Passage Match Success

Part One

Red light in the moonlight: Oli fits the port navigation light as we prepare to leave Stangate Creek and race Edith May to Harwich at 0130 on Saturday 26th June 2021. This informal event replaces the longstanding and popular Gravesend to Harwich Passage Match of 56 miles which used to bring barges based on the Thames down to the Orwell the week prior to the Pin Mill Match. Though popular it was no doubt an immense amount of work to organise and as entries dropped it was unsurprising the attraction of waiting all night on a cold Suffolk seawall for barges to rear over a dank horizon lost its appeal. Now Ed Gransden offers people the chance to sail in company from the Medway to Harwich and this year we took him up on the offer.

After getting the anchor on the last of the flood we came level with Edith May as she too got under way and both barges set their gear while crew peered to find the moored barge at Blackstakes against the bright lights of the Grain jetties behind. Couldn’t a massive amount of power be saved if all these flood lights up and down the country were arranged to switch on when needed? Maybe there are too many foxes and owls to allow the use of proximity lighting, but it would sure make night sailing easier. (more…)

By |2021-08-26T18:57:20+01:00June 27th, 2021|

Old Friends Inclusion Ventures Return

On Monday 14th June we started our first residential trip with young people under the rule of six covid restrictions. It was good to remind ourselves what we have been missing since the autumn of 2019!

As Oli said in the debrief at the end of the trip it felt possible after so long to forget how and why we sail with young trainees. Thank goodness we had not forgotten too much of the how and we had the help of four fantastic young women from Inclusion Ventures and their staff to remind us of the reasons why.

The staff Sarah and Ruby and client Jess had sailed with us in September last year when the restrictions allowed day trips and residential family bubbles, although two attempts to undertake a family trip fell foul of infections at school and the necessary isolations. But now we were finally underway with three new faces in Kaydee, Frankie and Maddi after regular testing and with a happy heart, if with a very odd feeling in the nasal passages.
By |2021-08-26T18:58:16+01:00June 27th, 2021|

To Gillingham

Thanks to funding from Trinity House and Whirlwind Charitable Trust we are able to provide training for prospective barge skippers. This arises from work done before covid with Mick Nolan’s trainees and aims to give hands on practical experience in a variety of situations.

After attending Newham Heritage Month Blue Mermaid beat down the Thames, having beat up it a few days before. Despite a slow start she made anchorage in the Muckings with time to spare before low water. Only there did the crew find and retrieve a tyre that had graced the port bow all the way down the river. Fortunately, at least one other river user had captured an image and posted it online as a reminder. All future courses will include a detailed module in fender operations. Each fender will be numbered with a similarly numbered pocket on the main hatch and a token system as used on branch railways to ensure the rail is clear after use. The procedure will be written up and added to the operation manual and the training manual. Should this prove inadequate then a permit to fender scheme will be adopted requiring signature in and out. This is all consistent with the Trust’s philosophy of taking as much pride in the small things as we do in the big ones. Hence, you earn the right to enjoy a thrash down Swin with two jibs set and spray flying in the sun, only by tying a knot with consideration of how it can be released under load or making fast to a cleat in a similar manner. (more…)

By |2021-06-17T13:46:14+01:00June 17th, 2021|

Visit To Newham Heritage Month Day Two

Oli puts sculling skills to use

Day two proved much busier than day one and as the Allen keys of fate secured the quayside barriers of Excel shortly after 1900 the 121st visitor of the day alighted the gangway. The brickmaking clay from Collier’s of Marks Tey in Essex was handed over to the Newham Brickmaking Project, an amazing partnership between the University of East London, the Victoria and Albert Museum and a fantastic group of female artisan brickmakers from St Austell near where Blue Mermaid was built at Polruan in 2016. Collier’s dug the clay from their own quarry. When Oli visited he learnt how the firm has produced handmade bricks since 1863. They had a brief episode with machinery to supply demand after the war but reverted to manual processes where nowadays three makers produce 2500 bricks each per week and have clay for a good number of years yet.



By |2021-05-28T08:03:10+01:00May 28th, 2021|

At Newham Heritage Month

Blue Mermaid alongside Excel

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.
By |2021-05-28T08:02:09+01:00May 26th, 2021|

‘Wind, Tide And Oar’

We took independent film maker Huw Wahl sailing on Wednesday to give him a taste of barging in preparation for his making of a film about engineless sailing to be titled ‘Wind, Tide and Oar.’
We are looking forward to working more with Huw throughout the season and watching this interesting project develop.
More photos here.
By |2021-05-07T09:48:00+01:00May 7th, 2021|