Queen’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant ‘avenue of sail’

The Queen’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant event on the River Thames in London on the 3rd June will be quite a do!

In addition to the procession itself, I’ve just learned that there will be an ‘avenue of sail‘ – that is, long lines of tall-masted sailing vessels moored along the river banks. The vessels included in the avenue are about as starry as they could be, and among them:

  • legendary pilot cutter Jolie Brise
  • Sir Francis Chichester’s globe-circling Gypsy Moth IV
  • Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s solo non-stop circumnavigating Suhaili
  • smack Endeavour
  • 1808-built smack Boadicea
  • Baltic trader The Queen Galadriel
  • well known sailing barges such as Pudge, Hydrogen, Cambria and Edith May

This list is just a sample – and it’s in addition to the thousand or so craft taking part in the procession of smaller craft, which has been much better publicised – see the organiser’s leaflet listing the boats they think spectators should look for leaflet here.

Sadly it doesn’t include the wonderful Humber sloop Spider T but with so much good stuff going on, I guess they can’t list everything…

I’m sure we’re all hoping the weather is very kind that day, for the everyone’s sake. It would be great if it was so light that the tall-masted craft could fly their sails at their moorings. But if there’s just a little more breeze it won’t half suit those of us who are quietly planning a sailing trip over the long Jubilee weekend…


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.

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.