Colne Race 2020

Blue Mermaid in full flight. Photo courtesy Sandy Miller. Click to enlarge

Only three barges approached the start line, Blue Mermaid, Lady of the Lea and Ironsides. Repertor was entered but neaped in her berth at Faversham. Marjorie had been hoping to show off her new leeboards and these were ready but not fitted while another boat was neaped in the dry dock which was earmarked to help remove a year’s growth from her bottom. There was a rumour Niagara and Edith May were coming, both with bowsprits. Still, it was a race and to add to the occasion the smack ADC was there after a refit, as she had been for the very first Colne Race, before the Bar Buoy was a mark in the course and the crabs on the Bar had to duck as she went past, the shallower Hyacinth hot on her heels.

In Blue Mermaid we had left the mooring at Heybridge on Thursday afternoon, as we needed time to remember quite a lot about things we had not set for (literally) a year. Friday was spent practicing and having a very pleasant sail down to the Spitway to meet the two Kent barges on their way over. There was a good breeze and for only the second time we set the small jib on its traveller and left the working jib aboard. This made for a less demanding day and balances the boat nicely. The forecast for race day was for a good breeze from the west. This is the direction that allowed Ironsides to take the course record in 1978 with a fetch all the way around. This was after the Bar buoy was included by the way. This meant there was a possibility if things held and we did well enough by the barge she could have a stab at it. (more…)

By |2020-09-18T12:04:00+01:00September 18th, 2020|

Thames Sailing Barge Trust training weekend 4th to 6th September

All photos courtesy Cressida Slater

In 2019 Sea-Change was proud to receive a grant from Trinity House towards training for barge crews, and this was used to finance two long weekends aboard Blue Mermaid. The second was postponed because of bad weather and then covid intervened. Eventually as day sails became possible we did the second weekend on the first weekend of September and it was a great success. We had five  Thames Sailing Barge Trust trainees; one more had a last-minute commitment. Despite the difficulties presented by the covid restrictions meaning we did three day sails instead of people staying aboard, the logistics worked out well. Basing ourselves at West Mersea, one arranged a lift home each night and back in time in the morning, one brought his caravan to a nearby site and three found accommodation in the village. We fed the group three meals a day, having an evening meal before they went ashore at 2000 and bacon rolls after they came aboard at 0830. Our crew was myself with Hilary and Oli as mates with our Shipshape trainee Ben who was treated as a trainee with the group giving two teams which enabled us to give people an area to familiarise themselves with and switch periodically. (more…)

By |2020-09-15T15:33:33+01:00September 15th, 2020|

Pictures Afloat

Since rigging out last month we have been sent a number of lovely  photos by kind folk who were delighted to see Blue Mermaid back under way.

Please keep them coming. Where possible they are displayed on our media sites, which you can find on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

By |2020-09-14T09:46:38+01:00September 14th, 2020|

The Restart, Under Way At Last Part Two

Jess from Inclusion Ventures taking the gasket off of the topsail

You left us anchored in the Colne after a debrief in the rain with Ian Harris and his group. That evening the torrential rain was joined by an unexpectedly strong south easterly. With the wind direction due to box the compass by morning we were anchored in the middle and when the ebb came away there was an unusual sight from aft in the normally sheltered river of the bow rising and falling three feet. At dusk we watched out anxiously for the return of the crew from Hardy anchored nearby on her way to the Swale Match. They included our trainee Ben experiencing some Summers and Payne design as a change from Horlock and being keen to visit the Pioneer facility they had rowed ashore earlier. They made it back safely and we continued clearing up for our guests of the morrow before indulging in a fine Tesco carbonara before bed.

Friday dawned much improved though with a threat of showers, thunderstorms, calm and later wind. It all came to pass and turned out to be a memorable day in all respects. Having collected our crew for the day from Brightlingsea, where only car parking charges dented their enthusiasm, the conversation in the tender included mutual congratulations as these were the first young people to join us afloat this year. We had planned a major project with Inclusion Ventures potentially funded by SELEP to take eighteen young people and support staff over three weeks to culminate in those who wished to return independently for several weeks in the summer holidays. Covid put an end to all that until at least next year, but to keep the flame alive we were honoured to welcome Jess, Laci, Ruby and Sarah aboard as a test of our covid alertness. (more…)

By |2020-09-08T17:58:46+01:00September 8th, 2020|

The Restart, Under Way At Last Part One

Photo courtesy Simon Wakefield. Click to enlarge

We are sailing again at last, although it seems it could be a while before residential work can happen except for families. And sailing again feels good although the muscles that have atrophied during the months on the mooring are feeling it somewhat.

We rigged in the first week of August and had a shakedown sail in the second week. Although antifouled in March the barge needed a scrub badly so the third week saw us at Pin Mill on the blocks. The passage round was slow with ficklewinds and rain, taking twelve hours from Colne Point to Pin Mill, and of course the barnacles made a difference too. We spent an afternoon cleaning the mud from the blocks with shovels and yard brooms before going on and this made the experience easier and more pleasant. Despite being ready to come off the weather took a turn for the worst with gales late in the week and we stayed securely tied up until the Saturday when Gus Curtis kindly took us to anchor at the Clamp with his tug. Nearby was Victor on a day trip from Ipswich and anchored in the lee as it was still blowing hard. (more…)

By |2020-09-08T17:59:06+01:00September 8th, 2020|

Blue Mermaid Finally Rigs Out In August, By Skipper Richard Titchener

El Capitan’s travails with the headstick, photo by Oli MacArthur

On the whiteboard is the most amazing summer season for Blue Mermaid this year. So amazing in fact it has been left intact partly to remind us of the possibilities when conditions allow and partly because the truth of a big blank space is just too depressing to contemplate. But the good news is important too. We are still here and despite the challenges it looks like survival is possible for the charity thanks to government help and grants from the Association of Sail Training Organisations. Understandably much assistance has been prioritised to support charities working with the charity and our work does not do that so it is not open to us and many others. (more…)

By |2020-08-07T12:40:54+01:00August 7th, 2020|