Classic Sailor went aboard the new Thames Sailing Barge Blue Mermaid. We joined her in the Blackwater in Essex for a sail out into the Thames estuary and round to Brightlingsea
A new sailing barge is a rare sight – but in 1900 there were around 4,000 such barges registered to carry cargo up and down the London river – and the surrounding coasts, using just the wind and the tide.
And mostly with a crew of just two…
And the Blue Mermaid has also been built for trade… in fact she’s the first sailing barge built for trade in Britain since 1930. She’s 87ft long and has a hold that can carry 84 pallettes or 150 tons of loose cargo – that’s The equivalent of Five articulated lorry loads.
She has a couple of cabins aft for skipper and mate and bunks forward for five or six more crew – plus the hold can be used when it’s empty.
She was built at Toms shipyard in Polruan near Fowey in Cornwall. And launched from there as a bare hull in 2016. She was towed around the coast, to the home of sailing barges in Maldon where she was fitted out at the Downs Road Boatyard.
This barge was built to replace an original Blue Mermaid sailing barge – built in 1930, but blown up by a magnetic mine on the 9th of July 1941 with the loss of her two crew Percy Bird and George Lucas.
Blue Mermaid belongs to the Maldon Based charity Sea Change Sailing Trust who have many years’ experience of taking all kinds of people sailing and doing great work especially with young people often with a wide variety of needs and problems.
She’s also involved in training young people for a hands-on career in Maritime Heritage – looking after and sailing the aging fleet of Britain’s historic vessels
Although she was officially commissioned in July she started working in May and has done several jobs for the charity already – plus racing in a couple of barge matches…
The video features Dan Houston talking to Richard Titchener who, with his partner Hilary Halajko, runs both the barge and Sea Change Sailing Trust.