photo AMB

Built in 1938,  our lighter is typical of the barges used on the river Thames to transport goods around the docks from newly arrived ships to the dockside warehouses, or for transhioment between ships.

The TSBT bought her from Silvertown Services ( Tate & Lyle Ltd ) in 1969 and we use now her as a floating store and workshop for maintenance of our barges at our Maldon base.

Sailorman is on the Nationed Register of Historic Vessel of the United Kingdom. Certificate no 1853.

Length 79.5 feet  tonnage 101.75

                                                                                                                                                                      photo AMB

                     A Lighter in the Pool of London, St Paul's in the background.          Photo NMM - ( not Sailorman )

The curious wedge shaped form of the bow is known a  'swim' or 'swim head'. Early Thames Sailimg barges has the same sort of shaped bow before eventually adopting the more normal shape we see nowadays. The last swim headed sailing barges sodiered on to about 1900. 

                                                                       Windlass, bitts, and hatch       Photo AMB


an article by Peter Boss, published in the August 2012 newsletter 

For some time now we have been seriously thinking that we must take a look at our lighter ‘SAILORMAN’ with a view to ensuring that any necessary repairs are carried out. Although we find her invaluable as a workshop and store, it tends to be forgotten that she too is on the official list of Historic Ships and her historic value carries a similar degree of importance as PUDGE and CENTAUR. However, due to the pressure of restoration and repair work in other areas we keep putting her off.

Back in 1969 the Club, as it then was, had been steadily amassing spare barge gear, tools and equipment and had finally run out of places to stow it. The answer to the problem came when Silvertown Services, owned by Tate and Lyle, agreed to sell us one of their hatched lighters which had been working in the sugar trade. She was first registered on the Thames in 1938 as an Open Lighter with a length of 79.5ft, a width of 23.25 ft and a depth of 7.75ft and was still in very good condition when the Club bought her for the sum of £80. She was named SAILORMAN, the name given to the men who sailed Thames sailing barges in trade.

She was moored in the Surry Docks which was our winter berth at that time. I wasn’t a member in 1969, but I remember in the 70’s helping to move her from dock to dock: West India, Victoria then King George V because the LDDC were clearing the docks one by one as part of the London redevelopment plan and we kept being moved on. Finally, in 1983, she ended up out in the river on one of Cory’s buoys, near where they were building the Thames Barrier (which opened 1984). A friend, Peter Carey, owner/master of the motor barge EILEENA agreed to tow her round to Maldon in stages for us. Peter carried grain to Stanbridge Mills on the River Roach and managed to fit us in with his deliveries. Maldon then became the home for PUDGE, CENTAUR and SAILORMAN.

It was almost a day of celebration when we finally got her round to Maldon. Over the years she had become so much a part of our operation it was difficult to do without her. Down below racks had been built on either side to ensure that we keep CENTAUR and PUDGE’s rigging and general gear separate to avoid any mix up during winter maintenance. Rails were built on which to hang blocks etc. for painting and oiling. Benches, tool cabinets, drawers and shelves were added for working and storage of materials plus there were areas set aside to store timber, metal and general barge spares. Although we do have to pay mooring fees she is really handy being moored right alongside our barges, and it could be said that it was one of the best £80 we ever spent!

Back to the present (2012)  – well nearly. Sailorman hasn’t been out of the water now since 1992 when with members’ help I put her on the blocks at Cook’s Yard, hired a 2000 psi power washer and we thoroughly cleaned the hull. We found that the bottom plates which extend right up under the swim and the stern were much thicker and were in a very good condition. The sides, in general, were also quite sound, except along the waterline near the ends, where we found some thin areas, so several pieces of new plate were welded on by members.

The committee has decided that we must now take action to have Sailorman surveyed and to effect any repairs necessary. The decision has already been made to accept the quote of a local company at Maldon who are very experienced at this type of work.

When we last tackled it 20 years ago, we did not realise what we were getting ourselves into. Sitting doubled up underneath cleaning the bottom with a 2000 psi spray which none of us had ever used before was no joke! Even with some form of protective clothing and goggles etc. it still meant that we were working in a constant thick mist of water containing flying mud, rust, scale, weed and sharp bits of barnacle. Then we had to had to carry out all the other work between tides.

This time we are being more sensible and are leaving it to the experts who will pick Sailorman up from the quay, put her in the dry dock, clean, repair and spray paint the bottom and sides and then deliver her back to her berth. We need to get the work done during the summer while both of our barges are rigged and it doesn’t interfere with the winter maintenance, but we have possibly left it rather late for this year as the dry dock is quite busy. When I requested that they try to squeeze us into their work programme this summer the reply was ‘It has taken you 20 years to make up your minds and now you want it done immediately!’ but it was said with a smile, so I know that they will try. I will keep you informed of progress.

Peter Boss
August 2012

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