The Call of the Sea 01872 580022

Excelsior - Lowestoft Sailing Trawler

Excelsior Original Lowestoft Sailing Trawler

Excelsior LT472 is the real thing. An original deep sea trawler which was powerful enough to tow a trawl under sail in the rich fishing grounds of the North Sea and further afield.  Excelsior is the most authentically restored deep sea fishing smack amongst the charter fleet, with a massive tiller and a stove called Deidre keeping us warm below decks.

Excelsior Sailing Schedule - Voyage descriptions, dates and prices

Our Expert View: What Excelsior Does Best

Team Effort - Sail Training at its Best

Whether you are a young person looking for adventure, or you are an adult seeking an inspiring environment to make the world seem right again, Excelsior voyages contain all the best elements of ‘sail training.’  The fundamentals of teamwork, living together, sharing hopes and fears and passing on practical skills generally works its magic for all.  Excelsior is run by a charitable Trust and her main mission is youth sail training. What this means for any adult oriented voyage is you have talented skippers and crew who are kind and encouraging….and very good at explaining traditional rigging to novices or encouraging experienced sailors to take on watch leader type tasks.

A Working Girl – Celebrating UK Fishing Heritage

Excelsior is a Lowestoft smack, one of over a once 300 strong fleet she is now the last of her kind still able to work a 50ft beam trawl. Restored to near original condition after years of research she is a working museum piece giving people the opportunity to experience what such a ship is like out at sea as well as maintaining the traditional knowledge and skills that go into keeping such a vessel in working condition. 

Excelsior is sailed as authentically as possible, so it is an active experience and the huge red sails are set with blocks and tackles, and her tiller has not been converted to wheel steering. In the 1990’s her skipper set her up to actually fish under sail and she featured in a Channel 4 TV series ‘The Real History Show.’ Today you don’t have to wear 1921 fisherman’s oilskins but it is easy to relate to what it must have been like when you are on watch at night. 

True to Her Roots – East Coast and Scandinavia

Excelsior is in the Core Collection of the UK Historic Ships Fleet, and still sails her home waters. She was built in Lowestoft in 1921 on the East Coast of England and her original fishing number was LT472.

Built to withstand the harsh North Sea’s winters Excelsior was launched in1921 by Chambers & Co. of Lowestoft, she was one of the last sailing trawlers to be built. Although a new vessel she was essentially built to a design that had not been altered since 1880 and she exemplifies the zenith of evolution of sailing trawlers.

After a hard working life as a deep sea fishing trawler between the wars, she was sold to Bjørn Stensland in Norway and converted to a motor driven coaster in 1935.  She survived the Second World War whilst in Scandinavia. In 1971 John Wylson bought her and the following year sailed her back to Lowestoft, where he went into partnership with Mark Trevitt to restore her back to sail. The pair spent the next few years replacing Excelsior’s framing and in 1983 formed the Excelsior Trust to complete the restoration using work experience students, many of whom found full-time employment after their training.  

Classic Sailing are thrilled we have an iconic historic fishing trawler offering voyages from the East Coast of England and one that stays so close to her roots and traditional sailing grounds.  This powerful wooden vessel with her huge timbers and excellent stability was built for deep sea weather in the North Sea and the rich fishing grounds near the Arctic Circle or Norway. In the same way she makes an excellent 'seaboat' for young people experiencing their offshore sailing experience, Excelsior makes a great passage making ship for adult adventure holidays.

Outside the school holidays Excelsior heads for her 'second home' in Scandinavia. Sometimes she sails up the European coast to Denmark and southern Norway, visiting the Low Countries on the way.  She also makes use of the Kiel Canal to reach the Baltic quickly. This takes Excelsior into a myriad of islands around Copenhagen. Across the narrow straits is the West coast of Sweden. Classic Sailing used to offer voyages here on Bessie Ellen when she was based in Svendborg. The Swedish coast is a bit of a gem and surprisingly hot in summer and where the Swedish head for their beach holidays and sailing.  Excelsior also sails out of the Baltic and up the picturesque Southern Norwegian coast as far as Stavanger.  Her Skipper Gavin has plans to take her even further. Watch this space.

Ship Specification - Excelsior's Vital Statistics

Length overall    
length on deck 77 ft 23.5 m
Beam 19 ft 6 " 6 m
Draught 10 ft 3 m
Rig/ type gaff ketch  'smack'
Year built / Restored 1921 1983-88
Port of Registry/ builder Lowestoft John Chambers


Excelsior What to Bring

Please pack in a soft rucksack or bag.

  1. Sleeping bag and pillow case
  2. Rubber Boots /Wellington Boots (essential)
  3. Walking boots and/or leisure shoes.
  4. Swim suit & beach towel Suntan lotion & sunglasses
  5. Sun hat / warm hat, scarves, gloves
  6. Clothes that dry quickly. 
  7. Mix of warm, waterproof & windproof layers
  8. Fleece/jumper Thermal layer (just in case)
  9. Small rucksack for going ashore
  10. Travel insurance documents/tickets
  11. Personal medicines/ spectacles/toiletries
  12. Camera/binoculars and chargers etc
  13. Log books/ sailing gloves (if you want them)
  14. Sea sickness tablets

What is included

  1. Waterproof jacket and trousers
  2. All meals on board 

What is not included

  1. Personal towels
  2. Travel to and from joining port
  3. Travel insurance is required on all voyages

What to expect

Style of Sailing

Excelsior is a dandy rig, more commonly known as gaff rigged ketch. She can fly 3400 square feet of sail, set on 1.5 miles of rigging which has been made for the ship especially by Chatham rope walk. Her Elliott and Garood capstan was once driven by steam but now uses hydarulics.  The ship is still steered by an 8ft tiller.

Excelsior is first and foremost a youth sail training vessel. The development of young people is their goal, and they do it very well.  With some new faces in the management team and a fully involved skipper who has been with the ship for several years and they are looking to broaden the range of people able to sail Excelsior.   They already offer adult team building and have started offering great destinations and authentic sailing experiences to adults outside school prime booking periods. The fundamentals of teamwork, living together, sharing hopes and fears and passing on practical skills generally works its magic for all.

What this means for any adult oriented voyage is you have talented skippers and crew who are kind and encouraging….and very good at explaining traditional rigging to novices or encouraging experienced sailors to take on watch leader type tasks. Her safety drills and training on board is very thorough, but you are signing up for a shared experience…and this means everything. Learning how to set sails from day one, getting mooring ropes and fenders ready to go alongside, helping with meal preparations, taking turns at cooking the meals for the group, or hoisting the anchor with a Hydraulic capstan

On a vessel this size it is easy to ask questions when the skipper discusses weather and route options for the day. Once the ship is set up and on its way typically the watch system starts, the on watch take turns on the helm and are taught how to steer by compass, wind, sea and a point of reference.

Any sail handling is also done by the on watch. The importance of looking out is explained and what to look out for. The off watch may be preparing food at this point or cleaning or chilling out or sleeping, though if they would like to help out on the deck watch duties they are almost always welcome. Watches are normally 3 hours long then rotate and we normally have 3 watches with a crew member as watch leader. If you already have some sailing experience then there may be chances to take more of a watch leader role and personal challenges like climbing aloft are possible on this trawler. 

Life on Board - Accommodation

Below deck the original fish hold has been converted to accommodate 6 bunks around a large saloon with a further 6 towards the bow of the ship. Communal living can offer privacy if everyone is considerate and gives people space when they need it. The bunks have curtains and reading lights. You do need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow case.  When ashsore there will be 240v electricity supply available.

The Skipper has his own cabin and the crew cabin is in the aft of the ship sleeping 4 of our own crew.

Excelsior has a minimum of two heads (toilets) running and the galley (kitchen) has a rather large diesel stove called Deirdre who is the heart of the ship.

There is a separate chartroom with up to date navigation equipment including AIS, radar, VHF and MF radio and a big chart table for teaching.

Excelsior has a modern engine in a separate engine room. Her hull has several watertight bulkheads which can give her an MCA commercial coding category 0 worldwide operation when needed. In 2018 she will be equipped for Category 1 (150 miles from a safe haven).

Skippers & Crew

Skipper – Gavin Taylor

Gavin comes from a naval family, and has been working in Sail Training for the past decade. He was the skipper of the classic racing yawl Duet, who he took through the famous Fastnet race, until he came to skipper Excelsior in 2014. Gavin is a Yachtmaster Instructor and can help those working towards RYA qualifications. He has a certificate in Coastal Leadership and is passionate about environmental sustainability and connecting people to their natural surroundings.

Mate – Karol Petryka

Karol graduated from an unpronounceable maritime university in Poland, and has worked on all kinds of ships all around the world – from container ships to superyachts. He was previously the boatswain on the Polish brig-rigged Fryderyk Chopin, a Sail Training tall ship. He has extensive mechanical and rigging knowledge and is always happy to teach what he knows. Karol also used to be in a well-known choir, and can sing many traditional sea shanties. He has been with Excelsior since 2015.  

Excelsior are also recruiting a new mate in 2018. More details as soon as we know who.

Regular Volunteer – Bob Lampert

Bob first came to Excelsior decades ago as a teacher leading a school trip, and he has been volunteering for her winter maintenance schedule and as a deckhand ever since. He has many woodworking skills, and sailing experience from taking both Excelsior and his own little boat all around the UK and Europe. He has a very, very dry sense of humour.

Regular Volunteer -Will Paterson

Will has been volunteering in UK Sail Training since he was twelve, and has sailed on almost all of the Sail Training ships. He comes back to Excelsior every year, and knows her and her rig very well. He is passionate about everything about historic ships, and can teach everything about rigging and splicing and caulking and pitching that you’d want to know.

Regular Volunteer -Anton Middleton

Anton is a shipwright by trade, and has been on and off Excelsior for many years. He has past experience with other historic ships, notably as a hand on board the replica of the Endeavour as she redid her original journey under Captain Cook. He built Excelsior’s current mizzenmast, and is restoring his own little historic boat to take her around the Norfolk broads.









Pick your Sailing Holiday

E.g., 26/04/2018

Search the web site.

Search form

Customer Comments

 "Extraordinary and hard trip, great experience, discovery of a new world (Ireland and Scotland). Aspects I enjoyed m...

Follow us

RSS Feeds

Latest Offers & New Voyages

First name

Last name