Since the restoration and launch of Pioneer, The Pioneer Sailing Trust has developed ‘Harker’s Yard’ on the Shipyard Estate, Brightlingsea, with the aim of benefitting and developing the local area’s marine industry through training.

Harker’s Yard is a purpose built training facility that provides work experience and apprenticeships for young people wishing to enter the marine industry. Along with a base for Pioneer during the winter months, it also provides a quay and fuel barge facility for working vessels. The yard specialises in training apprentices in the restoration of historic vessels and the manufacture of the East Coast Rowing Gig, as part of the expansion of coastal rowing.

Recent projects include major restoration on the nineteenth century yacht, Volante. It was designed and built in Wivenhoe in 1870 by John Harvey. The 1897 gentlesman’s yacht Rainbow was also recently restored as well as John Constable’s vessel.
Additionally, the East Coast Rowing Gigs are at various stages of production. These cold moulded rowing gigs are designed to be rowed by four oarsmen and a cox in coastal waters. The Trust hopes coastal community rowing using such gigs to allow people of all ages and backgrounds to get on the water.
The Trinity House Launch and Priscilla are part of a wider three year project and are funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The apprentices work alongside shipwrights to learn and develop woodwork skills. The hope is the traditional skills will be transferred and conserved for the future. Whilst most of the projects in the yard are centred on traditional wooden boats, apprentices are also given the opportunity to work using modern techniques, which equip them with relevant stills needed for modern marine industries.

The apprentices work towards the Apprenticeship in Marine Engineering, comprising of a NVQ level 3 qualification in Marine Engineering and City and Guilds 2451 course in yacht building and repairs. The apprenticeship programme lasts approximately 24 months and provides apprentices with the valuable knowledge they need to carry out safe practice at work, understand the marine industry and ultimately make them more employable.

The apprentices are also encouraged to sail aboard Pioneer in the summer. Sailing is a valuable experience for them and the hope is to ignite their passion for boats and the water. Through the combined experience of boat work, theory and sailing, Pioneer gives the apprentices an enriched and unique experience, which they can take with them into their next steps in life.

  • Stacks Image 1255

  • Stacks Image 1256

  • Stacks Image 1257

  • Stacks Image 1262

    Caption Text

  • Stacks Image 1265


Apprentices go to Terschelling!

Pioneer and its crew, along with five new apprentices, embarked on another voyage to Terschelling, where the boat was originally used to dredge for oysters in the 1800s.  They were certainly put through their paces as they took it in turns to helm, navigate, trim sails and cook.  The crew were split into four watches and rotated shifts every four hours.  Taking only 30 hours, the journey there ran very smoothly.
  The next day, after a good rest, they hired bikes and set off to explore Terschelling.  The first place they visited was the wreck house museum.  This museum is an Aladdin's cave of treasures, old and new, from WW2 artifacts to trainers washed up from container ships.
The next stop was something a little more exciting for the apprentices, going blow carting!  They had to cycle to the beach, which lends itself perfectly to this sport as the beach is so flat and wide.  It was a great sport to try, so everyone took part.  As it was windy, they managed to get up to some impressive speeds...and impressive tumbles!  When the bikes were packed away and everyone was back on the boat, the day seemed over all too quickly.  Once on baord, Jim, the skipper, told the crew that there was some bad weather approching and they needed to leave in the morning.  If not, they might be stuck there for another week!  Some of the apprentices thought this did not sound like a bad idea!
Setting out for another journey accross the North Sea, Pioneer left Terschelling about 9am the next morning.  All the sails went up as the conditions were calm.  They were making good progress.  As they approached the shipping channels, the conditions started to get more challenging.  Pioneer seemed to thrive in these conditions and sailed like she knew her way home.  Steadily, the sea state worsened but Pioneer was in her element, powering through the waves. The sails needed to be reefed, making it a little easier to handle;,at some points the bow sprit was going under every other wave and there were a few big ones over the bow.  For the well trained crew, handling the boat was no problem.

The rocky waves made it all the more exciting for the crew as the boat felt sturdy and strong in the powerful waves.  It reminded them what Pioneer was built for...they loved it. The watch systems were altered from a four watch system to a three, meaning more people could be up on deck to help.  As Pioneer approached England, a bit more technical skill was required as they had to tack frequently.  Everyone had to be alert for this, especially in the dark.  The crew all pulled together as a team, making the boat run smoothly and safely.

Pioneer was soon approaching home.  The shorter chop of the waves meant the momentum of the boat was changing, more waves were coming over the bow.  The decision was made to get shelter in Pinn Mill, where they knew they could anchor safely.  As the boat slowed down and the engine was turned on, the excitement died down as everyone realised how tired they were.  The anchorage was a welcome sight and Pioneer settled down for the night... waiting for the next adventure.