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Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter 51ft William Stoba 1904/2010



Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter 51ft William Stoba 1904/2010

Designer William Stoba
Builder Liver and Wilding, Fleetwood
Date 1904
Length overall 63 ft 0 in / 19.2 m
Length deck 52 ft 0 in / 15.85 m
Length waterline 44 ft 4 in / 13.51 m
Beam 14 ft 0 in / 4.27 m
Draft 9 ft 0 in / 2.74 m
Displacement 38 Tonnes
Construction Carvel larch planking on oak
Engine Beta Marine 90 HP Diesel
Location United Kingdom
Price EUR 480,000

These details are provisional and may be amended



The Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter type has long been held in the highest of esteem as the perfect all round sailing vessel, and ALPHA completely fits that billing. Her long and interesting life has been guaranteed to last many more years after a restoration undertaken by and under the supervision of some of the best possible practitioners of their craft, for owners who really knew what they wanted based on long experience under sail, and an intense two seasons of intimacy with ALPHA as purchased and pre-restoration. Independent of all the superb craftsmanship, the key element that has been restored in ALPHA is her ability from birth as a superbly easily handled vessel under sail and power by just two people, whilst offering the most comfortable of accommodation for long periods with plenty of space for friends.



It could arguably be said that ALPHA's 2007-2010 restoration at Gweek Quay, Cornwall, was by the dream team: David Walkey (master shipwright), David Cox (surveyor) and the late Ed Burnett (naval architect). Add the redoubtable Tommy Nielsen, who re-masted, re-rigged her close to the original configuration and installed the new hydraulic drive. Then add her present owners - who really knew what they wanted to do with ALPHA - and you have the perfect recipe for success in such a project on all fronts.

It helped greatly that her owners had enjoyed two full seasons of long distance Baltic sailing with her prior to the project commencing: they knew it was time for the proper job she needed, and their experience of long periods aboard helped greatly in making her the easily handled and superbly comfortable vessel she is now - though they would be the first to say that much of that ease comes from honouring the way these vessels were once sailed by “one man and a boy”. Whilst much was necessarily and inevitably replaced, it is testimony to her original builders' skills that the wood keel and keelson could be retained, and honoured by reconstruction using the traditional methods that had stood her in good stead, and by striving to use the very best of

The greatest change to ALPHA's original construction may be the successful use of glued and screwed solid wood – not plywood - bulkheads to stiffen the hull without detracting from her appearance and feeling of authenticity, and the non-traditional but unseen use of twin screw propulsion under power to make her superbly manoeuvrable in marinas and harbours. That her owners have then been able to sail her hard and regularly - and easily - year round in northern waters, confirms the “dream team's” success.



ALPHA's story offers a fascinating glimpse into a period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the design principles of handy and fast commercial sailing vessels and private pleasure yachts were overlapping and feeding between disciplines. Commercial designers / builders were learning from the rapidly developing understanding of what makes a sailing yacht fast and weatherly, and as the sailing pilot and fishing craft improved, their desirability as a model for trusty, short-handed cruising yachts became legend - and remains so.

ALPHA's designer, William Stoba of Fleetwood, Lancashire, had never built a pilot cutter for the notorious waters of the Bristol Channel before being commissioned by her first owner, William Prosser of Newport, but Stoba had gained an enviable reputation for the design of his fast Morecambe Bay Prawners and Lancashire Nobbies - and some fine yachts. Prosser was prepared to take a risk on Stoba in order to steal a march on his competitors: to be first to the ships requiring pilotage, time and again.

So ALPHA, with her typically “Prawner” cutaway and rounded forefoot profile, is a little different from Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters by other designer-builders, and that feature is credited for her famous turn of speed, particularly in light winds. That she was successful is proven by her retention by Prosser for 20 years.

As sail gave way to power in the between-the-wars pilotage world, it's no wonder that vessels like ALPHA became sought after as superb cruising yachts: in their working life they'd had to be fast and manoeuvrable, and comfortable hoved-to when spending long periods at sea on the lookout for paying work.

Her life as a pleasure craft began as the renamed BLACK BESS in 1924 under the ownership of Royal Cruising Club flag officer Sir Sidney Rowlatt. According to John Buchan, author of “The 39 Steps”, Rowlatt had a “boyish zest for sailing… in the gusty channel”. It is known from the log of the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter CARIAD that in August 1926 she met BLACK BESS (ex ALPHA) off Dodman Point; and to quote from the log, BLACK BESS then “sailed away from CARIAD”.

A succession of owners from the 1930s, when she regained her original name, to the near present succumbed to her charm and ability - and her demands for just deserts - to ensure her survival into the new world of love and care for wooden boats that arrived in the 1980s.

Her present, very experienced traditional boat owners were looking specifically for a Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter at a time when ALPHA was luckily available. After her major restoration they have honoured her past life, more often than not by sailing her easily short-handed and successfully racing her fully crewed - just as she was in her earlier working life.

It is true to say though that her superb present day accommodation, whilst honouring the layout and spirit of her working days, offers rather a lot more comfort than her pilots and crew would have enjoyed in times past.

©2022 Iain McAllister/ Sandeman Yacht Company Ltd.



- Larch carvel planking on Danish oak frames
- Stem and sternpost of ekki. Fore and aft dimension of stem increased from original
- Steel external shoe to keel
- Concrete and lead shot internal ballast
- Douglas fir deck straight laid on oak deck beams, nibbed to covering boards
- Original teak cockpit coaming and companionway hatch
- All other deck furniture teak
- Internal bulkheads of glued / screwed mahogany and pine designed for hull stiffness



From aft
- Elliptical raked counter
- Painted bulwarks with scupper gap and varnished iroko capping rail
- Galvanised Blake of Gosport bronze and nylon buffered mainsheet horse; believed original
- Mainsheet horse is bolted through counter with nuts exposed
- 2 x Galvanised mainsheet cheek block pad eyes
- 2 x Galvanised boom restraint pad eyes
- Bronze capped rudder stock with name and year engraved; believed original
- Rudder stock tube head clamped to aft face of projecting sternpost
- Original galvanised iron tiller with bronze handle
- Douglas fir laid lazarette hatch
- Boom crutch (2020)
- Yellow metal through-deck Diesel heater exhaust pipe up stand and bend
- Bronze Panama fairleads at quarter bulkheads
- Belaying cleats each side fastened to bulwark stanchions
- 4 x Bronze capped oak mooring / belaying stanchions
- Original teak lining-board high cockpit coamings raked as breakwater aft
- Teak sheet cleats outboard of side coamings
- Tanks vents at outside of aft coaming
- Stainless steel spray hood fittings at coamings and companionway hatch
- Deck diesel and water filler fittings outboard of cockpit coaming corners
- Deep self-draining cockpit with iroko bench each side and aft
- Four cockpit drains
- Custom cockpit cushions
- Sockets under aft bench for shore power, external VHF, plotter and 12V
- Pair of belaying pins each side of companionway for aft halyard leads via grommets
- Silva steering compass with light at forward cockpit-well bulkhead
- Teleflex engine controls in bench locker forward starboard
- Teak companionway house; believed original
- Shelf in companionway house for plotter / radar display
- Newer teak sliding hatch with original bronze hasp
- Galvanised cap rail mounted guard rail stanchions
- Netted guardrail tapers to cap rail level pad eyes fore and aft
- Midships belaying cleat each side fastened to bulwark stanchions
- Deck prisms to starboard over aft berth and aft head
- Dinghy stowage chocks to port between companionway and skylight
- 10 ft glued clinker plywood dinghy, designed and built by present owner
- Warps stowage box offset to starboard between companionway and skylight
- 3 x Bronze mushroom vents
- Life raft stowage offset to starboard between companionway and skylight
- Stowage hoops to starboard for topsails and yards
- Large teak butterfly skylight over saloon with bronze glass protection bars
- Covered screw-in bronze pad eye positions at side decks
- Fixed position bullseye headsail sheet leads at side decks
- Traditional “pilot's” boarding ladder
- Bulwark mounted halyard belaying pin rail each side in way of shrouds
- Deck prisms to galley / fore cabin
- 2 x Galvanised through-deck fastened eyebolt supports to belaying pin rails
- Substantial king posts / rails aft of mast with sheaves to lead halyards aft
- 80 Kg Fisherman’s bower anchor
- 100 kg Fisherman’s spare anchor and CQR kedge anchor stowage to starboard of belaying rails
- Original ship's bell at mast
- Acrylic mast boot
- Raised teak sliding fore hatch offset to port fixed washboard; original bronze hasp
- Galvanised anchor chain pipe forward of mast with chain leading forward on copper track
- Gas bottle stowage box forward of fore hatch
- Substantial oak / teak bowsprit bits incorporating Spencer Carter manual anchor windlass; new 2016
- Simpson Lawrence bronze mushroom vent at port foredeck
- Deck wash hose fitting
- 2 x Bulwark Panama fairleads forward
- Chain pipe through port apron
- Traditional fisherman’s 80 kg bower anchor outboard stowage to port bow
- Carved wooden mooring line fairleads atop forward capping rail either side of stem
- Mooring roller to port of stem side
- 2 x Bullseye bowsprit traveller fairleads to starboard of stem side
- Galvanised bobstay fitting
- Copper hull protection in way of anchor stowage



- Accommodation for 8 / 9 in three cabins
- T&G v grooved mahogany and pine lining interior elevations contributing to structural stiffness
- The mahogany joinery all taken from one single tree
- Elevations white painted throughout
- Varnished mahogany tops, doors and detailing
- Varnished carved “clover” ventilated panel between top hull ceiling plank and beam shelf
- Locker catches to an Olin J Stephens design
- All lights LED
- Most lockers have lights
- Selected interior lights are dual red / white

Aft cabin port
- Companionway via two ladders to aft cabin
- Stowage area under cockpit, in step box and small shelves in aft bulkhead
- Double berth to port
- Mid lee cloth split converts port berth to smaller passage making berth
- Sideboard between berth and forward cabin bulkhead with fiddled top
- Locker stowage at bunk foot and head lockers, and under sideboard
- Bulkhead mounted clock and reading lamp
- Deck head light

Aft cabin starboard
- Fold-down chart table to starboard reveals bulkhead mounted electrical and engine panels
- Chart reading / bunk reading light
- Pencil and divider stowage under
- Low level bench to starboard with quarter berth bunk outboard with light prism in deck head
- Open aft end of quarter accesses stowage, diesel tank and filters, and Eberspächer unit
- Locker stowage in bunk bulkhead forward
- Door starboard forward stbd to en-suite head

Head compartment
- Blakes WC; corner sink with waste pump
- Deck head light and deck prism
- Stowage in outboard bulkhead including hanging locker beside water tank
- Bevelled mirror
- Toilet roll holder
- Towel rail
- From aft cabin offset to port leaded glass glazed panelled mahogany door forward

- Sideboard to port with fiddled top and stowage under
- Port settee with pilot berth outboard with slot-in leeboards; stowage under settee
- Stowage locker at aft end of pilot berth
- Reading lights fore and aft
- Settee cushions and back cushions of light coloured fabric
- Removing back cushions offers wider bunk and access to under pilot berth lockers
- Large folding leaves saloon table with engine under accessed from above by hatch
- Further dismantling of table accesses other parts of engine
- Swinging oil lamp above table
- Large opening skylight above
- Gimballed oil lamp at forward bulkhead with original clock and Hughes barometer
- Starboard settee with pilot berth outboard; slot-in leeboards; stowage under settee
- Removing settee back cushions offers wider bunk and access to under pilot berth lockers
- Stowage locker at aft end of pilot berth
- Reading lights fore and aft
- Deck head light
- Settee cushions and back cushions of light coloured fabric
- Large sideboard aft with bottle and book stowage shelves above and glass stowage under
- Barograph
- Doors to port and starboard of central forward bulkhead leading to galley / fore cabin

Galley / fore cabin
- Port door from saloon leads to semi corridor by mast
- Lift-lids refrigerator / freezer box to port; stowage lockers and pan stowage outboard
- Spice rack
- Removable aluminium fore hatch ladder
- Prism light in deck head over
- Port fore cabin berth forward of cool box with foldaway top surface aft
- Access to refrigeration unit under
- Reading light aft; locker space forward with door forward
- Netting foldaway shelf at beam shelf
- Door to fo'c'sle in forward bulkhead
- Deck head light

- Lavac manual WC on plinth
- Stainless steel inset sink unit to starboard with pull-out shower head type tap (no shower tray)
- Stowage locker under
- Toilet roll holder and towel rail
- Part bulkhead forward of toilet creates stowage / hanging space
- Deck wash pump and piping to port; toilet pump and vacuum valves to starboard
- Exit to Forecabin / galley

- Starboard fore cabin berth with step up containing a battery; foldaway top surface aft
- Reading light aft; locker space with door forward
- Netting foldaway shelf at beam shelf
- Access to calorifier tank and charger / inverter / transformer under bunk
- Aft facing cooker amidships forward of panelled-in mast and chain locker access
- Techimpex two-burner gas cooker with grill and oven; solenoid gas safety system
- Passage to starboard of mast contains galley sink unit with stowage under and over
- Plate rack over sink unit
- Deck prism
- Spotlight
- Pressure fresh water and manual salt water taps
- Quooker fresh water heated / cooled source
- Sink waste pump
- Alarms panel to port of starboard passage
- Doorway aft of starboard mast passage leads to starboard side of saloon
- Passing aft through saloon and aft cabin exit to cockpit



- Douglas fir mast and all spars
- Mast by Tommi Nielsen 2015 with shake-avoiding longitudinal splined split
- Galvanised steel spreaders with deck lights
- Radome at port spreader
- Boom (age unknown)
- Substantial galvanised roller boom reefing “Appledore-gear”; believed original
- Mainsheet shock buffer; believed original
- Semi retracting bowsprit restored to original length 2015
- Original leathered gaff saddle with parrell balls
- Combined parrell balls and lacing for luff – no hoops
- Hollow jackyard topsail spars
- Hollow spinnaker boom

Standing and running rigging
- Hand-finished 7 x 19 galvanised steel standing rigging by Tommi Nielsen 2015
- Rigging only parcelled at splices
- Shrouds to deadeye purchases with galvanised pin rail above upper deadeye
- Partial ratlines
- External galvanised chain plates
- Aftermost shroud aft enough not to require running backstays
- Topmast “swifter” running backstays can be set when ballooner in use
- Tan polypropylene running rigging

Sails by James Lawrence
- Main 1998
- Staysail 2010
- Working topsail 2002
- 2 x Racing jack yard topsails 2015 and 2016
- 4 x Jib 1998, 2014 and 2016
- 2 x Jib top
- 2 x Ballooner 2013 and 2016

Covers and canopies by James Lawrence and Owen Sails
- Boom cover
- Boom tent in two parts
- Spray hood
- Forehatch cover
- Skylight cover
- Cockpit cover



- Systems installed 2011- designed to keep weight in middle of the boat so batteries near centre
- Engine immediately aft of and chain locker immediately forward of mast
- Beta Marine 90 HP 4 cylinder naturally aspirated diesel engine
- Forced draftt ventilation for engine box
- Split exhaust: wet exiting by forward stbd chain plate; dry part exiting at counter
- Samhydraulik hydraulic drive system
- Vetus stern gland seals
- 2 x Darglow feathering propellers
- 2 x 200 L Diesel tanks under cockpit
- Cruising speed 6.5 Knots @ 1700 rpm – consumption 7 L per hour
- Max speed 8 Knots @ 2200 rpm
- Electric windlass (not fitted)
- 230 V Smart alternator
- 4 x 225Ah 12V AGM batteries (2015) one of which for engine start
- 1x engine start battery
- Mastervolt charger / inverter and isolating transformer
- Vertical axis wind generator at upper mast
- Isotherm engine calorifier domestic hot water pressure system with 230V element
- 1,500 litres fresh water capacity in three tanks, two supplying pressure water system
- Aft head sink independent of pressure water system with own tank and manual tap
- Blakes (aft head) and Lavac (forward head) manual WCs
- Isotherm 12 V seawater-cooled refrigeration / freezer system
- Eberspächer Airtronic D5 diesel ducted blown air heating
- Deck socket for searchlight
- 2 x 12 V Sockets in accommodation
- 2 x Continental Europe type 230 V sockets
- 1 x UK type 13 A 230 V socket



- Raymarine plotter, radar, fish finder, AIS
- Barograph, barometer; original and Hughes (pre Kelvin Hughes) clock; original
- Icom DSC VHF above chart table with repeater at the helm



- Vessel officially coded to MCA Cat 2
- 2 x ACR EPIRBs; Pathfinder and Mini B300
- 2 x Ring lifebelts
- Life Jackets, life lines
- Fire suppression system
- Fire extinguishers
- 3 x Bilge and accommodation spaces gas alarm sensors
- Smoke detectors
- 2 x Electric bilge pumps; one with float switch
- 1 x Manual bilge pump in cockpit
- Life raft
- Ship's bell; original
- Lopolight running lights disguised in forward bulwark
- Lopolight stern light at counter
- Lopolight masthead tricolour and all-round white, and mast forward steaming



- Historical: Bristol Museums & Archives/ www.penarth-dock.org.uk


These particulars have been prepared from information provided by the vendors and are intended as a general guide. The purchaser should confirm details of concern to them by survey or engineers inspection. The purchaser should also ensure that the purchase contract properly reflects their concerns and specifies details on which they wish to rely.


Sandeman Yacht Company

Brokerage Of Classic & Vintage Yachts