Historic sailing barge is a popular Ipswich tourist attraction

Histtoric sailing barge Victor, at Ipswich Waterfront. Skipper David `Wes' Westwood

Histtoric sailing barge Victor, at Ipswich Waterfront. Skipper David `Wes' Westwood - Credit: Archant

It has been a busy year for the sailing barge Victor

Ipswich Maritime Trust, new window museum December 2015 - barges

Ipswich Maritime Trust, new window museum December 2015 - barges - Credit: Archant

One of the most magnificent sights on the River Orwell, is the sailing barges under sail.

It is a reminder of a bygone era when heavy goods, from grain from East Anglia to coal from the North East, were transported around the country by barges.

Thames Sailing barges still remain, some have been converted into homes, and a few are available for public cruising.

Among those is the SB Victor, based at Ipswich Waterfront.

The SB Victor was actually built in Ipswich in 1895 and restored to an original level in 2006.

These days she is used for public cruising on the River Orwell, bird watching and private hire, and parties and other events at the quayside.

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She has becomne an Ipswich tourist attraction with parties from far and wide getting the chance to see the beautiful river from this historic craft.

Skipper is David `Wes’ Westwood is a real character along the Waterfront.

Even on non-cruise days you will often see him on board, doing routine maintenance work and decorating, and he is always happy to chat about this special craft.

Wes said: “2015 has been a pretty good year - not bad at all.

“Public numbers were slightly down but our private cruises and charters were up.

“We have had all sorts of cruises, lots of anniversaries and even a wedding party with a live band and awndings on deck, which was nice.

“We have birthdays and other family groups, every sort of celebration and WI parties and others.

“Our bird watching trips are still popular, We still have a few spaces for the final one of the season, on January 16.”

After then the Victor would be taken to dry dock in Maldon for winter repairs and maintenance, he said.

“Next year is already looking to be good. We are expecting it will be another good year here at Ipswich.

“Bookings are already coming in for next year, which is nice too.

“We expect it to be busy.”

Outside of the cruising season, the sailing barge Victor can be seen at the quayside, and it also hosts events and folk nights.

On Friday January 8, Stuart Grimwade, a director of the Ipswich Maritime Trust, is giving an illustrated talk with a slideshow, on board.

The talk, `170 Years of Life Around Ipswich Docks’, features images from the Trust’s archives, which Stuart has accumulated and restored.

There are now around 3,000 images.

Stuart tells me the evening is now fully booked but he is intending to offer a second evening, on February 12. Tickets can by booked at the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre.

The barge also hosts regular folks nights at the quayside, with the next dates on February 26, and then in March and April.

The role of the Thames Sailing barges in the prosperity and trade of the port of Ipswich is celebrated in the latest Ipswich Maritime Trust window museum display, at the Waterfront.

The trust volunteers have unveiled this latest, their 13th, display which includes information about the barge builder’s methods and tools, and is illustrated with photographs, paintings and models.

Ipswich, where some of these barges were built in local shipyards, is still a home port for several and visited by many more each summer.

The sailing barges were workhorse of industry and commerce, and farming, moving bulky goods from corn to coal around the country in the days before fast motorway travel and HGVs took over.

The window musueum, by Albion Quay, is open to view at all times.