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Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter

Skipper and Mate

The buyer was Frank Carr, who went on to be a notable maritime historian and director of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Born in 1903, Carr says at the start of his wonderful book, "A Yachtsman's Log", that "My nautical career began in my bath and at a very early age." He had Cariad for over 30 years, and a big part of his book covers her up to 1935. Cariad also appears in many articles  in yachting magazines in the 1920's and 1930's, as well as the Cruising Association Bulletin. Together, they give a supremely evocative picture of sailing an ex-Bristol Channel pilot cutter.

Thanks to the generosity of the executors of the estate of Ruth Carr, Frank's wife, and to the help of Miss Geraldine Charles of the National Maritime Museum, it has been possible to look at the logs covering the earlier part of Frank Carr's ownership. They comprise: a large-folio log for 1926 and the early part of 1927, typed volumes for 1929-32 with an additional volume of photographs for 1932, and small bound volumes written in pencil for 1931-35.

Carr first saw Cariad in early 1926 on Newman's slip at Hamworthy in Poole Harbour, and on March 18th he offered £350 for her, jointly with Nigel Warrington-Smyth. A survey showed the hull to be satisfactory enough, with a plank on each side needing to be replaced. Though the mast was good, other spars were deemed to be "poor and shaky", and Carr and Warrington-Smyth were quoted £140-£150 to make Cariad seaworthy.

This was the year of the general strike, and Cariad's first voyage was a delivery of 20 tons of potatoes from Portsmouth to Poole, for the starving burghers of Bournemouth. It was done, Carr wrote, in the cause of country. On the boat for this trip were Carr, Warrington-Smyth and Ralph Swann.

Yet Cariad's longer-term ambition, it was envisaged, was not tubers but rather a world cruise with Warrington-Smyth and others. In the summer of 1926 the vessel was sailed to Cornwall, and some work carried out on her on the Helford and at Falmouth. After the work, Cariad and crew sailed to Plymouth, where they met the other Cariad, a Hambly-built boat that was then owned by Commander Nash. It was this other Cariad that Warrington-Smyth was later to sail and write about.

In August a trial cruise to Brittany took Carr's Cariad to L'Aberwrach, Brest and Benodet. On their return, the crew gathered at Warrington-Smyth's home on the Helford River, and concluded that crew differences would make the voyage quite impossible. Carr said that he and one other crew member could not work together, while separately Warrington-Smyth said he wanted out. At this stage, Carr went home to Cambridge to talk with his father about buying out Warrington-Smyth's share, and father "turned up trumps". Carr went back down to Cornwall, and in late September he, his friend Dennis McCutcheon and a paid hand, Jack Grant of Flushing, sailed Cariad to Pin Mill on the east coast, and there she was laid up for the winter.

The Last Working Cutter Part 2 by Tim Pratt

In November 1926 Carr bought some new sails from Cranfields, for 140 pounds and thruppence less a discount of eight pounds 11 shillings for promoting the sailmaker during the proposed world cruise the following year: This cruise never happened, and Carr paid Cranfields back on the last day of 1929.

In 1927, however Carr was still bent on the world cruise, With Dennis McCutcheon and Bob McKee as crew. Fitting out at Pin Mill took the best part of three months, although contrary to what Carr says in his book, there are 29 pages of log devoted to fitting out rather than 40.

Carr had recently been elected a member of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, and one day during the fitting out, a cutter flying the club commodore's burgee anchored close by. Carr was frightfully exercised about whether he should call upon the commodore, but felt he could not do so, dressed as he was in, as he put it, passe shoes, flannel trousers, ancient jersey and grimy top with three days' growth of beard and a head full of varnish shavings. Carr stayed up the mast until dark.

By June Cariad was ready and she sailed to Erith and back, followed by what was billed as a training cruise around Britain. In Belfast in August, Cariad acted as the committee boat for the Belfast Motor Boat and Sailing Club regatta. The local press was clearly intrigued by the proposed round-the-world voyage, and a gushing article duly appeared in Ulster Life and Opinion. Yet the voyage never happened, and the chief reason was that, for a while, Carr's father fell badly ill. The family doctor advised Carr that, no matter how his father fared, his absence would put a heavy strain upon his mother.

In 1928 fitting out did not take long, and Carr set off on a cruise along the south coast of England to the Solent. By then, his father was much better, and a relaxed crew included his parents, brother and Binks the cocker spaniel.

The following year, 1929, was one of Carr's most satisfactory. He found a sailing partner in one Augustine Courtauld, and an Easter trip to Holland was followed by a Whitsun voyage to Mallaig. Cariad was left in Scotland, and a later cruise took her to Ireland before returning to the Solent. In late September there followed an interesting trip up channel, single-handed for the most part though with the assistance of a paid hand when the weather turned bad. Cariad was then laid up in Brightlingsea. Total miles sailed that year: 2,130.

Cariad 1923 - 1929