Sail with us

You don’t need to be able to sail, or swim. You just need to be up for the challenge of trying something new.

Youth and vulnerable adult voyages

A typical voyage with us would be a four or five-day residential. Once everyone is onboard and the sleeping accommodation has been allocated, there will be a safety briefing and crew members will be shown how to wear their life jacket, and can find a suitable pair of waterproofs to wear should they be needed on the voyage.

The group will usually be divided in two as we work a system of watches where in turns, one group will be responsible for helping with activities on deck whilst the other watch are helping prepare food and doing some cleaning up down below.

Every group is different and so if you are a leader thinking of bringing a group onboard Blue Mermaid we would like to learn a little bit about the group and hear what you hope the individuals will achieve from a residential voyage with us.

We can discuss possible dates and ways of making the financing of your voyage within reach. Please get in touch, and we can have a chat about sailing with us, and talk you through the booking and payments process.

What to expect

Each day we will do some sailing, with members of the group gradually taking a more responsible role as they get used to being onboard. Everyone can fully participate in all activities as far as their confidence allows them, including going out along the bowsprit, climbing the rigging and steering the barge.

We usually anchor at night and during the week there will be some opportunities for the whole group to go ashore in the dinghy to a beach where they can play a ball game or have a treasure hunt, or occasionally a barbecue.

On departure

At the end of the week, everyone will be presented with a certificate showing they have sailed aboard Blue Mermaid. Any that have achieved an accredited certificate will also receive that before they depart.

Groups are responsible for supplying the food for the voyage, and for the onboard catering throughout the trip. We can advise of suitable menu options and quantities if you feel you need help.

Suggested kit list

Each crew member will need warm clothes and at least one full change of clothes. Old trainers are good, and wellies if they have them. They will also need a sleeping bag.


Suggested essential kit:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Warm sleepwear
  • A complete change of clothes
  • Warm clothes
  • Suncream
  • Old trainers
  • Wash kit and a towel
  • Sunhat

Suggested desirable kit:

  • Wellington boots
  • A little spending money
  • Swimwear
  • A reading book
  • Musical instruments

Maritime Heritage Training Voyages

A typical training voyage is difficult to describe as it very much depends on the level of knowledge of those onboard. We are particularly keen to address the skills shortage in the Thames sailing barge industry and most of our training is designed to give potential skippers and mates plenty of opportunity to manoeuvre Blue Mermaid under sail, so there may be many repetitions of sailing on and off a mooring or anchoring and getting underway again.

Not everyone aspires to be a skipper, and whilst all this is going on there are plenty of opportunities for the other trainees to learn about sail handling.

If you want to develop your knowledge of Thames sailing barges, and would like to sail as volunteer staff or are considering a career in the industry please get in touch and tell us a little about what your aim is.
We can then find the appropriate training for you to attend to help you on your quest to develop your skills.

There is so much to learn that we run a few short residential trainings throughout the sailing season and would hope that you could join more than one in order to experience a Thames sailing barge in a variety of different conditions.

Adult Charter voyages

There are a small number of opportunities throughout the year for a group of up to eight individuals to join the barge and participate in a Barge Match, which is a sailing race against other Thames sailing barges. Money raised from these charters supports the work of the charity.

Expect to join Blue Mermaid the evening before the race for an evening meal together with the barge crew before turning in for the night in your bunk.

Race day starts early and will provide an excellent photographic opportunity whilst manoeuvring in close quarters with the other barges.

Barge Matches are a series of historic races that take place between Thames sailing barges annually in the coastal waters of Suffolk, Essex, London, and Kent. The races are hotly contested with every barge hoping to take home the biggest trophy and be awarded the prestigious winners’ pennant to fly from the rigging. Racing is often intense, and we will have a race crew aboard to help us sail the barge.

This means that our guests don’t need previous sailing experience and can choose whether they wish to participate in the sailing, or just find a spot out of the way of the action and enjoy the spectacle of big traditional vessels manoeuvring under sail.

After the race we encourage our guests to join with all the Thames sailing barge crews at the prize giving ashore.

Please enquire promptly about a booking for your group or see where we have places available for individual charterers, as barge matches are popular!

Delivering Cargo Under Sail

Blue mermaid has no engine, and was built to carry cargo under sail just like the hundreds of Thames sailing barges that used to deliver goods around the British Isles in the past. She can carry 110 tons of palleted goods in her watertight hold, giving small groups of trainees some valuable work-related skills on their voyage and helping to widen thinking around sustainable local transport networks.

We are keen to hear from anyone interested in sending a cargo on a low carbon delivery around the coastline of East Anglia, the tidal rivers of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent and the River Thames.

One full load removes up to 4 articulated lorries from the road and you will be assisting young people to learn essential life-skills in the process. We don’t need a full hold – we also deliver part loads, or just a few pallets.

Where possible we like the onward delivery from Blue Mermaid to be using low carbon transport like electric vehicles or cargo bikes. As an incentive to try a sail-cargo delivery, your first load carried by Blue Mermaid will be charged at the 1930 freight rate!