Most of the sailing barges undertake charter work to off set the maintenance costs. It is particularly difficult for the barges that do not have engines; notably Edme, Mirosa and Cambria.
They, like the old trading barges, can only work when the wind and tide are favourable. Even then, when on day charters, getting back on time becomes difficult if the wind drops. This winter, the Melissa has been undertaking static charters at the Orwell Quay, Ipswich and followed the Ipswich practice of having a Christmas tree at the masthead.
Once, the creeks of the Thames Estuary were littered with abandoned sailing barges, but they have steadily rotted away or been removed. At Woodbridge, the hulk of the staysail barge KC is being cut up by Tam Grundy because the space was needed for another houseboat. The KC was built by Whites, at Teynham in 1906 to take bricks away from the brickfields at Great Wakering, Essex.
She traded for about 40 years, then became a houseboat at Felixstowe Ferry and was later moved to Woodbridge as a clubhouse. Even after 70 years of neglect, the bottom planks remained good timber and is being cut up for firewood.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - March 2016 Issue Click here to subscribe