2020 has been quite a year, as you can imagine. We set off with high hopes as it was Pilgrim’s 125th Anniversary. There was to be festivals galore and the Mayflower 400 commemorations. That all fell apart quite quickly as we went into lockdown and the focus for our charitable Foundation was to ensure our survival. Costs were cut to the bone, our skipper was furloughed and volunteers undertook essential maintenance tasks in strict Covid Secure ways.
Sailing for the season was put on hold, as were our Anniversary celebrations. No effort was spared to seek financial support and in June we leaned that we had a grant from the Heritage Emergency Fund. When combined with our hard-earned reserves, we knew that would see us through to the 2021 season.
Once the Spring lockdown was lifted, we started to tentatively plan some day sails for late Summer and Autumn. In July we undertook critical refit work and in early August we did some shakedown sailings to check out the boat and to train our volunteer crew. We had devised a different way of sailing Pilgrim that would allow crew members to maintain social distancing and we needed to prove it could work …and we did.
We were thrilled when guests started to book or transfer earlier bookings onto our Day Sailing programme. From the middle of August to the end of September we managed to take sailing guests out into Torbay, Lyme Bay and Start Bay. It was wonderful as we did not think we would get any sailing in during 2020. Strict Covid control measures were put in place, we limited the boat capacity to 8 guests from no more than 4 bubbles. Everyone seemed to benefit from the fresh air and the thrill of sailing a 125 year old heritage sailing vessel.
As we came to the end of our much-shortened season, we learned that we had also gained a substantial grant from the Culture Recovery Fund. That award enabled us to tackle some major projects to improve our accommodation below decks for the 2021 season. Work started to create two separate guest cabins with dedicated heads and a new separate cabin for the Skipper. Improvements were also put in hand to improve ventilation below decks.
At the beginning of November, we moved Pilgrim to Dartmouth to keep her safe for the winter and to enable our modifications to get started. Planning the work was challenging given the need to tightly to control access and manage social distancing. Fund raising continued throughout and we were delighted with the public donations we received. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
As 2020 draws to a close we are determined to make the most of 2021. We are hopeful that the arrival of a vaccine will enable us to have a full season and we have a good level of bookings already in hand. Our finances are such that we are confident about the year ahead whatever happens and our guests can be assured that all advance sailing payments are ring fenced in a dedicated client account.
There is a lot of work still to do on Pilgrim and we have to train our volunteer crew to get ready for our sailings from Easter onwards. We have so many people to thank for their help over recent months. That includes our army of Foundation Members and volunteers, our guests who have sailed with us and shown faith in us and so many others. It also includes those funding bodies who have supported us especially the Heritage Lottery Fund and also Torbay Council.
So as we said, 2020 has been quite a year! Right now we must keep everyone safe, keep working and look after Pilgrim to ensure she is protected for the future. Look out for the wind in those characteristic red sails over the months ahead. We’ll be back soon. Happy New Year.
Check out our Pilgrim 125th Anniversary Photobook in the Pilgrim Shop and support our charitable Foundation.