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Brixham and her maritime history

Brixham Harbour in Summer

Brixham is a busy fishing town set in the heart of Devon at the southern end of Torbay. Ideally placed to enjoy the very best of cruising in Devon and Cornwall and is easily accessible. Historically, in Saxon times is was two separate communities with a marshy lane that ran between the two of them. Cowtown was the area on top of the hill where the farmers lived and then a mile away in the harbour was Fishtown where the seaman lived. Famously, William of Orange (afterwards King William III) landed in Brixham with his Dutch army in 1688 during the Glorious revolution.

Brixham  is famous for their development of their large sailing trawlers in the early 19th  century with the demise of the inshore fish numbers around Torbay. These trawlers had big powerful rigs which allowed them to sail as quickly as possible to the sailing grounds and were then also powerful enough to drag large nets behind them when fishing. This meant that the fishing stocks of the English channels were now fully available to the fisherman of Torbay and also meant that it took less time for the fish to be brought back to sell. The design of the Brixham trawlers was copied by boat builders around Britain and helped to establish fishing fleets in Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft. By the late 19th century there were more than 3,000 sailing trawlers in UK waters, of which many were privately owned. The rise of the Brixham Trawler went hand in hand with the rise of the industrial revolution which meant that fishmongers became a part of every high street.

Historical image of Brixham Trawlers
Historical image of Brixham Trawlers

The town’s maritime history is still prominent to see with a large modern fishing fleet still working out of the harbour alongside the Heritage fleet of Provident, Leader, Pilgrim, Golden Vanity and Vigilance. They are all prominently berthed in the outer harbour for all to admire on the heritage pontoons.

The heritage fleet alongside in Brixham
The heritage fleet alongside in Brixham

These boats have been lovingly restored and maintained and all offer the opportunity to get involved and experience sailing them, anything from a short taster day sail up to a 10 day voyage to France. With between 2 and 5  permanent professional crew onboard the boats there is plenty of people to offer a helping hand and guidance on how to sail the boat and also to serve up delicious home cooked fare.


Hauling in the main sheet on Leader
Hauling in the main sheet on Leader

 Whether it be a day sail, short two or three night taster voyage or a 9 day trip to Brittany from Brixham there are plenty of options for sailing this summer from Brixham. From Torbay there are many great ports and beautiful anchorages for relaxing and enjoyable day sailing, Dartmouth, Salcombe and Cawsand to name a few. Also if you are looking to do an RYA course on a traditional boat then Golden Vanity offers a variety of competent crew and day skipper courses.

Seafood cruise on Leader- 29th September- details

Short taster voyages on Pilgrim

Longer Cruises on Provident

RYA Courses on Golden Vanity 

Sail with Pilgrim in Devon
Sail with Pilgrim in Devon

Brixham shows pride in the maritime heritage by running their annual regatta at the end of May to showcase their fleet and other visiting yachts. The large trawlers all compete for the historic St George’s cup which has been won by Pilgrim for the last 5 years, however all of them have had their victories. It’s a great weekend of sailing in the company of the other trawlers to contest the cup. There is still opportunities to sail on Provident at this year’s event and contest Pilgrim and the others for the cup and then head off to  Brittany afterwards.

Race with Provident at the Brixham Heritage regatta and then sail to Brittany and explore- Start 26th May- 8 nights- £645

Sail with Provident at the Brixham Heritage regatta
Sail with Provident at the Brixham Heritage regatta

Whether it be a short day sail or a 10 day voyage to France Brixham is a great town to start and end your voyage. Steeped in history which they work hard to keep alive, the Brixham trawlers are a living testaments to the towns history and offer plenty of opportunities for adventure and hands on sailing.   

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