A SAILING barge based in Maldon sailed the furthest its been since the 1950s.

With a crew of experienced barge skippers, sailing barge George Smeed set off on a voyage from Maldon to the North Eagle, and back.

This was the furthest the vessel had ventured in 66 years.

George Smeed came into Ken and Carol Greenhalgh’s ownership in the 1970s and gradually over the years, between bringing up a family and living and working abroad, it underwent a very careful rebuild and restoration programme.

Read more: Reader letter - thanks for help with sailing barge

This culminated in George Smeed being newly re-rigged for performances in the 2018 and 2019 Blackwater Barge Matches.

The 2019 match saw a winner’s pennant for the barge.

Up until last Monday, all the trips for this engine-less barge were within the confines of the Blackwater.

Its owners had planned a trip with some of the Thames barge elite but as Ken Greenhalgh fell ill and sadly passed away, and Covid came along, things were delayed.

However, on Monday, August 2, George Smeed sailed out past the North West Knoll, onwards and round the North Eagle, the furthest it had been since 1955.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Owner Carol Greenhalgh taking the helm past North West KnollOwner Carol Greenhalgh taking the helm past North West Knoll

Among the crew were retired shipwright and barge specialist, David Patient, owner skipper of the Viking Saga and racing skipper of barge Niagara, Nigel 'Noddy' Cardy of Landbreach Ltd, and former skipper of trading and charter barges, previous owner of Walter Cook and Son, and barge historian, Barry Pearce.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Barry Pearce taking the helmBarry Pearce taking the helm

Built of wood in 1882, George Smeed is the oldest full size barge in sailing condition and has never had an engine.

Its owner, Carol said: "The George Smeed may now be for sale but it most certainly remains a sailing barge."