Maldon: Thames Sailing Barge Trust awarded £19,000 training grant towards securing the future of local icons

By Ben Shahrabi

11th Feb 2023 | Local News

Trustees say this award will help ensure there is enough trained crew to sail these iconic vessels well into the future. (Photos: TSBT)
Trustees say this award will help ensure there is enough trained crew to sail these iconic vessels well into the future. (Photos: TSBT)

More than just a landmark on the waterfront, Maldon's barges are a crucial part of local history - which the Thames Sailing Barge Trust aims to protect and preserve.

And now, the future looks even brighter thanks to a £19,600 grant from the Trinity House charity, towards the Trust's successful training scheme.

One of the Trust's objectives is to show the public the historic and cultural role of Thames sailing barges in the seagoing heritage of Great Britain. It also provides training in the traditional seafaring skills needed to sail and maintain these vessels.

The funds from Trinity House are set to cover the costs of Royal Yachting Association training courses, books, and barge hire for hands-on training. Part of the grant will also be shared with Sea Change Sailing Trust, which will provide specific training events for the trainees on their engineless sailing barge, Blue Mermaid.

"It is vital that new blood is swiftly brought in so that precious skills are not lost."

John Rayment, Membership Secretary at the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, told Nub News: "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.

"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 to gain sufficient experience to become a Mate, and as long as 10 years to become a Skipper, which risks these skills disappearing altogether.

There are currently only eight Skippers under the age of 50, and approximately 25 Mates.

Over the last five years, the Trust has taken on several trainees each year, to train them as future third hands, mates and (ultimately) skippers. It aims to make a workforce available to sail the historic barges in the future.

The scheme has previously been supported by Trinity House and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of the 'Pudge Project' which is seeing the 100-year-old Thames sailing barge Pudge restored.

Since 2021, two trainees have completed their skipper tickets, with two others completing their examinations in the next few weeks and eight trainees set to be made up as mates.

Trustees say this award will help ensure there is enough trained crew to sail these iconic vessels, including the Trust's own sailing barges, Centaur and Pudge, "well into the future".

For more information about the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, visit the charity's website.

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