Today only an estimated eighteen Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters survive out of a fleet that once numbered into the hundreds
The Bristol Channel was probably one of the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world with its huge tidal range, sand bars and rocks. At the height of the coal trade in the latter half of the 19th century thousands of ships were making for south Wales ports, each one looking for a pilot for the last leg of the journey. Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters are seen as the most successful fore and aft rigged boats built during the age of sail, their function being to ferry out pilots to shipping making for Cardiff, Newport and the other Bristol Channel ports. Speed was of the essence for these craft as the first pilot to a ship usually got the job, and given the nature of the currents in the channel sea kindliness was a must.
Click on any of the Links below to find out more about a particular Pilot Cutter