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  • janenewaudby

Thames Barges

Check out this photo . The big boats in the foreground with 'V' shaped masts are Thames sailing barges. There are some more pictures under this post. Thousands of these distinctive sailing boats used to run up and down the East Coast of England and up to London. They are flat-bottomed, and so perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow rivers. They were the freight carriers of the 19th Century, ferrying bricks, mud, hay, grain, coal and everything else besides all over the East Coast. Most notably, despite their size and massive cargoes, they were usually crewed by just "a man and a boy". A few of these wonderful boats have been preserved, although most just rotted on the muddy banks of the East Coast rivers. Not so long ago, the Thames below Tower Bridge would have been teeming with these boats. I can only imagine what it must have looked like - probably beautiful if it hadn't been for the atrocious air pollution at the time. Anyway, our local sailing club hosts a barge race every year and the boats congregate, as if for a party. If you head down to Pin Mill in Suffolk, you can sit and have a pint of Adnams at the Butt and Oyster and you will definitely see some of these boats, though they are only sailed for pleasure now. Anyway, I got thinking about sailing again because its Friday... so the shed gets abandoned for a couple of days. We might sail down to West Mersea for Oysters. Its a terrific place if you haven't been. Its hard to find a place with more connection with the water, which basically surrounds the whole of Mersea Island at high water. Having said that, the sail back on Sunday will be in the rain. It could put us off, but if we are heading off next May to Scotland, we might as well get used to that. Skin is waterproof right?

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