The Birth Of The Seaward Nelson Pilot Boat

The Seaward Nelson pilot boat range is one of the best known pilot boat series in the world. For example, over 300 of the Nelson 40 pilot boat have been produced and are in service day in, day out around the world. all day and every day. They have an exceptionally soft ride and are easy to handle in rough sea conditions and when boarding ship.

The story of Nelson pilot boats goes back to 1864 when Sir John Thornycroft built a steam launch on the River Thames. Two years later, in 1866, his father bought some land next to Chiswick Church and this was the beginning of the shipyard of John I. Thornycroft and Company. Ten years after that, Thornycroft built the first torpedo boat for the British Navy, HMS Lightning. The company remained in the Thornycroft family until 1965 when it became part of Vosper, Thornycroft Group.

In 1955, grandson Peter Thornycroft founded Keith, Nelson & Company Ltd, and in 1965 T.T. Boat Designs Ltd. He built the first real Nelson in 1959 for Baron de Rothschild who wanted to get to The Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes quickly from his home on the River Beaulieu. This was a 29’ boat and was quickly followed by the Nelson 32 and the Nelson 34. The Royal Navy bought many of the latter boats including two for the Royal Yacht Britannia as VIP launches. The 34 was followed by the 40’ Edelweiss in 1964 which was capable of 20 knots, and in 1967 a Dutch customer ordered a 40’ with twin engines capable of 25 knots.

The Thornycroft hull design has hollow buttocks which provide a very flat run giving lift for full planing speeds, and it also gives a soft ride at semi-planing speeds which makes it considerably more comfortable. Thornycroft designed slack bilges forward with a deep entry and bilges that turn tightly towards the stern for a comfortable ride in head seas.

The 40’ Nelson enabled pilots to be ferried from shore to ship in any sort of weather meaning that it was no longer necessary to have expensive cutters on cruising station.

If you are looking for a Seaward Nelson pilot boat for sale, Seaward produces the Nelson 35, Nelson 40, and Nelson 42, the latter being able to seat up to eight people. We also make the Nelson 29 which is available in pilot boat design or as a service/patrol boat.