The Liverpool pilots are some of the most skilled mariners in the UK. Every day, they clamber aboard tankers, liners and ships to navigate them safely into various locks and berths on the River Mersey.
In 2016, the Mersey Pilotage Company celebrated its 250th anniversary. As well as hosting various celebratory dinners, and its members being given freedom of the city, the pilots decided to mark the event by ordering a set of bespoke watches from Christopher Ward: a C65 Trident.
Something particularly apt, given the fact that both Chris Ward and co-founder Mike France are proud Liverpudlians (one red, one blue, if you’re interested).
Here, Liverpool Pilot Treasurer Daniel Wardle takes us through the experience.
Hi Dan, tell us a little more about the Liverpool pilots’ role…
When entering the Mersey, every ship over 82 metres in length has to be piloted into river along the main channels and into one of the docks. We get on board 15 miles out at the Bar Lightship, then take ‘conduct’ of the vessel from the captain. We’re all ex-captains ourselves, so it’s a role we’re well equipped to do.
How does it work?
We approach the ship and climb a rope ladder to get onboard. Once onboard and on the bridge we take the “conduct of the Vessel” which means that we take care of all aspects of the vessels navigation. We’ve also got tugs to help us, too– it’s a big operation.
Is the Mersey treacherous?
Liverpool has the second-biggest tide in the UK,and because of that, the sandbanks are constantly shifting. The amount of ship under the water is called ‘the draft’, so you have to work out your timings so it can get the river and channels have constant changes in depth. Sometimes the under-keel clearance – the gap between the seabed and the ship – is only a metre. With some smaller ships it’s just 60cm! We have to be careful.
So, why did you decide to get watches made?
One of the other pilots came up with the idea. With 2016 being the 250th anniversary of the Liverpool Pilotage Service, we thought it’d be a great way to mark the occasion. I knew about Christopher Ward, and it went from there.
What was the process like?
I rang Richard Dalziel, who’s in charge of bespoke watches at CW, and we worked together on choosing the watch, a C65 Trident. We sent the Pilotage logo for the dial to him, then he helped us get the backplate stamped with an image of an old Liverpool cutter. It looks amazing.
So it was easy?
It worked brilliantly. Richard’s really easy to get on with and understood exactly what we wanted. He came back with a fantastic product that everyone’s made up with!
How do you feel about the watch now?
I love it. Most of the pilots wear theirs all the time: when we’re at work, we need a watch we can rely on, and it’s far easier to glance at your watch as you’re coming into the river than getting your phone out. I love the trident on the seconds hand: it cements the watch’s relationship with the sea.
If you’d like to find out more about getting a bespoke Christopher Ward watch, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him direct on +44 (0)7771 838720. You can read more about the bespoke process here.