Based at Harkers Yard, Essex, the Trust provide learning opportunities for young people to equip them with skills for life, both at sea and on land. Whether aboard Pioneer or ashore in Harkers Yard, we believe that every young person should have a fair start in life no matter their circumstance or background.
The Trust was initially founded in 1999, with an ambition to restore a 70ft Essex Smack Pioneer boat, which fell into decay after a life spent dredging oysters in the North Sea. Restored in 2005, the vessel forged a new life as a sail training boat, now an essential part of the Trust’s wider mission to facilitate learning opportunities within young people, through maritime experiences.
Since the restoration and launch of Pioneer, The Pioneer Sailing Trust has developed ‘Harker’s Yard’ on the Shipyard Estate, Brightlingsea, with the aim of benefitting and developing the local area’s marine industry through training.
Harker’s Yard is a purpose built training facility that provides work experience and apprenticeships for young people wishing to enter the marine industry. Along with a base for Pioneer during the winter months, it also provides a quay and fuel barge facility for working vessels. The yard specialises in training apprentices in the restoration of historic vessels and the manufacture of the East Coast Rowing Gig, as part of the expansion of coastal rowing.
Recent projects include major restoration on the nineteenth century yacht, Volante. It was designed and built in Wivenhoe in 1870 by John Harvey. The 1897 gentlesman’s yacht Rainbow was also recently restored as well as John Constable’s vessel.
Additionally, the East Coast Rowing Gigs are at various stages of production. These cold moulded rowing gigs are designed to be rowed by four oarsmen and a cox in coastal waters. The Trust hopes coastal community rowing using such gigs to allow people of all ages and backgrounds to get on the water.
The Trinity House Launch and Priscilla are part of a wider three year project and are funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The apprentices work alongside shipwrights to learn and develop woodwork skills. The hope is the traditional skills will be transferred and conserved for the future. Whilst most of the projects in the yard are centred on traditional wooden boats, apprentices are also given the opportunity to work using modern techniques, which equip them with relevant stills needed for modern marine industries.