Bristol Channel Pilotage: Historical Notes on its Administration and Craft
The records of the Society of Merchant Venturers, who retained control of pilotage for two and a half centuries from 1611, have yet to be examined in detail, but it is known that Bristol Corporation assumed responsibility for the greater part of the Bristol Channel and claimed the right to appoint pilots. In the course of time the Channel was divided, for fiscal purposes, with the Bristol Corporation later becoming known as the Pilotage Authority. Acts of Parliament regularized the profession which led to an increased number of “fit and qualified persons” with increased competition. Whilst there is no pictorial evidence of the types of craft used in the eighteenth century and earlier, by the nineteenth century pilot skiffs of up to twenty four tons were used over the whole of the Bristol Channel, into the English Channel and across to Ireland. The lines of the skiff “Charlotte”, built in 1808, have been preserved and show a vessel of great strength. The later Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter types are amongst the finest sea boats of their size in the world; dry, buoyant, with long straight keels and deep heels and with the ability to be sailed single handed if necessary.