Heritage - Tenby Lugger

Tenby Luggers, unique  to south Pembrokeshire, sailed from the early 19th Century until as late as the 1950s. These iconic little boats were once common in Tenby harbour. They fished, took tourists around the bay in summer, and were the Caldey Island ferries until the 1950s. 

'Heritage' is our own replica Tenby Lugger and  made her maiden voyage to Tenby on Saturday, August 25th. She is now seen regularly on the Haven.

The Tenby Lugger Heritage

Tenby Luggers evolved in the early 19th Century in Tenby , to work along the dreadful iron bound, but stunningly beautiful coast of South Pembrokeshire. They were open boats that fished for oysters and white fish in season in Carmarthen bay. The owner skippers recognised early on that the new fangled railway was bringing increasing numbers of tourists to the town. They were only too pleased to pay for a trip round the bay, or an hour's fishing for mackerel. There was also the regular ferry service across several miles of open sea to Caldey Island. 

The demise of the little open luggers came in the form of the bigger Brixham trawlers which could stay at sea for several days at a time and go further in search of fish. The splendid Brixham trawlers too were rendered obsolete by the even bigger steam trawlers that could go as far as Iceland. But they did not like Tenby harbour and so they moved to the then new town of Milford Haven with its sheltered harbour and deeper water. 

What of the Tenby Luggers? They simply carried on in the tourist trade and outlived the Brixham trawlers.

Some years ago the Milford Haven Port Authority and the Pembrokeshire College formed a consortium called MITEC. This was called "Rising Tide Project" and, using grant aid from the EU, were tasked with teaching people how to build wooden boats, preferably those with an international connection. The first boat was a gig for the sailing ship Dunbrody in New Ross, Ireland. This was very successfully built and delivered .

David James of the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society was familiar with the project and enquired what the next boat would be. Sensing a vacuum, he suggested they consider building a Tenby Lugger, and provided photographs and sketches of the vessel to whet their appetite. The idea was accepted and work began and the basic hull was built.

At that stage it was just a shell with no thwarts, deck beams, etc inside. For various reasons work slowed down and then stopped on the project. With the "Rising Tide Project" timetable expiring a dilemma arose. The terms of the project were that the boat could not be sold, hired, given to a commercial operator or any other form of business. David James pointed out that the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society was a charity with maritime interests and was not subject to these prohibitive clauses, and he suggested the Society became her owners.

Our proposals for the future of the vessel were accepted and so she was collected by members and brought to Hancock's Boatyard in Pembroke Dock, the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society headquarters. She was completed in 2019 and can be seen on the Haven regularly.

Heritage in the workshop

Tom Cunliffe  British yachting journalist, author and broadcaster

On Friday 16th September 2022 Tom regaled Society members with tales of all things nautical. Tom has spent his life in and around boats, his special interest being wooden traditional yachts, which he has sailed in for over 40 years. Tom has written many books including the Shell Channel Pilot and the current edition of the RYA Yachtmaster Theory book and also regularly contributes to various sailing magazines and has starred in a number of documentaries for the BBC.

Tom gave his talk called "What Ship? Where Bound?" It’s the tale of the intrepid sailing pilots of the Bristol Channel – seamen and businessmen extraordinary – woven in with Tom's own remarkable story of owning an original Barry pilot cutter.
On the Saturday Tom found himself sailing on our Tenby Lugger - 'Heritage', a wooden boat which was built by members of the Society. 

Watch the video below to see Tom's adventure on the Milford Haven waterway.