Unemployed and adrift after returning to London from the Middle East, I bought my old fishing boat, Guiding Star, to run away to sea. The reality of sailing and maintaining a hundred-year-old wooden boat has been less romantic but deeply rewarding. I entered a whole world of wooden boats in southwest England and northern France where I made friends, had fun and exorcised some ghosts.
I’ve built a website at https://guidingstar1907.com with photos, videos and stories about the boat which feature many of the best moments on board.
Guiding Star was built in Looe, Cornwall in 1907 as fishing lugger FY363 for for Thomas Soady and his three sons by shipwright James Angear. For thirty years, she fished for mackerel, pilchards and herring off the coast of Cornwall.
A mile or more of nets would be let down over the starboard bow, and with just the mizzen sail up, the boat would hold its nose into the wind and drift gently astern. Hauling in the nets full of fish was backbreaking, dangerous work, and life on board was cramped and uncomfortable. Most of the hull was taken up by the fish and net holds, and five or six men would have bunked in a small cabin either in the bows or the stern.
During the 1930s, Thomas Soady’s son Jim had Guiding Star converted into a yacht at Uphams yard in Brixham. In 1937, when the Depression made life hard for many fishing families, he sold her to a surgeon in Paignton.
Guiding Star passed through several hands in the 1940s and 50s but from 1960-1989 she was owned by Brigadier John Glennie, who sailed her all around Europe. I believe the spray hood over her companionway hatch dates from then. Barry Jobson, who bought the boat from Brigadier Glennie, says he told him that he took it from an old motor torpedo boat. It looks odd on a Cornish fishing boat but it gives the helm at least some protection from wind and the rain, which you need because there’s no cockpit or autopilot.
Guiding Star was in a sorry state when Barry and his wife Jackie Gillespie found her. They tried to sail her from Plymouth to Bristol to start work on her but had to turn back a few miles out because she was taking on more water than they could bail. Barry and Jackie spent three years rebuilding the boat and then sailed her to the Caribbean and back. Classic Boat featured her in March 1997.
Barry and Jackie sailed Guiding Star with their children and friends until they passed her to me in 2016. You don’t own a boat like this; you just steward it for a while.