The Arctic Corsair was built by Cook,Welton & Gemmell in 1960 and at that time was a modern, conventional side trawler with the registration number H320 She was a state of the art fishing vessel with the latest technology, safer working conditions and more comfortable living facilities for the crew.
Dimensions: Length 191 feet = 58.22 metres, Breadth: 34 feet = 10.36 metres Draft: 16 feet = 4.88 metres Weight: 765 gross tons 256 net tons Gross Tonnage: is found by calculating the actual capacity of the ship’s hull below the upper deck in cubic feet and dividing the total capacity by 100. Net Tonnage: is the capacity of the cargo carrying spaces in cubic feet and divided by 100 and then deducted from the gross tonnage. The Corsair is fitted with Mirlees Monarch six cylinder diesel engine developing 2000 horse power, assisted by two (2) turbines giving a top running speed of 16 knots. The engine was designed for towing power and reliability.
Depending on how the catch was stowed the Corsair’s fish hold capacity would be in the region of 3,200 kits which is equal to 200 tons = 203.2 tonnes 1 kit = 10 stones = 63.5 kilograms. 16 kits = 1 ton = 1016 kilograms. 1600 kits = 100 ton – 101.6 tonnes. When estimating a catch at sea the yardstick used is in baskets i.e. 3 baskets = 2 kit = 20 stone. 60 baskets = 400 stone = 2.5 tons. Corsair’s fish hold would be fitted out with 7,000 metal/aluminium boards and would be loaded with 120 ton of crushed ice. Being a modern trawler she had cooling pipes fitted to the fish hold deckhead which helped preserve the crushed ice once loaded and reduce the rate of deterioration of the catch once stowed onboard.
When the Corsair came into service she quickly became very successful and for a number of years was among the top money earners from the Port, in 1973 she broke the world record for the landing of Cod and Haddock from the White Sea.
During the third Cod Wars the Arctic Corsair under the command of Skipper Charlie Pitts was involved in a confrontation with the Iceland Coastguard gunboat ‘Odinn’ which resulted in the trawler ramming the Icelandic vessel causing considerable damage to both vessels. This incident was the culmination of months of frustration for British vessels who had been harassed and exposed to hostile dangerous warp cutting practices from the gunboats. Both the Corsair and the ‘Odinn’ were out of commission for a period of time while repairs were carried out.
When the Cod Wars were lost and traditional fishing grounds off Iceland, Norway became restricted the Industry went rapidly into decline, the Corsair like most other Hull trawlers was laid up without work but after a long period of inactivity she was put back into service in 1985 commanded by Skipper Bernard Wharam who on five consecutive three week trips broke world records earnings for a side trawler. In 1993 after being laid up for almost five years the Corsair was purchased by Kingston upon Hull City Council to be converted into a maritime attraction. Fishing Heritage group STAND, led by the then Chairman Adam Fowler, played a major part in the acquisition and refurbishment of the vessel. The job of refurbishing the vessel was undertaken by volunteers and this form of workforce is still in evidence today. The original idea was mooted by Albert Meggison and was continued over the years by stalwarts like Arthur Cowan, Jim Williams, Ted Coulman, Barry Atkinson, Eric Powley, Rob Ellis, Gordon Sutton, and so many more too numerous to recall. Todays long serving workforce include Trevor Evans, Peter Greenwood, .Many of the volunteers not only worked on the maintenance of the vessel but also during the open to the public season, April to Nov gave their time and effort as tour guides giving the visitors an insight into what life was like at sea on a deep sea distant water side trawler. The knowledge of these men was invaluable in providing the visiting public with an enjoyable virtual experience.
As part of a major maritime development by Kingston upon Hull City Council, the Arctic Corsair, Hull’s premier maritime attraction and last remaining sidewinder trawler, has been taken out of service to undergo essential maintenance and update important features of interest within the vessel.
On Sunday 4th August 2019 the Corsair was towed from her home of twenty years on the River Hull to a temporary berth in Alexandra Dock (You will find photos of the move under ‘Arctic Corsair’ on the arrow). Whilst work is being carried out on her future permanent dry berth in the refurbished North End ship yard, the Arctic Corsair will undergo limited remedial work before more extensive work prior to her move into her new home. This work could take between eighteen months and two years.
The “Old Lady” has, over the last two decades attracted thousands of visitors nationally and from continents as far away as Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Visitors have marvelled at the experience of a tour of the Corsair and the excellent knowledge imparted by the volunteer guides. She is now also listed on the Historic Ships register, which is an indication of her importance within the heritage of Hull’s Fishing Fleet.
The shore based visitor centre/museum which, over the years has proved a very popular introduction to touring the trawler, has also had to close to allow the area to be used to store artefacts removed from Corsair for the period of the refurbishment and relocation.
The Corsair could not be accessed by the disabled so this centre was invaluable in allowing those not able to board the vessel the opportunity to experience the heritage of the Fishing Industry and the associate Fishing Community.
The Arctic Corsair has been managed by volunteers, many of whom are members of STAND, in partnership with the owners, Kingston upon Hull City Council. The volunteers provided both all year round voluntary maintenance workforce to the Corsair and a seasonal (April to Nov) tour guide service of experienced personnel who ensured that the public have an interesting and safe visit to the vessel.
Since 1999 the Corsair has been an important educational tool visited by local schools, groups, and the general public which, due to the Hull Yorkshire Maritime City Project is now on hold until the new North End shipyard and visitor centre is complete. The provision of this invaluable lesson in social history highlights an industry that was once Hull’s largest employer and highlights the role the local community played in such a successful trade.
Once relocated, the Arctic Corsair will resume her role as Hull’s premier maritime attraction with a new Visitor Centre. It is hoped that the vessel will be open to the public again in early 2022.