Our pilot cutter Ezra is a faithful replica of the cutters that plied the western approaches of the English and Bristol Channels from their base in the Isles of Scilly in the mid-19th century. She was launched in the Spring of 2006 and has since spent most of her time in northern waters – primarily in Scotland and in the Arctic.
Pilot cutters such as Ezra were the vessels used to deploy highly sought-after pilots onto the merchant ships destined for London and other major ports of the United Kingdom. The need for pilots was great at any time of year and in any weather, but most particularly in high winds and heavy seas. To satisfy this need, pilot cutters over the centuries evolved to become extremely seaworthy vessels with a simple, reliable, yet highly flexible gaff rig.
They can easily be handled by a small crew – it is said that they were usually sailed by a man and a boy. For these reasons, they are among the most reliable vessels ever built to this day, and this is precisely why we have chosen Ezra to be the vessel to carry us on our expeditions.
Ezra measures 44 ft./13.4 m on deck, 57 ft./17.5 m over-all, has a 13.5 ft./4.1 m beam and draws 8 ft./2.5 m. This makes her very flexible and maneuverable for vessels of her type and allows us to explore and anchor in bays where other, larger vessels can’t venture. This is a significant advantage for what we do and for how we wish you to experience your surroundings: up-close and personal.
Down below, Ezra is comfortable and snug. Equipped like the pilot cutters of yesteryear, everything is functional and practical. There are two quarter-berths in the stern, a galley, a navigation station, the saloon with a pilot berth, the heads, a wet locker and – last but not least – four guest berths in the bow.
Ezra features state-of-the-art navigation and satellite communications equipment – a firm requirement when navigating poorly charted, icy waters. The electrical system consists of fully redundant circuits and high-capacity battery banks, so even the most ambitious photographers can feed their cameras and laptops to their hearts’ content.
The galley is fully-equipped and allows us to cook even extravagant meals. Since we would like to spend most of our time guiding you through our breath-taking surroundings rather than cooking meals and washing dishes, we expect everyone aboard to help out a little in the galley. Together, everything gets done more quickly. This way, we can maximise the time we spend outdoors.
The saloon is a cosy space that provides ample room for everyone and also holds the main storage lockers for food and supplies. The trusty Refleks diesel stove feeds a central heating system that spreads comfortable heat throughout the boat – a luxury previously only dreamed of.
The heads offer a basic but comfortable facility for your personal hygiene needs, including a seawater-flushed marine toilet and a hot shower.
The quarter berths are fairly noisy due to their proximity to Ezra’s engine and are generally crammed with equipment while we are in expedition-mode. Therefore, they are usually reserved for crew. But we have been known to vacate the port berth for a particularly insisting guest who likes to be the first to smell the coffee in the morning.
The pilot berth on the port-side of the saloon is where the pilot would have had his quarter in the old days. It is a snug and very warm berth because it’s near the stove, which makes it particularly suitable for the chilblains among us.
The full-length berths in the bow are snug and comfortable. Ample storage space for luggage and footware is available at the foot-end and below the berths, respectively.
Each berth is equipped with a reading light and there is warm bedding aboard for everyone, including additional fleece blankets for those who need the extra warmth. We try to make your stay aboard as comfortable as possible.
True to her heritage, Ezra is built very traditionally and features a block-and-tackle gaff cutter rig. Its hallmarks are simplicity and reliability and just about anything can easily be repaired in the field – exactly what you want when you’re in places without any shore-based infrastructure.
Ezra features a spaceous deck and sturdy bulwarks over her entire length. This creates a comfortable, safe space for everyone to enjoy, even while sailing. She truly is a little ship.
As is usual for pilot cutters, Ezra is tiller-steered. With her well-balanced rig, she is a joy to steer in any weather. She is also equipped with a ten-person liferaft that is stowed beneath the tiller.
Ezra has a full keel and a deep draft for her length. Combined with her tonnage of nearly 25 t, this makes her very comfortable and stable even in rough seas.
Ezra is coppered along the waterline to prevent damage to the hull planking when navigating through brash ice or thin sea ice. This doesn’t make her an icebreaker by any means, but it enables us to safely navigate a large section of the Arctic during the summer months.
Propeller and stern gear are protected by two parallel ice guards on either side of the hull and a heavy-gauge rope cutter on the propeller shaft – sensible precautions when navigating waters that are too cold to allow underwater repairs.
We carry two tenders with us, a 4.1 m Zodiac ERB inflatable with a 30 hp low-emission outboard engine, and a very versatile Grabner inflatable canoe. Both tenders are extremely sturdy and reliable craft.
The Zodiac inflatable allows us to move about freely even through difficult icy passages, and to cover great distances at speed, should the need arise. It is our vehicle of choice to get us ashore for land-based excursions.
The canoe is the perfect choice for deploying the kedge anchor, for small parties to go on fishing trips, to fetch water, or to visit old friends in a remote but familiar Inuit village.