Bristol Pilot Cutters were amongst the last commercial sailing craft in the UK to be replaced by steam or diesel vessels. They worked continuously in the Western Approaches, in all weathers, delivering pilots to ships approaching the notorious waters of the Bristol Channel. They earned a reputation for immense seaworthiness and a sea-kindly nature, almost unknown in modern yacht designs, and they have since been used to explore some of the remotest parts of the World, including the Polar Regions.
Cockwells Modern and Classic Boatbuilding in Falmouth took almost 2 years to build Merlin. Skilled shipwrights, riggers and sailmakers have created a beautiful bespoke private yacht to the highest standards. The construction of the hull followed traditional methods, with an oak frame and larch planking, all cut from the round in Cockwell’s yard in Ponsharden, near Falmouth. The bronze fittings were cast especially for the boat and all fittings and hardware are of the highest quality. The build was featured over 7 monthly issues of Classic Boat Magazine in 2010. Full details of construction, including the Classic Boat Magazine articles, can be seen at:
Merlin’s spars were made by Noble Masts in Bristol from Douglas fir and her rigging was completed by Dennis Platten, a traditional Bristol rigger. The gaff rig is powerful but easy to manage. Her massive mainsail can be hoisted and lowered by one person and reefed quickly with an Appledore roller reefing system, perfected over 100 years ago. The boomed staysail is self-tacking and the jib and flying jib can be controlled easily from the cockpit. Once hoisted, the topsail needs little attention. The long Bowsprit retracts to make the boat easier to handle in harbour.
Spacious teak decks and a comfortable cockpit area, protected by a surrounding coaming, offer plenty of scope for relaxing. The 18” bulwarks that run along each side, topped by lifelines offer security whilst moving around on deck and in heavy weather or at night, crew can clip-onto jackstays that run along the deck for additional safety.
Length Of Spars 62‘
Length On Deck 48‘ 9“
Beam 13‘ 6“
Draft 7‘ 6“
Displacement 26 Tonnes
8 : 2 doubles, 4 single bunks with lee cloths
Anchor Windlass Bronze 1200 w Maxwell VWC 3500 combined vertical chain and rope system
Anchors 30 kg CQR main anchor and 20 kg Bruce kedge anchor
Anchor Chain 65 metres of 12 mm main chain and 30 metres of 8 mm kedge chain
Propulsion Nanni 4-cylinder 60 HP Diesel with 24” Variprop 3 blade feathering propeller
Autopilot Wills Ridley bespoke electro-hydraulic autohelm tiller operating system
Diesel Capacity 240 litres
Water Capacity 280 litres in 2 independent tanks. Hot and cold running water
Batteries 2 x 225 AH main batteries and independent 50 AH engine starter battery
Charging System Engine-driven 110 Amp Alternator and Solar
Power Supply 12 volt DC and 240 volt ac from shore power and via an on-board inverter
Cooker Gimbled Wallas double hob and oven
Heater Glembring diesel stove and radiators in each cabin
Lighting 12 v white LED lighting and red lighting for night sailing
Bilge Pumps Automatic 12 volt system and manual on-deck system
Dinghy Inflatable Avon 340 Aero dinghy with Mariner 15 hp outboard
Tender 12’ mahogany clinker sailing dinghy can be made available
Sails Gaff mainsail, Topsail, Staysail, Jib, Flying Jib
Winches 4 x Classic Bronze Lewmar winches
Running Rigging English Braids polyester 3-strand halliards and multi plat sheets
Instruments Tacktick solar powered wireless wind, depth, speed, log, temperature, etc
Radios Icom main station and Icom hand held
Communications INMARSAT Global broadband and telephone
Compass Sestrel Major Binnacle Compass and spare – Digital compass display
Liferaft Ocean Safety Offshore 8-man, plus 4-man if required
Safety Equipment Full MCA safety equipment for all crew members.
With over 40 years’, experience, Lance Whitehead has been sailing since childhood, initially in dinghies and later in offshore yachts and keelboats. He has raced regularly at national and international level, representing Great Britain in the 1991 and 1993 Admiral’s Cup and at various European and World Championships.
Away from the race circuit, Lance has cruised extensively around UK and Western Europe, the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the US East Coast and the South Atlantic. He has held a DOT/RYA Yachtmaster Certificate since 1980.
He is just as happy pottering along the coast, looking for quiet anchorages, teaching people to sail, or crossing oceans, or the cut and thrust of the racetrack. He regularly sails Merlin single-handed...