Pilot Cutter built 1904 by Liver and Wilding, Fleetwood

Designated ensign Designated house flag



Service Vessel

Pilot Vessel

Pilot Cutter

Craobh Haven

Private use

Private Use













60.16 feet (18.35 metres)

14.60 feet (4.45 metres)

52.00 feet (15.86 metres)

8.50 feet (2.59 metres)



ALPHA was built as a Bristol Channel pilot cutter, designed to take pilots out to ships requiring pilotage as they approached Bristol or other big ports. The first pilot there to negotiate a price got the job, so the cutters had to be fast and easy to sail with as little as two crew members. ALPHA was commissioned by Newport based pilot William Prosser, as a pilot vessel from 1904 till 1923, after which she became a yacht. She was named ALPHA, it seems, because Prosser's pilot number was one. She was a Fleetwood build boat and with that an exception in the fleet of bristol channel pilot cutters. Her fairly cutaway for foot gave her an enviable record for speed, particularly in light winds; although during the pilot cutter review at St Mawes 2011, she belonged to the fastest cutters of the fleet, also in a fair breeze! She was build in pitch pine on oak, her topsides were oak on oak (strength). Over the years hardly any oak remained on her topsides and all the pitch pine was replaced by larch and iroko. It seems that somewhere after World War 2, she was re-rigged and her mast replaced by a shorter one as well as her gaff and bowsprit, which became significantly shorter. The bowsprit has been replaced in July 2011 by the original sized bowsprit.

Roger Finch, Sailing Craft of the British Isles (1976) pub: William Collins & Son Ltd
Peter Stuckey, The Sailing Pilots of the Bristol Channel (1977) pub: David and Charles
Jo Clegg, Classic Boat (March, 2000, pp34-39) Holidays on the hire seas
Hugh Pollard, Classic Boat (November, 1998) Pilot Cutters race - at home
Classic Yacht (August, 1997, ppSupplement) Classic Charter Opportunities
Faith Glasgow, The Times (3 February Weekend Section, 1996) Swell time on the old pilot cutter

Previous names

  1. Black Bess

Subsequent developments

October 2011 Hull, deck, interior, electrics and propulsion has been rebuilt over the last three years at Gweek boatyard by David Walkey and his team. Keel, keelson, some frames, three floors and some deadwood are still the old ones. Cockpit, cockpit coaming and hatch are old as well as all the deck and spar fittings. In the near future a new rig will be put on according to the original sizes e.g. new mast, gaff, mainsail, working topsail and standing rigging. Source: current owner, October 2011.

Key dates

  1. 1904

    Built by Liver & Wilding, Fleetwood

  2. 1990/91

    Major refit

  3. 1992/1996

    Cruised the Western Isles as a Charter Yacht

  4. 2010

    Ceremonial launch of vessel at Gweek, Cornwall after 2 and a half years restoration

  5. 2011

    Vessel based at Craobh, Scotland

  6. 2012

    Major restoration


  1. 1976 Sailing Craft of the British Isles - Finch, Roger
  2. 1977 The Sailing Pilots of the Bristol Channel - Stuckey, Peter
  3. 1996 The Times Swell time on the old pilot cutter
  4. 1997 Classic Yacht Classic Charter Opportunities
  5. 1998 Classic Boat Pilot Cutters race - at home
  6. 2000 Classic Boat Holidays on the hire seas - Ian Dear
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact

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