Although the European sailing cargo boat is now a thing of the past, in 1900 the majority of British shipping was still under sail. Vessels such as the River Thames Spritsail sailing barge, still to be seen sailing under charter for sail training and leisure activities, numbered more than two thousand at the commencement of the First World War. They still survive in some numbers today, cared for by enthusiasts. This book is intended as a general introduction to sailing barges their history, their main components and design, their activities and those who sail them today. The south-east coast of England is the barge's traditional home and this book also includes details of the main centres and races that continue to be held. A number of rare historical pictures are included.
Martin Hazell first became interested in sailing barges during his last term at school when he went with a school party to Maldon for a sailing week and discovered these vessels. Later, he was for a period on the committee of the Thames Barge Sailing Club and is a member of the Society for Spiritsail Barge Research. He is now a teacher and is particularly interested in the staging of historical pageants and collaborated with the English Folk dance and Song Society in presenting a song, music and dance drama representation of the English Civil War at the Albert hall. He has collected material on the Lee and Stort Navigations in Hertfordshire and has contributed articles to specialist and local journals.