50 or 60 years ago, the waters of the Thames Estuary were busy with coastal shipping - barges, coasters and larger ships, but today less a handful of vessels trade here.
While making content for my Shipping TV website, I was lucky enough to be invited aboard the sand-barge Mark Prior in April 2015 for a round trip from Fingringhoe on the River Colne (near Colchester, Essex) to Deptford Creek, London, and back, over a 24 hour period.
In this 4-part series (2 parts this week and 2 parts next week), join me aboard Mark Prior as she sails from the riverside wharf, and heads south along the Essex coast. We'll look at the barge, meet her captain and the mate - there are only the two of them aboard - and discover how this trade works.
In Part 1 of this 4-part series, we cast off from the wharf at Fingringhoe, and sail down the River Colne towards the North Sea. We also meet the Skipper, Captain Peter Barc, and the mate, "Fraggle" - and hear a little about our good ship.
In Part 2, we're sailing past the Essex shore to Southend, enjoying the surprisingly quiet and sunny April weather. We also hear from the skipper, who remembers the days when empty stretches of river were important anchorages, crammed with shipping waiting for a berth alongside the quay.
Join us aboard again next week for the 2 final parts of this trip, as we sail past all the landmarks of the River Thames.
Part 2 can be found here.