May 28 2015 Latest news:
Saturday, August 9, 2014
With her sky-scraping masts, proud bow and wide deck, the Thames barge Cambria makes for an arresting sight as she glides through the water.
And even with her huge maroon sails neatly tucked away she has still managed to turn plenty of heads as she is tugged along Norfolk’s Broads.
The historic sailing barge has returned to her former stamping ground as part of a voyage run by the Sea Change Sailing Trust, a charity which provides unique experiences for disabled and disadvatanged youngsters.
Cambria’s crew of 12, including several teenagers, set off from Pin Mill near Ipswich on Sunday and sailed up the coast to Great Yarmouth, arriving just in time to be puffed into the town’s harbour on Tuesday – a notoriously difficult maneouvre to carry out under sail.
Since then Cambria has been tugged up to Reedham where she will stay moored before heading into Nowich on Monday.
■ Cambria is a wooden Thames sailing barge, famed as one of the last barges left working entirely under sail having never been fitted with an engine.
■ She was built in 1906 at Greenhithe, Kent by Will Everard who trained as a shipwright in what is now Richards’ shipyard in Great Yarmouth.
■ It cost £1,895 to construct her and in her heyday she could carry 170 tonnes, enough to fill 17 railway carts.
■ One of her most regular routes was carrying coal from Keadby in North Lincolnshire to Harwick, Colchester and Margate.
■ Cambria and her sister barges were also a familiar site on Yarmouth’s waterways and the vessel was a regular trader to Norwich in the 1940s and 50s.
■ In the late 50s and 60s the Everard family began to lay off their sailing barges and most were broken up or converted into houseboats. But Cambria was saved after she was offered to one of her captain’s, Bob Roberts. He ran her successfully until 1970.
■ Cambria then became an exhibit at St Katherine’s dock in London, after being taken on by the Maritime Trust. Her condition deteriorated and in 1996 she was sold to the Cambria Trust for £1 and towed to a yard in Kent.
■ After years of campaigning the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £990,000 to the trust in 2006 to help towards her restoration. The project took four years to complete and the Cambria is now sailing again, providing educational activities and training to youngsters.
Mark Wakelin, a former chief navigation officer with the Broads Authority, is among the adult crew on board. He said: “The barge belongs to the Cambria Trust and they charter her to Sea Change, who take her for a month or so. Last year they went to Wells and this year we thought we would try and get to Norwich to prove we can still do it.”
During her journey to the fine city Cambria will have to travel under seven road and rail bridges, and lower both of her gigantic masts to pass under the A47 southern bypass.
So far her trip has proved a great success, catching the attention of residents and holidaymakers alike particularly in Yarmouth when she passed under the town’s Haven Bridge yesterday morning.
Zeb Stone is among the youngsters on board and said she had turned heads wherever she went.
The teenager, who celebrated his 18th birthday on board and is studying at the International Boatbuilding Training College in Oulton Broad, added: “It’s been really good and I’ve really enjoyed it. There’s been a lot of people taking pictures as we sail past.
“I haven’t been sailing since I started the course and it was really interesting to come on and see all the joints I have been doing at the college. I’m taking a lot from it.”
Also on board is Phil Latham who served as a mate on Cambria from 1964 to 1968 during her trading heyday. Based in London’s docks, he was one of the two-man crew who would sail Cambria up and down the east coast delivering cargo.
When making trips to Norfolk he would often deliver agricultural loads, such as cattle cake, soya bean, fertiliser and grains “of all sorts” including mustard seeds.
Mr Latham said: “I come about once a year [on Sea Change trips]. It’s very pleasant but very different of course because she’s not working anymore and we have got these young people, which is great.
“It’s nice to see the barge being used for something useful. It’s helping the youngsters find their feet and it’s something worthwhile to be doing.”
Cambria is due to arrive in Norwich in the early hours of Tuesday morning and will then return the way she came with some new young crewmen and women on board.
Mr Wakelin, who is now harbour master for Crouch Harbour Authority in Essex, said the Sea Change trips helped provide training for the youngsters, while getting them to work as a team.
“It doesn’t suit all kids but for some it really works and it stays with them and they come back year after year,” he added.
For more information about Sea Change visit www.seachangesailingtrust.org.uk
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