Regatta was built in 1909 in Boom, a small Belgian town on a tributary south of Antwerp and is what the Dutch call a steilsteven or “slope-bowed ship”. For over seventy years, she was a familiar sight on the canals and rivers of northern Belgium, delivering passengers, parcels and other light cargoes. Regatta came to Britain and Chiswick in 1985. It is unlikely that sheever crossed the Channel commercially, but in 1995 she made a return journey to mainland Europe to attend a barge rally in Paris: the photo below shows her setting off from Chiswick. She has also cruised many times upriver on the non-tidal waters of the Thames.
Continental working boats, particularly from Belgium, France and the Netherlands, have traded on the Thames for hundreds of years. For example, until the early 1970’s, Dutch coasters passed Chiswick to deliver goods to Isleworth. Evidence of this can be seen on the pub sign at the Waterman’s Arms in Isleworth. Many older people still remember the days when places like Chiswick, Isleworth and Brentford were busy river ports for both national and international trade.
Like many barges, Regatta’s hull is riveted steel on L-section frames. She has a gross registered tonnage of 66 and a net tonnage of 20 tons. (The former measures the overall size of the vessel, the latter indicates the space available for carrying and is used to assess harbour and canal dues for merchant ships.) She is powered by a 6 cylinder 2 stroke 175 hp General Motor diesel engine, which is believed to have come from an American army tank!