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Pilot Cutters Under Sail (Paperback)

Pilots and Pilotage in Britain and Northern Europe

Maritime Seaforth Photographic Books Colour Books

By Tom Cunliffe
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 160 colour & black and white
ISBN: 9781526785435
Published: 30th May 2020

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The pilot cutters that operated around the coasts of northern Europe until the First World War were amongst the most seaworthy and beautiful craft of their size ever built, while the small number that have survived have inspired yacht designers, sailors and traditional craft enthusiasts over the last hundred years. Even in their day they possessed a charisma unlike any other working craft; their speed and close-windedness, their strength and seaworthiness, fused together into a hull and rig of particular elegance, all to guide the mariner through the rough and tortuous waters of the European seaboard, bought them an enviable reputation.

This definitive work is both a tribute to and a minutely researched history of these remarkable vessels. The author, perhaps the most experienced sailor of the type, describes the ships themselves, their masters and crews, and the skills they needed for the competitive and dangerous work of pilotage. He explains the differences between the craft of disparate coasts of the Scilly Isles and the Bristol Channel, of northern France, and the wild coastline of Norway and weaves into the history of their development the stories of the men who sailed them. Now published in an affordable softcover format, this wonderful book can become an essential addition to the libraries of those historians and traditional boat enthusiasts who missed the earlier hardback edition.

"Deserving of a place in any collector's library for the very high quality of the illustrations alone. An outstanding book, brilliantly produced and illustrated, it should be in every ship lover's collection." - South West Maritime History Society

Deserving of a place in any collector's library for the very high quality of the illustrations alone.
An outstanding book, brilliantly produced and illustrated, it should be in every ship lover's collection.

South West Maritime History Society

Woven into the fabric of his own experience, complemented with excellent photographs, and artwork and sketches from leading marine artist Martyn Mackrill, this is a book no one else could have written.

Dick Durham, Yachting Monthly

Woven into the fabric of his own experience, complemented with excellent photographs, and artwork and sketches from leading marine artist Martyn Mackrill, this is a book no one else could have written.

Yachting Monthly, Dick Durham

This book is a treat. It is well written and well illustrated, but above all the author has a great deal of experience of the subject and a great feeling for it. If the reader only intends to buy one book on Pilot Cutters, this is the book to buy.

The author has provided an excellent historical review of pilot cutters from their early use through into a new millennium and that spread of history has been illustrated, with some outstanding colour photographs from more recent times.

Broadly Boats

If you have any interest in working watercraft under sail, traditional boats, pilot cutters, maritime art, maritime history, commercial shipping, even how to sail a gaff rigger, this is the book to have. It is, quite simply, superb. In the interest of full disclosure the Cunliffes are friends, I have sailed with them on HIRTA (now CORNUBIA again) and WESTERNMAN, and I was given a copy. Irrespective of those perceived possible conflicts of interest, I rate this book as one of the finest maritime books I have seen in a long time. Only Martin Black's book on GL Watson (a much weightier tome) surpasses it. On the back PILOT CUTTERS is described by Captain Richard Woodman, Elder brother of Trinity House, as the "magisterial history of pilots and pilot cutters," and I can only concur. I am sorry that he used the word magisterial first because it conveys a level of excellence that is top of the line and I wanted to use it to describe this book which is, indeed, top of the line. The narrative is detailed, informative and interesting, the book has such a lovely cover that I intend to place it so the cover faces outwards, and the illustrations, photos, paintings, sketches, and bibliography and index are all carefully chosen, beautifully reproduced and fascinating to peruse. The sketches by Martyn Mackrill in the chapter Pilot Cutter Seamanship are perfect.

Every year I select a book as the Christmas gift for several dear sailing friends and family. This is the book for 2013!

Ginny Jones (Worked in the wooden boat industry for 40 years).
 Tom Cunliffe
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