A Wivenhoe "landmark" the Cap Pilar

The Cap Pilar

John Collins (Nottage)

The Cap Pilar being towed to the West Quay before the intended repairs
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Adrian Seligman's barquentine Cap Pilar laid up at Wivenhoe
Nottage Maritime Institute
The burnt out remains of the Cap Pilar in Wivenhoe Dry Dock before it was filled in. This photo was taken by John Donnelly, a former crew member.
Nottage Maritime Institute 02780a

Adrian Seligman’s yacht the Cap Pilar had been laid up at Wivenhoe during the war.  In 1939 she was at Brightlingsea for Aldous to carry out repairs and alterations, but this work was cancelled because of the outbreak of war and she was moved to make way for the new Naval base.

Built by G. Gautier at St. Malo in 1911 the Cap Pilar was a wood built barquentine of 279grt. She had been made famous as the subject of the book of the owner’s round the world cruise “The Voyage of the Cap Pilar”.

Acquired by the Palestine Maritime League in 1946, the Cap Pilar was to have been restored as a youth sail training ship in Wivenhoe dry dock, but money for the project was apparently not forthcoming and the decaying vessel was instead partly scrapped, the unsaleable material being burnt and the ashes left there.  It has been suggested that the vessel was in reality intended as a training ship for the embryo Israeli Navy and for this reason completion of the conversion was blocked by the Foreign Office until she was in any case too decayed for there to be any chance of her ever being made seaworthy.

However, before her final demise, she was an interesting sight on the Wivenhoe scene.  Rotten and dilapidated, with signs saying “DANGER KEEP OFF,” blocks and other bit falling down from time to time as the decayed rigging gave way, she nevertheless seemed like a ghost from the past to be gazed at with some sense of wonder.

See also Cap Pilar.

This page was added on 22/03/2015.

Comments about this page

  • My late father’s cousin, Alan Burgess was also on this voyage with Adrian Seligman, and from it, wrote the book “No Risks, No Romance”, which I’m currently reading with great interest, being an ex-matelot myself. As a boy, I remembering my dad telling me about his cousin Alan, signing up for the voyage, although it seems he left the ship at New Zealand, taking a differnt path. Although her end was less than dignified, it’s wonderful being able to see the photographs here, of this once fine sailing ship.

    By John Prior (15/12/2021)
  • Greetings. My name is Mark Batterbury, son of George Batterbury, navigator on the Cap Pilar. My late aunt Jane and my cousin Jessica you will have heard of. I welcome hearing from you. My father was a wonderful man, a great role model, and i miss him. with best wishes, mark

    By Mark Batterbury (15/07/2020)
  • I am the nephew of John Donnelly, who was the Boatswain and crew member of the Cap Pilar. Indeed also he not only took numerous photos on the voyage but also composed the poem “O.K. Boys! Lets Go!” for the voyage which is included in Adrian Seligman’s excellent book entitled “The Voyage of The Cap Pilar”, of which I have an edition. Very sadly I have the memory of seeing the wreck of the vessel when I stayed with John Donnelly and his family in Wivenhoe in 1955 shortly after my Father Brian Donnelly had died who was John Donnelly’s younger brother.

    By David Brian Donnelly (02/07/2020)
  • Dear David
    Thank you for this contribution to our website.
    Peter Hill, Chairman, Wivenhoe History Group

    By Peter Hill (06/07/2020)
  • I am the daughter of Don Alexander (deceased) of Auckland New Zealand who joined the Cap Pilar in 1938 on its round the world voyage.
    He actually appeared in a British wartime film “Western Approaches” complete with Kiwi accent which appears on T.V. from time to time.
    War broke out while he was in England so he joined the Merchant Navy and survived.

    By Pauline Alexander (27/11/2019)
  • Such a sad end to a lovely old vessel. I have read the book several times and every time I read it I find something different. I was born too late; I went to sea in 1966, trawling out of Lowestoft for 3 years and then went coasting for another 4 years and loved every day I was at sea.

    By mandy vicky rigley (28/05/2018)

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