Visit to MV Hatherleigh in Portsmouth
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Page updated: November 30, 2010

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MV Hatherleigh

Back in March 2008 we discovered that there was a ship called the 'Hatherleigh', when someone sent us a picture of her in Plymouth Harbour. After some digging we found that she is actually based in Portsmouth, in the shadow of that town's famous Spinnaker Tower. More research threw up her history as a North Sea trawler and an Oil Platform service vessel (see links below) ... and details of her current owners, the Pindar Group, who have kept her active as a corporate hospitality and training vessel. It seems boss Andrew Pindar is quite taken with her and is determined to ensure she has a future.

A visit to the ship on June 12th (64 years to the day that my father left these shores for Normandy, from almost the same spot) was eventually arranged and we duly turned up to meet Skipper Terry Bunker (left) moored alongside the prestigious Gunwharf Quay, a sprawling shopping mall at the waterside where even the underground car park claims to have won a 'best in Europe' award (really annoying when you saw the parking charges). Imagine our surprise when we found out that he is a Devonian and still lives in Plymouth!

Yapping for more than 2 hours was one of the most pleasant things we've done for ages - and it put into perspective many of the stresses which we have taken too seriously of late. Terry (distantly related to Drake he claims) was originally a trawlerman and fished our waters until the 'politicians' he so hates managed to screw things up. Asked to bring 'Hatherleigh' back from some foreign shore in 2005 in a trip planned to last 9 days, he finds himself still at the helm and revelling in the task, even if every week he has dozens of charts to update by hand!

They boat - er, ship - is used for about 60 days a year to train students (from 17 to 70) from local sail training organisations and for the rest of the time it's 'Corporate Hospitality'. Showing us round the ship we eventually came to the Saloon, complete with tables, kitchen and bar where he told us about some of the goings-on that go on at party time. We couldn't possible tell you any more - we'd have to shoot you after.

We presented Terry with a special photograph (see right) of the Tar Barrels as a symbol of friendship and said we hoped that the Town and the ship could perhaps develop closer ties. We also gave him a copy of the Hatherleigh book, which went down really well as Terry is always being asked 'why the name' by people who visit the ship. We explained a little about the barrels and suggested that perhaps he would like to visit us. He thought this was a great idea and said that Andrew Pindar would be very interested to hear of our meeting and would probably like to visit as well. We hope to arrange this for later in the year - maybe for Carnival.

The ship is in grand condition and can accommodate up to 150 people when in dock. At sea the number goes down, with 12 passengers being the limit for longer trips. Terry says she is 'unique' because she's the only one of the type left afloat - as far as they know. She was also the first ship to be boarded by the Russians after the Cold War ended, during an exercise which saw her playing mouse to the cat of a combined naval exercise in the channel. Her job was to test the navies taking part by pretending to be breaking a blockade with a shipment of weapons. To do this she ran to Portland in heavy fog and anchored overnight under a cliff, then ventured out back to the Isle of Wight, still under cover of fog. As the sun cleared the fog she was easily spotted and that's when the Russians boarded. Terry said the crew even had to muster on deck with tied hands while the ship was searched, to make it seem more realistic. Later, he was invited aboard the Admiral Chechkov to tour the bridge and stare out across her enormous guns - a scenario that, he said, would have been impossible 20 years earlier.

MV Hatherleigh is well known in yachting circles and recently went to the rescue of one of the transatlantic race boats when she lost a mast during bad weather. To do that she had to sail 1500 miles off Lands End. In her fishing day she often sailed for 18 days non-stop so that kind of range is not an issue. She is in fact allowed as far north as the White Sea above Norway (in summer only) and as far south as the Spanish coast. She can take on board 30 tons of diesel - which puts my 60 litres a time into better perspective - and can use up to 2400 litres per day when sailing non-stop at full speed. Terry complains, like we all do, about the cost of fuel (ships buy it tax free so it's not as bad as it seems) but says that already he's seeing trips canceled because of it.

Thanks for your time Terry. It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet you. Your bacon bun was great. We promise that if you don't call us a village we won't call you a boat!

Read the news story from March: Opening shot | Follow-up 1 | Follow-up 2 (Please note that some of the Pindar links may not work properly now - see below).

Another vessel is moored behind.


The Spinnaker Tower looms behind the 'Hatherleigh'. It was originally called the Millennium Tower but was not finished until 2003! On opening day its external lift carrying VIPs got stuck half way up because the tower was built crooked - and it has not operated since! But it, and Gunwharf Quays where its located, are both well worth a visit even if the parking charges are ridiculous to us Devonians.

Addendum May 7th 2009: we just found out that MV Hatherleigh has been moved to Scarborough. The PIndar web site makes no mention of her, so clearly there's been some dramatic changes, peerhaps due to the economy? We tracked Terry down via Facebook and it seems he's 'working from home' at the moment. Good luck for the future Terry; keep in touch.

May 12th 2009: Terry wrote: "Hi Jeff, very sorry I have not been in touch with you before now. The picture you very kindly gave to the ship is still hanging in the saloon. I could not take that one with me as I felt it became part of the ship once I hung it there. From that picture a lot of pepole now know about the TOWN of Hatherleigh. After Andrew Pindar sold the (H) to Dalby Offshore I was taken on as skipper by them but very sadly they have laid her up and laid me off. Her future now i am worried about as she is a lovely ship to be aboard and I am very sad to have left her. Thanks for your very kind comments. I would love to stay in touch. My wife and i have been to Hatherleigh a few times for a meal. It's a lovely Town. I still have the copy of the tar barrel picture you gave me. It now is part of my history of the Hatherleigh. Hope you are well & things are good for you. Terry."

January 2010: We just found some discussions about MV Hatherleigh here, with details of her current status and some techie stuff.

November 2010 - Terry wrote: "Hi Geoff, I hope you & the good TOWN of Hatherleigh are all well & looking forward to the festive season. I am very sorry not to have kept you up to speed with the lovely Hatherleigh. Well as you know she was sold by Pindar to a company called dalby offshore services in September 2008 they kept me on as Captain until March 2009, I took her up to Scarborough to be laid up (heart breaking) then out of the blue I was asked to take her down to Cowes I. O. W. for cowes week, got there, got her ready for sailing but the charter was canceled 12 before sailing I was very worried then about her Future. I was then asked to go up to Scarborough to check her moorings ready for the winter (she was being looked after) Well that was that I done some relief Skippering back at the deep sea fishing but found it very very hard to throw fish back into the sea dead in the name of that damned E.U. So now I am Captain of a small Norwegian supply vessel working in the north sea taking supplies to the wind farm vessels. The Hatherleigh was sold again on the 1st of January this year to a very nice Person from Scarborough who owns a small engineering company but is a very keen diver from the Scarborough dive club. So I have been asked to show them around her so they could run the engines up etc but the good news is that I have took her away twice this year for them on 2 x 5 day dive trips one at Easter the other one back in September, the picture of the Hatherleigh tar barrel festival is still proudly hanging in the saloon. The (H) is still, thankfully in tip top condition and if I can I will still be taking her away if I am asked too. Please give the town of Hatherleigh my best regards and very merry Christmas to you all Terry." (Picture courtesy of Terry Bunker. There are more images on his Facebook page).



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