Watch our promotional film to find out more about what it is like to be based at the Pioneer Sailing Trust.

About the Trust

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.

The vessels

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 registered of the National Register of Historic Vessels (registration no. 447).

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.

Sailing programme

From April – October each year Pioneer Sailing Trust offer sailing experiences on the River Colne and around the east coast to young groups from the local organisations or schools; corporate groups on a team building day; or as private hire to groups wanting an extended experience aboard our expertly restored smack. As an RYA training venue, the Trust also offers three day courses on Pioneer as well as the opportunity to race her in annual Regattas in and around the Blackwater Estuaries.

SHTP 2 training placement

Trainees get involved with all the operational tasks associated with sailing Pioneer and Priscilla, including operating TH393, the support boat used by the Trust to ferry groups to moorings, and supporting sail training activities, as well as the on-going maintenance and repair at its Harker’s Yard base. On top of this, trainees also have the opportunity to become involved with gig racing.

Want to know what it's like to be an SHTP 2 trainee at Pioneer Sailing Trust - read our first year trainee's blog!