Bob Roberts' widow dies

The widow of Britain’s last skipper to trade under sail alone has died. Sheila Roberts, 80, was surrounded by family at her bedside in Norwich Hospital when she died today.

Sheila sailed with Bob Roberts aboard the Cambria, the 92 ft mule-rigged Thames sailing barge which was the last of her kind to load cargo in the London Docks and deliver it to smaller ports around the coast. Built in 1906 the only engine she ever carried was a motor-pump to keep pace with the leaks which dogged her final months.

Sheila, who lived in Overstrand, Norfolk, started sailing as a young girl at the Erith Yacht Club on the London River where she met Bob. She made a single-handed passage from the Thames to Torquay while in her 20s and later sailed with the Ocean Youth Club down to the Med. One of Sheila’s last passages on a yacht was with Bob aboard a 30ft gaff cutter, Lily Bolero, sailing home from Holland.

Bob Roberts died aged 75 in 1982. The Cambria is currently dry-docked in Sheerness Harbour, Kent awaiting a refit with hoped-for cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund.