There was a nostalgic glimpse of the past to be seen from Penarth Esplanade and from Penarth Head this morning as the famous vintage Bristol Channel pilot-cutter “Mascotte” sailed past – heading for Swansea.
“Mascotte” is now 112 years old but is still able to show most modern yachts a clean pair of heels and is reputed to have been the largest cutter that ever operated in the Bristol Channel .
Despite her immense traditional gaff-rig, she could be handled by just one man and a boy whose job it was to get her pilot alongside incoming ships before other pilots competing for the business. The big letter “N” on her sail indicates that her home port is Newport
Mascotte is tough and immensely strong . Instead of steamed and curved timber stringers in her bilges Mascotte has solid-iron railway lines – heated, bent and beaten to follow the graceful curves of her hull .
After passing through several owners she was bought by the Cardiff Brewer’s Brains to be berthed in the disused West Dock alongside a new pub called the Schooner – but her draught was too great for the dock and the idea was scrubbed.
Mascotte was then based for a while in Penarth Marina but later laid up in Swansea where Brains put her on the market After years of haggling she was eventually bought by the Winters family who embarked on a huge and very expensive renovation of the classic vessel.
One non-traditional innovation was the installation of a new twin-screw hydraulic propulsion system – with feathering props – which helped in freeing up space below and made her easier to handle under power.
She also now has a mahogany finished main saloon with space for seven people to eat together, a traditional coal-fired stove and now regularly takes part in cutter races in the Bristol Channel and numerous bookings for film and tv work.