Boat Trip on Sailing Barge Victor – eventually

“You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.”

No – we are not standing gazing across from West Egg to East Egg, but sailing down the River Orwell in Suffolk on board the Sailing Barge Victor. I just saw that green light and immediately thought of Gatsby. What an old romantic!

The ships wheel, Sailing Barge Victor.

This special trip had been booked by my daughter for midsummer 2020, but we all know what was happening last June and, in due course, like so many events that excursion was postponed.

Waiting in the drizzle for departure.

You may remember that last year June was warm, dry and summery, but this year it has been just a bit more on the wet side. We climbed on board and whilst waiting to set off, I started taking some photos and noticed it had already begun to drizzle.

Patiently standing by ready to secure the barge in the lock.

Once Victor had cast off it was round the marina to the old lock. As we waited for the lock to empty to the level of the river the persistent drizzle turned to rain proper. It was lucky my camera is fine in less than optimal conditions (it has a sealed, weatherproof body apparently) as we got soaked remaining on deck determined to make the most of the experience.

Leaving the lock, conflab between the Master and mate and one of two life boats on board.

Fortunately, it was only a shortish downpour and by the time the barge chugged under the Orwell Bridge the rain had stopped. There was a gentle breeze and the Master decided it was time to cut the engine and hoist the sails.

Sailing down the River Orwell under full sail.

The sudden peace and quiet was delightful as the huge main sail filled with the breeze and the barge gently sailed down the river. This was the first time I’ve been on a boat under wind power and it was enchanting.

Caught between moments ducking underneath the gently swinging foresail.

Of course, sailing is slower than being engine-powered, but why be in a hurry. I think humans, particularly in so-called advanced societies, have lost something that’s restorative that comes with ‘slow’. In our relentless need for speed, continual clock watching and chasing our tails much is missed.

Lights in the night as Victor passes ships docked at the Port of Ipswich.

With the climate crisis making its presence felt more and more perhaps we need to rethink this speed thing and generally take life at a gentler pace and burn less fossil fuel.

Nighttime on the dockside.

Our barge trip was an evening affair and despite being just past midsummer, it was dark by the time we returned to Ipswich. And, what a treat to approach the Old Customs House from the water lit up in all its glory.

I couldn’t resist concocting this photomontage melding my nighttime photo with the embroidered version depicting the Wherry Quay of the nineteenth century as seen as part of the Ipswich Charter Hangings.

Finally, if you were wondering what Victor looks like under sail, here’s a couple of photographs I took from another boat as Victor sailed past us on a very windy day in August 2018.

Sailing Barge Victor with top sail hoisted (too windy for the main sail though).

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

18 thoughts on “Boat Trip on Sailing Barge Victor – eventually”

    1. Ah yes technically it is indeed a Thames Barge, but as it was made here in Ipswich and spends its boating existence here, the present owner and Master calls it a sailing barge!

    1. Ah thanks – I liked the idea of representing continuity visually. My graphic designer ex-husband was less impressed with my efforts. Well, you can’t please everyone!

    1. Yes, we could have cancelled entirely, but like many small businesses across the world the pandemic has really affected them. They have endured a year without customers and yet still had all the costs of keeping such an old barge afloat and functioning. My daughter and I were only too pleased to rebook. It was well worth it too.

      1. Whenever we go on vacation to a spot with water, we like to take the harbor boat tour, or whatever the equivalent is. This reminds me of those excursions. I enjoyed “traveling” with you.

    1. It was a strange affair really. It was a supper cruise which wasn’t what my daughter had booked last year that had been the midsummer trip. Unfortunately, they weren’t running that one this year so the supper cruise was the nearest thing. Between my daughter (100% veggie tending to vegan) and myself (health related weird diet no animal fats virtually a veggie) there wasn’t much we could eat from the ‘supper cruise’ menu. The plus was we left the below deck restaurant early and had an entertaining chap with the Master on deck instead. I know from your working life you know about shipping and was wondering whether you’ve ever travelled by container ship?

      1. When people come to Sydney I recommend against taking a lunch cruise. You spend all your time below deck eating, instead of being up top viewing the spectacular harbour. So you probably made the right choice.
        I’ve never travelled by container ship. Not much room on those, and not terribly exciting. But I have often looked at a freighter tour that goes to Tahiti. Haven’t done that yet.
        Decades back I had lunch with the officers on board a Polish conventional ship, and I have toured the Roll On Roll Off (Ro/Ro) vessels and seen their drop-down decks in operation. That’s how they layer cars and other vehicles into the hold.
        In 1993 I was on a Hurtigruten vessel from Trondheim to Aalesund, just a fourteen hour hop. It had 12 berths and one of the cruising passengers showed us his accommodation. That would have come close to the “real deal” of working vessel life. I see nowadays that company has upgraded to the cruising experience.

      2. Ah yes, my father took a slow, Hurtigruten cruise up the the fjords of Norway to get to the Arctic Circle and see the Northern Lights. He chose Hurtigruten because it was more of travelling service than fancy cruise. He was also keen to go to Svalbard to see where my daughter had visited with the BSES expedition back in 2011. Just as well he did all his bucket list travelling in his early 80s as sadly he can’t even travel to London to the opera anymore.

  1. Looks like fun even with the rain. I would have skipped out early on dinner or perhaps altogether? It’s always lovely being on or near the water.

    1. I agree with you about skipping out early, but there were so few of us and the couple of kind, elderly ladies who were doing the catering would have noticed.

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