Excelsior is a beautiful deep sea trawler authentically restored to enable young and old to share 'sail training' adventures together. For any adult oriented voyage you have talented skipper and crew who are kind and encouraging explaining traditional rigging to novices and encouraging experienced sailors to take on watch leader type tasks. Setting the sails, catching a mooring rope and ensuring the fenders are ready to go alongside are only a few of the tasks to learn. Excelsior is your vessel and you will be one of the crew by the time you arrive in your destination port. No doubt ready to choose another great adventure.
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- Length Overall:
- Length on deck: 77ft (23.5m)
- Built: 1921 Restored 1983-88
- Type/rig: Gaff ketch 'smack'
- Guest Berths: 12
- Crew Berths: 6
Our Expert View: What Excelsior Does Best
Team Effort - Sail Training at its Best
Whether you are a young person looking for adventure, or you are an adult seeking an inspiring environment to make the world seem right again, Excelsior voyages contain all the best elements of ‘sail training.’ The fundamentals of teamwork, living together, sharing hopes and fears and passing on practical skills generally works its magic for all. Excelsior is run by a charitable Trust and her main mission is youth sail training. What this means for any adult oriented voyage is you have talented skippers and crew who are kind and encouraging….and very good at explaining traditional rigging to novices or encouraging experienced sailors to take on watch leader type tasks.
A Working Girl – Celebrating UK Fishing Heritage
Excelsior is a Lowestoft smack, one of over a once 300 strong fleet she is now the last of her kind still able to work a 50ft beam trawl. Restored to near original condition after years of research she is a working museum piece giving people the opportunity to experience what such a ship is like out at sea as well as maintaining the traditional knowledge and skills that go into keeping such a vessel in working condition.
Excelsior is sailed as authentically as possible, so it is an active experience and the huge red sails are set with blocks and tackles, and her tiller has not been converted to wheel steering. In the 1990’s her skipper set her up to actually fish under sail and she featured in a Channel 4 TV series ‘The Real History Show.’ Today you don’t have to wear 1921 fisherman’s oilskins but it is easy to relate to what it must have been like when you are on watch at night.
True to Her Roots – East Coast and Scandinavia
Excelsior is in the Core Collection of the UK Historic Ships Fleet. She still operates from her home port of Lowestoft on the East Coast of England where she was built. She proudly bears her original fishing number LT472 on her red mainsail, and remains true to her fishing roots, gracing the Norfolk and Suffolk coast and across the North Sea to her near neighbours in Holland, Denmark.
Built to withstand the harsh North Sea’s winters Excelsior was launched in1921 by Chambers & Co. of Lowestoft, she was one of the last sailing trawlers to be built. Although a new vessel she was essentially built to a design that had not been altered since 1880 and she exemplifies the zenith of evolution of sailing trawlers.
After a hard working life as a deep sea fishing trawler between the wars, she was sold to Bjørn Stensland in Norway and converted to a motor driven coaster in 1935. She survived the Second World War whilst in Scandinavia. In 1971 John Wylson bought her and the following year sailed her back to Lowestoft, where he went into partnership with Mark Trevitt to restore her back to sail. The pair spent the next few years replacing Excelsior’s framing and in 1983 forming a charity to complete the restoration offering work experience to unemployed young people.
Today she often stretches her deep seagoing legs and crosses the North Sea over to Norway and Sweden in the summer to re connect with her other historical home and explore a very different coastline, with pine covered islands, rocky skerries and historic Baltic ports built for coastal trade.
What to Expect on Excelsior
Excelsior is a dandy rig, more commonly known as gaff rigged ketch. She can fly 3400 square feet of sail, set on 1.5 miles of rigging which has been made for the ship especially by Chatham rope walk. Her Elliott and Garood capstan was once driven by steam, but now uses hydraulics. The ship is still steered by an 8ft tiller.
Excelsior is first and foremost a youth sail training vessel. The development of young people is their goal, and they do it very well. With some new faces in the management team and a fully involved skipper who has been with the ship for several years and they are looking to broaden the range of people able to sail Excelsior. They already offer adult team building and have started offering great destinations and authentic sailing experiences to adults outside school prime booking periods. The fundamentals of teamwork, living together, sharing hopes and fears and passing on practical skills generally works its magic for all.
What this means for any adult oriented voyage is you have talented skippers and crew who are kind and encouraging….and very good at explaining traditional rigging to novices or encouraging experienced sailors to take on watch leader type tasks. Her safety drills and training on board is very thorough, but you are signing up for a shared experience…and this means everything. Learning how to set sails from day one, getting mooring ropes and fenders ready to go alongside, helping with meal preparations, taking turns at cooking the meals for the group, or hoisting the anchor with a Hydraulic capstan.
On a vessel this size it is easy to ask questions when the skipper discusses weather and route options for the day. Once the ship is set up and on its way typically the watch system starts, the on watch take turns on the helm and are taught how to steer by compass, wind, sea and a point of reference.
Any sail handling is also done by the on watch. The importance of looking out is explained and what to look out for. The off watch may be preparing food at this point or cleaning, chilling out or sleeping. If you would like to help on deck out of your allotted watch duties of course you are more than welcome to lend a hand and keep busy. Watches are normally 3 hours long then rotate and there are normally three on watch with crew member as watch leader. If you already have some sailing experience then there may be chances to take more of a watch leader role and personal challenges like climbing aloft are possible on this trawler.
Below deck the original fish hold has been converted to accommodate 6 bunks around a large saloon with a further 6 towards the bow of the ship. Communal living can offer privacy if everyone is considerate and gives people space when they need it. The bunks have curtains and reading lights. You do need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow case. When on shore 240v electricity supply will be available.
The Skipper has his own cabin and the crew cabin is in the aft of the ship sleeping 4 crew.
Excelsior has a minimum of two heads (toilets) running and the galley (kitchen) has a rather large diesel stove called Deirdre who is the heart of the ship.
There is a separate chartroom with up to date navigation equipment including AIS, radar, VHF and MF radio and a big chart table for teaching.
Excelsior has a modern engine in a separate engine room. Her hull has several watertight bulkheads which can give her an MCA commercial coding category 0 worldwide operation when needed. In 2018 she will be equipped for Category 1 (150 miles from a safe haven).
Excelsior - Ships Specifications
Excelsior is a dandy rig, more commonly known as gaff rigged ketch. She can fly 3400 square feet of sail, set on 1.5 miles of rigging which has been made for the ship especially by Chatham rope walk. Her Elliott and Garood capstan was once driven by steam but now uses hydraulics. The ship is still steered by an 8ft tiller.
Measuring 23.5 metres long with a 6 metre beam and a draught of 3 metres, Excelsior LT472 was built en spec by John Chambers of Lowestoft in 1921. She was purchased by a local consortium to replace their 1885 smack that had been condemned after a collision with a steamer in foggy weather.In 1935 Excelsior was sold to Bjørn Stensland of Norway and converted to a motor coaster. She survived the war, despite a near miss from a British air attack! Later she was sold on to Sverre and Ole Borrüfsen of Svinor, near Mandal which was her port of registry.
In 1971 John Wylson bought her and the following year sailed her back to Lowestoft, where he went into partnership with Mark Trevitt to restore her back to sail. The pair spent the next few years replacing Excelsior’s framing and in 1983 formed the Excelsior Trust to complete the restoration using work experience students, many of whom found full-time employment after their training.
By 1988 the restoration of Excelsior was complete. It had taken four years and many hours of work by all involved to get the deck back to ‘as built’ condition and fit out the area below to modern standards. HRH The Princess Royal commissioned Excelsior as a sail training ship on 5th August 1988.
1989 was an exciting year for Excelsior. Firstly, she circumnavigated most of Britain before starting sail training. She then entered her first Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race under skipper Mick Hart and was also the subject of an episode of Anglia TV’s Sailaway series.
In the late 1990s Excelsior’s past was revisited when she trawled again under skipper Stuart White. The process of recreating the gear and traditional clothing for the crew was the subject of a 55 minute programme by Channel 4 in their series: “The Real History Show”. It was broadcast in 2000 under the title “Fish and Ships”.
In 2006 National Historic Ships rated Excelsior as one of the nation’s 60 most important historic vessels. Today she is proudly part of the National Historic Fleet of vessels ‘of pre-eminent national or regional significance’.
Classic Sailing are thrilled we have an iconic historic fishing trawler offering voyages from the East Coast of England and one that stays so close to her roots and traditional sailing grounds. This powerful wooden vessel with her huge timbers and excellent stability was built for deep sea weather in the North Sea and the rich fishing grounds near the Arctic Circle or Norway. In the same way she makes an excellent 'seaboat' for young people experiencing their offshore sailing experience, Excelsior makes a great passage making ship for adult adventure holidays.
Excelsior Skippers & Crew
Skipper – Gavin Taylor
Gavin comes from a naval family, and has been working in Sail Training for the past decade. He was the skipper of the classic racing yawl Duet, who he took through the famous Fastnet race, until he came to skipper Excelsior in 2014. Gavin is a Yachtmaster Instructor and can help those working towards RYA qualifications. He has a certificate in Coastal Leadership and is passionate about environmental sustainability and connecting people to their natural surroundings.
Mate – Karol Petryka
Karol graduated from an unpronounceable maritime university in Poland, and has worked on all kinds of ships all around the world – from container ships to superyachts. He was previously the boatswain on the Polish brig-rigged Fryderyk Chopin, a Sail Training tall ship. He has extensive mechanical and rigging knowledge and is always happy to teach what he knows. Karol also used to be in a well-known choir, and can sing many traditional sea shanties. He has been with Excelsior since 2015.
Excelsior are also recruiting a new mate in 2018. More details as soon as we know who.
Regular Volunteer – Bob Lampert
Bob first came to Excelsior decades ago as a teacher leading a school trip, and he has been volunteering for her winter maintenance schedule and as a deckhand ever since. He has many woodworking skills, and sailing experience from taking both Excelsior and his own little boat all around the UK and Europe. He has a very, very dry sense of humour.
Regular Volunteer -Will Paterson
Will has been volunteering in UK Sail Training since he was twelve, and has sailed on almost all of the Sail Training ships. He comes back to Excelsior every year, and knows her and her rig very well. He is passionate about everything about historic ships, and can teach everything about rigging and splicing and caulking and pitching that you’d want to know.
Regular Volunteer -Anton Middleton
Anton is a shipwright by trade, and has been on and off Excelsior for many years. He has past experience with other historic ships, notably as a hand on board the replica of the Endeavour as she redid her original journey under Captain Cook. He built Excelsior’s current mizzenmast, and is restoring his own little historic boat to take her around the Norfolk broads.