Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs from Schools, Group Leaders and Parents

  • Thalatta has an unparalleled safety record. The condition of the vessel, requisite modern safety and fire fighting equipment and crew competency are all supervised by the Department of Transport in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Acts. A proportion of the ship’s charitable income is dedicated each year to expenditure on safety. The activities we do, and where we sail, always depend on the conditions forecast and whether it is completely safe to do so and are at the Skipper’s absolute discretion. 

  • No, it’s not a problem. Automatic inflatable life jackets are always worn on deck and these will automatically inflate the moment they become submerged. When underway we always have lifelines and stanchions in place. As a Thames Barge, Thalatta has very wide decks which enable lots of people to move about much more safely than on other types of craft, such as yachts. The Skipper, Mate and Third Hand are trained what to do in the exceedingly unlikely event of anyone going overboard. 

  • No, except in an emergency. We don’t allow any devices such as mobile phones or tablets to be used by the children while they are onboard except in exceptional circumstances and at the Skipper’s discretion. This is partly due to safety reasons (devices can be a dangerous distraction in an environment where it is especially important to be aware of your surroundings), and also for practical reasons (we are unable to charge up 12 mobile phones every night). We also strongly believe that much more can be gained from the experience of being onboard when children are separated from their devices. Being ‘unplugged’ in this way is what makes the experience on Thalatta so unique and special, and for some young people it’s an extremely welcome break from the stresses and anxieties of constantly checking social media.

    Should you urgently need to get in touch with your child, emergency contact details are provided on booking and range from contacting the Skipper by mobile phone, VHF radio or as a last resort via the CoastguardParents can be reassured we will always be in range of emergency services with marine equipment.

  • There are ample opportunities on board to combine adventure with formal learning. An enormous range of topics crop up naturally during your cruise – from estuary ecology, pollution and fisheries, to North Sea trade and ferries, waterside communities, sea defences, rescue services, maritime history and sea safety sense. Get in touch with us for more information on the numerous learning opportunities in core subjects such as maths, science, and english as well as history, geography and PSHE. 

  • Yes it is. People with a wide range of mild to severe disabilities and medical issues have very successfully come away with us in the past, from organisations such as the Jubilee Sailing Trust  and the Ellen McArthur Cancer Trust. We firmly believe that anyone, no matter what their level of physical ability is, can take part in and gain a great deal from sailing Thalatta. We can even accommodate wheelchairs, thanks to our wide, spacious decks. If you would like to come away with us yet have worries about our suitability for your specific needs, we’d be happy to chat about any concerns you may have, to make sure you can get the most out of your time on board with us. 

  • Sail training has been shown to have many benefits for people with mental health issues in both adults and children. Research into this area is ongoing but some information can be read about it here. Onboard Thalatta young people can gain so much through living together, sharing responsibilities, supporting others, meeting new people and overcoming fears. Being in a totally unique environment and taking part in activities they never thought they could do can have an immense impact on their self-esteem and self-confidence. For some the effects have even been life-changing. The slower pace of life and travel on Thalatta also gives them time to pause and reflect in a way modern busy life seldom allows. Perhaps most importantly, they also gain an appreciation of the power and beauty of nature and how humans fit into the wider world. 

  • Onboard Thalatta there is a Skipper, Mate and Third Hand. The Skipper is ultimately responsible for everyone on board and is in charge of where the barge sails each day. The Mate is second in command and assists the Skipper in the sailing of the barge, and in ensuring that the days activities run smoothly. The Third Hand has specific responsibility for safety, supervision and welfare of the children. The ship’s own well-tried regime, evolved over 50 years, ensures that each day’s activities run smoothly and all the crew help support the teachers and group leaders in supervising and taking care of the young people onboard. The Skipper, Mate and Third Hand all hold current DBS certificates. 

  • Our sailing area extends from Aldeburgh in Suffolk down to the North Kent coast, and includes every river and creek in between. Normally all cruises begin and end at Ipswich, Suffolk. Occasionally, however, the barge will start at one port and finish at another. Typically we will do a coast or estuary passage each day, but how far we go will depend on the weather and the tide. 

  • Our weekly programme is always planned with safety, interest and variety in mind. Each day on board is broken up into lots of activities, including when possible a trip ashore. During a typical trip with a school group, we make time for fishing, crabbing, project work, quizzes, perhaps a Ship’s talent contest, a BBQ on the beach, drawing and log book competitions. Whether we are sailing or at anchor, everybody onboard takes part in essential day to day jobs involved in running the ship – we don’t carry ‘passengers’, only ‘crew’! During the day, everyone is kept busy with tasks such as setting the sails, taking a turn at the wheel, scrubbing the decks and preparing all the meals. 
     
  • For schools and groups wishing to take away more than 12 at a time, a second vessel can be booked for the same week to accommodate up to another 12 people (subject to availability). Alternatively some schools choose to book Thalatta for two consecutive weeks. 

  • We can cater for most dietary requirements, as long as we have been informed at the time of booking. Please discuss with us first any serious allergies. 

  • We have a good mix of meals that the group themselves will help to prepare. We try to cater for everyone’s needs and diets and aim to promote a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

  • A complete kit list is provided upon booking. School groups won’t need any specialist clothing or equipment, just normal clothes, including some warm layers, wellies, a sleeping bag, pillowcase and a tea towel. We will provide all waterproofs and automatic inflatable lifejackets. We suggest children bring a cheap disposable camera as they will not be able to use their phones to take any photos, and there is always a small risk of cameras getting wet!

FAQs from young people

  • It’s very unlikely that you will – we never go out in rough weather and the movement of the barge is very slight and gentle compared to other types of boats. If you do feel a bit queasy we have many tips and tricks to help anyone suffering from seasickness.

  • The main hold of Thalatta, which used to be space for cargo when she was in trade, is now the main living accommodation with a hammock and a sea chest for every person to store their belongings in. There are two small cabins for the use of the group leaders, teachers and/or parents who will be accompanying you.

  • We will probably sail somewhere new each day, if the weather allows, but we don’t spend all day sailing. Each day on board is broken up into lots of activities, including when possible a trip ashore. We make time for fishing, crabbing, project work, quizzes, perhaps a Ship’s talent contest, a bbq on the beach, drawing and log book competitions. You’ll also assist with the working of the ship, taking turns with cooking and cleaning duties below and tasks on deck – winding up the anchor, setting the great red sails, navigating and taking a turn at the wheel.

  • You can, but all personal devices such as phones, tablets and MP3 players are not allowed to be used while onboard, except in exceptional circumstances and at the Skipper’s discretion. This is partly due to safety reasons (devices can be a dangerous distraction in an environment where it is especially important for be aware of your surroundings), and also for practical reasons (we are unable to charge up 12 mobile phones every night). 

    We find that most people actually enjoy the opportunity to forget about social media for a few days and you’ll probably find you miss it much less than you thought. However, if you normally use your phone to take photos on, you might want to bring a cheap disposable camera that doesn’t need charging, and that you won’t mind if it gets a bit wet! 

  • We may not visit anywhere with any shops during your time with us but we do have a few items to sell onboard that you might like to buy at the end of your trip such as t-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs.

If you have any concerns or further questions we would be happy to discuss them with you. You can get in touch with us via info@thalatta.org.uk