HMS Pickle is a taste of maritime history
An intriguing slice of Bermuda’s maritime history has been making waves in England by attending nautical heritage ceremonies and anniversary celebrations.
British engineer Malcolm Nicholson’s recreation of the Bermuda schooner HMS Pickle, which brought the news of Admiral Lord Nelson’s victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar, has been sailing around the British Isles keeping the tale and the ship’s origins alive.
Although the original Pickle sank off the Spanish port of Cadiz three years after the 1805 battle, the new Pickle that arrived in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard last September to mark the Pickle Day celebrations is an exact copy of the Bermuda schooner immortalised by its role at Trafalgar.
The new Pickle is the culmination of a painstaking two-year restoration project that Mr Nicholson embarked on after salvaging a wrecked vessel modelled on the Bermuda ship from the waters off Gibraltar.
Mr Nicholson hopes to bring his recreation of HMS Pickle back to Bermuda.
Mr Nicholson told The Royal Gazette: “I would love to bring her to Bermuda. There was some talk of getting her across for the America’s Cup but that never materialised. We weren’t ready either.
“I’m sure there would be a lot of Royal Navy sailors queuing up to make that three to four-week trip, too.”
The origins of the HMS Pickle that found fame at the Battle of Trafalgar lie in Bermuda, where she was built from cedar by the skilled craftsmen of Dockyard.
The vessel, originally called the Sting, was built as a privateer in 1799. But she was bought by the Royal Navy in the West Indies in 1800 for £2,500 and ended up replacing the older, slower HMS Pickle.
The Bermuda Pickle was brought back to England to be refitted as a Royal Navy vessel and, armed with four guns, she was the smallest and fastest ship at Trafalgar.
Mr Nicholson’s recreation of HMS Pickle is an exact copy of the plans drawn up by the Royal Navy when the vessel arrival in England in 1802.
He said: “The present Pickle was built from those drawings that were taken in 1802 of that Bermuda schooner, which became the Pickle.
“We know everything about her from those designs and everything has been done correctly according to those drawings, although she now has an engine and electronic navigation equipment with the four foot-high deck removed for additional cabins.”
The designs of the Bermuda Pickle paved the way for the Navy’s Adonis class schooners.
A total of five replicas were built in the Baltic in 1995 to commemorate the tricentennial of Russian Emperor Peter the Great’s navy.
One of these ships became HM Schooner Pickle and took part in the Sea Britain celebrations in 2005 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The boat was later based in Gibraltar where she fell into disrepair before being bought by Mr Nicholson on eBay in 2014.
Mr Nicholson said: “It’s been a lot of work. Most of the refit was done in Portugal but we were able to bring her back to England in 2015.
“Since then we have taken her to various ports up and down the length of the eastern coastline for formal events.
“Most notably we were able to bring her into Portsmouth for Pickle night in September last year.
“We have other trips planned for the coming year including the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook celebrations in Whitby.
“We are trying to keep this great ship and its story alive for generations to come.”
• UPDATE: this story has been amended to clarify that the Battle of Trafalgar was in 1805 and not 1895 as first published owing to an editing error
Roland Skinner (1940-2018)
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