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Recently, I had a chat with an old Trinity House,South Channel In pilot who stirred my memory. When I was first Licensed in 1967, Dungeness In, I was told by a pre-war II pilot that we had it easy these days, doing out qualifying trips, as it was not long before then that Pilots still had to have sailing time in their Discharge Books. There was a Brigantine,I believe, that took men hoping to become pilots as crew,on the cheap of course. Was that vessel called the Water Witch. Does anybody have any knowledge of this?
Keep healthy,
Terry Connell.
 

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WATER WITCH. Here you go and yes, she was used for training pilots. Here is also a painting I did of WATER WITCH abeam Wolf Rock.
Stephen
685758


The ‘Waterwitch’ became almost a legend during its eventful career, having suffered collisions, considerable weather damage, and an attempted torpedo attack during the First World War. Measuring 112 feet in length by 25 feet in the beam and a tonnage of 206 gross, it spent the first 38 of its 46 years afloat carrying coal from the North East coast to Portsmouth. As a result, it established a great reputation for the consistency of its voyages, averaging 12 days on a round trip, an outstanding performance for a vessel of its type. In 1916 the ‘Waterwitch’ went aground in the entrance to Newlyn, Cornwall, and eventually sank in the harbour. It was later raised in 1918, repaired and re-rigged and re-employed by Edward Stephens of Fowey. Its crew was often partly made up from seamen holding a foreign Master’s Certificate. These men were applying to enter the Trinity House Pilotage Service, which required their applicants to have a minimum sea time in square-rigged vessels. As the only vessel sailing from a homeport to hold that distinction, it never lacked a crew. The ‘Waterwitch’ remained under British ownership until 1939 when it was sold to Estonian owners for service in the Baltic timber trade. Its last recorded year of service was 1948.
 

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Great painting Stephen, the Water Witch almost looks like the same build as my first ship the William Ashburner.
 

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WATER WITCH. Here you go and yes, she was used for training pilots. Here is also a painting I did of WATER WITCH abeam Wolf Rock.
Stephen View attachment 685758

The ‘Waterwitch’ became almost a legend during its eventful career, having suffered collisions, considerable weather damage, and an attempted torpedo attack during the First World War. Measuring 112 feet in length by 25 feet in the beam and a tonnage of 206 gross, it spent the first 38 of its 46 years afloat carrying coal from the North East coast to Portsmouth. As a result, it established a great reputation for the consistency of its voyages, averaging 12 days on a round trip, an outstanding performance for a vessel of its type. In 1916 the ‘Waterwitch’ went aground in the entrance to Newlyn, Cornwall, and eventually sank in the harbour. It was later raised in 1918, repaired and re-rigged and re-employed by Edward Stephens of Fowey. Its crew was often partly made up from seamen holding a foreign Master’s Certificate. These men were applying to enter the Trinity House Pilotage Service, which required their applicants to have a minimum sea time in square-rigged vessels. As the only vessel sailing from a homeport to hold that distinction, it never lacked a crew. The ‘Waterwitch’ remained under British ownership until 1939 when it was sold to Estonian owners for service in the Baltic timber trade. Its last recorded year of service was 1948.
What an amazing history.Thank you very much indeed for your reply and for the copy of your painting. So, my memory did not fail me! The chap I had spoken to was Hugh Ferguson who has written some very interesting stories here on Ships Nostalgia. Unfortunately,Hugh who is aged 94, is blind and very infirm and lasting out his days in a nursing home near Falmouth. I spoke to him on the phone yesterday. His memory is quite good as we had a chat about his time in Blue Funnel. Interestingly, he became a cadet at the age of 18. None of the Companies he applied to would take him "as he was too old" but through a family connection with Lawrence Holt he was accepted by Blue Funnel. You may know, from his entries, that he was an Aden pilot, before becoming a TH pilot at Dungeness. He made a movie on an 8mm film camera about the work of a Dungeness pilot which I have put here on YouTube.
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Hugh said that he was the last pilot to ship from the cutter on station. That would be March 1967.
I was the last TH pilot to ship from Folkestone at 2200, 30th September 1988 arriving at Sheerness some hours later as a Medway pilot. As an aside to that trip, our arrival at Garrison Pt was delayed due to berth occupancy so I wasted time by anchoring off the North Foreland during which firslly a half moon rose and a little later Jupiter. As there was a telescope mounted on the bridge wing I used it to gaze at these bodies. Asked by an Officer what I was looking at I replied,"the mountains on the moon." I showed him that just where the sun shadow on the moon was you could see small lighted dots that were the mountain tops showing in the light whilst their bases were in shadow. He had not seen that before and told other crew members of the phenomenon. I should think all of the on-watch crew came to the bridge to see for themselves. Later, when Jupiter rose I showed them it's moons. Once we were underway again the Captain was told by the officer what he had seen. He told me that in all his years at sea he had never thought to do that. Use the telescope to look into the heavens, he meant.
I wish you all good memories and good health.
 

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Sad to hear that Hugh is in bad health he was a great poster and member on SN. Give him our regards next time you talk to him.
 

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WATER WITCH. Here you go and yes, she was used for training pilots. Here is also a painting I did of WATER WITCH abeam Wolf Rock.
Stephen View attachment 685758

The ‘Waterwitch’ became almost a legend during its eventful career, having suffered collisions, considerable weather damage, and an attempted torpedo attack during the First World War. Measuring 112 feet in length by 25 feet in the beam and a tonnage of 206 gross, it spent the first 38 of its 46 years afloat carrying coal from the North East coast to Portsmouth. As a result, it established a great reputation for the consistency of its voyages, averaging 12 days on a round trip, an outstanding performance for a vessel of its type. In 1916 the ‘Waterwitch’ went aground in the entrance to Newlyn, Cornwall, and eventually sank in the harbour. It was later raised in 1918, repaired and re-rigged and re-employed by Edward Stephens of Fowey. Its crew was often partly made up from seamen holding a foreign Master’s Certificate. These men were applying to enter the Trinity House Pilotage Service, which required their applicants to have a minimum sea time in square-rigged vessels. As the only vessel sailing from a homeport to hold that distinction, it never lacked a crew. The ‘Waterwitch’ remained under British ownership until 1939 when it was sold to Estonian owners for service in the Baltic timber trade. Its last recorded year of service was 1948.
Stephen a wonderful painting and the sea is so realistic unlike most other nautical paintings. Why on earth did you not take it up as a profession ?
 

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I did! I did a painting in echange for an invitation to a cocktail party. The owner of Holland America Line was on board. Three commissions came through and I thought, what the heck. End of seafarering... well, mostly apart from a few odd runs. I had not a clue what I was doing and had to start learning how to paint. That was 35 years ago and just now I'm getting the hang of it!
 
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