Brief History of Record Reign-The Barge
Howard’s best remembered commercial barge was the clipper bowed ketch Record Reign, she was built in Maldon and launched in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and weighed a whopping 153 tons. She once loaded 282 tons of stone in the Channel trade but was designed to just fit the dimensions of Heybridge Lock, to discharge timber in the Basin. However, when she first entered the lock they found that when she was deep loaded no allowance had been made for the rake of her counter, and could only bring a full cargo on spring tides, at some risk to her figurehead of Queen Victoria.
She was weatherly and fast, carried a square sail, square topsail & a topgallant, although later she was fitted with double topsails. With pale grey sides, black rails & white canvas she was a picture to delight a sailor’s heart. Those who sailed the Record Reign said that
despite her flat bottom & shallow draft she was amongst the best sea boats in the coasting trade and could weather a gale comfortably. She was also handy in narrow waters and could turn away down the Blackwater from Maldon Quay, but her splendid rig needed five hands, which made her expensive to run.
Her skippers included N. Handley and Simeon Stanes of Maldon, and a J. D. Sullivan who was her skipper before she was taken over by the Admiralty in 1915, to be converted to an anti-submarine decoy ship. She and the similar barge, Sarah Colebrooke, were selected as anti-submarine decoys because their shallow draft allowed torpedoes to pass safely under them without exploding. They were manned by Naval crews dressed as merchant seamen & were commanded by Naval Officers. The white ensign was broken out before they opened fire & these decoys were the terror of the submarines operating around the British Coast. The Record Reign was heavily armed, although despite her armament, she was never in action with German submarines & spent most of the war in dockyards being repaired & modified.
From ‘Salty Shore’ by John Leather
named in honour of this historic Maldon built barge.