In the summer of 2016 a worrying situation arose. A number of barge charters and public trips could not take place because of a shortage of qualified and experienced Skippers and Mates.
As a result two new initiatives were started. The Thames Sailing Barge Trust set up a training programme for barge crews – The Trainee Skippers and Mates Scheme – with the aim of keeping alive the skills needed to sail, maintain and repair Thames barges. The Trust usually recruits around ten new volunteer third hands to train as barge crew every January and those who join accept that it is a long-term commitment to achieve qualification.