Tenby Luggers once sailed the waters of Pembrokeshire from the early 19th Century until as late as the 1950's. These iconic little boats were once common in Tenby harbour.
They fished , took tourists around the bay in Summer and were the Caldey Island ferries. They were superseded by the bigger Brixham trawlers , who too became obsolete.
The Tenby luggers still took tourists round the bay and across to Caldey , surviving until 1950's in this role . Thus it is very fitting that this vessel, unique to south Pembrokeshire and nowhere else in the UK, has been built to show another aspect of this Counties wonderful maritime heritage.
MITEC and the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society have combined to build and launch the new Lugger which we have named Heritage. She made her maiden voyage to Tenby on Saturday, August 25th.
Heritage will sail Pembrokeshire waters again and people may even have a chance to sail aboard her.
THE TENBY LUGGER HERITAGE
By David James
Tenby Luggers evolved in the early 19th Century in Tenby , to work along the
dreadful iron bound, but stunningly beautiful coast of South Pembrokeshire. They
were open boats that fished for oysters and white fish in season in Carmarthen bay .
The owner skippers recognised early on that the new fangled railway was bringing
increasing numbers of tourists to the town . They were only too pleased to pay for a
trip round the bay , or an hour's fishing for mackerel. There was also the regular ferry
service across several miles of open sea to Caldey Island.
The demise of the little open luggers came in the form of the bigger Brixham
trawlers which could stay at sea for several days at a time and go further in search of
The splendid Brixham trawlers too were rendered obsolete by the even bigger steam
trawlers that could go as far as Iceland. But they did not like Tenby harbour and so
they moved to the then new town of Milford Haven with its sheltered harbour and
deeper water .
What of the Tenby Luggers? They simply carried on in the tourist trade and outlived
the Brixham trawlers.
Some years ago the Milford Haven Port Authority and the Pembrokeshire College
formed a consortium called MITEC. This was called Rising Tide Project and, using
grant aid from the EU , were tasked with teaching people how to build wooden boats
but it should ideally have an international connection. The first boat was a gig for the
sailing ship Dunbrody in New Ross, Ireland. This was very successfully built and
David James of the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society was familiar with the
project and enquired what the next boat would be . Sensing a vacuum , he suggested
they consider building a Tenby Lugger, and provided photographs and sketches of
the vessel to whet their appetite. The idea was accepted and work began and the basic
hull was built.
At that stage it was just a shell with no thwarts ,deck beams etc inside.
For various reasons work slowed down then stopped on the project. With the end of
the Rising Tide project time table expiring a dilemma arose .The terms of the project
were that the boat could not be sold , hired ,given to a commercial operator or any
other form of business.
David James pointed out that the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society is a charity
with maritime interests and does not fit into the prohibitive clauses and suggested we
become her owners .
Our proposals for the use of vessel ,should we be donated her , were accepted and
so she was collected by members and brought to Hancocks Boatyard in Pembroke
Dock, the WWMHS headquarters, for completion .