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Encyclopedia > Thames sailing barge

The distinctive sailing barges that were once a common sight on London's River Thames, were commercial craft relying on sail power alone. They were perfectly adapted to the relatively sheltered Thames Estuary with its shallow waters and narrow rivers, although many traded much further afield, to the north of England, the South Coast and even to continental European ports. Cargoes varied enormously: bricks, mud, hay, rubbish, sand, coal and grain, for example. Due to the efficiency of a Thames Barges gear, a crew of only two sufficed for most voyages, although by today's standards it would have been hard physical work at times.

They are usually spritsail rigged on two masts. Most had a topsail above the huge mainsail and a large foresail. The mizen was a much smaller mast on which was set a single sail whose main purpose was to aid steering when tacking. Sail areas varied from 3000 to 5000 square feet (300 to 500 m²) depending on the size of the barge. Due to the dressing used to waterproof the flax sails, they were typically an attractive rusty-red colour. No auxiliary power was used originally but many barges were fitted with engines in the later years.

Their heyday came at the turn of the last century when over 2000 were on the registry. The 20th century saw a steady decline in their numbers until, in 1969, the last of them to trade under sail - the Cambria - carried her final freight. Today, a small number remain, converted to pleasure craft and commonly sailed in the annual races which take place in the Thames Estuary. These survivors have an enthusiastic following: [1] (http://www.thamesbarge.org.uk/)

The vast majority were wooden hulled (although a significant number were also built in steel), between 80 and 90 feet (25 to 30 m) long with a beam of around 20 feet (6 m). The hull form was as distinctive as their rig, being flat-bottomed with a degree of flair to the sides, plumb ends, the stern being a champagne glass section transom on which was hung a large rudder. The hull was mainly a hold with two small living areas in the bow and stern and access was through two large hatchways, the smaller before the main mast and a much larger aperture behind.

The flat-bottomed hull was one of the features which made these caft so versatile and economical. For a start, they could float in as little as 3 feet (1 m) of water and they could dry out in the tidal waters without heeling over. This allowed them to visit the narrow tributaries and creeks of the Thames to load farm cargoes or to dry out on the sand banks and mudflats to load these materials for building and brickmaking. It was no coincidence that their heyday occurred during a period of when London expanded rapidly. Furthermore, unlike most sailing craft, these barges could sail completely unballasted - a major saving in labour and time.

Their sailing performance was perfected due to the annual 'Matches' in which individual craft competed for trophies and cash prizes. In good conditions, these craft can attain speeds over 12 knots, and their 'leeboards' (a form of drop-keel) allows them to be highly effective windward performers. The unusual sprits'l rig allows any combination of sails to be set, even the topsail on its own is effective in some conditions.

Types of sailing vessels and rigs

Bark | Barque | Barquentine | Bilander | Brig | Brig (Hermaphrodite) | Brigantine | Caravel | Carrack | Catamaran | Catboat | Clipper | Clipper (Dutch Clipper) | Cog | Cutter | Dhow | Fluyt | Fore & Aft Rig | Full Rigged Ship | Gaff Rig | Galleon | Gunter Rig | Hermaphrodite Brig | Junk | Ketch | Mersey Flat | Multihull | Nao | Norfolk Wherry | Pocket Cruiser | Proa | Schooner | Sloop | Smack | Snow | Square Rig | Tall ship | Thames Sailing Barge | Trimaran | Wherry | Wherry (Norfolk) | Windjammer | Xebec | Yacht | Yawl Wooden sailing boat Sailing is motion across a body of water in a sailing ship, or smaller boat, powered by wind. ... In Norse mythology, see Ríg. ... A barque, sometimes spelled bark, originally referred to a particular type of ship-rigged sailing vessel with a plain bluff bow and a full stern with windows. ... A barque, sometimes spelled bark, originally referred to a particular type of ship-rigged sailing vessel with a plain bluff bow and a full stern with windows. ... This article is about the ship. ... A bilander, also spelled billander or belandre, was a small European merchant ship with two masts, used in the Netherlands for coast and canal traffic and occasionally seen in the North Sea but more frequently to be seen in the Mediterranean Sea. ... In sailing, a brig is a vessel with two masts at least one of which is square rigged. ... A hermaphrodite brig, or brig-schooner, is a type of two-masted sailing ship which has square sails on the foremast combined with a schooner rig on the mainmast (triangular topsail over a gaff mainsail). ... In sailing, a brigantine is a vessel with two masts, at least one of which is square rigged. ... A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable, three-masted ship used by the Spanish for long voyages of exploration beginning in the 15th century. ... Categories: Stub | Ship types ... Two Hobie catamarans, showing the typical Hobie raised platform joining the two hulls, and tall mast. ... The occupied boats are catboats, but with a mast and boom rig A catboat (alternate spelling: cat boat), or a cat_rigged sailboat, is a sailing vessel characterized by a single mast carried well forward (, near the front of the boat). ... For other uses, see Clipper (disambiguation). ... While the majority of the clipper ships sailed under British and American flags, more then a hundred clippers were built in the Netherlands. ... The earliest development seems to have been Celtic, though the cog was first noted in the Dutch city of Muiden in the 10th century. ... For other meanings, see cutter (baseball), cutter (tool) and self-harm. ... A dhow is a traditional boat design with one or more triangular sails, called lateens. ... A fluyt or a flute (pronounced as flight) is a type of sailing ship originally designed as a dedicated cargo vessel. ... A fore-and-aft rig is a sailing rig consisting mainly of sails that are set along the line of the keel rather than perpendicular to it. ... A full rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a square rigged sailing vessel with three or more masts, all of them square rigged. ... Gaff rig is a sailing rig in which the mainsail is a four-cornered fore-and-aft rigged sail controlled at its head by a spar called the gaff. ... For the fictional unit of money called a galleon, see Money in Harry Potter. ... In sailing, a gunter is a wire that leads from one end of a gaff to the other. ... A hermaphrodite brig, or brig-schooner, is a type of two-masted sailing ship which has square sails on the foremast combined with a schooner rig on the mainmast (triangular topsail over a gaff mainsail). ... The Junk is a Chinese sailing vessel. ... Ketch on San Francisco Bay A ketch is a sailing craft with two masts: A main mast, and a mizzen mast aft of the main mast. ... A Mersey flat is a two masted, doubled-ended barge with rounded bilges, carvel build and fully decked. ... A multihull is a sailing ship with more than one hull. ... Categories: Stub | Ship types ... The Norfolk wherry is a black-sailed trader, type of boat on the Norfolk Broads and Suffolk Broads, now part of The Broads National Park, in Norfolk, England. ... A Pocket Cruiser, Microcruiser or Pocket Yacht is a small sailboat with a cabin, whose length is at or under 20 feet (6 meters), with some examples as short as 10 to 12 feet in length (3 to 3. ... A twin hulled vessel with unequal parallel hulls, superficially similar to an outrigger canoe. ... Two-masted fishing schooner A schooner is a type of sailing ship characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts. ... Important notice: This article is about the modern civilian boat type. ... See: To strike with an open palm, such as to smack a child. ... This article is about snow, the merchant vessel. ... Square rig is a generic type of sailing vessel in which the main horizontal spars are perpendicular to the keel of the ship. ... Tall ship is a somewhat informal collective term for some kinds of sailing ships. ... A trimaran is a multihull boat consisting of a main hull and two smaller outrigger hulls (amas), attached to the main hull with lateral struts (akas). ... A wherry (meaning boat) is a boat used for carrying cargo on rivers and canals in England. ... The Norfolk wherry is a black-sailed trader, type of boat on the Norfolk Broads and Suffolk Broads, now part of The Broads National Park, in Norfolk, England. ... A xebec, also spelled xebeque, jabeque, sciabecco, zebec, chebec and chebeck, was a small, fast, three-masted (but originally two-masted) vessel of the 16th to 19th centuries used almost exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea, with a distinctive hull, which added a pronounced overhanging bow and stern, and rarely displacing... A yacht was originally defined as a light, fast sailing vessel used to convey important persons. ... A yawl is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an additional mizzen mast well aft of the main mast, often right on the transom. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Thames sailing barge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (875 words)
Thames sailing barges, with typical red-brown sails, in the East Swin.
A Thames sailing barge was a type of commercial sailing boat common on the River Thames in London in the 19th century.
The flat-bottomed barges were perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow rivers.
barge - information on barge at Answers.com (1150 words)
Barge towing, done in the past by men or by horses or mules, is now accomplished mostly by steam or motor tugboat or by other, self-propelled barges.
Barges on canals (towed by draft animals on an adjacent towpath) contended with the railway in the early industrial revolution but were outcompeted in the carriage of high value items due to the higher speed, falling costs, and route flexibility of rail transport.
Poles are used on barges to fend off the barge as it nears other vessels or a wharf, often called pike poles, and on shallow canals for example in the UK long punt poles are used to manoeuvre or propel the barge.
  More results at FactBites »



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