As time passes, it is already over two months since I wrote to clients that the season was suspended until further notice because of the coronavirus and its impact. Since then a lot has happened but none of it has involved sailing unfortunately.
The sailing season was due to commence with Inclusion Ventures at Easter and only a few days before I wrote to everyone, their staff visited Blue Mermaid at Downs Road as they had not all sailed with us before. At this stage we were busy fitting out, painting and pulling together the myriad of things needed to get the vessel to work. The stability data needed for the cargo load line was with the MCA, and the result awaited. The lifejackets and life rafts were collected from the Marine Safety Centre at Lowestoft and at the same time flares and first aid kits were updated.
Gradually it became apparent the world around us was changing. There was due to be a Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership meeting at Greenwich and people were starting to ask if it was wise to travel before the government told us we should not. It now seems likely the common sense of the great British public was already having a bearing on the spread of the virus before our toys were taken away from us and we were locked down. The meeting was cancelled and as legacy of the project was on the agenda, what it may be has become one of many casualties of the lockdown process.
Richard recently penned a piece for the Maritime Heritage Trust about the effect the Covid-19 closedown has had on us:
The virus started to make an impression as we commenced fitting out in February and were joined by our new Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership trainee Ben and as the crew returned from the winter break. Initially it looked like we would be able to continue. Indeed, at a meeting of Trustees on 11th March we discussed plans for a full season and only discussed the virus in terms of ensuring our T&Cs were up to date.
Eight days later we were writing to clients telling them the season was suspended until further notice as … Read the whole piece here.
SHTP2 trainee Ben puts the stopper on Blue Mermaid’s stayfall after heaving up.
After servicing the windlass and lowering down, the opportunity was taken to varnish the topmast and touch up the paint on mast and sprit. After the stopper went the two bulldog grips and then the stayfall flew easily off the beautifully free-running windlass.
At the end of last season it still looked like the mainsail needed the sprit to be peaked up more. So while the gear was down one of the five inch links in the standing lift was replaced by a three inch shackle. The geometry means that two inches here will result in five or six inches at the peak. This will be more than the sheet angle of the topsail can cope with to keep that right. To help here, the 5/8 chain at the throat collar has been replaced with a piece one link longer to have the effect of dropping the peak an inch or two. If more is required there is scope in easing the deadwire. It is quite exciting looking forward to putting this to the test in crew training when conditions permit.
The citation reads, ‘Steel-hulled Thames sailing barge Blue Mermaid is the first of her type to be built for 90 years. This one is a replica of the eponymous original, built by Mistley Shipping Company in 1930 and lost in the war.
She was commissioned b the Sea-Change Sailing Trust, which is using her for sail-training and cargo duties – all without an engine – and to improve the lives of the young and vulnerable who sail upon her.
These range from age 7 to typical dementia age, according to Sea-Change’s Richard Titchener.
To quote Patron Tom Cunliffe, ‘The cost in money is minimal by today’s standards. The pay-off in turning lives around will be incalculable.’