Based at Harkers Yard, the Trust was set up in 1999 to recover the wreck of Pioneer and bring her back to operational condition. The charity now provides learning opportunities for young people to equip them with skills for life, both at sea and on land.

Pioneer is a 70ft long 1st Class Essex Oyster Smack, built in 1864. She is ketch rigged and the last of the larger size Essex smacks to survive. She was built to fish for oysters and scallops around the British Siles, France and Denmark, and over the years she has seen alterations to suit changes within the fishing industry, eventually to become obsolete as dredging became less fruitful. After a brief period in use as a house boat, she sunk in the 1940s and remained forgotten until the late 1990s when she was raised and reconstructed by the Pioneer Sailing Trust. The work was completed in 2005 and she is now used as a sail training vessel, operating with a crew of 3 and up to 12 young people. Pioneer is listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels.

The trust also operates Priscilla, a 32ft smack recently restored and launched. Originally built in 1890 in Brightlingsea, Priscilla is used for racing and for teaching how to sail with Gaff rig.

In 2009, the Trust also opened Harker’s Yard to further its work with training and education in the marine industry and provided opportunities for work experience and apprenticeships. 

Pioneer Sailing Trust works closely with life development trusts, training agencies, councils, social services and other organisations devoted to improving the life prospects of young people, many of whom deal with difficult circumstances. Young people often find time at the trust opens new windows of opportunity.

What is a Shipshape Network Hub

NHS-UK have partnered with maritime heritage organisations across the UK to act as Shipshape Network Hubs for their region. Hubs are ambassadors that aim to bring businesses and individual vessel projects together. Hubs carry out Network-related projects, supports the sector and helps attract funds, giving advice to Network members.

Download our Hub leaflet for more information.

Hub Services and Activities 

Sharing knowledge and expertise – offering advice and guidance to anyone undertaking conservation projects 

Creating connections – working with organisations across the East of England and the wider Network

Hosting workshops - conservation, boat building, volunteering and training workshops for local projects, companies and vessel owners

Network events - fostering links across the region 

Representing Shipshape East – championing the regions maritime heritage at local and national events

Attracting investment - working with local partners to sustain our maritime heritage 

Get in touch

Contact your Hub to find out more about their activities and services. 

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Pioneer Sailing Trust