Found this snapshot recently by my mother, a sailing barge in the Thames Estuary late 1920s, Brownie box camera:
These barges had a distinctive design, with the boom going up diagonally to the yard. same for the mizzen mast. They carried goods to and from London, up and down the Thames Estuary and a bit along the North Sea or Channel coasts. Their days were numbered, some were motorized in the 1930s, but by 1945 most of them had been abandoned on the mudflats, where their remains can still be seen, mostly like skeletons of whales.
The last of them may have been used as decoy landing craft in the Thames Estuary before D-Day.
After scanning, I cropped the picture, and adjusted contrast.
The vertical lines top left are scanning artefacts, time to get a new scanner.
Thanks Rachel and Mik. As Rachel said, the last few have been preserved by enthusiasts and you might see one if you're lucky. Round our corner of the estuary, you're more likely to see hundreds of rotting hulks, lying in abandoned harbours, drawn up on the seawall, or out on the mudflats at low tide.
Post by John Parry on Mar 19, 2010 10:58:47 GMT -5
Designed for two man operation, so very efficient in a cost cutting way. Very inefficient from a sailing point of view (as you can tell from the set of the sails). The wishbone rig has become well known as the standard configuration on windsurfers. Rachel will know more than me from the Norfolk wherries, which are close relations. Lovely to see a working boat under full sail though - thanks Sid.
Regards - John
Last Edit: Mar 19, 2010 10:59:31 GMT -5 by John Parry
Post by John Parry on Mar 22, 2010 16:57:20 GMT -5
Maybe not - although the wherries were also built for economy of manpower. Sorry Rachel.
Sid - not the amount of wind, the efficiency is lost because the wishbone arrangement always spills some of the available wind because the sail can't bell properly. Other than that, the foot is fouled by the backstay, and the lack of a regular boom is allowing the sail to flap - spilling even more wind from the mainsail. Even with these limitations, they were cheap to sail (almost free when you think about it), especially as the cargo would be non-perishable and it wouldn't really matter how long it took to arrive, as long as it got there.
Rachel passed on a comment from a friend, apparently only 6 ever had the boom on the port side, and wondered if the picture had been reversed.
I can't answer about the photo being reversed, I scanned a postcard enlargement from a 120 or 620 neg, any reversal would have happened then (1920s) at the printing shop. The haze hides the Essex shoreline so no help from landmarks. As the barge is facing now, she would be moving upriver, providing she didn't eventually turn into the Swale or the Medway. If reversed, the original would be heading out to sea (or to Whitstable, or again into the eastern end of the Swale for Faversham etc). It's not sharp enough for names.
Found this video of a recent barge race in the River Medway
B marks the position of the barge in the photo
Perhaps I should also mention that both rivers are tidal on the map (and farther up). So you have a constant flow of river water out into the estuary, and two tides a day riding in and out on top, so you get constantly changing currents especially just W of the barge, where the Thames, Medway and Swale meet (the Swale is a creek, not a river so only has tidal flow but from both ends which adds to the fun).