Ahoy from Topsham
It is now almost three years since a group of enthusiasts salvaged an Edwardian Sailing Barge, ‘The Vigilant’ from a remote Essex creek and used Parish Oak to rebuild her bow and rudder to undertake a hazardous channel journey to Topsham on the River Exe in Devon. We asked project leader, Ben Squirrell, to chart progress for the parishioners.
“Ahoy from Topsham, Devon!" Since we arrived in the historic port of Topsham, the Vigilant has been painstakingly transformed -so from being an ugly duckiling she is now turning into a beautiful black swan! The hull has been stripped of itsrotten planking and the structural framework of the barge has been replacedusing your oak. We have used all of your trees to put strength into the barge so she can sail again. You can see here how your oak has been put to good use:
In the last three months we have completed the hull repairs so Vigilant is now watertight below the deck level. We have overcome massive hurdles – we ran outof wood for the hull planks -but were saved by a gift of wood from Woodlands.co.uk. We ran out of nails when the last UK nail factory shut down -but found a man selling railroad sleeper nails in the USA, who exported them tous. Our heritage lottery bid, although widely supported, was rejected because our grant application was deemed too low – but I carried on funding the project!
In the last few weeks the Shipwright’s wife, Hazel, has started carving theVigilant’s name into the new stern planking. The result is fabulous and visitors tothe quay are now asking “When will she be ready for sea” rather than the usual,“You’ve got your work cut out there!”
Although we have reached a significant milestone, we still have along way to go
and after months of hitting nails the size of chisels skywards, whilst standing
knee deep in mud, the Shipwrights are taking a break to tour the ocean blue.
In the year ahead I have to source wood and materials so that when theShipwrights return in August 2016 we can complete the decks and rebuild t ehatch combing and barge boards. We are confident that with a fair wind, and the continued support of our friends, The Vigilant will be sailing in late 2017. If yousee her, look closer and you may well be able to pick out the words ‘East HoathlyOak’ carved into her main hatch!”