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

1280px-HMSPicklereplica

HMS Pickle replica“. 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… ‘

 

Spider T draws crowds at the West Stockwith rally

10 Sun Spider T in full sail

The photo above taken by Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society luminary Dave Everatt shows Humber sloop Spider T visiting Stockwith for the West Stockwith rally, which is jointly organised by the West Stockwith Yacht Club, the Canal River Trust and the Chesterfield Canal Trust.

After all the troubles the weather and flooding has brought along the banks of the Trent in North Lincolnshire, it’s good to hear that the Spider and her crew led by skipper Mal Nicholson have been able to get out and enjoy themselves – Mal, who makes his living refurbishing and maintaining classic cars is still working getting his workshops back in order following floods caused by the big East Coast storm surge of a few weeks ago.

So it must have been especially gratifying to sail to West Stockwith, where the Spider and received as many as 2000 visitors over the weekend.

I gather that a nice came when 82-year old Frank Major was steering the Spider along the river as a guest crew member. At the age of 10, Frank was mate to his barge skipper dad, and was later a skipper himself running barges around the estuary and all her tributaries.

Someone asked Frank if he was ok, to which he replied with a big grin: ‘Aye lad I’m ‘ome again.’

Spider T – third YouTube video in support of Seafarers Awareness Week

The third of three videos recording Spider T’s voyage promoting Seafarers Awareness Week on behalf of the Sailors Childrens Society.

This section covers the section from Whitby to Bridlington, Hull and back home at Keadby Lock on the Trent, not far from where that river joins the mighty Humber. The trip was sponsored by ABP.

He’s a good photographer that David Everatt.

Spider T’s East Coast voyage promoting the Sailors’ Children’s Society

Spider T sets off on a mission to promote the important work of the the charity the Sailors’ Children’s Society. The trip was made possible by sponsorship provided by ABP.

Spider T trip to promote awareness of the work of the Sailors Childrens Society

spidertscotland09

Early morning on the Hartlepool to Blyth leg – photo: Chris Horan

Restored Humber sloop Spider T is to embark on a trip up the North-East coast with the aim of promoting awareness of the Sailors Childrens Society, which looks after the children of seafarers who are disadvantaged in some way.

‘There is general belief that UK seafarers are reducing in numbers. We call this sea blindness and the aim of this trip is to help people understand that as an island nation half the food we eat in the UK is imported, most of which comes by sea,’ says the society’s chief officer Deanne Thomas.

However, as the number of British men and women employed in traditional seafaring roles declines, opportunities to work at sea are increasing in a range of growth areas, including cruise ships and superyachts, fish-farming and shell fishing, and wind, wave and tide power projects.

The trip, which is sponsored by Associated British Ports, aims to reach out to families in need throughout the region.

During the week commencing Sunday 23 July, the Spider T’s itinerary is to be the following, weather permitting:

  • Sunday – sail from Keadby to Hull Marina
  • Monday – Hull Marina open all day
  • Tuesday – Bridlington open afternoon
  • Wednesday – Scarborough open afternoon
  • Thursday – Whitby open afternoon
  • Friday – Bridlington open late afternoon
  • Saturday – Hull Marina open afternoon

In each port Spider T will be open for the public to visit. There is no charge, however donations are always welcome!

On another, very sad note, I would like to mark the passing of journalist, author, photographer and Spider T supporter and crewmate Chris Horan, who passed away some days ago at the age of 56. Chris took fabulous photos of Spider T’s trip to Scotland last year. I didn’t know Chris personally, but I do know he was well liked and respected, and that his loss is keenly felt by his Spider T friends. His newspaper colleagues have published a brief obituary.

 

Spider T training days

Training Day 01-12May2013

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Photos by Dave and Leslie Everatt (there are more at the bottom of this post)

Mal Nicholson is running training days for folks interested in learning how to sail the Humber sloop Spider T.

Sailing working craft of her type and size requires somewhat different skills compared with a small yacht or dinghy, and Mal’s making plans to ensure folks have what’s needed to sail Spider T into the future.

Judging by the comments and photos I’ve seen, the training group’s enthusiasm is pretty well boundless, even in the rain.

If you’re interested in joining Mal’s training group, I would strongly suggest you contact him via the Spider T website – I would myself if it didn’t take half a day to drive to North Lincolnshire from Kent!

Here’s a report from the second training day, written by group member Kathryn Merrick:

Training Day Two

The aim of the day was to enter the lock and use the bridge, taking the lock down to river level and back up to canal level again. Using forward springs we were to allow the Spider to exit in astern back to her moorings. We were getting the boat ready as if it were going onto the North Sea.

Today’s session began by collecting life jackets from the fo’c’sle. Then the sails were hoisted up to release the shackles. The sails were stowed away in the fo’c’sle, with Andrew and Tony receiving the sails which were released down in a spiral shape into the forecastle. The bow sprit was also raised up.

Next the light-boards were taken in by Tom and Jess so that they would not get caught in the lock. Flags were hoisted and Mal gave the shout to remove the forward spring so that the Spider was to be taken out into the canal. The first attempt did not take her out far enough as the wind was blowing her back on, but a second attempt brought her out to a better position.

We then tested the boat’s ability to remain still in the water no matter how much wind there was. This was proved by using the drop kedge anchor which held her in position. This could be useful if a rope was stuck round a propeller, or a man had fallen overboard, as keeping the boat still would enable the crew to attend to what was happening elsewhere.

Fenders were collected from under the hatches to put at appropriate places alongside the boat and boat hooks were used to push the boat away from the side as necessary. We then set off towards the grade 2 listed lock, which was described by Mal as one of the most dangerous locks in the UK.

The boat was brought through the bridge and into the lock successfully. On the way back out of the lock Mal said that the Spider may hit a sand bank but there was nothing the crew could do about that. In the event the boat manoeuvred slow and steady through the lock and the wind was to our advantage on the return journey back to her moorings where we made her fast.

The EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) was explained to the crew. This safety equipment maintained the last known position of the boat in case of an accident and information is stored on this on the likely number of people aboard, the boat’s specifics and the contact details of Mal.

Mal then did a debrief on the successes of the day. He praised everyone for working together effectively. Bev asked if we could do some knot-work and Mal explained that there were many areas he wishes to cover, including knot-work, chart, compass, true/magnetic north, wind/tidal speeds and their effects. There would also be time to paint the Spider and create some more fenders, as many had been lost in Immingham Dock.

Andrew suggested that a tick list may be useful of the skills we needed to acquire to sail the Spider. Mal said he liked the crew to gain practical experience first and then he would certainly go back over the skills.

The Spider T summer sailing trip leaving on Sunday 23 June from Hull was mentioned and invitations were given to the crew if they would like to join all or part of the journey up to Scarborough, Whitby and beyond, possibly to Staithes.

The next meeting dates were proposed in relation to good tides so that the Spider could be taken out on the river for training purposes. Suggestions for dates would be put on the Training Crew Facebook page.

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Tom Fort explores the River Trent in a punt – and Spider T

Tom Fort BBC4 River Trent

Writer Tom Fort’s programme River of Dreams exploring the history of the River Trent, and descending the River Trent from Stoke on Trent to the Humber Estuary in a paddled and rowed punt, on foot, and on board the Humber sloop Spider T is to be screened on the BBC4 tonight.

The programme goes out at 9pm, and I’m sure it will make some intelligent entertainment. Some readers may remember being intrigued by his 2012 programme about the unpromising-sounding A303. Little did we know…

There are clips from the programme here and here.

PS – We watched this last night. It’s well worth watching, though the Trent looks pretty scary in places, and I think Fort’s punt carries rather more buoyancy (and a shorter waterline) than strictly necessary, which will have made his boat a little slow…