Cabby is believed to be the last of the full-size wooden sailing barges to be built. The Gill brothers who had constructed many of her type, were left with one on their hands when a client went bankrupt. They began to trade with her and soon discovered that this was a more profitable occupation than boat building. They formed the Rochester Barge Company, using the profits to buy land and to plant fruit. By 1924 they had all their interests in the London and Rochester Trading Com-pany.
The building of Cabby was begun in 1925, but due to a slump in the trade, was not completed for another three years. For more than a decade she carried grain, animal feeds, timber and other bulk cargoes between London docks, Colchester, Whitstable, and various ports on the South and East coast. She was at Ipswich, Suffolk in 1940 when ordered to London and loaded with drums of fresh water for the troops at Dunkirk. Instead, she was sent to the Downs to await further instructions which, coming after several days, ordered her to Brest. She was well on passage when fresh instructions returned her to Plymouth. From there, under war service, she went to Ireland, to the Clyde, and then the Hebrides where she was given a new wheelhouse. Finally Cabby spent the rest of the war years at Greenock.
Many of the requisitioned sailing barges came back from the war in a poor state, too old to go back into trade, and were sold for as little as ?500 each to be converted into houseboats. Cabby, however, went back to work until trade in the London docks declined. Alec Rands, who took her over from his father and first master Harry Walter, recalls loads of "just about anything" - cement, asbestos tiles, china clay, portland stone - and trips as far away as Antwerp. She carried her last load in the late 1960's and was converted to passenger use, spending the winters laid up at Snape Maltings in Suffolk and the spring/autumn season earning her keep out of Rochester, North Kent. With the exception of the engine and the conversion below into comfortable conference accommodation, Cabby has been restored to her original appearance. She is very much a commercial venture for Crescent Shipping Limited, direct descendants of the original builders. Sailing on the Medway, her sails advertising products above, whilst businessmen are in conference or at lunch below, she reckons - given favourable weather - to reach Sheerness and the Thames Estuary in a couple of hours.
Source: B, C, D & E
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