Legendary Bristol pilot cutter Kindly Light is back on the water

Restored pilot cutter Kindly Light



Photo supplied by the National Historic Ships Register 

Here’s a piece of great news among the gloom of economic disaster and the incompetence of corrupt governments: the legendarily fast Bristol Channel pilot cutter Kindly Light has completed here long restoration and is now back on the water.

Kindly Light’s story is told here and those of her designer and builder are here.

The restoration has returned her to her original state as a sailing pilot cutter, with no modern systems, engine or electric, and I think those who worked to achieve this great end deserve great credit for this, including  her owner Malcolm Mckeand and shipwright David Walkey at Gweek Quay Shipyard.

Here’s what the Historic Ships people had to say about a rededication ceremony at Falmouth this week:

‘Some 350 people were gathered at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall on Saturday 1st October for a private ceremony to mark the 100th birthday of pilot cutter Kindly Light – re-launched after a meticulous 18-year long restoration, funded and masterminded by owner Malcolm Mckeand.

Revered Chris Courtauld led the assembled crowd in a rededication of the vessel and a rendition of the hymn ‘Lead Kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom’, following which Kindly Light was officially re-named by the daughter of boatbuilder David Walkey. In a remarkable turn of events, professional Barry seaman John Hart then produced the original coin from Kindly Light’s mast-step which he had removed for safekeeping following the vessel’s last sail when her mast was lifted on entry to Cardiff Museum. John presented the coin, dated 1854, to Kindly Light’s owner and it was later found that this was the birth date of the vessel’s designer, William Stoba.

‘All present at the ceremony were given the opportunity to go on board Kindly Light in groups and view the high level of authenticity which has been achieved with maximum care in the restoration. She has been returned as closely to her original specification as research would allow, complete with her build paint scheme (as depicted in a photo from her launch day), original accommodation layout, pilot cutter deck fittings and no engine installed. There was also an illustrated talk on her history and the restoration which was held in the lecture theatre.

‘All those invited to the ceremony had been keen supporters of the restoration, or had some connection to the vessel and her history. Amongst the guests was a descendant of Kindly Light’s pilot, Lewis Alexander, as well as members of the Ellis family – whose father, Chris Ellis, had founded the Ocean Youth Club with Kindly Light in 1960. Kindly Light will be kept on the River Fal this winter whilst the remainder of her rig is fitted.’

For more on pilot cutters, see the British Pilot Cutter Owners Association website.