Whither Towage: John Clandillon-Baker

The Paddle Tug

JMW Turner: The Fighting Temeraire being towed to Rotherhithe for scrapping in 1838. 

The relationship between UK pilots and towage goes back to the 1830’s when the concept of attaching a specially designed small vessel to tow bigger ships was first introduced into Britain.

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The Loss of the Humber Pilot Cutter J H Fisher: 12th January 1963 (Davis Raddings Humber Retd.)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the severe winter of 1962 -63 which lasted from December to March and saw major rivers such as the Thames and Humber freeze over. Read the rest of this entry »



Back in May 2007 when I saw the images of the old Cutty Sark ablaze and the subsequent gutted ruins when the fire was extinguished I, along with many others, never thought that this magnificent vessel would ever be restored yet, amazingly, funding was put in place to not only restore her but also to radically transform the manner in which she was displayed in the dry dock. Read the rest of this entry »

Pilots & Ship Owners


Whilst digging through his archives, Harry Hignett came across these old sketches from the 19th Century. The following is an extract from the History of theUKPA that Harry is currently re-writing which suggests that the illustrations aren’t actually that far from the truth: Read the rest of this entry »




The Royston Grange memorial group have arranged a 50th anniversary memorial service  to be held at

All Hallows By The Tower Church London

on 11th May at 2pm.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the group via the FaceBook  page here

Peter McArthur’s article on ship hydrodynamics reminded me of the Royston Grange tragedy on the River Plate in 1972 which was most likely caused by a combination of bank rejection, interaction and a poorly maintained channel. Read the rest of this entry »




You will recall that last year I featured the rescue and restoration of the rotting hulk of the old Trinity House cruising cutter “Bembridge” by the Polish shipping logistics group, Magemar. (Read the post here) Read the rest of this entry »

A roman UK Pilot

Sometime prior to the establishment of the UKPA, in fact around 140 AD, a member of the Roman army of occupation army died near York. Read the rest of this entry »

Tyne Cruising Pilot Cutters

The first Tyne steam cutter : Pilot of 1852

The entrance to the River Tyne can be hazardous in bad weather for vessels under sail and was very much more so before the completion of the North and South piers.This fact posed many problems for Tyne Pilots operating a ‘Boarding Service’. Read the rest of this entry »

THPV Bembridge: Pilotage Heritage Preserved

A valuable element of UK pilotage heritage is being preserved by the restoration of the 1938 Trinity House cruising pilot cutter “Bembridge” for use as the head office and museum by the Polish shipping logistics group Magemar based in Szczecin.

THPV Bembridge on station.                    Photo: A Adams’ collection

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The Bristol Channel Sailing Pilot “Skiffs”

In the October 2007 issue I ran a feature on the pilot gigs of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. That feature was based on information contained within a, long since out of print, book called “Azook” by Keith Harris who kindly permitted me to freely use his research for my article. In addition to the gigs, the waters of South West England were also frequented by another famous pilot craft, the Bristol Channel sailing skiff, or cutter as it now more commonly known as. Despite the ongoing massive popularity of this sailing design, the only authoritative book on the craft was written in the 1970’s by Peter Stuckey. The book was updated and re-published in 1999 but again has long since been out of print and used copies rarely appear and attract very high prices. At the time of writing there is one copy on the internet in the USA with an asking price of $216! In what was probably my best investment in recent years, I purchased a copy in 1999 when it was republished and Peter Stuckey has kindly granted me permission to use extracts from the book for this article. As an introduction, I cannot better Peter’s own which dedicates the book to: those brave men of the Bristol Channel who, with their stout boats, went seeking “downalong”

Feature pic 1jpg

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