Previous names

  • Black Bess
Certificate no 102
Status Registered


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Pilot Vessel
Location Craobh Haven
Vessel type Pilot Cutter
Current use Private use
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Liver and Wilding, Fleetwood
Built in 1904
Hull material Wood
Rig Gaff Cutter
Number of decks 1
Number of masts 1
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Air Draft
60.16 feet (18.35 m)
Breadth: Beam
14.60 feet (4.45 m)
8.50 feet (2.59 m)
Length: Overall
52.00 feet (15.86 m)
Tonnage: Gross



ALPHA was built as a Bristol Channel pilot cutter, designed to take pilots out to ships requiring pilotage as they approached Bristol or other big ports. The first pilot there to negotiate a price got the job, so the cutters had to be fast and easy to sail with as little as two crew members. ALPHA was commissioned by Newport based pilot William Prosser, as a pilot vessel from 1904 till 1923, after which she became a yacht. She was named ALPHA, it seems, because Prosser's pilot number was one. She was a Fleetwood build boat and with that an exception in the fleet of bristol channel pilot cutters. Her fairly cutaway for foot gave her an enviable record for speed, particularly in light winds; although during the pilot cutter review at St Mawes 2011, she belonged to the fastest cutters of the fleet, also in a fair breeze! She was build in pitch pine on oak, her topsides were oak on oak (strength). Over the years hardly any oak remained on her topsides and all the pitch pine was replaced by larch and iroko. It seems that somewhere after World War 2, she was re-rigged and her mast replaced by a shorter one as well as her gaff and bowsprit, which became significantly shorter. The bowsprit has been replaced in July 2011 by the original sized bowsprit.


Finch, Roger, Sailing Craft of the British Isles, William Collins & Son Ltd, 1976
Stuckey, Peter, The Sailing Pilots of the Bristol Channel,  David and Charles, 1977 
Clegg, Jo, Classic Boat: Holidays on the hire seas, pp34-39, March 2000 
Pollard, Hugh, Classic Boat: Pilot Cutters race - at home, November 1998
Classic Yacht Classic Charter Opportunities, August 1997
Glasgow, Faith, The Times: swell time on the old pilot cutter, 3 February 1996

Key dates

  • 1904

    Built by Liver & Wilding, Fleetwood

  • 1990/91

    Major refit

  • 1992/1996

    Cruised the Western Isles as a Charter Yacht

  • 2010

    Ceremonial launch of vessel at Gweek, Cornwall after 2 and a half years restoration

  • 2011

    Vessel based at Craobh, Scotland

  • 2012

    Major restoration

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