If you are ever inquisitive as to where the sport of sailing evolved from, and what it would be like to step back in time and walk the wooden decks of the days of sail, then Brightlingsea is the place to be in early September. The Colne Smack and Barge Race followed by the West Mersea Dredging Match provide a taste of yesteryear with the spectacles of gaff rig racing and oyster fishing.
The smack was a traditional gaff cutter or ketch rigged fishing boat, and the barges are the Thames barges, iconic sailing coastal traders that shipped everything from hay, bricks and grains into London, and took the rubbish out on the way out of the Thames estuary. The Old Gaffers Association was formed in 1963 at Maldon, now recognised as the de facto Thames barge capital.
I booked myself aboard as crew on the recently restored second class Essex smack Priscilla CK437 . . . find the full article online in Essex Life Magazine.