Under a Blue Flag: sailing on the Amelie Rose

Chartering and RYA training on the pilot cutter Amelie Rose. Thanks to my good mate Chris Warner for the tip!

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.


Fifie Ocean Pearl has won the Round the Island Race gaffer class

Ocean Pearl raced in the Round the Island Race gaffer class – and won

Emsworth-based boatbuilder and Intheboatshed.net reader Nick Gates has written into report that his fifie Ocean Pearl has won the gaffer division 1 class in the Round the Island Race this year. (I call Ocean Peal a fifie, but her upright stem and somewhat raked stern Nick has other names for her, including half-zulu. It’s a topic that has been aired here at intheboatshed in the past – click here and here.)

Anyway, here’s the story for this grand old lady’s tremendous victory:

‘Hi Gavin – I’m not really one to blow my own trumpet but the old tub Ocean Pearl put on a hell of a show on the Round The Island Race last Saturday. As you have probably read there were plenty of boats entered and plenty of wind. Our start was at 0610, which meant I had about two hours sleep before hand-a combination of too much rum and waking up early listening to the wind.

‘We set of to windward with one reef in the fore (main) and just the small stays’l. Down the Solent we regulary crossed tacks with the pilot cutter Polly Agatha. We had eight crew in total, and they soon had the tacks fine tuned into a neat manoeuvre, although the odd one was a three point turn!

‘At Hurst Castle and the Needles the seas built up and we broke out the genoa to power her through the swells. She was a bit overcanvassed really. The bowsprit was going under, we had water in the scuppers, and the crew on the foredeck were getting vertigo as we dropped into the 15 ft swells of the Shingle Bank. With a reef in the mast puts in a curious bend, and the hard eyes in the 12mm rigging had become stretched…..

‘As we turned the Needles the sheets were eased and we had a sleigh ride to St Catherines Point. Luggers aren’t great on a run and Polly Agatha slowly passed us, her long boom catching all the wind. She was about a mile ahead when we
finally lowered the fore, shook out the reef and set of in pursuit. We were maintaining about 7 knots, but on the big swells we were surfing, with the GPS showing 10.7knots!

‘Across Sandown Bay we kept in closer than most, with a small genoa poled out on the port side, leg-o-mutton style. By Bembridge Ledge we had closed the gap on Polly Agatha, and now it was a beat to the finish.

The majority at this point hug the cost of the Isle of Wight, keeping out of the tide and hoping for a lift as the wind comes off the island, but we did the opposite, staying on one tack over to Lee on Solent, through the flooding tide, and on towards the top of Southampton Water.

A final tack put us back across to Castle Point, and the finish line. Polly Agatha was closing fast, but we pipped her at the post by 5 minutes.

It was a long and exhausting day but what a result! Ocean Pearl was first with an elapsed time 10.36 hours, corrected 11.13 hours; with Polly Agatha second with an elapsed time 10.41 hours and 12.08 hours and Maybird third with  11.32 and 12.22 hours. The pilot cutters Merlin and Morwenna came fourth and fifth, and the pilot cutters Amelie Rose and Westernman,  (pilot cutters) and plank on edge gaff cutter Aeolus retired. Not bad for an old motor boat!

I’m impressed! I get breathless just reading this story – and it’s amazing that no sleep and a generous helping of rum can be so helpful in a race. Full results are of course at www.roundtheisland.org.