While many of you have time on your hands we’d like to receive entries for our 125th Anniversary Pilgrim Poetry Competition. It’s simple – just write a little ditty about Pilgrim and post it on one of our social media feeds or you can email it to info@pilgrimofbrixham.org.uk We will post any email entries on our social media channels and on this blog. Long or short, serious or silly – everything is welcome. We reserve the right not to publish any inappropriate material.

There is a prize of an original Pilgrim Fisherman’s Smock for the winner and a Pilgrim Mug for the runner up. Entries will be accepted until 30th June 2020.

Here is the impressive first entry courtesy of Sally Maxted and here’s some contributions on our Facebook page

We will add more links as they come in. Time to be creative….

Pilgrim has just completed her winter refit programme and we have invested more than £10,000 this winter to make her ready for our 125th anniversary year. She’s in really good shape and now suddenly we have had to face the global threat of the Coronavirus Pandemic. It is therefore with heavy hearts that we must announce that we are suspending our 2020 sailing program.

We were out sailing our stunning heritage sailing trawler ‘Pilgrim of Brixham BM45’ in the bay just last weekend. Our crew training programme has continued through the winter but now we’ve had to curtail that and return to port, but not in the circumstances we had hoped!

The Pilgrim Heritage Sailing Foundation, like many others, is facing an unprecedented situation due to this pandemic. As Charity Trustees, our obligation is to be true to our charitable mission to preserve, maintain, operate and protect Pilgrim of Brixham for the nation, for our South Devon community and as the oldest surviving Brixham built example of our fishing heritage.

Our overriding obligation however, is to protect the health and wellbeing of our volunteers, crew, sailing guests and visitors. Many of whom are classed by the Government as “vulnerable”. Pilgrim offers accommodation with guests and crew living in close quarters. This is not consistent with our present duty of care. Furthermore, our Government has asked us all to stop non-essential travel and non-essential social interactions.

We are also suspending our Open days, school visits and public events until further notice.

These are unprecedented times and we know it will be a big disappointment to the many guests who have booked to sail with us this year, but it’s the right thing to do in these circumstances.  We need to look after our supporting community and make sure we protect Pilgrim so she can resume sailing as soon as is practicable. That means utilising our hard-earned financial reserves and managing our cashflow very carefully.

We will be back sailing her in the traditional manner as soon as we can. We owe it to our sailing guests to be clear about our intentions and how we will respect their bookings. We will be communicating with all of you individually in the days ahead and seek your patience whilst we work through this.

Our permanent professional skipper Richard Smith will be staying with Pilgrim in Brixham to look after her with help from some of our amazing volunteers.  However, we also have volunteers who are in vulnerable groups and are self-isolating. The weeks and months ahead will test us all but we’ll be back out there with our red sails in the sunset before long. We can’t wait.

Fair winds and stay safe

Prize winning picture by Steve Cayley – well done Steve and thanks.

What we believe to be Pilgrim’s first lift in her lifetime happened at Tom’s Yard in Polruan in Cornwall this week. Conventional practice is to slip or beach Pilgrim when she needs maintenance below the waterline. Neither of those approaches are ideal for work to be done, especially if she is beached, as the tide returns twice every day and limits the work that can be done.

This year Pilgrim needs to have her shafts removed for inspection and some hull caulking is required. We are regular visitors to the yard of C. Toms and Son Ltd in Polruan on the south coast of Cornwall. They now have an amazing 200 ton boat lift with 9 computer controlled strops which enable them to manage the load on each strop. That means that even wooden boats like Pilgrim can be lifted without undue stress on their keels.

Pilgrim's first lift in her lifetime

For Pilgrim it also means she can be placed level on her keel in a dry area and that makes the working environment much safer and more practical. We believe it is Pilgrim’s first lift in her lifetime as we have no other record to suggest she has ever been craned out of the water. Before her restoration in 2009/10 that would have been very risky due to the fragile nature of her timbers.

Pilgrim at Toms Yard in Polruan

The lift went smoothly thanks to the professionalism of Paul Toms and his team. They lifted her out and manoeuvred her in the yard with ‘inch perfect’ precision and we can now get on with our essential maintenance. She was due to be out of the water for 10 days but owing to the adverse weather conditions forecast, we undertook the passage to Cornwall early. The yard lifted her out to keep her safe from Storm Ciara.

Pilgrim expects to be back in her home port of Brixham before the end of February to finish her winter refit and to undertake crew training. The sailing season for her 125th Anniversary year starts on April 10th.

There’s no doubting it’s the festive season in Dartmouth. Pilgrim is lit up with 475 feet of Christmas cheer! Despite our sails being away for maintenance we’ve managed to mimic the sails to create a truly festive glow on the waterfront. Pilgrim has joined in the Candelit Dartmouth Festival which also marks the start of the Dartmouth Mayflower 400 celebrations for 2020.

Pilgrim will be one of the vessels leading a Grand River Pageant along the River Dart in late August as the port celebrates it’s landmark role in the story of the Pilgrim fathers. The Mayflower called into Dartmouth with its accompanying vessel the Speedwell for repairs in 1620 before continuing on to Plymouth. Pilgrim will be playing the role of Speedwell in the festivities next summer.

After that, Pilgrim will set sail for Plymouth on our Mayflower Commemoration Passage and there are berths available on board for anyone who wants to be at the centre of this 400 year anniversary. You can check it out here https://pilgrimofbrixham.org.uk/tours/pilgrim-mayflower-commemoration-passage/

In the meantime, come and see Pilgrim during the festive season in Dartmouth.

Last weekend our Pilgrim volunteer crew training got started in Dartmouth in South Devon. Pilgrim relies on our volunteer community to keep her sailing. That’s not just with operations and maintenance that’s with crewing as well. We have a professional skipper and seasonal mate but the rest of the crew comes from our volunteer team and we’ve been busy recruiting and training.

Last summer we started our campaign to find new volunteer crew and that led to a series of briefings and evaluation sailings for people who were interested. The programme culminated in 12 volunteers being selected to go into our winter training programme.

Last weekend they spent two days on board in Dartmouth getting to know Pilgrim and our sailing team. The group included students from Plymouth and Exeter Universities together with folks of all ages both from South Devon and further afield. One even came from Shropshire to join us.

This first weekend will be followed up by another session in February, again in Dartmouth, before we start more regular training sailings out of our home port of Brixham during March and April. Pilgrim has over 50 passages to sea scheduled in 2020 so we need a large group of capable volunteers to keep the vessel sailing.

Our new volunteers will be joining up with our existing Pilgrim volunteer crew who will act as ‘buddies’ to help them develop their knowledge and skills as the season progresses. All of this is under the experienced and watchful eye of our skipper Richard Smith and mate Julie Harris.

Seafood and Eat It – that’s our motto! Pilgrim has played her part in promoting the English Riviera as the UK’s ‘go to’ international seafood destination. We scheduled a special celebratory cruise over the weekend of 21st/22nd September to join in ‘England’s Seafood FEAST Festival’.

Departure was from our home port of Brixham where more seafood is landed than any other port in England. We sailed out of Torbay and round the South Devon area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) to arrive in the historic port of Dartmouth. There we cooked and served our ‘Seafood and Eat It’ special menu for dinner and followed that up with a breakfast to match!


Our Seafood Feast menu featured a crabcake, prawn and crayfish starter (top photo) followed by Tai fish curry (photo above) and finished off with a sumptuous Eton mess. Breakfast the morning after was scallops and bacon brioche (photo below). We thenset sail again and headed back into our home on the English Riviera.


Pilgrim is the oldest surviving sailing trawler that was built and rigged in Brixham and is a living icon of the Victorian fishing heritage that put the port and our locality on the map for generations. The trawling techniques that vessels like Pilgrim pioneered in the 19th century led onto the development of the modern day trawler and the fishing industry that we know today. Pilgrim celebrates her 125th anniversary in 2020.



On a lovely July day in Brixham, these folks decided to transfer from 2 wheels to 7 sails! Pilgrim was delighted to host a visit from Devon Advanced Motorcyclists. Apparently they produce an annual calendar. No, not that sort of calendar! Just one that highlights all the amazing places they get to on their biking adventures.

They came aboard Pilgrim in Brixham at the end of one of our busy Open Days and soon got acclimatised to matters nautical. As you can see from the photo below, bikers seem to have to sit one behind each other! Funny that – we couldn’t seem to make them understand that when the bowsprit went out they’d all end up…well you can guess!


Motorcyclists on Pilgrim
Devon Advanced Motorcyclists on Pilgrim of Brixham


After much endeavour they managed to get one of our seven sails up, take lots of photos and a good time was had by all. Then, as you can see, there was no stopping them. They were getting ready to set sail – where’s the Skipper?


Motorcyclists setting sail
Time to see what speed this thing can do!


If you have a club, group or association that would like to have a guided tour of our 1895 masterpiece we’ll try our best to arrange something and fit you in. Just email mailbox@pilgrimofbrixham.org.uk



We are delighted to announce the appointment of the Pilgrim Foundation President and Vice President at the Annual General Meeting. The meeting took place at the Brixham Labboratory at Freshwater Quay in Brixham on Friday 19th July 2019.

After nearly 20 years of ceaseless commitment to the restoration, preservation and operations of Pilgrim, Rod Coveney has stood down as Director, Trustee and Managing Director and has now been appointed Honorary President. Foundation Chair David Range made the annoucement and presentation with Sailing Director and Trustee, Lynda Davison.

Rod has had a pivotal role over many years leading the fundraising and organisation required to see the 1895 heritage sailing trawler Pilgrim of Brixham restored, maintained and sailing each summer out of her home port in the traditional manner.

Pilgrim President Rod Coveney
Presentation to Rod Coveney on his appointment as President

At the same time, former Director and Trustee, Neil Davidson was appointed to the role of Vice President. He joins the other Vice Presidents – Mike Chater, Johan Skibdahl and John Wilson. Over many years, Neil has been a stalwart of the Pilgrim team acting as volunteer crew and playing a vital role in the productuion of new masts and bowsprits. Whenever there is a job to be done or an Open Day to host, Neil is there sharing his expertise and his love of Pilgrim with everyone around him.

Pilgrim Foundation appoints Vice President - Neil Davidson
Presentation to Neil Davidson on his appointment as Vice President.

Both Rod and Neil will continue to play an active role in the efforts to preserve and maintain Pilgrim BM45. She is a living testament to the generations of Brixham fisherfolk who earned their precarious living based on fishing with these incredible sailing boats.

Having not made it to the Scillies a couple of weeks ago owing to Storm Miguel we are delighted to say that Pilgrim is now basking in the sunshine in the Isles of Scilly. She set off from Falmouth on Tuesday and, after waiting for the tide off Coverack, undertook a night passage to the islands.

Pilgrim moored in New Grimsby Sound between Tresco and Bryher on Wednesday for a couple of days. This gave guests the opportunity to have walks ashore and explore these stunning islands. On Friday, Pilgrim sailed around the archipelago and then anchored off St Martin’s for a beach BBQ. The Scillies beach BBQ is a regular feature of our annual visit to the islands and a favourite with guests and crew alike.

Pilgrim BM45 BBQ
Pilgrim Skipper Richard (right) organising the BBQ with guest Alan

Today Pilgrim set off from St Martin’s and is now anchored in the bay at Hugh Town which is on the main island of St Mary’s.

Pilg BM45 in Isles of Scilly
Pilgrim anchorages Scilly Isles 2019

This week Trinity House announced some changes to the ‘character’ of the light from the Berry Head Lighthouse. This announcement comes via ‘Notices to Mariners’ which our skipper Richard Smith has to stay aware of. They are issued by the navigation authorities and harbourmasters.

Berry Head Lighthouse 1906
Photo courtesy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Nilfanion

Pilgrim and her skipper Silas Pine had been fishing out of Brixham for eleven years when the lighthouse was constructed on Berry Head in 1906. It would have been a welcome navigational aid marking the southerly entrance to Torbay. It has an unusual pedigree being the highest and the lowest lighthouse in England. The lighthouse is only 16 feet tall, yet its light is 190 feet above sea level. It is located in the South Devon ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ (AONB) in a commanding position on the headland. It is a very welcome sight for Brixham trawlermen to this day.

At night it can be seen over 11 miles away and it flashes a white light twice every 15 seconds. The character of the light is now a one second flash followed by a one second eclipse, then a one second flash and a 12 second eclipse.

Pilgrim with Berry Head Lighthouse just visible top left

Many people will not be aware that Berry Head also hosts an aeronautical navigation aid which is part of a vital north south navigational air corridor managed by NATS – the UK’s National Air Traffic Services. So, Berry Head is not only a fabulous spot for bird watchers but also a special place for boat and aircraft spotters.