Grant Awarded to help train Thames sailing barge crew

23rd January 2023

The Thames Sailing Barge Trust are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a grant of £19,600 from Trinity House towards the successful training scheme the Trust operate.

One of the Trust’s objectives is to advance the education of the public as to the historic and cultural role of Thames sailing barges in the seagoing heritage of Great Britain and to provide training in the traditional seafaring skills required to sail and maintain Thames sailing barges in their local waters.

The Thames sailing barge community in general is facing a shortage of skilled crew. The ‘pool of talent’ we can draw upon is shrinking as time goes by, due to an increasingly aging demographic in the sailing barge community. It is vital that new blood is swiftly brought in so that precious skills are not lost.

Currently, it can take up to five years or so to gain sufficient experience to become a Mate, and ten years to become a Skipper. There is a real problem with skills disappearing coupled with the length of time it takes to learn the trade. There are currently only eight Skippers under the age of 50, and about 25 Mates.

Over the last 5 years the Trust have taken on a number of trainees each year in order to train them as future third hands, mates and ultimately skippers, so that there is a pool of people available to sail the historic Thames sailing barges in the future. The scheme has in the past been supported by Trinity House and the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the outcomes from the Pudge Project which is seeing the Thames sailing barge Pudge restored and her accommodation upgraded.

In the last two years the Trust has had two trainees complete their skipper tickets, with two others completing their examinations in the next few weeks and eight trainees be made up as mates. The funds from Trinity House will be used to cover the costs of  RYA training courses, books and hire of barges to carry out practicable learning. Part of the grant will be shared with Sea Change Sailing Trust who are to provide specific training events for the trainees on their engineless sailing barge Blue Mermaid.

The Trustees are grateful to Trinity House for making this award which will help make sure that for well into the future there will be sufficient trained crew to sail these iconic vessels including the Trust’s sailing barges Centaur and Pudge.