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VentureSail celebrating 120 years of heritage sailing

  • Bessie Ellen

Split into 14 legs, Bessie Ellen’s Round Britain tour will see her circumnavigate England, Wales and Scotland taking in the Hebrides, far-flung Orkney’s and the East Coast of England before crossing the Chanel to take part in the esteemed Brest Maritime Festival, which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. 

2024 will mark 120 years of heritage sailing for the majestic Westcountry ketch, Bessie Ellen and to commemorate this incredible milestone she is embarking on a ‘Round Britain Tour’ by VentureSail. This historic tour will be split into legs with guests invited to join her in this extraordinary celebration.

Bessie Ellen will be calling in at fourteen ports around the UK, where there will be the opportunity to climb aboard, tour the ship and meet her skipper, Nikki Alford. A passionate sea farer, Nikki has owned and sailed Bessie Ellen for 24 years, lovingly restoring and caring for her.

Listed on the National Historic Ships register, Bessie’s remarkable heritage has seen her quite literally witness the changing tides of history. Built in Plymouth in 1904 she started life as a cargo ship, crossing treacherous waters to transport goods between Ireland, Wales and the West Counties. As trade dwindled during the second World War, Bessie found herself heading to the Baltic after being purchased by a Danish captain, Moller, in 1947. This second chapter of her life saw her re-named whilst undergoing a radical transformation with the creation of a large steel hatch, reduction in rigging and a large Hundested single cylinder engine installed. Sadly, by the 1970’s, running her became unprofitable and she lay to rest until being restored back to life nearly 100 years after her initial creation.

Today, Bessie Ellen sails guests around remote locations, the stories of times gone by etched into her timbers with whispers of the past telling tales of daring adventures, incredible discoveries and the relentless spirit of exploration and preservation. Vessels such as Bessie Ellen are a vital part of our maritime heritage, serving as tangible links to our past. Through sailing, we are able to connect with the traditions, skills and stories of those who sailed before us, when mariners were at the forefront of trade and exploration. Maintaining these majestic vessels ensures future generations can benefit from the magic of sailing on these iconic ships. It also supports the ongoing development of traditional shipbuilding to ensure that invaluable skills are not lost to time. And, with the recent resurgence of sail cargo – the idea of sustainably transporting goods – it has never been more important to retain, promote and develop such skills in order to contribute to a thriving eco-system of maritime trade.

Bessie Ellen skipper, owner and guardian Nikki Alford explains “It is absolutely vital we support the heritage of these classic vessels. Running and looking after them is costly and without such ventures, they would simply be left to ruin. We are excited for the Round Britain tour, celebrating this beautiful ship and enabling numerous communities around the United Kingdom to access Bessie Ellen and see first-hand why she is so special. Bessie Ellen hails from the days of Britannia ruling the waves, when goods were transported over the oceans and navigation was by stars and charts. In keeping Bessie Ellen alive, we are maintaining our connection to this significant part of our sailing history, ensuring its survival for generations to come”.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.