Bridlington Sailing Coble Preservation Society starts major projects on two heritage boats

The Bridlington Sailing Coble Preservation Society (BSCPS) is undertaking two major restoration projects thanks to a deal with a museum.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 9:05 am
John Clarkson and Malcolm Smales get to work on the coble Venus inside the workshop at Beck Hill in Bridlington.
John Clarkson and Malcolm Smales get to work on the coble Venus inside the workshop at Beck Hill in Bridlington.

The society has taken ownership of two pilot cobles from the Hartlepool Borough Council Museum.

It has received both the Venus and the Viking, a double-ended pilot boat, as museum transfers.

The boats will be fully restored and put back under sail after a number of years looking very neglected.

Old planks are stripped off the coble Venus ready for replacements to be fitted.

The society is confident the cobles will be sailed regularly along with others in the fleet of heritage vessels moored in Bridlington harbour.

The vessels have, in recent years, been moored near the Wingfield Castle in Jackson Dock purely as floating displays but this resulted in them sinking on numerous occasions and having to be raised.

The Venus is already in the BSCPS workshop and a start has been made on her restoration by John Clarkson, retired local coble builder, and his team of volunteers.

Venus is quite unique as a surviving pilot coble, one of the many that worked from Hartlepool during the 1800s and very early 1900s to take pilots out to incoming ships and guide them safely into the port.

Venus is lifted out of the water at Hartlepool ready for its journey to BSCPS.

They carried a crew of just two, the pilot and his assistant or ‘dog’ as he was known.

Competition was fierce between the pilots and often these small cobles would go as far down the coast as Flamborough Head looking for vessels bound for the Tees.

A society spokesman said: “It is possible Venus had been a pilot coble belonging to the Burnicle family, and could well have been named Olive Branch originally – although reference has also been found of a coble of the same name being owned by John Chilton Hood of Seaton Carew.

“What we do know for certain is that Venus was rescued from the water after sinking in the town’s dock in 1992 by retired Hartlepool lifeboat coxswain Eric Reeve who fitted new planks in her hull.

“Many Hartlepool pilots tended to favour a mule; a double-ender; over a true coble and Viking is this type of boat.

“She is one of those old pilot mules and was restored in 1992 by Dave Wharton of Whitby and being fully rigged for sailing. Little is known about the origins of Viking but she had obviously worked on the River Tees and was possibly built c1908 by either the Cambridge or Pounder families.”

The Harbour Heritage Museum on Harbour Road, which has a large collection of maritime artefacts, models and information, together with a souvenir shop is also operated by the BSCPS.

It has recently reopened after the lockdown period on restricted hours, mainly due to the lack of volunteer staff.

The society would be pleased to hear from anyone wishing to help volunteer for the museum and work on a rota basis with others so it can be fully open every day.

Those interested are asked to contact the BSCPS Secretary by email at [email protected] or by letter sent to BSCPS, Harbour Office, Gummers Wharf, Bridlington, YO15 3AN.