Thames sailing barge Melissa heads from Ipswich to London for London Boat Show

Jonathan Webb of the Pin Mill boatbuilding family on board the Thames sailing barge Melissa in Ipswi

Jonathan Webb of the Pin Mill boatbuilding family on board the Thames sailing barge Melissa in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Historic Thames sailing barge Melissa has headed from Ipswich to London dockland for the London Boat Show.

The 80ft Victorian vessel, based at Ipswich and Pin Mill, joins hundreds of boats, dinghies and luxury yachts and super cruisers at the Excel Exhibition Centre for the annual event.

Jonathan Webb, of Pin Mill boat yard, at Orwell Quay, said it was a chance to tell people about what they were doing with the classic boat, which took a decade to restore, and possibly pick up some charter work.

“A boat like this is expensive to maintain, and always wants something doing. I would love to get a new set of sails, for example, and they are a lot of money,” he said.

The Melissa, now owned by the family business, Webbs Marine Ltd, has been helped by the British Marine Federation to attend the show, along with other historic vessels, but pays her way by charter work and hosting events on the water or at the quayside, often in Ipswich.


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After her Thames barge trading days were over, the Melissa became a house boat and carried ballast before Jonathan and father, Fred, bought her for restoration in 1994.

“It was a big job and it took more than 10 years, but she is real living history, and a lovely boat,” he said.

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In 2012 the boat is a previous visitor to the London Boat Show and took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.

“The weather was terrible but it was still a fantastic experience,” said Jonathan.

Restoring the historic barge had been a great pleasure, he said, and last summer they were proud to win a trophy, The Charles Webb Cup, in the annual Thames Barge Sailing Race on the Orwell.

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