Don Ramsay from Sea Change comes on to tip me off about “an article about the Colne Match on the website that might interest you, together with some photos”. It’s on http://www.seachangesailingtrust.org.uk/?p=2605 and you must click on the link.
Nothing belongs in the Estuary as much as a Thames Barge – and nothing looks quite as exotic. We lugged our sail bags along Maldon town quay, past the moored yachts and cars and pedestrians. Suddenly beyond all the masts, there was the instantly recognisable rigging of the Thames Barges, they were gathered at the end of the quay next to the other yachts like a number of praying mantis, temporarily forced to share digs with a crowd of small white beetles.
Then we were walking up the gangplank to the Cambria – for the first time, up close and personal with a Thames Barge. Everything is … big. Enormous blocks and tackles. Massive cast iron two-person winches. Huge coiled ropes, set in spiralling patterns to cover the vast roof of the hold, the great cargo belly of a Thames barge.
The skipper and mate had the unassuming good humour and self-possession of people who know their jobs inside out and are aware that they don’t need to sell to anybody the charismatic, iconic vessel they have in their charge. We all had a cup of tea on the deck. They were relaxed in their jeans and ordinary shoes, and we eager south coast sailors, with our neoprene and three-layer system kit, felt not quite as cool – but that didn’t matter because we were spending the weekend sailing on a Thames Barge, and that was supremely exciting.
The Cambria has no engine but with a quick tow off the quayside, we set off downstream in the early evening sun for our first sail to Brightlingsea. We hoisted sails two to a rope, and as they filled felt the massive weight of the hull stir beneath our feet……” and so it goes on for a couple of lovely, well written, entertaining pages.
Thanks for the tip off, Don and thank you for the article, Debbie Leach.