Maldon, a busy little town at the head of the Blackwater estuary, is the place to go to see Thames Sailing Barges, although you can also find a few at Faversham in Kent or Pin Mill in Suffolk. The picture above shows several of these vessels airing their sails alongside the quay at Maldon. Thames barges were about the last sailing cargo vessels to be commercially operated in the UK. Up until the second world war some hundreds of them carried a variety of cargoes between London and small ports on the estuaries of Essex, Suffolk and Kent. During and after the war most were scrapped or converted to motor power for a few years and then scrapped. However, a small percentage were converted into houseboats or yachts and a few tens have now been restored back to sailing order. Many of those that are still seaworthy are once again in commercial operation but carrying passengers on experience trips rather than cargo.
The HSC was founded about 1950 and was initially based at Maldon Youth Hostel, which is now long closed. When the HSC aquired its first club boats these were initially kept at a small boat yard at Maldon, see above. Marinas are convenient places to keep a boat but I have a strong nostalgia for boat yards like the one in this picture where the boats lie higgledypiggledy in mud berths and the spring tide creeps in to ruin any tools that boat owners may spread around their boats.
One HSC member lived for a number of years on board the houseboat shown below which was mud berthed in the boatyard shown above This houseboat was converted from a rowing/sailing RNLI lifeboat which was originally named 'City of Winchester' and was based at Aldeburgh. The owner said that it became unfit for human habitation so it had to be broken up and the remains burnt but the rudder was saved and became an exhibit in the lifeboat museum at Aldeborough. As for it being unfit for human habitation I did spend a night aboard many years ago and recall waking in the middle of the night to realise that the tide had come in and the water was lapping around the bed.