Stangate Creek. It makes you think about times past…

These days Stangate Creek on the south side of the Medway is a popular stop for cruising sailors and motorboaters – it’s sheltered, and visitors are surrounded by low-lying land and islands and saltings, and some impressive bird life.

But this peaceful spot has a heck of a past, and was frequently a less than happy place.

With the Naval dockyards at Chatham just a few miles away up the Medway, the Navy has at times used it intensively as a place to moor ships when necessary.

From 1712-1896 it was used for quarantining ships. For example, there’s a story that in 1832, the barque Katherine Stewart Forbes set out from Woolwich with a complement of male convicts for Australia but then anchored in Plymouth Sound after cholera broke out. She was sent back to Stangate Creek for many months – of 222 convicts aboard, 30 men developed cholera and 13 died.

There’s an account of how the quarantining started here.

During the Napoleonic era, French prisoners of war were coonfined in prison hulks on the River Medway, where they were subject to cholera, smallpox and typhoid, and many of those who died were buried on Deadmans Island on the eastern side of the Creek.

And of course it was close at hand in 1667 when the Dutch captured Sheerness, invaded the Medway and threatened Chatham. The Wikipedia has the story, including a wonderful painting.

In the early part of the 19th century Turner depicted it in one of his watercolours of English rivers, and much more recently, the extraordinary cruising film-maker Dylan Winter visited Stangate and seemed to fall in love with the place.

Most of the photos of Stangate Creek above including the Finesse class small yacht, the  smack, Buccaneer and the barge yacht Whippet above are mainly Julie Atkin’s shots. Only the shots showing the flooded saltings are mine…

Merry Christmas to all our readers

Merry Christmas to you all, and I hope you enjoy our little video in which Julie Atkin sings In the Bleak Midwinter. I’m sorry there aren’t too many boats in it, but it can be difficult to shoe-horn boat interest into the Christmas story!

In the meantime, Mal Nicholson has kindly sent me this splendid shot of Spider T in icy splendour (click on the image for a larger shot) and Emma at the Boat Building Academy sent me this cold, cold looking shot of beach huts at Lyme in the snow. Boatbuilder Charles Hussey has also chipped in with a shot of a narrow boat looking chilly (btw, check out the Drascombe Peterboat he built recently)…

Spider T in ice and snow at Keadby Lock 

Charles Hussey narrow boat in snow

Victory Class racing yacht for restoration at Portsmouth

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Victory Class keelboat free for restoration

Victory Class keelboat free for restoration Victory Class keelboat

Victory Class keelboats

This super little Victory Class keelboat ideal for racing and daysailing is available for restoration – and from the class website it seems there may be one or two others available on a similar basis.

These photographs were taken on a recent trip to Portsmouth by Julie, who knows a nice boat when she sees one. Thanks Julie! My spies are everywhere…