The Coronavirus lockdown has led one tourism-based business in Kent to throw out the rule book and re-write their business plan.

In a first for the East Coast and possibly the world, Tiller and Wheel Ltd, who operate the Thames sailing barge Edith May and Whitstable oyster smack Thistle have removed the price tag from sailing trips aboard their historic Thames barge and will be making their public sailing schedule free to all.  This is made possible through the power of crowdfunding.

Whilst they will be offering a free sailing schedule, they hope that people choose to support their work through their Patreon page – From as little as £3 a month, people can sign up to help the heritage business achieve their aims of taking thousands of people out on the river who would not normally have the opportunity.

There used to be over 2000 Thames Sailing Barges but now there are only around 30 left sailing. Tiller & Wheel’s two Directors, Ed Gransden and Heather Burgess, want to ensure a sustainable future for all the remaining Thames Sailing Barges.

“The cost of sailing aboard has gone from up to £120 per person a day to zero and we hope that this will open these historic vessels up to a much wider audience, who will in turn help us to support the maintenance costs of the remaining Thames barge fleet”

“Our long-term aim of 10,000 patrons would create a war chest that could ensure that no more of these historic boats have to go the way of the breakers yard” hopes Skipper Ed.

Following the pandemic, Ed and Heather took the decision to cancel all of their charters and events for this year, which allowed time for reflection and development of their new direction: “This week we're launching our #BeThe200 campaign to raise awareness of our Patreon page and encourage people to sign up and help maintain these National Historic Ships. 200 is a key number for us - with 200 patrons we can successfully ensure the fixed costs of maintaining the Sailing Barge 'Edith May' and Whitstable Oyster Smack 'Thistle' are met, creating a sustainable future for these boats and engaging the next generation of sailors.”

Ed and Heather are now actively seeking individuals and businesses to support their aims and be a part of something that could have a far reaching, positive, impact for the area’s local communities and heritage.

Please take a look at their videos and our Patreon page to find out more:
YouTube channel
Social - @TillerAndWheel #BeThe200 Launch

The first 200 patrons will be super people who share their vision.  As a little thank you to the first pioneers on their adventure they have made limited edition Tiller & Wheel T-shirts.  Only available to our first 200 patrons, they can be worn with pride by the owners, knowing they are a part of Sailing Barge history.


For more information please contact:

Skipper Ed Gransden – 07814 950 442 (Director of Tiller & Wheel Ltd)
Heather Burgess – 07545 642 581 (Director of Tiller & Wheel Ltd) 
Social - @TillerAndWheel

Tiller & Wheel #Bethe200