I am ashamed to say that I pick up a barge book sometimes and enjoy the thorough, detailed factual stuff there-in, but completely take for granted the hard, pains-taking research that goes on behind the scenes to uncover these facts. Then every now and then I get a glimpse of the digging. delving, cross-checking and decyphering, not to mention the leg work nipping between archives and libraries and the hours spent at desks and dusty filing shelves. I get copied in sometimes on email ‘threads’ running between these researchers, for example when one of them needs to throw open a question to the wider barge audience on a “does anyone out there know” basis.
Most recently I was passed one from Friend of Cambria and frequent contributor to this blog, David Rye. He is among a gathering of guys in the Society for Sailing Barge Research (the group who do a bulk of this research) looking out the story of a swim headed lighter named Montreal. We pick up the story as four of them, David Rye, John Green, Mike Miller and John White are discussing recent sightings. Mike confirms to John that “SB Montreal of London recently sank on her moorings in Battersea and was eventually deemed un-repairable due to extensive keel rot. She was broken up on here moorings a few months ago to make way for more houseboats on the site.” John notes that “Montreal had left Battersea some months ago and believes (he) sighted her hull without spars or leeboards bows in at a dock just above Erith YC while on Balmoral this summer. (He has) been trying to obtain confirmation from EYC and to find time and weather to go down to look landward to see if I was correct. Certainly other craft have taken her berth at the Old Church. (He asks) Can Mike Miller tell us any more, Montreal hadn’t been out for some years but her gear looked worth saving for another hull” and so it goes on.
David Wood writes to David Rye “Ron Green believes you are based somewhere in the Erith region and might be able to throw some light the whereabouts of this swimmie ex Bowaters lighter which Mike Miller mentions in his email to the Hon.Sec. SSBR which he circulated to the committee earlier today I wonder if you are indeed a local and have any idea what the lighter hull / hulk may be, I could make out buff decks, bittheads and a square blue transom but the channel is somewhat distant from the shore, the light was poor my glasses misted etc. etc.”
Mike Miller comes back in with “As I understand the owner of Montreal Vadim Jean was unable to cover cost of repairs when required. I had a friend live onboard Montreal nearly five years ago now in Battersea and even then she was fighting a losing battle against keel of this lighter rotting away. It was not until this year that things had got so bad that frames started to shift and planking sprung and she sank at her moorings. As I understand she was towed away to Erith to be stripped of rig and as much salvageable kit as possible. The rig was in very good condition along with sails and most deck equipment so should find its way to another barge soon.
I last heard she was deemed un-economic and too extensive a job to repair so was due to be broken up. Does anyone know if this has happened yet? It was a shame as she was sailing up until 8 years ago but time up river with rig down being used as a house boat has seen her suffering with the perils of fresh water ingress. Kind regards Mike”
It is fascinating to get a peek into these comings and goings. This is just one barge the guys are trying to nail down. The Compendium Team looked into the histories of over 4000 hulls during the making of the tome. The barge community should, for sure, thank these people and respect and appreciate their hard work. Obviously, if anyone ‘out there’ does know anything about Montreal, the team at SSBR would love to hear from you.