This week saw Blue Mermaid attend Excel as part of Newham Heritage Month in partnership with the Maritime Heritage Trust. The barge was commissioned in 2019 following a fund-raising appeal supported by the PLA, Trinity House, Chris Livett and many more. Built to cargo ship rules in the UK, she is a welded replica of an original lost to a mine in the Swin in 1941 the loss of both crew who are commemorated on the Merchant Navy memorial on Tower Hill.
Leaving her mooring in the Blackwater at high water Saturday morning with a reducing breeze after Friday’s gale, she made the next high water anchoring in the Lower Hope in steady rain and an encouraging amount of river traffic. This was her first trip above Gravesend and an early start at low water Sunday saw her at Erith for a late breakfast. The harbourmaster allowed her to anchor overnight in good shelter as the next bout of bad weather pushed through, clearing for a breezy and boisterous but short trip to the KGV lock for Monday’s day tide.
Once in the lock with the help of a the cheerful team from Rodma it was a case of scrubbing and polishing between showers so as to be ready for public view the next day. With the airport restrictions timings were crucial and thanks to Chris Livett Thames Vixen picked us up at 0500 so as to be clear by 0630.
Much has changed in the Royals since the skipper last visited in 1975. It is quite difficult to place where many things were among the concrete and glass, but small reminders remain. The crane team on the lock recommended a trip to Galyons, the surviving long-isolated Gallions Hotel now surrounded by high rise modernity but serving excellent fish and chips. Alongside Excel there was a steady stream of visitors, some having seen online publicity and others simply passing, but among our favourites were the two friends from the 14th and 16th floors of a tower in the Royal Arsenal who had seen us tacking up Gallions Reach and reducing sail for the lock; so they investigated and decided to visit saying how fantastic it had been to see a barge sailing past their windows. It made us realise how, for all the dramatic changes to the scene, a whole new constituency appreciates the river and its heritage. Once in the lock with the help of a the cheerful team from Rodma it was a case of scrubbing and polishing between showers so as to be ready for public view the next day. With the airport restrictions timings were crucial and thanks to Chris Livett Thames Vixen picked us up at 0500 so as to be clear by 0630.