1895 Brixham Sailing Trawler Pilgrim, with her distinctive red sails and old fishing number BM45, is one of the oldest National Historic Ships still sailing.

Built in 1895, by J W & A Uphams, one of Brixham’s most famous yards. Pilgrim was one of six similar vessels built at the yard during that year. Brixham was an extremely busy port at this time, with over 300 sailing trawlers, and played an important role in the development of trawling and ship design across Europe.

Today only a handful of these wooden sailing trawlers have survived, and Classic Sailing are proud to work with several of them in their new role as adventure charter vessels. These seaworthy and powerful sailing ships take crossing the Channel in their stride, make comfortable expedition vessels for exploring near and far, and offer stable platforms for those new to sailing.

Minimum age 8, each child needs to be accompanied by an adult.

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Ship Stats

Length Overall


Length On Deck


Year Built


Vessel Type / Rig

Gaff Ketch

Guest Berths


Crew Berths


What this vessel does best

Classic Sailing tasters on Pilgrim
Classic Sailing tasters on Pilgrim

Our Expert View: What does Pilgrim do Best?

Short Break Specialist – Every Sort of Taster

Pilgrim has a good mix of shorter trips, from day sails to 2-3 day voyages which make affordable presents for friends or relatives that love sailing or want to give it a go. Classic Sailing can help arrange surprise birthday experiences or you can buy gift vouchers that can be used on Pilgrim or any of the Classic Sailing Fleet. 

Devon has a good reputation for its food, local produce and Brixham is a working fishing port landing fresh fish every day. There are a lot of food festivals locally to celebrate the ‘Taste of the West’ so Pilgrim likes to make an appearance at seafood and crab festivals, Real Ale and Music events in places like Dartmouth and Salcombe.

Pilgrim’s one-night breaks are fantastic if you are a newcomer to sailing, or not sure if you would enjoy a residential sailing voyage, then trying only one night after an exciting days sailing is a way to break you in gently. The bunks have linen and duvets and Pilgrim supplies waterproofs if you need them, so all you have to do is give it a go.

She also likes to reconnect with her deep sea fishing tradition by going further afield to French festivals, Isles of Scilly , or simply cruise the South Devon and Cornish coast looking magnificent.

Plenty of room on Pilgrim's wide decks
Plenty of room on Pilgrim’s wide decks

Virtually Re Built in New Timbers

She is a close to a new wooden Brixham trawler you can get without losing her original character or sense of history. Below decks the living accommodation is communal, but with comfort and stylish catering in mind. Pilgrim aims to give all ages an authentic sailing experience and is unashamedly aimed at an adult holiday market, rather than youth sail training. As Brixham is a popular holiday destination, she also regularly puts her crews catering skills and ample deck space to good use and hosts group parties and day sails.

Pilgrim and Grayhound sailing near Berry Head and the entrance to Brixham
Pilgrim and Grayhound sailing near Berry Head and the entrance to Brixham

A thoroughbred in Channel chop and Long Atlantic Swell

Brixham trawlers were built to fish in the deep, rough seas around our shores. Their decks afforded a lot of working space and they had to be stable enough for fishermen to work on deck in any weather and handle the heavy trawl net. They have incredible stability so you get a slight angle of heel and the high sides (bulwarks) make Pilgrim feel like the authentic sailing ship that she is. You can stroll down the vast wooden decks in conditions where you would be on your hands and knees on a lighter yacht. Pilgrim is 74ft on deck and with a 65 ft waterline so with a decent sailing breezes she is likely to cruise at 6-7 knots.

If you want to try your first Channel crossing, or venture out into the Atlantic Ocean swell between Lands End and the Scillies then Pilgrim is going to be a lot less bouncy than a typical yacht. She is no slouch either as she carries the same amount of sail as she would have used fishing….but without the drag of the trawl net. 

Her full time skipper Brendan has been a modern day trawler man so he can tell you all about how these mighty vessels would stream a beam trawl net and fish under sail alone.

Pilgrim at sea. Photo by Ian Kippax
Pilgrim at sea. Photo by Ian Kippax

What to Expect

What to Expect on Board Pilgrim

Sailing Style

You will notice straight away that we like to involve you in making decisions about passage plans and destinations – after all it is your holiday!  The old adage about the enjoying the journey not just the destination is applied to sailing aboard Pilgrim so our aim is not to rush our guests into reaching a destinationbut to enjoy the sailing the scenery and the overall experience of classic sailing. The regular skipper Brendan loves to sail as much as possible and if the wind is from the West you have plenty of flat seas in Torbay to set upto 7 sails….or less depending on the wind strength. Our two engines are normally only used for exit and entry into port.

Pilgrim represents a great example of a “working boat” with the deck having been authentically restored to the traditional gaff rigged, sailing trawler layout.  You will find various places to sit, from the oak “transom” at the stern of the boat behind the mizzen mast and on deck lockers around the main hatchway which have a grandstand view of the passing scenery or seascapes. 

Gaff rigged sails have two halliards to hoist them called peak and throat hallaird
Gaff rigged sails have two halyards to hoist them called peak and throat halyardrd

As with most working boats in the Classic Sailing fleet, Pilgrim has high bulwarks (wooden sides) around the deck so even in rough weather novices can stride confidently down the deck and feel reassuringly secure.  Pilgrim will heel over in strong winds, but this is often when she is most steady with wind in her sails and a very deep long keel to keep her tracking straight. You just have to learn to walk on the slant. People often think a sailing trawler must be slow, but these powerful craft were designed to have enough canvas to tow a heavy beam trawl, so without that drag they can be awesome.  Pilgrim has sailed upto 10 knots which creates a hell of a bow wave….and quite a challenge on the tiller.

In Victorian times sailing trawlers like Pilgrim, Leader or Provident would have been steered with a huge tiller. If you want that authenic experience of tiller steering a ship that is 94ft long from bowsprit to mizzen boom end then Pilgrim is the only one of the three that has not converted to wheel steering.

Relief skipper Dave Carson explaining how to keep Pilgrim sailing fast
Old and New skills. Relief skipper Dave Carson explaining the course on a chart plotter

Life on Board

Over refreshments the skipper will run through an essential safety briefing including the use of equipment such as lifejackets, liferafts etc to ensure that everything is clearly understood. The skipper will discuss with you the proposed itinerary for your sail. This will always depend on the prevailing weather and the port we are sailing from. Don’t forget your camera and sunblock (even on cloudy days).

Meanwhile the crew will be preparing to slip lines to set sail. Pilgrim is rigged to sail with up to 7 red sails. Previous sailing experience is not necessary. All guests are very welcome to join the crew, including novices who can learn new skills. Those with experience will especially enjoy and appreciate the scale of our rig and to see how these big old vessels perform under sail. You can take the helm and steer Pilgrim – don’t worry we won’t leave you unsupervised!

Pilgrim is very much a charter vessel with operations geared to offer enjoyable holidays rather than sail training. Of course the crew hop you will want to get involved in the physical sailing, but if you prefer you are more than welcome to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Pilgrim represents a great example of a “working boat” with our top deck having been authentically restored to the traditional gaff rigged, sailing trawler layout. On deck you will find various places to sit, from the oak “transom” (the stern of the boat behind the smaller (mizzen) mast) and on deck lockers around the main hatchway. Don’t worry, the crew will keep an eye on you to make sure you are safe and if necessary ask you to move to other areas to allow for hauling or trimming of sails etc. There are no covered areas on deck so wind and waterproof clothing is recommended. (We do have some nice warm “throws” if you feel a bit chilly).

Taste of the West – Food On Pilgrim

In addition to her residential voyages Pilgrim offers a range of food themed daysails from her home port of Brixham, making the most of the fresh fish coming in each day at the fish market.  She has also hosted many alongside events so she is well fitted out for catering and eating alfresco on deck and below decks with style.

Food is a very important part of her voyages and she carries a chef as part of the 4 person crew. One of her regular chefs is Linda who is also a director of the not for profit company that runs Pilgrim, so you have a chef that has been fully involved in the Pilgrim Project and restoration from the start.

Pilgrim attends several food and drink festivals like Dartmouth Seafood Festival, so if you fancy a sailing break with even more emphasis on local produce then check out Pilgrim’s foodie themed voyages.


Antique lights in Pilgrim's saloon
Antique lights in Pilgrim’s saloon

Below Decks Accommodation on Pilgrim

The fit-out design for below deck has bulkheads of warm and inviting cream glossed tongue and groove pine trimmed with seasoned English oak (much of which has been reworked and reused from the old original 1895 Pilgrim deck beams) and teak doors with brass detailin­­­­g. Many of the fixtures and fittings below deck have been sourced from other historic ships to give a real feel of a bye-gone era.

These include doors from the RMS Windsor Castle and brass lights from the Italian Liner Augustus to name but a few!

Berths & Facilities

Berths are comfortably upholstered and have individual reading lights. There are eight berths in the main salon area including two berths sectioned off with a privacy curtain – nicknamed the honeymoon suite, but could be used for any two people who might want more privacy than a typical communal ship interior offers – for example a mother and daughter. Ther is also a forward cabin with 4 bunks, which might be ideal for a family or group of friends. Generally the skipper will look at the mix of couples, individuals, male and female mix when you all arrive, but if you would like to reserve a bottom bunk or a specific cabin then please ring us. 

There is separate accommodation for up to four crew in the stern.  Complimentary bedding (duvets and pillow) is provided and towels are available. Seating is set around the large solid oak dining table with comfortable seat cushions of the same upholstery as the berths. There are scatter cushions available to add to your comfort and some warm throws for extra warmth.

As with many of Classic Sailing vessels the bunk areas are in a communal space. For those not used to sailing boats its feels a bit strange on the first night to be sharing your bedroom with people you have only just met. It is actually a perfectly natural thing to do to sleep in safety with the rest of your ‘tribe’. After the first night strangeness your wooden ship with huge timbers feels cosy, your fellow humans protective and the gentle rocking will often give you better nights sleep than at home…..If you are not convinced come and try it on a one or two night trip.

The design of and equipment installed in the Galley is first class and includes every facility you would expect on a modern vessel of quality allowing Pilgrim’s Chef to prepare beautiful food so you and your party can be assured to dine well. With two Heads both complete with showers, and plenty of hot water, we know your time aboard will be both exhilarating and comfortable!

Fore cabin, toilet and main saloon on Pilgrim
Fore cabin, toilet and main saloon on Pilgrim

Ship Specification

Pilgrim dried out in Brixham Inner Harbour for anti-fouling
Pilgrim dried out in Brixham Inner Harbour for anti-fouling

Pilgrim – Ships Specification 

Built in Brixham in 1895, Pilgrim has benefited from substantial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and local donors to be able to carry out a major rebuild in 2011-2012. The rebuild was undertaken by Ashley Butler shipwrights, with a lot of help from volunteers. Pilgrim won the ‘Restoration of the Year’ award in the 2014 Classic Boat Magazine Awards.

The mast is solid Douglas Fir. Pilgrim has English Oak frames with Oak and Larch planking, Canadian Pine deck and English Oak tiller.

Year Built/Restored18952011-12
sail area – 7 sails  
Length overall94ft 6″28.82m
Length on deck74ft 6″22.70m
Waterline length65ft 6″19.96m
Beam17ft 6″5.33m
Draft10ft 6″3.20m
Gross Tonnage 90 tonne
engines – two Doosan 5.8120BHP 
Pilgrim Accommodation - Layout below
Pilgrim Accommodation – Layout below

Berths: 16

Main saloon:  8 berths

Forward Cabin: 4 berths. (note: on trips sold individually by the berth, Pilgrim only carries 10 guests)

Crew accommodation: 4 berths

2 Heads with showers


Steam combination oven
Microwave combination oven
4 diesel hobs
2 induction hobs
Commercial dishwasher
Large capacity refrigeration/freezer facility’s

Saloon table seating for 16


Pilgrim is UK MCA certificated with a full complement of safety equipment.

All skippers are fully qualified with commercial endorsement.

Skippers and Crew

Pilgrim runs with a highly experienced professional Skipper, as well as a Mate, Cook and deckhands. Up to two of Pilgrim’s deck crew each season are taking part in her Skipper Training Scheme: a programme of personal and professional development for young people keen to develop a career in traditional sailing.

As well as her professional crew, Pilgrim is supported by a stalwart band of volunteers who put their skills to use to help with sailing, maintenance and events.

Voyages on Pilgrim


Morning Sail 2024 - PM070824


Wed 07-08-2024

Brixham, UK


Wed 07-08-2024

Brixham, UK




Morning Sail 2024 - PM210824


Wed 21-08-2024

Brixham, UK


Wed 21-08-2024

Brixham, UK

Pilgrim Sails to Brittany




Morning Sail 2024 - PM140824


Wed 14-08-2024

Brixham, UK


Wed 14-08-2024

Brixham, UK