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


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

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… ‘


HMS Pickle moves to Gibraltar

It’s the bowsprit that hits you between the eyes. Clock the size of it: with something like that you could sail her into port and knock the back wall out of a dockside crimper’s best bedroom…

The 73ft schooner HMS Pickle is a  replica of the 1799-built original HMS Pickle, which had the honour of bringing the news of the battle of Trafalgar back to Britain. It was a big, bittersweet moment: one one hand it was victory in the war with the French, but on the other hand the commander of the British fleet, Horatio Nelson1st Viscount Nelson1st Duke of Bronté, had been shot and killed.

The excuse for publishing these striking photos is that from mid-September the superyachts at Gibraltar’s Ocean Village Marina will have HMS Pickle for a neighbour. Gibraltar’s gain is the UK’s loss, but there’s something appropriate about the move.

HMS Pickle’s is to sail from the UK to her new home in Gibraltar via Cape Trafalgar – a route that the original Pickle would have followed many times.

The ship’s operator, Robin James said ‘The connection she has with Gibraltar and the part they both played in British Naval history is a great story to share and I am sure her arrival will be a real boost to tourism… We have received fantastic support from the government of Gibraltar and Ocean Village and can’t wait to get there.’

Robin comes from a family of mariners, and in 2004 took time off work to set off around Europe and America in search of a tall ship of his own – and then found Pickle in Gloucester where she had recently arrived from Russia.

Pickle had real appeal because of the original’s rich history and adventures in the Caribbean and Europe.  The first Pickle was wrecked and sunk off southern Spain in 1808 but this 1996-built replica is uncannily similar and gives us a great insight into the methods and technologies of the time.’