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Dartford lock welcomes first Thames sailing barge visit for decades

PUBLISHED: 16:50 22 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:58 22 December 2017

The sailing barge makes its way under the Bob Dunn Way bridge. Picture: Conrad Broadley

The sailing barge makes its way under the Bob Dunn Way bridge. Picture: Conrad Broadley

Archant

The Thames sailing barges were once a common sight at Dartford lock, but over the decades have all but vanished - until now.

The barge Decima approaching Dartford lock. Picture: Conrad BroadleyThe barge Decima approaching Dartford lock. Picture: Conrad Broadley

It was decided to recreate a bit of history by bringing one back for the public to visit and board on open days.

Once the backbone to London and Kent’s trade with the world, the sailing barges were magnificent to see.

Its return to Dartford on Thursday, December 21 created a logistical nightmare because a low bridge has been built at Bob Dunn Way.

Gravesham councillor Conrad Broadley said: “The barge owner and creek volunteers had to do extensive measurements and research the barge would fit under the bridge.

The barge in Dartford Creek. Picture: Conrad BroadleyThe barge in Dartford Creek. Picture: Conrad Broadley

“If they got it wrong, it would have been a disaster for the barge called Decima.”

The vessel was built 1899 and is on the Historic Ships Register.

Cllr Broadley said: “We really take our hat off to the adventurous owner and skipper David Leal and Colin Robson respectively for having the bravery to make what is quite an epic journey into the unknown paving the way for future nautical visitors to the historic moorings at Dartford.

“It will be open to the public on some days and so anyone with an interest in the river will love the idea of a sailing barge back at its natural home once again.”

The Decima with its mast up before its journey to Dartford. Picture: Conrad BroadleyThe Decima with its mast up before its journey to Dartford. Picture: Conrad Broadley

It is the only remaining sailing example built by F. G. Fay & Co. of Southampton from 1897-1899 for E. J. Goldsmith of Grays.

She traded for Goldsmith’s in general cargo work up to approximately 1949 and was then sold to Rayfield’s of Gravesend.

In the 1960s, she was converted to a motor barge and bought 
by Greenhithe Lighterage Co (Tester Bros), and left the trade 
in 1977.

Dennis Wildish purchased her and she was re-rigged and sailed as an auxiliary barge through the late 1970s and early 1980s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOAnURh0CoI

In 1996, Decima was sold to Jeremy Taunton and used as a houseboat on Faversham creek and returned to sailing in early 2003 when she was bought by her current owner.

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