Kentish Sail Association cheque sends Sea Cadets on board ship


Swale Smack and Barge Match organisers the Kentish Sail Association last week presented Faversham Sea Cadets with a cheque for £1,000 towards the cost of sending some of the cadets afloat on the Maritime Society and Sea Cadets fleet of training vessels.

The vessels include two power ships TS Jack Petchey and sister ship the TS John Jerwood, and the brig TS Royalist.

The cheque was presented by the KSA’s longest serving committee member Lena Reekie, who has been involved in the association’s work to promote traditional sail in Kent for more than 40 years.

In addition to the successful Swale match, the association also funds young people to experience trips on sailing barge Greta and other water-based activities.


The Leysdown Tragedy of 100 years ago

The sea off Leysdown, Isle of Sheppey, in quieter times

It was my old friend Nic Lucas who drew my attention to the Leysdown Tragedy, in which nine boys – young Sea Scouts and helpers – drowned when a sudden storm struck their open boat 100 years ago this month.

Writing on his Facebook account, Nic said that as a 14 year old (this would be in the 1960s, I’d guess) he had taken part in Sea Scout flotilla that set out from the RRS Discovery (yes – that Discovery) in London and sailed to France.

The boat my friend was on board was a whaler similar to the ones pictured here, and it was a great adventure for a lad and one that he has remembered all his life.

However, Nic added that this month is the 100th anniversary of the Leysdown Tragedy, in which a group of Sea Scouts and helpers sailing from Waterloo Bridge were capsized by a sudden squall opposite Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey, just around the corner from the Swale.

They were a young group – the oldest boys were barely teenagers, and on the way, they had slept under their sails at Erith.

The capsize was seen from the island by coastguards (which wouldn’t happen now!) and valiant efforts were made to save the 23 on board the whaler,  though only 14 were rescued alive.

Nic said he thought of those young Sea Scouts as pioneers for his own trip, and for the spirit of adventure that builds fine people including his own son Sam Lucas, who was due to carry the Olympic Torch on the day my pal addressed us all via Facebook.

There’s a BBC news story describing the Leysdown Tragedy on the BBC website, and further sources are here, here and here.

The disaster was one of those that made a big impact on the public, and a striking memorial to the lost youngsters paid for by public subscription was erected at Nunhead Cemetery in South London (see the BBC link for a photo). It stood until 1969 when it was vandalised, and a modern, much simpler memorial now stands in its place.

I’ve been sailing past the site of the Leysdown Tragedy for years without knowing a thing about it. I’ll pause for thought myself, next time I go that way.

A great little online primer on boating – from the Sea Scouts in Ireland

The Sea Scouts in Ireland have made a great little boating book aimed at teenagers available online.

I hope they don’t mind me passing the link on! The Scouts’ boating manual includes useful amounts of information on nautical traditions, heaving a line, first aid and artificial respiration, rowing drill, rowing (including boat drill), sailing, power boating, canoeing, ship types, rafting, boat maintenance, anchoring, tides and currents, use of distress signals and a lot more besides – no doubt, by now you’re getting the message.

Unlike the educational output we see from some sailing organisations, there’s no sense at all that the only boats are new boats – the maintenance section contains material about looking after both wooden craft and glassfibre.’

I’d be pleased to think that any teenager knew half of this material, and we’d be living in a safer, better ordered world if every adult boat user knew 90 per cent of it.

My thanks to regular contributor Paul Mullings for pointing this one out!