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   The Society for Sailing Barge Research

Frequently Asked Questions About Sailing Barges


How does a barge work, what are the sails and how are they set? How is the rigging arranged.(In general what are the Mechanics of a sailing barge?

There is a excellent Web Site written by Ivor Bittle  see www.ivorbittle.co.uk which explains the mechanics of the barge and how it is sailed. the site includes sailing theory, and the mechanics of raising & stowing sails, the functions of various winches & rigging & spar details.

Where can I see a Thames Sailing Barge? You can usually be sure of seeing a  Thames Sailing Barge at  the following locations.
Hythe Quay, Maldon  Essex. Hythe Quay Maldon, Essex
St Katherines Dock, by  Tower Bridge, London St Catherines Dock, London 1999
Standard Quay, Faversham, Kent Sketch of Standard Quay, Faversham by R-H Perks 1999
Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum, Milton Creek, Sittingbourne, Kent Cambria & Oak at Dolphin Yard 1998
See "Barge Match" Page Before the start of the 1980 Colne Match

Other locations where barges can sometimes be seen include:-

Snape Maltings, Suffolk

Pin Mill, Ipswich, Suffolk

Ipswich Dock, Ipswich, Suffolk.

Hoo & Upnor, Kent

Port Solent & Haslar Marina, Portsmouth, Hants

Ipswich Docks by Peter Ferguson 1974
What are those large flaps that hang on the side for? Those "Flaps" are called "Leeboards. Being flat bottomed barges have no keel to keep them upright when sailing to windward. To give them stability the leeboard is lowered on the lee side of the vessel when sailing to windward thus giving the vessel stability. S.B. Reminder in the 1980 Colne Match
Why are the sails a red  colour? The sails are painted (Dressed) with a mixture of mainly red ochre and fish oil and other  ingredients to preserve them and make them more efficient.
How many crew did a barge carry? Barges normally carried a crew of two men and a dog. A few barges were sailed single handed (and a dog). Some of the larger coasting barges carried a crew of two men, a boy and a dog.
Do barges have engines? A few of the later barges were built with an engine installed and many had an engine fitted as auxiliary propulsion at a later date. Only one or two barges remain that rely on the wind alone for propulsion.