they were there to clean its bottom rather than simply stuck.
I should add that a sizeable group of seals were basking on the
beach just 100 yards away from him. I wonder if he or they knew
about each other?

Oare in June

Julie’s photo of the (hopefully) careened yacht

Oare in June

How about this? Barge yachts are a rare sight nowadays,
but were popular in the 1920s and 30s. I’m sorry I couldn’t
get closer, but we were moored at the time. I’d love to hear
more about the boat – is she the one that
Classic Boat
featured some years ago?

Oare in June

Thames sailing barge Will

Oare in June

Will and Mirosa moored in the Swale

Oare in June

On the way home we dropped into Lower Halstow to check
out a cruising destination and found a pleasant, out-of-the-way
sort of place, with some fine old buildings, an old quay
next to the church, and the barge
Edith May in the process of being
restored. I don’t know who’s doing it, but good luck and
more power to their elbows!

Oare in June

Oare in June