The Thames barge


Whenever Thames sailing barges are described, one of the first things mentioned is the way in which they are rigged. Indeed for the Thames barge Matches there are usually separate classes for Bowsprit or Staysail rigged vessels.

Here we will briefly describe and illustrate some of the sail plans most often referred to in relation to the barges.

Bowsprit rig
Logically enough this is when the barge carries foresails attached to a bowsprit protruding from the bow as in this illustration of Edme

Thames sailing barge  Edme

Staysail rig
Where no bowsprit is carried and the foremost sails run to the stem of the barge as in this study of Reminder seen at the start of a Southend Barge Match, viewed from the pier.

Sailing barges Reminder, Marjorie and Phoenician.

“Stumpie” rig
Where the usual topmast and topsail are not carried. Seen here on Nellie

Sailing barge Nellie

Ketch or “Boomie” rig
Where a conventional boom is used instead of the angled sprit seen on the current fleet.
Many of the larger coasting barges such as Thalatta were built with Ketch rigs. Most were however converted to the more economic “Spritsail” rig before going “Out of trade”.
Here the Skillinger smack Pioneer is used to ilustrate the rig.

Skillinger smack Pioneer CK18.

N.B. where a barge has a spritsail rigged main mast and a large ketch rigged mizzen, the cross is known as a “Mulie”such as "Thalatta" seen below..