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Here at Topsail we’ve been clearing out Sailing Barge Will getting her ship shape for the summer season. Launched in 1925, Sailing Barge Will is coming up for her 90th Birthday next year! On such an old barge the items you find (or should I say antiques) are really quite amazing. Old spanners form the 1930s, ancient photographs, manuals from a bygone era and of course a lot of rubbish! After a few days sorting manically in the sun the Barge looked more like a large open plan Flea Market than a working vessel. It was worth it though as she’s now fitter than ever and ready for her busy working season. With sailing trips off the east coast, corporate hospitality work in the capital and taking part in the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival, we’re really excited about the coming few months and would love you to be a part of it!
Dry Docking and new crew…
After our much needed sort out came the really important work out of the water. Once a year Sailing Barge Will goes into Dry Dock for a repaint and work can be completed under the water line. The sheer size of Will becomes apparent when she is out of the water. As the largest Sailing Barge ever built at just under 100ft long, Sailing Barge Will is an impressive sight! With all the structural checks and work done, she left Greenwich last week, cruising back up to Tower Bridge to pick up some guests for a Clay Shooting Event in the capital looking smarter than ever.
This year Sailing Barge Will has also waved goodbye to Tom Cook, our much loved skipper and friend who we will miss greatly this summer. Tom is going on to work as an apprentice with the National Historic Ships fleet so we’re sure he’s going to be more than busy keeping our nations maritime history alive over the next few years: a worthy cause to loose him for! Working on the Barge will not be the same without him at the helm dodging the fearless Thames Clippers though.
However, we’d like to welcome Tom Lagan to the crew as our new Mate. With Barging in his blood and a wealth of experience it looks like he couldn’t be more spot on for the job. Did I mention he is also a Jazz drummer? A new season, new crew, we are very excited about the coming adventures this summer!
Have a Topsail Summer
After working exclusively in London for a few solid years, Will adventured up to Pin Mill last year on a rare sailing trip. Getting her sails out and returning to the sea is what she was built for as a coaster Barge and she seems all the happier for it. We are preparing for another few sailing trips this year, flexing our muscles in the Thames Estuary, the Essex coast and beyond! See if you can catch us sailing by – we are the big grey one! This photo of the barge furling sails was sent in to us last year by a passing vessel.
We’ll also be doing a lot of corporate work in the capital and opening the majestic Tower Bridge for our guests. This is another great part of what we do: being able to take people onto the Thames and escape the summer heat and hustle of London work. why not breathe the fresh air and experience the historical Thames with a cocktail in hand? The Barge is the perfect host and (we think of course!) the most beautiful vessel available to charter on the Thames. As a familiar sight for Londoners now, the grey Barge swooping in under the bridge to pick up guests on a calm summers evening before whisking them away on a magical trip really is the most rejuvenating experience.
Perhaps Oldest Barge on Film?
British Pathe’s film Red Sails has a clip that has been doing the rounds in the Topsail Office. Seen here the clip entitled Red Sails AKA Sailing Barge from 1947 shows early footage of a Thames Sailing Barge that we think is almost certainly our very own Sailing Barge Will!
Set around Great Yarmouth the film shows the barge, loaded with grain, sailing and being towed in and out of harbour. Our recognisable Wheel House (an unusual feature for barges) and other similarities have us convinced: this is our Barge 67 years ago! These Barges have been working and sailing for longer than most of us have been alive and will most definitely out live us here at Topsail. There is something quite extraordinary about this, its a real privilege to spend time on the Barge and be able to share this with other people. If you fancy stepping on a piece of living and breathing history join us on board. We’re the most unique and special vessel on the Thames (well we would say that wouldn’t we!) and we can quite literally take you on a cruise back in time.
By Guy Wimpory email@example.com