A project to build a replica of one of the last Thames sailing barges ever built is nearing completion. Blue Mermaid is a faithful replica of one of the last Thames sailing barges, built in 1930 which was lost at sea during the Second World War.
The company behind the venture, the Sea-Change Sailing Trust, will be starting sea trials with Blue Mermaid during the spring. The new vessel is comprised of a steel hull and deck and has all the traditional rigging and decking of a sea-going Thames barge.
Established in 2007, Sea-Change provides action-centred learning, environmental education and seamanship training to more than 200 disadvantaged and socially-excluded young people each year. The not-for-profit company works with disabled and vulnerable young people, many of whom are from deprived communities or at risk of offending.
Don Ramsay, Trust Administrator at Sea-Change Sailing Trust, said: “Blue Mermaid will enable so many more youngsters to benefit from courses that offer them the option to embark on a maritime career. Our ongoing support and mentoring programme and the small size of our groups enables us to offer our young people the best possible chance of transferring positive personal development into life beyond the project.
“As well as our existing portfolio of programmes, our new barge will provide residential programmes through our Youth Sailing Scheme. Outcomes include improving key skills, self-belief and developing the ability to work as team players. “Blue Mermaid will also give us the opportunity to deliver our new Seamanship Scholarship, a unique range of programmes for young people offering a training progression path to their chosen maritime career.”
Funds for the £700,000 project have come from a range of grant-giving organisations, including Eranda Foundation, Gosling Foundation, TK Foundation, and Enovert Community Trust.
Angela Haymonds, Trust Secretary of Enovert Community Trust, which provided a grant of £30,000 towards the fitting out of Blue Mermaid’s interior, said: "The Trustees were delighted to support this innovative project which will make a real difference to so many vulnerable young people, who will be able to benefit from an alternative approach to learning in a healthy, safe and challenging environment.”