17-Year-Old Embarks On Thames Sailing Barge Restoration
WORDS BY EMILY HARRIS
On a Crowdfunder video that popped up recently, a wide-eyed British sixth form pupil was framed on the foreshore of what looked like a creek in north Norfolk (UK). In a piece-to-camera, the student was explaining his ambitious new project of finishing a wooden boat restoration. Coming from a very young looking chap, you’d think the boat he talks of restoring would be a dinghy, or a small yacht but, it was in fact Ash Faire-Ring talking about his 96-year-old, 32ft Thames Sailing Barge-yacht GROWLER.
The video was a call-for-action, a fundraising attempt to pay for the transport of the barge from the county of Suffolk, to Norfolk (UK). As I learnt later on the phone, Ash is studying for his A-Levels of geography, history and economics and he is just 17 years old!
GROWLER 32 ft (L.O.A.) barge-yacht with a 9.5 ft beam and draws just 2 ft, she was built in 1922 by Whites in Ipswich (UK).
GROWLER is a small barge-yacht that's recently been gifted to Ash Faire-Ring by Gus Curtis of Harry King’s boatyard in Pin Mill. “Growler was rescued by Gus Curtis. He saw the beauty of her lines and put her in a barn in Dedham.”. Ash went on to tell me that via his cousin Henry Faire and Steve Hall of North Sea Sails, a traditional sail maker based in Tollesbury, a meeting was organised for Ash to meet GROWLER and her then owner Gus Curtis. “Steve said that he had found a small sailing barge in Dedham (Suffolk) so we went down as soon as we could. On the 15th August 2018 we went to see her.” This bright 17-year-old continued: “Gus very kindly gave her to me. I am not entirely sure why, but he knew that I was very keen on having Growler and I think he is a huge fan of young people restoring old boats.”.
Ash talks very fondly of GROWLER and really came alive telling me all about his plans for her. He realises the decline of historic vessels and Thames Sailing Barges, and aims to restore the barge-yacht back to her “full sailing condition”. As a charter vessel, he'd like to promote clean oceans and use GROWLER for transporting cargo under sail around Norfolk.
Once owned by Sir Herbert Alker Tripp, (1883-1954) knighted for wartime services to transport, famed for yachting illustrations, writing and published books, notably ‘Under the Cabin Lamp’, published by Iliffe & Sons, 1950.
The video Ash released on Crowdfunder, in an attempt to raise money to move the wooden barge nearer to Ash’s home in Norfolk, was successful. With £1980.00 raised through online and offline donations, transport to move the barge can now be paid. GROWLER is due to be transported to her new home, a patch of marshland next to the river Burn near Burnham Overy Staithe. It is there that, when he leaves the sixth form in May 2019, he will roll up his sleeves and complete GROWLER's restoration. "She's been reframed, her chines need to go back and the biggest job is the interior," he tells me.
ABOVE: Old photographs of barge-yacht GROWLER
While Ash admitted knowing a limited amount when it comes to wooden boat building, his willingness to learn shines through, and he referenced names of people he admires who are wise enough to possibly become his mentors; Henry Chamberlain of The Coastal Exploration Company, also based in Norfolk, and far-flung Leo Sampson Goolden with his restoration project TALLY-HO!.
A LOVE FOR BARGES
Ash’s love for barges has sustained since his earliest memories sailing in north Norfolk where soft mud hosts a few. His parents’ wedding reception was on Thames Sailing Barge CABBY (those frequent on the River Thames may have seen her), and so there are lots of photographs of CABBY round his parents' house. Ash explained his experience meeting local barge JUNO: “there is a beautiful barge called Juno in Norfolk built by Charlie Ward and when I was introduced to him and the boat aged 13, I was hooked. Since then he has hugely helped me with advice for my barge and I look forward to working with him in the future, transporting cargo under sail!”.
Ash Faire-Ring – excited about the arrival of his barge GROWLER in Norfolk next week – says that Gus Curtis has offered his help and tools to cut any wood needed for her restoration, and that Gus' only condition of gifting him the barge-yacht was “I’d like you to take me for a sail when she’s finished.”.
Classic Yacht TV will bring you regular updates on both the progress of this wide-eyed and ambitious new member of the wooden boat community and GROWLER’s journey into the 21st Century.