Salty Ships: Excelsior LT472 – 1921 Lowestoft Smack
Excelsior LT472 was built by John Chambers of Lowestoft in 1921, as a sailing smack. She was bought by a local fishing consortium after their previous smack (built 1885) had a sad ending after a collision in the fog with a steamer.
In 1935, Excelsior was sold to a Norwegian owner and converted to a motor coaster. She survived the Second World War, despite a near miss from a British air attack. She was later sold again in Norway, and registered to the port of Mandal.
Ship Particulars – Excelsior
|Home Port||Lowestoft, UK|
The Restoration Of Excelsior
Excelsior’s current chapter began in 1971, when John Wylson bought her and sailed her back to Lowestoft the following year. John Wylson is fondly known as ‘Mr Excelsior’ by all those now involved with the Trust. His years of dedication to this very special smack is an inspirational story in its own right.
John previously combined an architectural career with a love of the sea, slipping away on voyages between major projects in London. He sailed as mate and then skipper, with cargoes as varied as talcum powder and beer. There are few ports in Britain that John has not entered.
After buying Excelsior in Norway, John went into partnership with Mark Trevitt and the pair spent years of their spare time rebuilding her hull. In 1983 the Excelsior Trust was formed to complete the work, including restoring the deck to traditional condition and fitting out the area below decks to modern standards. The Trust involved the help of many students, who used this special experience to help find full-time employment afterwards.
Restoration Complete – Commissioned In 1988
Excelsior’s restoration was finally completed in 1988, when she was commissioned as a sail training ship by HRH The Princess Royal. She made a bold mark in her first years as a newly restored vessel:
- In 1989 she circumnavigated most of Britain
- She entered her first Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race
- Excelsior was the subject of an episode of Anglia TV’s Sailaway series
- In the 1990’s, her original trawling gear & crew clothing was recreated and she trawled again for a Channel 4 programme
National Historic Ships Commend Excelsior
In 2006, National Historic Ships described Excelsior as one of the nation’s 60 most important historic vessels. She continues to be recognised by this important body, and is proudly part of the National Historic Fleet as a vessel ‘of pre-eminent national or regional significance’.
The Cirdan Sailing Trust
Between 2005-10 Excelsior was chartered by the Cirdan Sailing Trust to provide sail training for disadvantaged young people.
Excelsior’s Current Work
Since 2011, Excelsior has returned back to the Trust to continue her important and historic work. Hundreds of young people sail onboard her every year, developing life-changing memories whilst experiencing life aboard a historic ship.
Excelsior’s season begins and ends on the East Coast, at her home yard in Lowestoft.
Throughout the year, her itinerary generally includes voyages around the North Sea to Ipswich, Holland and Belgium. She ventures along the South Coast and across to the Channel Islands, Normandy and Brittany. Excelsior also frequents the South West, including Devon and Cornwall. In addition, Excelsior voyages further afield to The Baltic and Norway, where she has previously spent a big part of her life.
Excelsior often takes part in sail training events such as the Small Ships Races and Tall Ships Regattas. Berths are available to young people on special Duke of Edinburgh Gold Residential trips. She makes regular appearances on the scenes of smack festivals, shanty festivals and traditional boat festivals around the UK & Europe.
Excelsior’s 2018 voyage calendar sees her sailing to:
- North Sea
- Kiel Canal
- The Baltic
- Norwegian Fjords
- Alborg (Denmark)
- Thyboron (Denmark)
Sail Training Voyages For Young People
The Excelsior Trust specialises in providing sail training voyages for young people. Her voyages are suitable for ages 14 years and up. The majority of the young people who sail with Excelsior come as part of a youth or school group and often face disadvantages and extra challenges in their lives. Excelsior creates the perfect holistic platform for young people to change their horizons and push their boundaries.
To help subsidise this, the Trust offers unique sailing experiences and holidays of a lifetime to adults. Bursaries are raised through these voyages to pay for young people’s berths on youth sail training voyages.
Excelsior operates with three permanent crew:
The Skipper needs to be qualified to RYA Yachtmaster Offshore, with a commercial endorsement. S/he also needs an RYA Cruising Instructor or Yachtmaster Instructor qualification, so voyage participants can work towards RYA Start Yachting or Competent Crew certificates.
The Mate also needs to hold an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal or above certificate of competence, with commercial endorsement.
The Bosun’s position is a training role, so no qualifications are necessary. The crew look for someone with the right attitude and strong commitment to learn to take this role. The current bosun is a young person who volunteered through The Princes Trust.
The skipper & mate roles are full-time permanent contracts, whereas the bosun’s is seasonal work throughout the sailing season, with opportunities to stay on as a volunteer over the winter.
Excelsior’s current Skipper Gavin has over 10 years of experience working as professional crew onboard a wide range of UK traditional sail training vessels. Next year will be his fourth year as Skipper, and prior to this, he skippered the 1912 22m gaff yawl Duet through her 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race campaign. He brings his combined passions for sail training and traditional ships together to create a powerful vessel for life-changing experiences.
Work Onboard Excelsior In 2018
Volunteering With The Excelsior Trust
Alongside their permanent crew, Excelsior often sails with volunteers, and is also well supported by a network of shore-based volunteers around her home port of Lowestoft and the Suffolk area.
These volunteers are invaluable to The Excelsior Trust, and they equally benefit from the experience volunteering onboard such a unique historical vessel gives them. From scraping planks to slushing the rig, shooting the topmast to setting a reef, there is plenty to learn about historical ship maintenance and traditional sailing skills.
The crew keep a number of bunks available on voyages for volunteers and training purposes. Excelsior seems to attract the most wonderful and dedicated volunteers who help keep her going. The sense of reward and pleasure is evident, as is the hard work. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a whole new wonderful world, feel part of a crew, and never stop learning.
Want to volunteer? Contact us and we’ll help you get in touch with Excelsior.
SaltyJobs & Excelsior
Our founder Eleanor has known Excelsior’s current skipper Gavin since 2009. Gavin started working for The Cirdan Sailing Trust as mate onboard their fleet of vessels at the same time Eleanor was volunteering with Cirdan. They sailed together on Cirdan’s 1912 gaff yawl Duet, which Gavin went on to skipper through the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013. Eleanor helped out with her race campaign.
Now that Gavin skippers Excelsior, it’s great that we’ve been able to keep in touch. Excelsior is a traditional boat with a lot of the same passions as us, for traditional boats and sail training, so SaltyJobs keeps bumping into her. Over the past two seasons we’ve seen her at:
- Weymouth – during filming for ‘Dunkirk’
- Poole Town Quay
- Channel Islands
- Paimpol – Chant du Marin festivals 2015 & 2017
- St Katharine Docks – sail cargo festival
- Harwich International Shanty Festival
- Lowestoft – in her shipyard during refit
It’s important to us that we build a strong relationship like this with our friends, colleagues, and fellow salty sailors. You can imagine the many hours of conversation we have had about our salty adventures, stories and ideas during all of the events above. So naturally, ideas turned into a little something more.
Watch this space – there is an exciting partnership coming soon between SaltyJobs & The Excelsior Trust.