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The rhythms of the Snark

Life aboard our sailing barge Snark follows the rhythms of the world.

The changing seasons dictate the length of the day and bring fine and foul weather in changing proportions, influencing when and where we can sail and the kinds of activities we can offer. They bring changes to the landscape, particular the hills and woods surrounding the Dart, the wildlife we share the river and coast with and they bring different foods that directly influence the menus we offer on board.

Each day the tide rises and falls and each month, the height of the tides changes with the waxing and waning of the moon. The tidal currents ebb and flow at different times and rates, opening up different destinations and directions of travel.

The wind in our sails oscillates and the weather changes as the eddies and waves of the atmosphere roll across the oceans; providing challenges and opportunities in equal measure.

Waves rise and fall in response to the wind, time and tide, they can be soothing or daunting and will influence how we sail and where we go. The mood of the sea changes with every influence, its colour, texture, shape, and behaviour are a direct reflection of the world above.

Some rhythms we can predict years in advance, others only hours ahead. We will help you understand and feel their influences and in doing so help you share our sense of being in the world. Our itineraries seek to be in harmony rather than fight these rhythms. Although planned in advance they will evolve depending on the immediate circumstances.

‘Snark’ is a newly constructed, steel hulled, spritsail sailing barge, more commonly referred to as a Thames Barge. Her overall length with the bow sprit down is just over 100 feet and her beam (width) is 20 feet. She weighs 67 tons and carries over 2200 sq ft of canvas with all her sails set. She is licenced to carry 12 passengers at sea and can sleep 8 plus crew. For static events we can accommodate up to 36 people. There are two bathrooms (heads) and a large and well equipped all electric galley.

Her hull is constructed to the lines drawn up by J.G.Fay and Co in Woolston, Southampton in 1898. This class of barges were used all along the east and south coast as well as in the associated rivers and estuaries. She is rigged as a ‘muley’ with a larger mizzen sail than a more common Thames barge and is designed as a coaster rather than just a river boat. As well as her sails she has two diesel powered propulsion engines and a separate generator for electricity and hot water production.

The barges were the heavy goods vehicles of their day and at one time over 2,500 of them transported everything from Portland stone and Kentish bricks to hay and manure in and out of the cities and towns along the coast. There are records of them being sailed to the Scillies, France and Holland and trading up to Newcastle for coal, demonstrating their range and versatility, two even made it to the Caribbean.

The construction of the ‘Snark’ was started in 1997 by previous owners who build the steel shell but never fitted her out her. Paul and Qiao bought her three years ago and have completed her to the standards needed for commercial use in and around the English Channel.

She is not a historic replica but uses the most useful features of the original barge designs alongside modern materials and equipment to provide a stylish and comfortable home for the owners. She also provides a place where they can with guests share their enthusiasm sailing and the sea, for the practice of yoga and meditation and the pleasures of a simple life.

Why ‘Snark’? Well, Louise Carrol wrote the poem ‘the Hunting of the Snark’ in 1876. It is often described as a nonsense, but it is anything but. It follows the hunt for the illusive Snark by a disparate group of men each burdened with his own struggles and describes how some of them at least find themselves on the hunt. Towards the end of his life Carroll, or Charles Dobson as he was properly known, conceded that the poem was an allegory for the pursuit of happiness. At the end of the poem the Baker meets with the Snark and ;

‘ In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee

He had softly and suddenly vanished away

For the Snark was a Boojum you see. ‘

For those of us who continue to search for meaning and purpose in life, the pursuit of happiness may sometimes appear to be a false destination. It seems it cannot be a permanent state, being on one side of an apparent continuum from despair to ecstasy. We should remember however that Dobson was writing at a time when Epicureanism was still very influential.

In this world view the greatest good is to seek only modest pleasures in order to attain happiness which is defined as a from freedom from fear, ataraxia, and the absence from bodily pain, aponia. This combination of states is held to constitute happiness in its highest and most sustainable form, achieved through the pursuit of a simple life.

We host a wide range of events and activities on board.

· Sailing adventuress

· Yoga retreats and classes

· Music on board

· Painting and photographic trip

· Culinary expeditions

· Spring and autumn nature cruises on the river and further afield

· Corporate events; strategy retreats, presentations, entertaining, team building.

· Special celebrations; anniversaries, birthdays, weddings.

Some are static, often alongside the Embankment or Town Pontoon in Dartmouth, some consist of short voyages along the Dart river and others involve venturing further afield to neighbouring ports in Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, and Cornwall or for the more adventurous to France and the Channel Islands.

Depending on the type of event and your personal preferences, we encourage guests to share in the sailing and domestic activities on board. No previous experience is needed and we will provide basic instruction and information on anything from sail trimming to navigation, knot tying to helming. We do not offer RYA training but any sailing miles can be put towards your experience.

For more information and to booking our events visit our web site

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