Raybel Charters CIC Ltd. is the fresh new face of Raybel Charters who have owned and run the Sailing Barge Raybel since 1974.
We have two interwoven objectives – to return the Raybel to cargo delivery work under sail and to continue the restoration of both hull and rigging with careful attention to originality.
A New Era
Within the first three decades of her launch, in 1920, the Raybel had delivered many thousands of tons of cargo under sail alone. However, the world changed and diesel power became most favoured. As we now see the enormous damage being done to our environment by the burning of fossil fuels our values must shift again. And there are lessons to be learned from the past.
We at Raybel charters are committed to restoring a magnificent sailing barge in order that she may join a growing fleet of ships able to deliver cargo by harnessing that great and unlimited power source – the wind. As well as directly reducing the carbon emissions of transport the sailing barge will act as a catalyst and inspiration to further wind-powered initiatives, joining a wider national and international network of sustainable transport enterprises.
The Raybel is of especially strong construction and largely original. Although work to the hull is needed to meet MCA requirements we intend to continue paying very careful attention to originality and detail. It is vital that any work carried out will also increase the significance of the Raybel as a heritage asset.
1920 and the Sailing Barge Raybel is launched into the waters of Milton Creek in Kent - the name being derived from twins, Raymond and Isabel, born earlier the same year to sailing barge owner G.F. Sully. The shipping company - known as ‘Sullys’ - had ordered a powerful coasting barge of some 90 feet from stem to stern post and with a cargo capacity of over 150 tons. Barge builders, Wills and Packham, delivered exactly that and the Raybel quickly became the pride of Sullys fleet. For over 50 years she carried all manner of cargos between London and east coast ports as well as the near continent – Holland, Belgium and France. During WWII the Raybel was commandeered by the Admiralty and for several years worked from the Clyde, Scotland as supply ship to naval craft.
By the early 1970s Raymond Sully was selling the last wooden barges the family still owned. Raybel Charters was founded in 1974 and the Raybel passed into new ownership but continued to carry general freight such as wheat, starch, pitch and flour for a few more years. However, the intention was always to fully restore her sails and rigging and this was achieved by 1976. The changing world meant that work for the Raybel would have to adapt too. There was increasing interest in the gentle beauty and awe inspiring splendour of these sailing craft which were already rapidly disappearing. This made possible several decades of varied work taking adults and children on a days sail or a week of exploration.
More recently the main hold has been host to educational activities, theatre, fine dining, corporate hospitality, and promotional events. Now under the leadership of Rob Sargent the new agreed challenge is to complete the circle of history and return the Raybel to the work she was built for - the delivery of cargo under sail.
The hatches can be lifted from both fore and main holds allowing the loading of all manner of cargo.
The main hold is about the length of a London bus.
Also, the immensely strong sailing gear can lift loads of well over a ton which makes loading and unloading extremely efficient.
Places will be available for a days sail or longer voyages and passengers may prefer to observe the barge loading and getting underway or help with cargo handling and learn ‘hands on’ the unique skills required for sailing a sprits’l rigged barge. Whatever your choice the ships cook will ensure that meal times are a real pleasure.
The interior of the Raybel’s holds are almost entirely original and offer a spacious and hugely atmospheric venue. A perfect setting to showcase your goods before setting sail or on arrival at your delivery destination.
Buffet or promotion - 75 plus
Fine dining – 35