Tag Archives: nelson

Pilot Cutters and the Victory: books from Seaforth Publishing

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I must read this book by seasoned sailor and writer Tom Cunliffe some time. Here’s what the Seaforth Publishing’s blurb says…

‘The pilot cutters that operated around the coasts of northern Europe until the First World War were among the most seaworthy and beautiful craft of their size ever built, while the small number that have survived have inspired yacht designers, sailors and traditional craft enthusiasts over the last hundred years.

‘They possessed a charisma unlike any other working craft; their speed and close-windedness, their strength and seaworthiness, fused together into a hull and rig of particular elegance, all to guide the mariner through the rough and tortuous waters of the European seaboard, bought them an enviable reputation.

‘This new book is both a tribute to and a minutely researched history of these remarkable vessels. The author, perhaps the most experienced sailor of the type, describes the ships themselves, their masters and crews,and the skills they needed for the competitive and dangerous work of pilotage. He explains the differences between the craft of disparate coasts – of the Scilly Islesand the Bristol Channel, of northern France, and the wild coastline of Norway – and weaves into the history of their development the stories of the men who sailed them.’

I notice that whoever wrote it has managed to capture the characteristic Cunliffe persuasive and salty style.

PS – A more recent release from Seaforth is Brian Lavery’s book Nelson’s Victory: 250 Years of War and Peace, which is published this month to coincide with the 250th anniversary of her launch.

Brian is also guest curator of an exhibition at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, if you have time to get over there.

The publisher’s notes promise the book is the most comprehensive book yet published on the topic and includes new and surprising revelations, including that:

  • she was almost wrecked on her launch
  • diplomacy conducted onboard her played a crucial role in provoking Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1912
  • 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm set the First World War in motion sitting at a desk made from her timbers

The book also tells the story of Horatio Nelson, who was born a few weeks before his most famous ship was ordered.

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HMS Pickle ashore

Here’s HMS Pickle ashore in Portugal, after being lifted by a mighty big boat lift… Many readers will notice that she now has all her masts in place, so owner Mal Nicholson is making progress!

Others might notice her lines, which to my eyes have a look of rightness about them…

HMS Pickle is named after the fast and in some ways similar Bermudan-built schooner HMS Pickle that brought news of the victory at Trafalgar and of Nelson’s death back to Britain. Follow HMS Pickle’s Facebook page here.

And meanwhile here’s a nice sailplan line drawing that Mal acquired from somewhere:

pickle line drawing

Topsail schooner Pickle to have a new life thanks to Mal Nicholson

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HMS Pickle“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The fabulous replica of Nelson’s topsail schooner HMS Pickle that featured in Tom Cunliffe’s TV series Boats that Built Britain has been bought by Mal Nicholson, owner of the magnificent Humber sloop Spider T.

After Trafalgar, HMS Pickle famously carried the news of Nelson’s great victory back to Britain – along with the news of Nelson’s own death.

The schooner is currently moored in Ocean Village in Gibraltar and is undergoing repairs. After many years of owning and running Spider T, I’m quite certain Mal knows what he’s in for – but great good luck to him and his helpers.

Previous owner Robin James’s family has owned Pickle for the past nine years. He said that the decision to sell the ship had been extremely difficult : ‘I have poured my soul into her over the past nine years, and in return she has carried me and many new friends safely through storms and adventures.

‘But after a difficult voyage to Gibraltar followed by a failure to get the much needed support to make her a success, this is the best decision to secure her future. The decision to sell Pickle has been made far easier by finding Mal, who I trust to continue to care for her and get her sailing again, while continuing to share her with everybody from her past, present and future.’

Mal said that during her time with Robin, Pickle had won many friends and supporters, and achieved amazing things.

For information see the Pickle facebook page  where he will post information future plans for the vessel, and will be re-developing the website www.schoonerpickle.com.

Mr James added that that an unknown author once wrote the following lines, which summarised his feelings on Pickle’s sale:

‘I’d rather be the ship that sails And rides the billows wild and free; Than to be the ship that always fails To leave its port and go to sea.
I’d rather feel the sting of strife, Where gales are born and tempests roar;
Than to settle down to useless life And rot in dry dock on the shore. I’d rather fight some mighty wave With honour in supreme command; And fill at last a well-earned grave, Than die in ease upon the sand.
I’d rather drive where sea storms blow, And be the ship that always failed
To make the ports where it would go, Than be the ship that never sailed.’

 Meanwhile, I will be casually dropping these words into the conversation at social gatherings: ‘I know a bloke who has a topsail schooner. Oh yes… ‘