Bid to make Wells-next-the-Sea home for historic 'Dunkirk' sailing barge

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. 

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. - Credit: Supplied by Jim Ring

Campaigners have launched a bid to make the last full-sized wooden Thames sailing barge ever built a permanent fixture at Wells-next-the-Sea.

Burnham Overy filmmaker and author Jim Ring is part of the group that wants to see Cabby, which was launched in 1927, restored and brought to the north Norfolk port.

Writer and documentary film-maker Jim Ring on the quay at Burnham Overy Staithe with his wife Kate.

Writer and documentary filmmaker Jim Ring and wife Kate Faire, who are part of a group aiming to bring Cabby to Wells. - Credit: IAN BURT



And the project has special significance for Mr Ring, 66, as Cabby was used as the reception venue when he and wife, Kate Faire, 53, got married 25 years ago. 

Mr Ring said: “Given the nature of Wells as a historic trading port she would be a wonderful example to have here, with links to the great age of sail. It’s something the whole community could get involved in.”

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. 

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. - Credit: Supplied by Jim Ring


Mr Ring said the first steps would be to carry out a condition survey and feasibility study to establish how Cabby could be put to use in Wells. 

He said possibilities included running an on-board cafe over winter, offering chartered voyages around the coast in summer, sail training, and even as an events venue, such as for Wells’ Sea Fever Literary Festival. 

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. 

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. - Credit: Supplied by Jim Ring


In its early years the 92ft long vessel was used to transport everything from cement to straw up and around the coast from the Thames, with Cabby’s shallow draft allowing her to venture into coastal waters other deep water boats could not reach. 

Cabby is also a registered Dunkirk Little Ship, although it has not been confirmed if she made it past the offshore muster point at Ramsgate and participated in the Second World War evacuation. 

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. 

Cabby, the Thames sailing barge. A campaign is being launched to have the ship brought to Wells and make a permanent fixture in the town. - Credit: Supplied by Jim Ring


The ship’s most recent use was as a family home by James Tuffs from 2014, but after they moved abroad several years later Cabby was taken to a marina on the River Blackwater in Essex and has  languished there ever since. 

Mr Ring said: “Barges need a fair amount spent on them, just like an old house. She would probably need between £10,000 and £20,000 annually to keep her in good nick, and she’s not currently having that money spent on her.”

Writer and documentary film-maker Jim Ring. Picture: Ian Burt

Writer and documentary film-maker Jim Ring. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT


Others involved in the bid include Wells harbourmaster Robert Smith, Charlie Ward, Kate Faire, Ash Faire-Ring and Josh Danziger.

To donate to the project’s initial fundraiser, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/cabby-2025
 

 


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