History

Over 100 years of history

Thalatta is a seagoing vessel built with massive oak frames and planked now with iroko; a superb example of a fully rigged traditional spritsail barge. She was built at MacLearon’s yard at Harwich in 1906.

For many years, in peace and war, Thalatta carried 150-ton cargoes under sail to British and Continental ports, surviving as one of the last few wooden coasters in trade, latterly under power. The barge’s sailing rig is nowadays augmented with a powerful modern diesel engine; otherwise she remains in character and appearance almost unaltered since the days of sail. In trade Thalatta would have been crewed by a Skipper, Mate and Third Hand just as she is today.

Thalatta at Mistley, 1906

Thalatta at Mistley, 1906

60 years in trade

Craft of this type developed to combine good sea-going qualities with an ability to navigate easily in the shallow rivers of the south east coast. Thalatta encapsulates the characteristics typical of the breed:

  • shallow, flat-bottomed hull, ideal for river estuaries and the need to penetrate far inland for cargoes
  • ability to sail unballasted
  • ability to ‘dry out’ at low water and be loaded directly from horse-drawn carts
  • exceptionally efficient sail-plan and layout handled by ‘a man and a boy (ie skipper and mate) so that passages could be undertaken by sail power alone
  • large capacity (eg 150 tons) and flexibility to carry a wide range of cargoes, such as grain, coal, stone, bricks, bulk materials, animal feeds, waste products, straw and reed, timber, etc.
Thalatta entering Yarmouth in 1920

Thalatta entering Yarmouth in 1920

Thalatta as a motorbarge, deep in grain for Rochford

Thalatta as a motorbarge, deep in grain for Rochford

A modern role, working with children

In 1967 Thalatta was re-rigged to take on a different role as a schoolship under the flag of Sail Trust, initially, and the East Coast Sail Trust from 1971. Since then thousands of young people have benefited from the experiences of living and working as crew on Thalatta’s five-day voyages.

A school group on board in the 1970's

A school group on board in the 1970's