Sailing barge Snark
S.B. Snark is a newly constructed, steel-hulled, spritsail sailing barge, more commonly referred to as a Thames barge. As well as sailing around Britain, she can safely cruise the English Channel as far as the Scillies and most of mainland Europe.
Thames sailing barges
Snark was constructed to the original plans of a type of cargo-carrying commercial sailing barges built by J G Fay 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.
Thames barges were the heavy goods vehicles of their day. At one time, more than 2,500 transported everything from Portland stone and Kentish bricks to hay and manure in and out of the cities and towns along the coast. Many barges of Snark's design carried stone from Portland to London to build the great monuments and buildings of the late 19th-century city. Stories of them being sailed to the Scillies and trading up to Newcastle for coal demonstrate their range and versatility; two even made it to the Caribbean.
The history of Snark
Building of the Snark started in 1997 by previous owners and in 2018, Paul Jenkins and Qiao Feng completed her to the standards needed for commercial use in and around the British and European coasts. The construction progress has been recorded and can be seen in the videos below.
She is not a historic replica, but uses the most useful features of the original barge designs, alongside modern materials and equipment.
Paul and Qiao set about building their new coastal sailing barge Snark from a bare steel shell. They carved the masts from solid tree trunks, spliced, tied and rigged over 2 km of rope, cut and fitted over 80 sheets of plywood, installed loads of insulation (loads and loads, she's warm in the winter and cool in the summer), painted, wired, plumbed... and occasionally slept!
Her design has been updated to meet modern passenger vessel standards and simplify the handling of sails for safety reasons. To all but the specialists, she is a Thames barge of the classic coastal mould. She is rigged as a ‘muley’ with a larger mizzen sail than a more common Thames barge and a long bowsprit. She retains the lowerable, deck-stepped mast needed to work 'above the bridges'. She has a flat bottom, with lifting leeboards and rudder to allow her to dry out on the tidal foreshore of the many estuaries and creeks along the English coast.
Snark now provides a home for Qiao and Paul, as well as a place to share their enthusiasm for sailing and the sea and the pleasures of a simple life with their guests.
Sailing on Snark
Snark is 84 ft (26.5 m) long on deck and 105 ft (32 m) overall. She weighs 67 tonnes. She has one lower deck and no wheelhouse. The steering and sail operations are all in the open air. She has a self-tacking fore and aft rig which makes her pretty weatherly and generally easy to manage short-handed. Indeed, Thames barges are often sailed with just two people and rarely more than three.
Snark normally sails between ports, weather and itinerary permitting. She will sail comfortably at 8knt and generally averages over 5. She also has powerful auxiliary engines for when we can't wait for the wind and to manoeuvre in busy harbours and restrictive waters. The generator supplies electricity and hot water for the galley and heads (shower rooms).
Passengers & accommodation
Snark's main cargo hold is fitted out for crew and guest accommodations. The guest accommodation is in four cabins with single and double bunks. She has two heads and a well-equipped galley.
SNARK is licensed to carry 12 passengers and 3 crew, up to 60 miles offshore. However, we generally take 8 guests overnight and only 6 on longer trips.