For centuries, up until the mid 1960’s, Thames Sailing Barges transported all types of cargo to and from UK East Coast and channel ports ( both UK and near continent).
In their heyday during late nineteenth century, literally thousands of these barges traded around our coasts, often penetrating deep inland to the smallest of wharves and quaysides.
The Thames Sailing Barge has many unique features, principally her flat bottomed hull which ensures great stability as well as maximum cargo carrying capacity. This hull form enables the vessel to float on an extraordinarily shallow depth of water, even when fully laden, and sail up all but the smallest and shallowest tidal estuaries.
Instead of a keel or centreboard, these barges are fitted with leeboards, one on each side, so that they can be hoisted in shallow waters and lowered for deep water sailing to windward to prevent sideways drift, as with a keel or centreboard on other sailing vessels. Having leeboards on the outside of the hull means no valuable interior cargo space is wasted as would be the case with a conventional lifting centreplate or keel.
Finally the Thames Barge has a sail plan which has been developed and honed over many centuries, culminating in a rig which provides impressive sailing performance and which traditionally has been handled by only ‘man and boy’ ( skipper and mate) without the need for larger crew numbers.
Thames Barges have been a vital part of the UK’s transport network for many generations, and it is certainly sad that there are now only a small number of these remarkable vessels still in existence, mainly based on the Essex coast, working as charter vessels. Some are full size barges with a deck length of around 90ft and some are half size ( for working the smallest of ports) with a deck length of around 45ft. The last trading barge was built in the early 1930’s.
In 1998 Charlie Ward commissioned Norfolk based naval architect Andrew Wolstenholme to design a new 45ft sailing Barge closely resembling the Thames Barge with many of their unique design features, but also incorporating modern equipment where this didn’t spoil the visual appearance of the vessel. Named JUNO, she was built in the driveway of Charlie’s boatyard at Morston beside Blakeney Harbour, and launched during early 2000.
Since then JUNO has proved to be a remarkable vessel with very impressive sailing performance, luxurious and spacious interior, and only require a depth of 2’6” (0.77m) to float despite her overall weight of 30 tons! Since launching her, Charlie has operated a thriving charter business using JUNO for day charters exploring the North Norfolk Coast and landing on remote beaches for walking and exploring. To date JUNO has sailed almost 20,000 miles with almost 15,000 charterers. Charlie and his family have also sailed JUNO further afield as far as Falmouth in Cornwall spending time exploring the Cornish estuaries and Helford River as well as the Thames and Suffolk rivers on their outward journey.
JUNO turns heads wherever she sails. Join us for a memorable day – give Charlie a call on 07771597985 anytime to discuss a charter and check availability.
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