Tributes paid to skipper of Lowestoft’s last sailing trawler

Skipper Bill Ewen at the tiller pictured in 2006.

Skipper Bill Ewen at the tiller pictured in 2006. - Credit: Archant © 2006

Tributes have been paid to the former skipper of Lowestoft's last sailing trawler.

Skipper Bill Ewen in 2006.

Skipper Bill Ewen in 2006. - Credit: Archant © 2006

Bill Ewen worked aboard the smack Excelsior, a 1920s vessel which in recent decades has been used for sailing training, particularly for young people.

Mr Ewen served on the boat for several years, before returning to his native Scotland in 2011.

Excelsior Trust vice-president and Lowestoft resident John Wylson described him as 'one of life's great characters'.

'He came to Lowestoft to do the boatbuilding course at the International Boatbuilding Training College.

Bill Ewen on the Excelsior in 2008.

Bill Ewen on the Excelsior in 2008. - Credit: Archant © 2008

'His wife, Hazel, nursed locally and his daughters, Kirsty and Kaitlin, went to local schools too,' he said.

'Bill started work for the Trust 20 years ago as mate aboard Excelsior under skipper Stuart White.

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'He became skipper upon Stuart's retirement and became well-known among local young people who often went to sea for the first time under his firm command.'

Mr Ewen retired from full-time sail training in 2010 and later became relief Harbourmaster in the three county ports of his home base of Aberdeenshire.

The Excelsior at Lowestoft.Photo: Andy Darnell

The Excelsior at Lowestoft.Photo: Andy Darnell - Credit: Archant © 2011

Mr Wylson added: 'Bill kept in touch with Lowestoft by doing relief skipper work aboard Excelsior and was due to do the same this year.

'He devoted much of his life to Excelsior and the young people whose lives were broadened by sailing in her.

'Our thoughts at this sad time are with his family.'

Paul Thomas, former Excelsior marketing trustee and journalist who helped promote the vessel, said: 'Bill was a great character – and even more importantly a first-class skipper.'

The Excelsoir

Excelsior LT472 was built by John Chambers of Lowestoft in 1921

She was purchased by a local consortium to replace their 1885 smack that had been condemned after a collision with a steamer in foggy weather

In 1935, Excelsior was sold to Bjørn Stensland, of Norway, and converted to a motor coaster.

She survived the war, despite a near miss from a British air attack

In 1971 John Wylson bought her and the following year sailed her back to Lowestoft, where he went into partnership with Mark

Trevitt to restore her back to sail

The pair spent the next few years replacing Excelsior's framing and in 1983 formed the Excelsior Trust to complete the restoration using work experience students

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