Commissioning in 2019, Blue Mermaid is a faithful replica of the original Blue Mermaid. She was one of the last Thames sailing barge built, in 1930, but lost during the war. Delivering our current work with youth groups and their staff, she extends it by carrying cargo and trainees who gain sea time learning traditional seamanship skills. Sailing without an engine, she does this with very low carbon emissions.
Our sailing barge is designed to meet the needs of the Charity. Blue Mermaid is comprised of a steel hull and deck and has all the traditional rigging and decking of a sea-going Thames barge, with basic facilities below. Now she is under way a greater variety of youngsters have the opportunity for their own personal reassessment and development. A new range of courses is planned to offer them the chance to undertake training with the opportunity of embarking on a maritime career.
The steel hull and deck were built by Polruan based boatyard C Toms and Son, a long established builder of steel vessels. She was launched during Spring 2016 before being towed up channel to Maldon for fitting out and rigging by Heritage Marine, with sails by James Lawrence Sailmakers. She is entering service with the charity during Spring 2019.
Other similar charities are owners of the vessels they operate too. However, whilst they also work at sea with young people, Sea-Change is unique in its field in the UK because its approach concentrates on high quality personal support and training with on-going mentoring, entrenching the development of small groups of students for the long term rather than limiting the experience to time spent aboard. It enables support to be offered to participants once they have returned home from a programme and sustain them between programmes. As they are often from very disadvantaged backgrounds it is critical in encouraging lasting, positive outcomes that boost confidence and self-esteem. The charity’s bursary scheme ensures that no one is excluded on financial grounds.
As well as our existing portfolio of programmes, Blue Mermaid is enabling us to offer extended residential programmes through our Youth Sailing Scheme, engaging trainees with the genuine vocational objective of carrying cargo. As well as defraying costs it demonstrates purpose over that of sailing for its own sake, as admirably described here by Tom Cunliffe.
Blue Mermaid also gives us the opportunity to develop our new Seamanship Scholarship, a unique range of programmes for young people offering a training progression path to their chosen maritime career. Clients can join a scheme at any point subject to their level of ability. The schemes are under constant refinement and, for example, will include cargo handling under sail in the lower Thames estuary.
Frank Carr, the first curator of the Greenwich Maritime Museum and the original saviour of the Cutty Sark for the nation, wrote in 1951 of the then diminishing fleet of trading barges that it might: “be possible to run a fleet of sail-training barges as a venture almost economically self-supporting, in which, under ordinary trading conditions, large numbers of apprentices could receive a short period of training in sail, counting for sea-time, in which they would receive a very valuable grounding in real seamanship of a kind which they could never gain in steam.” Our project shares this vision; please also read our important policy document: The Cargo Carrying Thames Barge Under Sail – Our Vision, Our Philosophy.
We differ from other organisations in similar charitable sectors and, uniquely, exist to offer those who sail with us the benefit of ongoing care for life-long gain. Our work benefits us all.
We need ongoing funding to survive and would not exist without it. We have a bursary scheme, which ensures no one is declined the opportunity to sail with us on financial grounds, our Seamanship Scholarship and our sustainability fund to ensure the long term success of Blue Mermaid. Please help us by clicking here.