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At the beginning of last year we had this piece written about us for an Australian Classic Sailing magazine who were kind enough to let us include it in our own features section.
"On Thursday 23rd April 2009 Nick Beck and Melisa Collett, IT specialists working in banking jobs in the City of London left their respective workplaces and departed the capital to start a new life in the South coast county of Dorset in the UK. Less than 24 hours later, having driven 300 miles to Gweek in Cornwall, they watched the manifestation of their dream, a 44 foot gaff cutter called Amelie Rose, take to the water for the very first time.
We were fascinated to discover what inspires a couple to undertake a project like this and to hear a little about the burgeoning Pilot Cutter scene in the UK, so we spoke to Nick and Melisa at their base in Poole Harbour to find out more..."
"The seeds of this story began back in 2004 when the couple met at a mutual friends house. “We were the two sailors at the party” laughs Nick “so it was Nick, this is Melisa, she likes sailing. Melisa this is Nick, he likes sailing, there you go that's you two sorted for the evening”. As it turned out they've been “sorted” for longer than that and sailing has been a big part of their lives together ever since.
Nick already owned a nine metre GRP bermudan sloop, which they sailed together around the English Channel, often talking about leaving their working lives behind and setting off in a bigger boat to cruise the world. “It became known as the dream of the 45 footer” Nick says, “we got all the sell up and sail books like Annie Hill and the Pardys and carried on dreaming like I guess most sailors do.”
The London bombings of 2005 acted as a spur to action though. “It made us ask why we were just waiting for stuff to happen” says Nick. “You need to make decisions and then act on them, otherwise 30 years later you're left wondering where your life went, or worse you don't wake up tomorrow, and you've never achieved any of your dreams. We're not special people in any way, we just made a choice one day and then got on with dealing with the consequences.”
By this point they'd already concluded that a gaff or junk rig might be a good option “as they put less load on the boat, and are easier to maintain” and at that time in the UK there was a lot of buzz about Pilot Cutters. With 4 shipyards building replicas and many originals still afloat these boats had a strong following of serious sailors, drawn to their reputation as sturdy seaboats with a good turn of speed. And so it was whilst browsing the Internet one day Nick discovered Luke Powell's Working Sail website. Luke was at the forefront of the replica Pilot Cutter scene – he had already launched 5 boats from 38 – 46 feet and was busy on a sixth boat “Tallulah” when they contacted him for the first time.
Having chatted with Luke via email the couple decided to sail down to Falmouth to meet up with him and have a look at his boat Agnes. “We had a very stong reaction to her” says Melisa, “these boats are beautiful to look at and from the minute you step aboard it's like they are giving you a big wooden hug”. Later on they were lucky enough to go sailing on Agnes and Nick remembers “realising that we were done for. At sea they are solidity in motion, they're just awesome”