ONE of Maldon's oldest nautical gems is back at her mooring and ready to sail the seas after a £1million restoration project.
Thalatta, one of the oldest Thames barges, was in desperate need of tender loving care after years of commercial trading and taking children on school trips.
And after five years work at St Osyth Boatyard in Clacton she is back home at Hythe Quay and already teaching young children how to sail.
Joe Brannigan, Chairman of the East Coast Sailing Trust, which owns the 90-foot long barge, said: "She has had a major restoration and has been away for five years. It's good to see her back in Maldon."
Thalatta is a Greek word and means 'The Sea'. She was built in 1906 and began her life carrying cargoes around the coast and to the continent before retiring in 1967.
"From then she became a school boat, carrying children aged between nine and 14 on a tour for five days," said Mr Brannigan. "We normally arrange the trips through schools, taking a maximum of 12 pupils at a time.
"They sleep in hammocks and have a great time, getting to grips with how to run a boat.
"We are going to have to rebuild our clientele now, having been out of action for so long but had a group from Surrey starting with us on Monday."
Children can jump on ship and sail around Essex from April to September every year.
Mr Brannigan of Wellington Road, Maldon said: "They learn lots of things, from teamwork to environmental issues.
"It's the first time away for many of the children and mothers can worry about them but they really seem to enjoy it.
"Because we work with schools we often get siblings of children that have already been with us and they can't wait to get on board."
Thalatta was restored after the Heritage Lottery fund donated £527,500 to make major structural repairs to her hull.
"Once work began and the engineers started taking her apart it became apparent that the damage was a lot worse that we had thought," said Mr Brannigan.
"All of her frames had to be replaced and we had to re-do her inside."
For more information please visit http://www.thalatta.org.uk/