Nick Ardley, Thames estuary ditch-crawler, river, creek and coastal sailor.


Nick was born in 1955 in Rochester, Kent. His parents hailed from Essex and on the Ardley side had been of the county for generations. His Mother's side had fishermen and lifeboat men in their ranks. Nick was brought up on a Thames spritsail barge based along the banks of the River Medway in Kent.

After leaving his secondary school in Rainham, Kent, he trained to be an Engineer Officer with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) at Poplar Technical College, East London, where the college evocatively overlooked ships in the West India Docks unloading from many foreign lands. Nick worked for the RFA for thirty years and qualified as a Class 1 Engineer Officer, briefly reaching the highest sea going rank, before retiring from professional seafaring in 2000.

After a short period 'on the beach' Nick retrained and studied to work within the Essex Adult Education sector as a learning support assistant where he has worked with adults with learning needs for over a decade. During that time Nick took up writing.

Nick's first book, The May Flower A Barging Childhood, related his childhood experiences on the sailing barge May Flower. It was published in 2007 by Tempus. He was brought up on the May Flower, a barge built at the height of the Victorian age in 1888, in Strood, Kent. She was purchased in 1950 from Green's of Maldon, Essex, by his father, straight out of trade. The barge soon became home to a family of six. Nick's many experiences and those of his siblings, and parents before he could remember, were colourfully related in his book. Nick enjoyed helping with the maintenance of the barge as well as cruising and barge racing. In Nick's semi adult life he set to, with his siblings, in an attempt to keep the 'old girl' going, renewing decking, side planking and spar making, until, as he'd already run away to sea, he married!

Upon marriage in 1978 to a girl from the English midlands he set up home on Canvey Island, Essex, where his wife had gained a teaching post. It was not long before the lure of the marshes called: the eerie call of the curlew pierced the air. The call came from the myriad of fleets and rills that appeared as the tide ebbed around their island home: it was amongst them that his heart lay. They bought their first boat in 1980. His wife became his mate in more ways than most.

Since the mate's introduction to the Thames estuary she too has grown to love all those secret places that abound within its many muddy fingers. From that shared love sprang the first of Nick's books about sailing on the Thames estuary, Salt Marsh & Mud A Year's Sailing on the Thames Estuary. That book binds a little of the more intimate side of Nick within its pages: it is as much about his childhood as it is about the here and now; and some of the area's history. It is his mate's favourite, for many reasons. The book cruises the waters of the Swale, Medway and the lower Thames around his present home. It is the first book of its type and it has held many readers enthralled, spellbound even.

Nick has continued to write and he sails as much as possible, whenever possible. He evocatively weaves his hours out on the water into the many stories that have flowed, based on history, fact and colourful observations of wherever he has gone.

Nick has written for various yachting, countryside and history magazines about his sailing and coastal cruising experiences, and he writes regularly for his Yacht Club magazine too.

As well as his beloved East Coast, Nick has sailed; on the waters around Jacksonville, Florida; on an inland sea near Colombo, Sri Lanka; on a yacht based at Mombasa, Kenya; a coastal trip around Nova Scotia, Canada; along the south coast of England; on a inland river cruiser on the Thames, upstream of the tides; and on many inland lakes in England, in various dinghy types.