Maria Launch

Maria on launch day after her refit

After an extensive restoration Maria, originally built at the Harris yard in Rowhedge in 1866, was launched at St Osyth Boatyard at 1430 hrs on 20 May 2007. Four years previously Maria was towed up the River Blackwater and hauled out at Blackwater Marina where Rick Cardy and Kevin Finch started the rebuild. Due to pre-booked barge work the work was completed at St Osyth by Shipwrights Alan Williams, Andy “Droid” Balfe, Chris Hailes and John Brett. The launch day was attended by over one hundred and fifty people with remarkably good weather considering the day before and after were wet and windy. St Osyth Boatyard hosted the launch and plenty of beer and wine was consumed along with a splendid BBQ. Most of the local smack owners and their families were present some even arriving by water! With the rest of the lead ballast shipped aboard first thing Monday morning Maria was towed to Brightlingsea on the afternoon tide by the Brightlingsea trot boat ‘Colne Ranger’ Over the following eight weeks cabinsoles were laid, spars put aboard and standing rigging fitted by TS Rigging. Hemp running rigging, wooden blocks and her new sails, built by James Lawrence Sailmakers just prior to being laid up in 2002, were rigged just days before sailing to Kent for her first race in early August. Sea trials took place in twenty five knots of wind with two reefs tucked in and within the confines of the River Colne. The thirteen strong shake down crew made up of shipwrights, fellow smack owners and crew plus one Jack Russell “Hatty” of Harriet Blanche” fame were onboard as Maria displayed, although not as much as pre-rebuild and due to her narrow beam, she still liked to dip her lee rail. Unbeknown at the time she would actually carry more sail in those conditions without increasing the general angle of heel. After one or two further short shake down sails Maria left early on a Friday morning bound for the Swale Race on the North Kent Coast. The race was handicapped but on the water, boat for boat, she came in second. In the following races she competed in, including the week of racing in Mersea Week, on the water Maria has achieved two firsts, seven seconds and an eighth place. Not bad for a start. The eighth was due to sailing a different course to the rest of the fleet in the Mersea Town Regatta and having to sail half a mile back to a mark to avoid disqualification! Much emphasis has been put into her traditional appearance and with the exception of terylene sails is pretty much as she would have been when originally built.