For love of a boat – 40+ Fishing Boat Association

Last Thursday’s (6th August) edition of the Western Morning News had a centre spread entitled “One man’s love affair with old wooden boats.’

It featured historian Mike Smylie, whose book “Fishing Boats of Cornwall” has just been published by The History Press.

In the article he is quoted:

‘”For this book on Cornish fishing, I spent a lot of time in Newlyn talking to local fishermen and the people involved with the local fishing industry . . .

“Something which particularly saddens me is seeing boats being chopped up – there’s a photograph in the book of a perfectly good wooden fishing boat being demolished in Newlyn in 1998 with a JCB. This happened because of the European Union fishing policy which encouraged fisherman to take boats out of fishing and scrap them.”

In 1995, Mike co-founded the 40+ Fishing Boat Association to fight that policy and help preserve old, decommissioned fishing boats.’

I am ashamed to say I have not heard of this association up to now. However, those of you who have been following the For Love of a Boat series will know this is precisely my own view on what has happened as a result of the European policy. Captain George’s video shows a Greek fishing boat demolished in just the way mentioned above for exactly the same reason.

Looking at the 40+ website I have not discovered how to join the Association yet, but will pursue it and let you know how I get on. The link to the equivalent Greek website is here. (To translate into your own language, I find Babel Fish works reasonably well).

I have ordered Mr Smylie’s “Fishing the European Coast” and look forward to reading it. The Cornish book will come later.

In the meantime, I wish Mike Smylie well – and encourage him to keep up his good work.

Acknowledging the past

On Boxing Day, at low tide, we walked on the beach.

Empty quay, Bude, Boxing Day, 2008

The weather was one of blue skies and crystal-clear visibility.

The views were amazing, but there is always more to a view than meets the eye – there is a history that rides with it.

Ceres, Bude

This is not a request to  focus on the past, but to share it – to acknowledge that the past existed and that those who lived through it were no different from us.

They too saw the world change before their eyes and their old certainties lost to an unknown future.

Low tide, Bude, Boxing Day, 2008

Thus the toast this Christmas is the toast of Christmas’ past –  “Absent Friends”.

Ceres, waiting for the tide, Bude

For more on Ceres here, here and here

The Ketch Ceres

In a previous post on For love of a boat, I said that I am happy to post the image of a boat and let it speak for itself.

The vessels themselves are inherently beautiful for many reasons and it’s up to the viewer what they make of what they see.

But what of those ships and boats that predate photography? (The very first photograph? 1825).


I have written posts on the Ceres before – among others here, here and here.

She was built in 1811 in Salcombe and went down off Baggy Point, Barnstaple Bay in 1936.

There are many black and white photographs from the 1920s and 30s but none I know of from before.

So I am delighted that John Franklin has taken me out of my photography/images mode and reintroduced me to C.Fox Smith’s poem.


John writes, “I have been mindful of this poem for more than 20 years now and it never fails to move me.”

“Ceres came to mind as I lay in a bed in Barnstaple Hospital where my ‘Bones’ were being repaired about three years ago. I knew she lay out there somewhere in Barnstaple Bay. In sight of Appledore.”

“I often quote from the poem; ‘… a time it comes to ships and men …’ when I’m feeling philosophical.”

In Barnstaple Hospital, John would have been within 10 nautical miles of where she lies.

Speaking as a grandson of Captain Petherick, I know my mother, grandfather and great grandfather would have appreciated your thoughts. Thank you, John.

(Oh, and I can’t resist another photograph).


Waiting for the tide – Bude, Cornwall


The Ketch Ceres

A century and a quarter full of change and change had passed
Since they built her down in Devon, where they mostly built to last,
And sent her out to earn her keep, at risk of wave and war,
And dodge the nimble privateer along the Biscay shore.

And war went out, and peace came in, and time it went and came,
And brought new changes every year, but to her it brought the same
The privateers they vanished, and the Indiamen likewise,
And the first steam kettle trailed her smoke across the affronted skies,

The tea fleet and the wool fleet, in their turn they had their day,
She marked them in their beauty as she plied upon her way,
Their canvas piled like summer clouds… like summer clouds they passed,
But she was built in Devon – and they build ‘em there to last.

She loaded nuts and oranges, she carried coal and props,
And bricks and hay and china clay and barley-malt and hops,
She traded north to Derry and she traded south to Spain,
And east about to Wells and Lynn and back to Bude again.

She knew the rips and overfalls from London to the Lizard,
And once she nearly left her bones off Padstow in a blizzard,
And when winter fogs were thickest she mostly smelt her way
By the old familiar sea marks into Bude and Watchet Bay.

And peace went out and war came in, and forth she went once more,
To dodge the nimble submarines along the English shore,
And war went out and peace came in, and still she held together,
Spite of floating mine and tinfish and the good old English weather,

She loaded salt and timber, and she carried slate from Wales.
Cement and corn and cattle cake and paying stones and nails
She worked her way to Liverpool and down the coast for cloam,
Across the way to Swansea Bay and then with slag for home.

But a time it comes to ships and men, when sailing days are past,
Even such as hail from Devon, where they mostly build to last.
And her seams began to open and the Severn tide came through,
And the water kept on gaining spite of all they could do,

They did their best to beach her, but they couldn’t do no more,
And foundered at the finish in site of Appledore,
And her bones’ll never flicker blue on any longshore fire,
For she’ll lie there and she’ll moulder as any old ship might desire,
And hear the vessels passing by, and dream about the past,
And the great old times in Devon, where they built her once to last.

C.Fox Smith. “Blue Peter” February 1937

Curious dreamer AND practical realist

In my last post – On Becoming a Skipper, there are two adjacent branches of the mindmap: ‘curious dreamer’ and ‘realist’. I have put a key against each one, because I think they are both important. 

You might say: “What! A dreamer and a realist? There’s a crew problem before you start.” Well, yes, there could be, but we are talking about one person – you, the skipper, plus a great deal of common sense. 

The practical realist keeps his/her feet firmly on deck and practices the art of the possible – here – now. The realist says, “This is the problem, these are the current resources available – (time, crew, experience, money). This is the solution, Let’s get on with it.”

The curious dreamer says, “What if. . .?” The dreamer uses his/her imagination and creates a wider framework for the realist to work in. The dreamer in you stretches the boundaries, expands the horizon, looks beyond the present and explores the possibilities. The realist in you expresses the solutions in current time. You need a realist when caught in a gale on a lee shore – although if he had listened to the curious dreamer he might have been able to avoid it in the first place.  

The realist will say, ”Your great-grandfather was an example of a practical man. Look how he coped with that storm.”

The next morning it moderated a bit when we soon got and entered the Bay of Biscay, when the wind shifted around to the South West and blew very heavy and we had to heave to. We found her a miserable sea boat. She would not come up and take the seas end on, but merely fall off and allow the seas to roll over her in the trough of the sea. We smashed away a good deal of the lee bulwarks to try and relieve her. After two or three days the wind veered to the North West, still blowing very heavy, when we had to get her on the other tack and smash away more bulwarks. (here)

The dreamer would say, “But he was a dreamer too. Look how things opened up for him because he signed on for that trip to Shanghai. He saw there were possibilities that would come out of the voyage and he took the opportunities when they came to him. Surely, he was both a dreamer and a realist. The two work together.

He went and told the Captain, when I was called aft and explained to the Captain that I had served 4 years at sea mostly in the Bristol Channel. When I was appointed pilot. We worked down the north shore to the Nash when the wind went a little more to the north, and the next morning we was going between Lundy Island and Hartland Point. We had a fine time down passed the Scilly Islands. The Captain was very pleased with my pilotage and thanked me very much. He hoped to repay me before we parted, which he did by lending me books and instruments and learning me navigation, that, within a fortnight of terminating the voyage, I went in at Plymouth and passed my first examination! (here)

So what of this blog? The realist will tell you, “This is not sailing. This is talking-about-sailing. It’s not the real thing at all.” The dreamer will say, “Ah, yes. But look how the framework changes. Every time I step on board I have a better understanding of what I am doing and a greater excitement in carrying it out. There are possibilities here that I have a mere inkling of, and, if the past nine months are anything to go by, many more that I no nothing about out about yet.”

Yesterday we went to the theatre in Plymouth. On the way we stopped to check Blue Mistress was secure. At 1700 on a Saturday evening in August in one of the crowded anchorages of Devon, in the drizzle and wind, only one boat was away from its moorings. This summer is for the curious dreamers. The practical realists are pacing up and down in frustration.

The Fate of the “Ceres”

Taken from an article in the Bideford Weekly Gazette dated December 1st.1936. 


The 125 years old “Ceres”, veteran of the merchant service, her course now run, lies at the bottom of Bideford Bay, somewhere off Baggy Point.

The “Ceres” sprang a leak on Tuesday night while on a voyage from South Wales to Bude, and foundered after her crew had put off in her boat and had been picked up by the Appledore lifeboat.The Captain is Mr Oswald Jeffery, a married man, whose home is in Richmond Road, Appledore, and the mate Mr Walter Ford, a married man of Irsha Street,, Appledore.They reached Appledore in the lifeboat at about 11 o’clock, and on arrival the Rev Muller offered a short prayer of thanksgiving for their safety.

Captain Jeffery said,” We left Swansea on Tuesday bound for Bude with a cargo of slag.. Because of the weather we intended to go in over the Bar for the night as it was to rough to venture on to Bude. At 8 o’clock I went below to rest for an hour, leaving the mate in charge. An hour later he told me there was water in the engine room. We manned the pumps. We tried to get the ship over the Bar, but the water made her roll badly, and I gave the order for the ship’s rowing boat to be launched. I fired two rockets, and we abandoned the vessel. We lay in the shelter of the “Ceres” which was sinking, and were taken onboard the lifeboat.

Dr. Valentine stood by in case medical assistance was needed, but although wet through, neither the captain nor his mate appeared any the worse for this ordeal.

The “Ceres” was owed by a Bude firm of coal merchants, and was built in Salcombe.  

 Ketch Ceres   1811 – 1936.

Built in Salcombe, Devon in 1811.She carried stores as a revitaling ship at the blockade of Brest during the Napoleonic wars. Was the oldest sea-going vessel afloat until she sank in Croyde Bay one November evening in 1936. My late father Walter Ford always maintained that she sank because the vessel had recently had a new timber set in, and this had swollen and had displaced the much older timbers which surrounded it.

The night she sank was flat calm and the sky clear.

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. They are presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. If you are interested in maritime history and would like to read more, please use the Search facility on the top right-hand side if this page (‘Ceres’).  If the Search box does not appear on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.

The picture on page 90

Ceres of Bude

Re picture on page 90.

The ketch Ceres is said to be the oldest sea-going craft in existence. She was built at Salcombe, Devon, in 1811, and began by trading to Northern Spain, more than once having narrow escapes from French and American privateers. In the years 1818 and 1814 she was employed by Government carrying British military stores in connection with Wellington’s Peninsular War operations, subsequently reverting to her owners and resuming ordinary trading. She first came back to Bude in 1826, and has been in the ownership of her present owners since 1852. She was altered in rig in 1865, and subsequently was cut in two and lengthened by 13 feet, being registered 44 tons and carrying 85 tons. In 1912 she was successfully transformed to a motor ship by the successful installation of a 30 h.p. semi-Diesel engine, which enabled her to keep close to the shore and so avoid the fate of several other coasting vessels sunk by submarines off the North Cornish coast during the Great War. Ceres is still in active commission, having passed her four-year Board of Trade survey in 1930.

(Photo by J. H. Petherick, Belle View, Bude. Sent by Mr. J. W. W. Banbury, Lloyd’s Agent, Bude, Cornwall.)

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. They are presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. If you are interested in maritime history and would like to read more, please use the Search facility on the top right-hand side if this page (‘Ceres’).  If the Search box does not appear on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.

More History of the Ceres

When you explore the history of a boat, any boat, you quickly discover you are not the only one interested in her. Ceres was particularly well-known and appreciated by a wide variety of people. The piece below, from the P.S.N.C. Magazine, was written by someone with a far greater call on her than I – the great-grandson of the original owner.

The History of the Ceres.

The Ceres was built at Salcombe, Devon, in 1811 for my great­grandfather, William Lewis, of Bude, Cornwall, for the Spanish-London fruit trade. He went master of her, and during the Peninsular War she was employed carrying stores to the British troops in France, under the Duke of Wellington. On the death of my great-grandfather in 1829 my grandfather, ”his only son,” not 18 years of age, went master of the Ceres, and kept her in the coasting trade until 1855, when he sold her to Captain P. M. Petherick, of Bude, who went master of her. In 1866 he was relieved by his eldest son, Captain W. W. Petherick. In 1884 he was relieved by his brother, Captain Walter Petherick, who retired from the sea in 1930 after being master of the Ceres for 46 years. I have known the Petherick family since my childhood. Finer sailors never walked a ship’s deck.

My grandfather had many souvenirs from the Ceres, including the two old flint lock pistols which his father and the mate carried to shoot Napoleon and his bodyguard if they attempted to board the Ceres; the old horn lantern that was lighted by a tallow candle, made by the crew ; the lantern, the only light, was carried at the bowsprit end when possible, to light the Ceres to glory; the old bull’s horn which was used as a foghorn; also a piece of flint and steel used to strike a light with.

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. They are presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. If you are interested in maritime history and would like to read more, please use the Search facility on the top right-hand side if this page (‘Ceres’).  If the Search box does not appear on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.

Ceres – details from the shipping register

The details below are taken from the official records of “Ceres”, found in the shipping registries of Dartmouth and Padstow. However exciting the stories of fast voyages, near disasters and real tragedy (see later), what follows are the details that count, (even though not all the dates tie exactly with those I have found from other sources). These are the bare bones that underly the ownership of a coasting ketch.

Throughout her life, “Ceres” was used for business – to earn her keep and, hopefully, make a profit for her owners. Given the length of her service, this she apparently did in carrying cargo around the coasts of Britain. However, from the records we find that not only were her cargoes a source of income but shares in the ship changed hands and she was mortgaged several times as a way of raising money.

I found these records fascinating, and was particularly delighted to find the wonderfully named Barnabas Stenlake Shazel.


Built Salcombe, 1811.

Sloop of one deck and one mast.

Length 49 feet, breadth 17 feet, depth in hold 7 feet 3 inches.

Rigged with a running bowsprit, square sterned, carvel built. No galleries. No figurehead.

Tonnage 57 and 60/94ths

Dartmouth registry.

Port no. 13 of 1812.

Employed in the coastal trade. Master J.Keepell, Crew of 4.

Registered de novo 4th October 1824. Port No.202.
                    ”        5th May 1828. Port No.16.
                    “      13th May 1830. Port No.17.

Registry finally cancelled on 11th April 1837 and property transferred to

Padstow registry.

Registered No 9 Padstow. 11th April 1837. James Greenway, Master.

Owned – Richard Beeuleu of Launceston 32 shares. Henry King of Stratton 16 shares and Ann King 16 shares. (Richard Beeuleu sold his shares to a Mr Lewis of Bude, Henry King transferred his shares to Ann who sold all to Lewis, who was thus sole owner.)

Reregistered No 4 Padstow. 12th July 1841.

On 11th July, 1855, William Lewis sold 32 shares to Henry Petherick, Merchant, 16 shares to Samuel Knight, Miller, and 16 to John Wakely , Yeoman. The last two sold their shares to H. Petherick in 1856 and 1860.

It was mortgaged in 1862 for £300 to Edward Barker of Launceston and sold by H. Petherick in 1863 to John Henry Hooker of Bude who in turn sold to William Walter Petherick in October 1868, the mortgage also being discharged in that year.

Wm.W. Petherick mortgaged the vessel for £150 in 1869 to Edward Hockin and John Henry Hooker, then once again it was reregistered as No 26 Padstow , 1st Dec 1869 with Wm Petherick owning 38 shares /Barnabas Stenlake Shazel owning 26 shares.

Wm Petherick purchased B.S.Shazel’s shares in 1374 and the mortgage was discharged in 1889.

She was registered anew in 1913 (material alterations… new engine fitted)
Sold to Donald Murch Petherick in 1921 and to Alfred Petherick in 1924.

The register was closed 2 Dec. 1936 on the advice from the managing owners that she was a total loss on 24th November 1936.

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. They have been presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. They represent steps in a personal quest to find out more about one branch of my family.

If you are interested in maritime history or would like to read more, please use the Search facility at the top right hand side of this page (‘Ceres’). If this is not available on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.


Crossing the Bar

My aunt has given me a sheaf of articles, and newspaper clippings about the ketch ‘Ceres’, which, as I have mentioned before, was in our family for 73 of her 125 years active service.

Many of these articles were copied over the years from issues of Sea Breezes, which started life in 1919 as the house magazine of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. The subtitle changed later to “The Ship-Lovers’ Magazine’. It ceased publication in October 1939 only to restart in 1946.

I had thought I would stop posting blogs on ‘Ceres’ but I am finding that publishing them as individual pieces from different sources gives a colourful history and allows the reader a personal insight that is sometimes lost in a formally-presented, official ‘history’. This is partly because the ‘facts’ sometimes differ from article to article.

Talking of ‘colourful’, I hope you enjoy the following. I curled up with embarrassment when I first read it, then laughed out loud for the sheer joy of it.


Crossing the Bar

By C.L.Lilbourn, Newport, Mon.

Editor’s Note:- The June issue gave (on page 90) a wonderful picture of the ketch Ceres crossing the Bar at Bude, Cornwall; more of her history was promised and this is contained in the following article:-

The ketch Ceres, of Bude, Cornwall, has been crossing Bude Bar for over 200 years in practically all weathers. Owing to sunken rocks the channel is very narrow, and the Ceres has been kept close enough to the Chapel Rock, seen in the photo, to knock the shell fish off without damaging the rock or the Ceres. Some steering, I guess, but Captain Walter Petherick is at the helm and nothing is impossible to this 24-carat sailor, who has been master of the Ceres for 46 years. He is now nearly 80 years of age, as upright as a lifeguardsman, with a good head of hair as strong as rope yarns. He is one of the best known and most respected coasting captains living today. He has made thousands of passages up and down the Bristol Channel, and if all the lights in the lighthouses and lightships were extinguished, and their fog signals silenced, he could probably make a passage in the Ceres from Newport to Bude in a dense fog, by the use of the lead and the assistance of the different herds of cattle along the coast bellowing.

Call everything “he” except the tomcat.

For instance, if he heard a cow bellowing in a soprano voice he could say to his mate, “Ben, us be off Minehead; that is Farmer G’s cow a-bellowing: can’t you hear he (Cornish sailors call everything ‘he’ except the Tomcat, and they call ‘he’ ‘she’)? Drop the lead over the side and see what water us have got.” Ben would retort so many fathoms and hard sand. The captain would say, “Yes, I knew us was off Minehead.” Some hours later another cow would bellow in a contralto voice. The Captain would know it was Farmer T’s at the Foreland. Some hours later they would hear a bull roaring in a bass baritone voice, the Captain would know they were off Bull Point. The last cow would be heard at Hartland Point, where they would get their departure. When they arrived in Bude Bay they would have to wait for the fog to clear before they could cross the Bar.


I wonder what my great grandfather – (he of the ‘hair as strong as rope yarns’), thought of this!

This is the Boys Own writing of the time, of course, and maybe a little embellishment for the reader was considered worthy.

I must admit, the more I find out about him, the more fond I grow of Captain Walter Petherick; and I can’t help feeling he had earned the right to a short piece about him without the need for any superlatives.

I will post the remainder of the articles and clippings over the next few months.

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. They have been presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. They represent steps in a personal quest to find out more about one branch of my family.

If you are interested in maritime history or would like to read more, please use the Search facility at the top right hand side of this page (‘Ceres’). If this is not available on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.








After thought

I’ve been thinking about the “Ceres” and the last entry in my grandfather’s notes on her.

“Foundered midnight Nov 24 1936. Bideford Bay, Crew saved by lifeboat.” This after 125 years of active service.

It’s not the crew I’ve been thinking of. I met them when I was young – they survived.

It’s what happened to the ship that fascinates me. How did she settle?

Did she go down bow first, stern first?

Did she settle upright? (She was carrying approximately 80 tons of slag as cargo).

What happened to the mast, the rigging and the sails?

I guess the captain’s cabin filled pretty quickly. I saw a picture of it once. My grandfather’s office was lined with wood paneling that matched that cabin.

More relevantly, how does she look now – on the floor of Bideford Bay – sixty years or so later?

I thought of her the day I delivered Blue Mistress for her haul out.

While waiting for the hoist, I walked from Turnchapel back to Oreston to fetch the car.

The walk skirts Hooe Lake which is a tidal inlet on the south bank of the River Plym.

At the east end of the Lake, I took these pictures.


Hooe Lake 1 Hooe Lake 3 Hooe Lake 2

This is a sight you can see on any of the major rivers, estuaries and inlets of the Westcountry, (the Fal, the Fowey, the Dart, the Tamar, the Plym, the Exe and on). Indeed throughout the UK and Europe too, and, I guess, around the globe – in the mud, beneath tree-lined banks, wooden vessels of a certain age gently decay, slowly fading into their surroundings. Biodegradable, most of the materials they were made of allow that to happen. A slow end to a hard, romantic life.

Well, that was then. What about now.

Wrecks still happen.
MSC Napoli
This one (MSC “Napoli” ) within the last few months – a greater spectacle, with more visual impact, and a great deal more environmental consequences than “Ceres” – or the three wrecks above. This is not a wooden vessel – no biodegration here.

OK, the wreck was a result of heavy weather and a judicious (?) decision on where best to beach her – (as it happens, off a World Heritage coastline).

Looking west towards Sidmouth and Exmouth

You might say, “These things happen. However skilled and careful mankind is, major disasters will occur. It’s how we deal with them that marks us out.”

That may be so, but some “disasters” can be anticipated and maybe we should be ready for them. Try this for example:

In years to come, we will have to deal with another environmental concern. This one will creep up on us: Where are all those yachts and boats that fill our marinas, harbours and rivers going to go after we’ve finished with them? Will they slowly fade into their surroundings? I hope we will enjoy them for many more years. And when we’ve finished, pass them on to new owners for their turn. But will they last 125 years? The boats themselves might not, but the materials they’re made of will. For certain, tree-lined banks of tidal inlets will not be an option.

I am not wishing to make a huge issue about this, nor am I despondent about man’s ability to cope. But I am interested, (and I hope you are too), because it is one small aspect of a much greater concern that is beginning to concentrate our minds and will continue to do so over the next decades – What are we going to do with all these indestructible materials?

I won’t be here to find out the answers, probably neither will my children, but my yet-to-be-born grandchildren will . . . and I care about them and their generation.