Read on for more images, a video report from BBC news, and a description from the attached plaque (click to enlarge any image).
See also Lucid Gypsy, who has also blogged on the topic: see here and here.
1904 Thames Barge
The Vigilant was built in Ipswich and is a class spritsail Thames Barge rigged with a bowsprit.
She is listed in the Historic Ships Register. Although there were hundreds of these working sail boats on the Thames, only about thirty are still in existence.
Vigilant weighs 74 tonnes, could carry 120 tonnes, and was used to ferry grain. When fully loaded up to their marks, these barges would be virtually submerged. They were powered by massive ochre-coloured sails, engines only being fitted in the 1930s. The main sail alone took three men to hoist.
As well as working, these barges were built with racing in mind. The barge racing matches still continue to this day, with racing matches off the Thames Estuary during summer. In 1928, Vigilant was a class race winner. She continued to be sailed until the 1930s, when she was converted into a houseboat.
[A commenter to this post has added: "She was re-rigged and sailed in the mid '70s to '90s too. The whole barge could be handled by two!"]
Vigilant has travelled from the Rover Colne in Essex down the Channel to Topsham, and will be sympathetically restored to enable her to once again take to the seas under her red ochre sails as a racing barge.
If you would like to be a friend of Vigilant, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
See also the BBC Video report, Thames barge restoration begins.