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The trawler Master Hand


Sailing trawler


The sailing trawler Master Hand was built in 1920 by G&T Smith Ltd., at Rye in Sussex out of the very best Sussex oak for James Breach and James Goffin. Her sister ship Helping Hand was built by the same shipyard in 1921. The Helping Hand fished the North Sea out of Lowestoft for 18 years, until the start of WWII when she was requisitioned and moored on the Norfolk Broads as an obstruction to stop German seaplanes landing. In 1946 the Master Hand moved to Ramsgate, she was overhauled and was fitted with an engine at Claxton & Co. shipyard.

At that time she was recorded in 1946 in great detail by Edgar March just before the conversion to full power, the process is described in March's 1953 book 'Sailing Trawlers - The Story of Deep-Sea Fishing with Long Line and Trawl'. The book includes dimensions and materials for all parts of the boat and detailed drawings of how they all fit together.

In 1947 a twin-screw motor was installed, a new wheelhouse fitted and new fittings on deck, with only the strong oak hull remaining the same. Master Hand was sold to new owners and the registry was transferred to Brixham in July sailing under port number BM43. In 1949 she was sold to a Plymouth owner, but continued trawling as BM43 up to 1968. Finally decommissioned in the mid-1970’s, Master Hand was suffering from extensive structural rot, she needed pumping out twice a day when at work as she was leaking in the engineroom and the fish room.

'She started to leak badly and had to be pumped out twice a day when alongside. We sailed one morning got just outside Penlee, pumped the engine room out and had to pump the fish room out so Alfie turned her around took her back in, went over to see Bill Mashford and two days later we took her up the yard and she never went to sea again.' Terry Bunker.

Around 1974 she was acquired by Mashfords Boatyard and laid up in their boatyard in the Hamoaze for about 18 months. The boat was stripped of all internal fittings, the superstructure removed and some decking taken away. A hull survey showed that she was too degraded to be worth restoring, especially the deckbeams, shelves and lodging knees so the plan to restore her was cancelled. Master Hand was eventually refloated in about 1976 and she was towed to Torpoint with the intention that she was to be restored by her new owner, John Blowers (Fig. 3). The stripped hull was initially afloat but she broke her moorings and became a hazard to local boats, so she was scuppered and left on Torpoint slipway with the tide washing in and out of her hull. The restoration never happened and the remains of the ship were broken up where she lay.


The trawler Master Hand was dismantled on the beach and nothing is now left of this vessel.

Location and Access

The Master Hand was beached at Timber Pond, Torpoint, but nothing now remains of the vessel.

Nearby hulks include the steam tug Cruden Bay SHIPS Link, trawler Reine des Flots SHIPS Link, WW1 concrete barge Cretabode SHIPS Link and the Hopper Barge SHIPS Link

Last updated 03 Jan 2021

Position OS: SX 43423 54613
Position GPS: 50.370852, -4.203464
Show the site on Google Maps SHIPS Link


Date Built:





G&T Smith Ltd., Rye

Official Number:



21.4m / 70.4ft


5.7m / 18.7ft

Depth in Hold

2.8m / 9.1ft


Timber, oak, carvel planking, galvanised iron bolts, pitch pine decks


Sail, ketch rig, Diesel


45.75 GRT


LT1203, BM43


Abandoned 1985?, broken up



'She started to leak badly & had to be pumped out twice a day when alongside. We sailed one morning got just out side Penlee, pumped the engine room out & had to pump the fish room out so Alfie turned her around took her back in went over to see Bill Mashford & two days later we took her up the yard & she never went to sea again. She sadly ended her days rotting on the beach at Torpoint sad end for a vessel with so much history.'

John Cotton:

So off I went to try to find her. I went across the Torpoint Ferry and turned left along Marine Drive. Looking over into the Ballast Pond I thought I had found her. But that turned out to be a hopper barge. The owner of the barge said that if I were to go round into Timber Pond I might find her there. In Timber Pond there is no mistaking her as she has her name on her stern and bows. I was talking to a gentleman who had a tug up on the slipway that the ‘Master Hand’ was grounded across, and he said that he dragged her off, out of the way. But every high tide she would float around and was a danger to everyone there, so he put a hole in the bottom of her and now when the tide comes in she is half submerged.


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