Kindly Light

Pilot Cutter built 1911 by Armour Brothers, Fleetwood

Ensign House flag


National Historic Fleet

Service Vessel

Pilot Vessel

Pilot Cutter


Private use













To be confirmed

14.49 feet (4.42 metres)

53.97 feet (16.46 metres)

8.49 feet (2.59 metres)



The newly qualified Barry pilot Lewis Alexander commissioned Armour Brothers, of Fleetwood, to build a pilot cutter for him because William Stoba, the foreman shipwright who had designed ALPHA, the highly successful Newport pilot cutter of 1904, worked for them. Lewis Alexander wanted a boat that could beat ALPHA,and in November 1911 the result, KINDLY LIGHT,was launched and sailed to Barry in south Wales. Costing £500, about 40% more than her contemporary cutters, she had a fine high bow, lean entry and well hollowed lines below the waterline, which blended into her deep keel. She represents the final evolution of the Bristol Channel sailing pilot cutter and was considered to be the fastest and most successful of over 100 pilot cutters working in the Bristol Channel immediately before the First World War.

By getting to incoming ships first she made her owner a wealthy man, earning almost three times her building cost in one year, and giving Alexander the record for the greatest number of ships (fourteen) piloted in one week.

KINDLY LIGHT was laid up during the First World War but in 1918 Lewis Alexander and another pilot called Davies recommissioned her and went back into pilotage under sail. The other Barry pilots continued with a rota system they had worked from a steam cutter during the war. KINDLY LIGHT made as much money for her two pilots as all the other pilots made together. This created much resentment and Alexander and Davies were forced to join the amalgamation, with the threat of having their licences revoked if they refused. Her owners put KINDLY LIGHT, the last sailing pilot cutter to work out of Barry, up for sale.

She was sold to Lt Commander Linklater and renamed THEODORA for use as a yacht, with a Bergius two-cylinder auxiliary petrol engine installed. Her home port became Poole, in Dorset, until she was sold to the Royal Artillery Yacht Club in 1946 and converted for ocean racing. It was during this time that the author Hammond Innes sailed aboard her in a Fastnet Race and later wrote a story based on his experiences. The Radley and Eton schoolmaster Chris Ellis bought her as a sail training vessel in 1955. She sailed in the first Sail Training Association race to Lisbon in 1956, and beat thirteen yachts including the crack, MYTH OF MALHAM, in a sail training race to Corunna in 1958 on the first leg of a voyage that took her across the Atlantic and back.

In 1960 THEODORA was the founding vessel of the Ocean Youth Club (now known as the Ocean Youth Trust) and continued to take young boys and girls to sea for eleven years until she was sold to the Maritime Trust in 1971. In 1975 she reverted to the name KINDLY LIGHT and two years later was loaned to the Cardiff Industrial and Maritime Museum to become an exhibit in a dry dock. Her condition deteriorated and no funds were available to repair her. In 1993 KINDLY LIGHT was sold by the Maritime Trust to a private owner, Malcolm McKeand on condition that he restored her, and was moved to Lymington.

A meticulous and authentic restoration began in November 1993 at Gweek Quay Boatyard, in Cornwall, led by shipwright David Walkey. Her owner researched the traditional methods used in building pilot cutters and the restoration involved no modern glues, laminates or materials, and the vessel has no engines, electrics or even modern heads, making her the most faithful restoration of a Bristol Channel pilot cutter.

Source: Paul Brown, Historic Sail, The History Press.

Dick Sullivan, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums (1978) pub: Coracle Books
Classic Boat (October, 2012, pp21) Restoration award for Pillot Cutter
Malcolm McKeand, Classic Boat (June, 1999, pp54-5) The final few
The Wave (2012-2013, pp9-10) Kindly Light relaunched
The Wave (2012-2013, pp10-11) Kindly Light: the philosophy behind her recommissioning

Previous names

  1. 1922 – 1975Theodora
  2. 1911 – 1922Kindly Light

Subsequent Developments

  1. 1 October 2011 Kindly Light was re-launched following an 18 year long restoration and a ceremony was held at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall to mark the occasion in the year of her 100th birthday. See 'Reports' for more details. Source: National Historic Ships

Key dates

  1. 1911 Licensed as a Barry pilot boat for pilot Lewis Alexander
  2. 1913 Put pilot onboard 14 vessels in one week - a record under sail
  3. 1914 Last vessel to sail before the war - fired across her bows to bring her into port
  4. 1918 Re-commissioned. One of the very few vessels to 'seek' under sail post-war
  5. 1922 Sold to Lieutenant Commander Linklater as the yacht THEODORA
  6. 1946 Sold to Lieutenant Col. Parsons, Lieutenant Col. French and Major Scholfield, Royal Artillery Yacht Club Re-rigged for Ocean Racing
  7. 1955 Sold to Chris Ellis, a Radley schoolmaster Started sail training
  8. 1956 Took part in first Sail Training Association race to Lisbon
  9. 1958 First out of 13 yachts in the race to Corruna with a schoolboy crew
  10. 1960 Founding vessel of the Ocean Youth Club
  11. 1971 Sold to The Maritime Trust
  12. 1975 Name changed back to KINDLY LIGHT
  13. 1977 Became an exhibit at Cardiff Industrial and Maritime Museum
  14. 1993 Sold back into private ownership and moved to Gweek, Cornwall to begin restoration
  15. 2011 Re-launched at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall to mark her 100th birthday


100th birthday & rededication ceremony for Kindly Light

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.

Rev. 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.

Source: Hannah Cunliffe, Policy & Project Manager, National Historic Ships
Date: 5 October 2011


  1. unknown The Wave Kindly Light: the philosophy behind her recommissioning
  2. unknown The Wave Kindly Light relaunched
  3. 1978 Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums - Sullivan, Dick
  4. 1999 Classic Boat The final few
  5. 2012 Classic Boat Restoration award for Pillot Cutter
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact


a rope, chain or iron collar which attaches the yard to the mast but which allows vertical movement