The Thames Barge Pudge was built Rochester in 1922 for the London & Rochester Barge Co. Ltd. She spent much of her life carrying cargo around the Thames Estuary and South Coast. In 1940 she was part of a fleet of sailing barges that were involved in the Dunkirk Evacuation.
Pudge is listed on the National Historic Ships Register as well as being a member of the Dunkirk Little Ships organisation. The Trust purchased Pudge in 1968 straight out of trade, her last cargo being pineapple juice. At this time, she was a motor barge and had lost all her rigging. Over the years they have restored her back to a sailing barge and these days she carries a new cargo, people, taking them on weekend sails or out on longer charters.
For several years, Pudge’s decks have begun to deteriorate and the Trust has been fundraising to carry out the complete replacement of her decks, coamings, hatches and ceilings, along with upgrading her below deck accommodation. With the help of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund this work has now commenced. However, the Trust was keen to ensure that Pudge’s future can be perpetuated.
One of the main areas to ensure that this happens is to train more mates and skippers. The Trust agreed that it would deliver a programme for 10 trainees. New recruits will experience how these vessels were sailed along with qualifying in the relevant skills required. Much of this training will be practical and delivered on the water. The Trust organised a number of training sessions for the new recruits, one of which involved a trip on the Thames in September where they had the opportunity to meet lightermen and experienced Thames sailors to learn more about sailing on the Thames.
"The support given by Trinity House will go a long way in making sure that these iconic vessels will be able to sail around the Thames and East Anglian coast for many years to come and give pleasure to many people."