CORNUBIA spent the first 10 years of her life earning pilot Morrice a substantial living, piloting ships into and out of Barry in the Bristol Channel. He evidently had a great regard for her and even named his house after her – CORNUBIA still appears in the fanlight of the front door of his house in Barry.
She was the only pilot cutter built by Slades at their yard at Polruan, Fowey, and it’s still not clear why Morrice went there to have her built, or called her by the ancient name for Cornwall, but the original brass and copper shield of the Cornwall coat of arms mounted on the saloon bulkhead is still there today.
The cutter was an instant success. When Morrice collected her from Slades in 1911 and sailed for home, he found a ship off Lands End also bound for Barry, shipped aboard as pilot and earned himself £75 in dues. Not bad when you consider she only cost £350 to build!
When amalgamation and steam cutters arrived in 1917, seeking pilots lost their independence and had to join the rota. CORNUBIA and many other fine pilot cutters were sold off as yachts. She passed into the hands of yachtsmen, the first of whom owned her for 10 years and changed her name to TROUBADOUR.
As a yacht, she twice sailed to America and back, and was loaned to the sea cadets on the Isle of Bute as a training ship during World War 2 by her then owner, the Earl of Dumfres. Her name was changed to HIRTA after the island he owned.
By the 1990s, she was feeling her age and was eventually laid up in Gweek, Cornwall, pending sale.
She was bought at auction in 1999 by the Tall Ships Restoration Company and transported to Gloucester by road to await rebuilding at T. Nielsen & Company.
For the owners of CORNUBIA, T. Nielsen & Company was the obvious choice of yard to undertake the complete rebuild she required. Restoration work started in 2004 and although most of the fabric was beyond conservation, some original timbers have been preserved in her hull.
Today, T. Nielsen & Company’s greatest achievement is to have restored CORNUBIA with superlative craftsmanship without losing the fundamental atmosphere of a working pilot cutter. Pilot Morrice would be as pleased as her present owners with the result.
CORNUBIA is based in Plymouth, and this fine example of the age of sail is employed by the charity, Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Trust. With her long and exciting life being lovingly extended, she will be used to take disabled children sailing, and day cruises and racing will help the personal development of disadvantaged youngsters.
Built: J.Slade and Sons, Fowey in 1911 for pilot Morrice of Barry for Pilotage service in the Bristol Channel
Rebuilt: T. Nielsen & Company, Gloucester, 2010
Owners: Tall Ships Restoration Co. Ltd., Looe, Cornwall
Length: 51 feet 9 inches | Length Waterline: 45 feet | Beam: 13 feet 7 inches | Draught: 7 feet 6 inches | Displacement: 31 tons
Gaff cutter rig
Working sail area: 1670sq.ft
Auxilliary Motor: 76hp Beta Marine Diesel with twin screw giving about 7 knots under power