Thank you very much Maggs Casey Kelly who looked after us so well while we were at St Kat’s and now provides these lovely images of Cambria locking out of the basin. I don’t think it comes more iconic than this!
As the barge comes to the end of her stay in St Kat’s and tonight, locks out bound back to Gillingham Pier and her duties as charter-vessel for the Rotary Club sponsored Respite for Young Carers, a nice email has come my way from Faversham Creek Trust. Faversham Creek Trust, you will know, are setting up a new Apprentice Training Workshop in the former (gas) Purifyer Building on Faversham Creek, in the back of the Morrison’s Carpark.
Their website at http://favershamcreektrust.com/ has news that “Sailing Barge Centaur, owned and managed by the Thames Sailing Barge Trust will benefit from a £100,000 Lottery Heritage Funded refit in Tim Goldsack’s dry dock at Oare Creek. She will be worked on over the next few months by a team of local craftsmen which includes the Faversham Creek Trust’s first apprentice, Tom Browning.
Tom, achieved his level 2 apprenticeship with Simon Grillet, during the Cambria restoration at Standard Quay, in 2011. He will commence his level three training through work experience on the Centaur, combined with technical training at the Purifier Building.
The Trust are delighted to support the Thames Barge Sailing Trust in their restoration and outreach programmes, that do so much to keep alive our local maritime traditions, and this is exactly the type of job that we want apprentices to be involved with”.
Nice one, FCT and it is brilliant to know that ‘our’ Tom is carrying on with you guys and on the barges. One of my favourite pics of the Cambria restoration is the one which has been used in brochures etc, of Tim Goldsack and Tom sighting down the port wale of the part-built Cambria – it just says it all to me about the training up of young lads, keeping these old traditional skills alive down the generations as well as the amount of ship-wright-ery which is ‘by eye’. Unfortunately I cannot now find a copy of that pic (which was not one of mine, I should add) so this rather poor one of Tom will have to suffice. Simon Grillet, I know, at the time was hard at work on the Morayshire, and I would love to know whether that panned out OK.
All the best Tom, Tim, Simon and the Faversham Creek Trust.
Good luck today to the ‘crew’ on board Cambria for the last weekend of the St Kat’s Classic Boat Festival. If the weather here is anything to go by (blue skies, bright sunshine) then they may have a very busy time on their hands and could top the thousand visitors mark. That’ll be all staffed by unpaid volunteers which brings me neatly round to today’s subject, this year’s Volunteer of the Year, Richard Weekes.
Richard has been with us for years. Regular readers will remember the rebuild phase where I called him “My Oppo, Richard”. We were partnered up together on the volunteer rota for the open weekends where we showed the public around the Visitor Centre and the viewing gallery every 6th weekend. I ‘knew’ there were a dozen or so of us but during that phase, Richard was the only one I ever saw, so if I needed a ‘person’ to give a sense of scale to a photograph, or hands holding a paint brush for a blog picture, Richard always had to stand in, so that his daughter even joked that I was Richard’s ‘personal photographer’
Richard then piled in during the painting phase, joining the gang of us each weekend but then also coming down during the week too, to quietly slap a coat of black on a leeboard, or some gloss green on a winch in the old buildings. He has basically carried on ever since when he has been able to get access to the boat. You know what they say about these Navy types – if it moves, salute it; if it doesn’t move paint it!
Richard has his own Cambria and Bob Roberts connection which, if memory serves, had Richard on one of the Navy ships accompanying the likes of Bob Roberts on Cambria to Dunkirk for one of the anniversary (25th?) gatherings of Little Ships. When Bob and his Mate were to be invited aboard the Navy ship for a drop or two of rum, it was Richard himself detailed to go fetch Bob and bring him aboard, and then later to assist the rather more ‘tired and emotional’ Barge Master back to his barge.
Well, this year the Cambria Trust has decided to acknowledge Richard’s unstinting hard work as a volunteer, by presenting him with a very nice trophy. The presentation was performed on board at St Kat’s yesterday afternoon by our esteemed Patron, David Suchet himself, in company of the current Skipper, Ian Ruffles. Well done, Richard. You earned it. We are all very proud of you.
You’ll know if you have been following this blog, that ‘we’ are currently moored up in St Katharine’s Docks right by Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We are part of the St Kat’s Classic Boat Festival so we are open to the public (free of charge) for the 9 days from September 7th through Sunday 15th. We are in a prime position just inside the lock entrance on the right, the first boat you come to and we can be seen for miles when we have the big logo topsail up and glowing in the sunshine; we can be seen from way across the river by anyone walking on Tower Bridge and we can be glimpsed through the access (road) archways to the flats and eateries around the basin.
We are being very professionally and helpfully looked after by Maggs (Margaret) Casey Kelly who is Office Manager for the Marina Office, as well as being a Cambria Volunteer and sometimes female ‘bosun’ on charter trips where we have female carers and sail trainees. The ‘office’ is also a lovely building right by the lock which contains showers and loos for berth holders as well as an Italian restaurant upstairs – luxury! St Kat’s management have also set up a nice discount for ‘boat owners’ during the festival on production of the ‘card’ when you go to eat at the marina-side eateries.
Having not done St Kat’s before we were not sure what to expect, though being in tourist London and having this huge, red-ochre, 75 foot advert flying, we suspected we might be busy. We were not wrong. On the first Saturday, the barge had only just locked in and been moored up, the crew (Richard T, Hilary and ‘Stretch’) had handed their young charges over to their shore-based ‘responsible adults’, tidied the barge and handed ‘us’ the keys. We were just getting ready with gang planks etc and doing a bit of shopping as the first ‘tourists’ started to arrive. They were quickly pouring on in queues and the flow went on relentlessly right round till 6 pm. Myself, Basil and Nancy Brambleby and Hugh Perks were on the ‘staff’ and we could not really manage the gang plank and count but we think we ‘saw’ anything from 700 to 1000 souls through.
I love this bit – proudly showing off the barge, rattling away enthusiastically about her importance, history, coming out of trade, the museum years, the rebuild and Lottery stuff and the present uses – you can just see the delight on people’s faces when you tell them about the Respite for Young Carers and the Sea Change Sailing Trust work. Cambria is just plain seen as a GOOD THING, a real hit in terms of ways to spend Lottery money. The children (and the big kids!) love to hold the ships’ wheel and we were able to get pics of whole groups by using their own cameras. They loved to try the hammock we had slung below decks (Thank you Richard T!) and were impressed by being able to sit in the old Skipper’s cabin aft and to tour the “new yachty bit” for’d – delighted with the galley, the cabins and the way the showers are slotted in among the curved timbers in the bow.
All life seems to pass through there. There were old men remembering their associations with the London River and how run down was St Kat’s after the war, smart ladies whose Grandfathers had been barge skippers, children of all ages, shapes and sizes and everyone in between from a Turkish lady eye-ing me through the slit of her yashmak, to the buffed ‘pretty boys’ with their fake tan and their matching ‘Jedward’ quiffs, a Taiwanese lady who asked some very tough and searching questions – she obviously knew her barges, all walks of life, colours and creeds. We even had the team from the ‘Cambria’ pub in Brixton drop by.
On the Sunday we were more together. We’d lost Hugh but we had been joined by Dave and Julie Brooks, so we were able to used the counter-clicker and we know we saw 919 people. Again the flow was relentless, only easing at around 18:30 when we were meant to have shut up shop. Several pots of tea were made but left to go cold and stewed where no-one had time to pour a cup and all of us had cold, un-drunk mugs of tea or coffee parked on various bits of barge. We were all elated but exhausted by close of play and delighted to have a nice quiet meal in one of the local restaurants and share a bottle of wine.
Monday was a whole different kettle of fish – Monday and rain, so we only saw 6 people round the tour all day, but that was a relief rather than a disaster and gave us a chance to watch some old videos of barges, wander round and look at other boats, or catch up on some kip in the hammock. Moored alongside us came the Dunkirk Little Ship, New Brittanic with her superbly stereotypic new Ozzie owner, Greg. I had to head home on the Tuesday morning and missed rock legend Rod Stewart and his wife Penny Lancaster dropping by and nicely and generously allowing us to take pictures with our staff and the barge in the background for Facebook etc.
That’s probably enough for this post, but let me put out an URGENT call to arms for anyone reading this who can make themselves available for all or part of THIS SATURDAY (14th September). Due to the Colne Barge Match clashing, we are a bit short of staff to man gangplanks and look after the public, so if you can help out please get in touch with Basil or Dave B, use email CambriaTrustSecretary@live.co.uk for example. You will love it and be proud to have been there.
We were passed this superb picture of Cambria going like a train with all sails beautifully set by Richard, Hilary, Stretch and the Sea Change Crew. The picture is taken from, we believe, SB Pudge and comes from the Thames Sailing Barge Trust. Hilary tells us that they had a bit of fun but didn’t do so well this time. Posting on the 27th, she said, “Currently anchored at West Mersea. Had a blast at the Southend match and a very creditable 3rd place in the bowsprit class as no other coasting barges present. Underway yesterday at 5pm tacking all the way to the Spitway and anchored in the fog here at 2 am! 3 handed was fun apart from winding up 2 shackles of chain against the wind and tide! Up to Maldon today possibly a visit to the Queens Head our HQ this evening!”
All good things must come to an end, and Sea Change are now on their final 2013 charter on Cambria, though they stress that Sea Change carries on on the SB Reminder all through September and October and into early November. Hilary again. “Last Cambria trip of the year for Sea Change. Maldon to St Kats. A fair wind away from the quay so no towing charges today! beautiful sunshine, I feel a BBQ coming on and maybe a bit of swimming?”
Thank you so much to the Sea Change team for looking after and using our old girl. We are proud to be part of your good works. It is brilliant that this vessel is used to do so much good. I thank Hilary too for all the Cambria Watch write-ups.
Dave Brooks reminds us all that, “The Cambria Trust are excited to announce that Cambria will be attending the Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine’s Dock London. She will be open to the public and trust members will be on hand to guide and answer your questions. Dates 7th to the 15th Sept.”
The early part of that includes me, your blogger, so that this may be the final post from me till I get back to Ireland. Maybe I will see you on board?
Anyone out there unkind enough to think that these Sea Change trainees should not always have favourable winds and beautiful sunshine; that they should experience some PROPER ruffty-tuffty barging weather to give them a realistic experience, might draw comfort from Hilary’s most recent “Cambria Watch” posts on Face Book. On the 22nd, she posted that they had had “A frustrating sail yesterday as we had the wind on the nose and a foul tide for what seemed like forever. I never want to see Sizewell again as we spent a long time either just stemming the tide or going backwards as there was nowhere safe to anchor! The wind died about 11 pm so our intention to carry on to Brightlingsea died too and we anchored on the shelf at Harwich. There is an up side to everything though and we have all had a good nights sleep. getting under way again soon and this time hopefully we will get to Brightlinsea although there is little wind. We’ve had rain this morning first time in ages and my berth is soaking wet!!!!”
Oops – we may need to sort out that deck caulking again.
Today, even worse, she posts “One word. DRENCHED” and then “I hear Southend pier is flooded, rain not due to stop until tomorrow morning….hmmm…..”
Oh Dear, you Sea Changers. I hope the weather improves for you soon.
I am still old fashioned enough to like a ‘proper’ book – card covers, paper pages, maybe a nice dust cover with a picture on the front, perhaps a bit thumbed. My good lady, though, has moved on from all that and uses one of these electronic ‘Kindle’ books onto which she downloads all manner of reading from old favourites and classics to stuff she just ‘might fancy’, especially in the murder mystery line. To this end Kindle is supported by a wonderful project named Gutenburg which is set up to commit all out-of-print books to Kindle format. You can get pretty much any book which is old enough for the copyright to have lapsed, for free, onto your Kindle.
I was sitting there minding my own business the other day when she asked whether I had 5 minutes spare. Would I like to read “this” she asked, you might like it. It turned out to be a couple of part chapters heavily featuring a Thames barge. Our hero had been subject to an attempted murder and dumped in the river, but he is revived by the cold water and struggles back to the surface only to be nearly mown down by a barge under tow in a string of barges, he is clonked by the leeboard but grabs on and struggles aboard. The sequence is obviously written by someone who knows barges and is pure delight. He clambers down into the aft cabin where he is eventually discovered by the Skipper and Mate who clean him up, get some tea and gin down his neck and put him to bed in a bunk. By the time he wakes up they are in the Estuary and as the story goes on he spends some time with them becalmed off Margate out by the Goodwins before being landed, reasonably fit, in Folkestone.
The book is “A Silent Witness”, one of R Austin Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke Mysteries. My wife tells me that our hero is a locum doctor who has seen, unawares, an aspect of a murder victim’s corpse which, was he to put two and two together, might let him discover the murderer’s identity AND know that the corpse shown to doctors was not the man they had thought they were examining. I know – all nice and complicated, but if you want to read the whole thing I’ll let you go on Gutenburg yourselves and download it to your Kindles. I just liked the barge-y bits as my wife knew I would. Thanks Liz for passing that one to me. Good hunting.
Tonight I bring you news of a HUGE treat which you might like to avail yourselves of. Thanks mainly to Mark Chapman you can now buy aboard, for the very attractive price of just £10 a DVD of the Restoration of Cambria. Throughout the build and before, Mark was frequently all over the barge armed with a video camera and has hours (probably days, even weeks!) of footage starting as the old hull was towed in her lighter from Sheerness to Faversham, of her poly tunnel cover being erected, of the dismantling stages and new framing. It continues through the finishing, painting, and then Flotation Day, rigging and then first charters and races back at sea.
I loved watching this for this review and it brought back so many memories of first frames, deadwoods, keelson, carlings, deck beams and all the other bits we saw coming together over the 3 and a bit years of the project. I am, however, in a bit of a compromised position about giving this a fair review as it is my voice on the commentary. Obviously, I think it’s good, but I know I was really only the ‘guinea pig’ used to get some kind of sensible commentary down on tape. The real intention was to get a choice of far more knowledgeable, experienced and expert voices on this job but (no names, no pack drill) in the end none of these folk could commit to the time, so Mark has gone with my comments. I have had some generous feedback since; it seems that folk like my non-technical, simplistic style because I explain things well to non-experts. I think that’s a compliment; it might mean I am a dunce!
Either way, you get for your £10, 54 minutes of lovely footage with plenty of skilled work and lovely baulks of wood to linger over. Mark got literally everywhere – in, under, between, over and round the ends. You see the pitiful state of the old structure and see it transformed into the gorgeous barge we know today.
AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
Mark has added at the end a series of “Bonus Features” which are themselves, well worth a look and a lovely thing to have in your own private records and archives of barging.
These are, in order
- (6 minutes) The early footage from Seven Seas film “When the Wind Blows” which features Cambria in the opening credits, has some stuff about London Docks in the old days and then commentator AP Herbert talks us around a working model of a sailing barge. This is in The Queen’s English as you’d expect but APH amusing drops into trying to ‘do the accents’ when talking about the “topsail, or torps’l as ‘they’ used to call it”
- (11 minutes) Of film shot by Mark on board the Cambria as she was making her way up the Thames for the Jubilee Pageant. As well as shots of Cambria from the decks, including a nice bit looking up through the rigging as they went under QE2 Bridge (Dartford), you see some of the other vessels making their way up river, including an MTB and a ‘Vic’ boat. We also go under Tower Bridge (towed, if I remember correctly, by the tug which then went on to pull the bell-ringer carillon vessel in the Parade of Ships) and there is nice footage of SB Cygnet crewed in period costume.
- (26 minutes) My absolute favourite bit of this whole DVD! There is a long section from Mark’s archive (which came to him from the late Chris Chipchase, former Cambria Volunteer) of Captain Bob Roberts chatting away to the camera and recordist as he and Dick Durham (then 18) sail Cambria in the Orwell, delivering cattle cake and then heading for Pin Mill for his daughter’s wedding. I regret that I cannot currently tell you where this film came from and I am checking with Mark, but when I do find out I will edit this post accordingly. Bob chats away for the whole time about barging and sailing generally as well as expressing his sadness at modern changes and the fading out of his days-of-sail lifestyle. He talks about Nelson and the naming of the Medusa Channel, of how he (Bob) won a Choristers’ Scholarship to Grammar School, and of how, when told to smear cold tallow on 700 eggs so that they would keep in the ship’s provisions store, he took a shortcut, heated the tallow and dipped the eggs in hot, cooking the eggs and making them go off. He talks of the variety of tasks a bargeman would need to be able to do and of his trips to the Americas during the Great Depression lay-ups. We see the barge being unloaded of the cattle cake. He talks proudly of the Orwell and its fame – of his daughter’s wedding to come, of the big houses on the river banks once owned by the likes of Admiral Vernon who introduced ‘grog’ to the Navy. He bemoans the appearance of slab-sided “ugly” container ships and recounts yarns about smugglers. In one pub a sign of a cat was put up to announce the all-clear (No Pussy, No Sail, he says). One old boy had his wife buried face down because she’d threatened to scrabble up out of the grave if he went with another woman after her death – he thought she’d scrabble down deeper by mistake and he’d avoid the haunting. There were also stories of smugglers using Shotley Church (Shotley Church without no steeple; Drunken Parson, wicked people!). At the end he is a bit rude about us, the new barging ‘amateurs’ (They need to earn their bread and butter under sail; then they’d know what life is about!) but I understand that is just Bob’s jaundiced style. All in all it is a brilliant film. Bob is talking most of the time while frequently looking away from camera at sea or sails and turning the wheel this way and that. We see Dick scrambling nimbly up the rigging at one stage, too.
That is about enough on that one – I seem to have got carried away! As I said, £10 very well spent, and currently available on board or through the shop.
Our old girl seems to have made quite a good impression at the Wells Harbour Day, thanks to the team at Sea Change and the helpful harbour staff. The Wells on line news now carries a superb write up and a collection of excellent photos showing the tow into the harbour, the photos taken by a variety of photographers.
The newsletter is on http://www.wellsharbour.co.uk/na529.htm
My favourite picture has got to be this lovely stormy skies shot by Soraya Sharif. Thank you to the Wells Harbour staff and to Soraya for allowing us to use it and to Hilary Halajko for clearing that for us.
Hilary Halajko of Sea Change posted this lovely picture of Cambria at the Wells Harbour Day, dressed in all her finery. “Cambria”, says Hilary, ” is the centre of attention at Wells Harbour Day. Lots of visitors interested in learning about Sea-Change and two of our current young crew are from the town”. Thanks for that Hilary.
It brings me neatly on for another date for your diaries. Cambria will be at St Katharine Docks (London) from Friday 6th September round to Sunday 15th September as part of the St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival. She will be open to the public from the Saturday morning, ‘crewed’ by volunteers from the Cambria Trust to show her off to the public. She will be locking in on Friday pm/night while still on charter with Sea Change Sailing Trust, Skippered by Richard Tichener, with Hilary Halajko as First Mate, with that batch of trainees enjoying the excitement of a lock-in on the final evening and night of the charter, so she will be off limits to anyone not involved with that specific charter till Richard hands her over at around 10 am on the Saturday.
Hopefully we will see you there?