Guiding Star is a Looe lugger built in 1907 by James Angear for Thomas Soady to fish for mackerel, pilchards and herring off the coast of Cornwall.
A mile or more of nets would be let down over the starboard bow, and with just the mizzen sail up, the boat would hold its nose into the wind and drift gently astern. Hauling in the nets full of fish was backbreaking, dangerous work, and life on board was cramped and uncomfortable. Most of the hull was taken up by the fish and net holds, and five or six men would have bunked in a small cabin in the bows.
Guiding Star was one of the last Looe boats to be designed as a pure sailing boat, so she has a finer hull and sails faster than boats built only three or four years later after petrol engines came in. Her hull speed, the maximum speed she can theoretically move through the water, is just under 8-1/4 knots, and she’ll touch 8 knots in a good breeze.
Guiding Star was sold during the Depression of the 1930s and converted into a yacht in 1937 at Uphams yard in Brixham.
Armand Toms, mayor of Looe in 2017, is the great grandson of Thomas Soady and can remember his father, born in 1919, talking about sailing on Guiding Star as a teenager in the last years before she was sold, when his grandfather owned and skippered her.
Guiding Star passed through several hands in the 1940s and 50s but from 1960-1989 she was owned by Brigadier John Glennie, who sailed her all around Europe. I believe the spray hood over her companionway hatch dates from then. Barry Jobson, who bought the boat from Brigadier Glennie, says he told him that he took it from an old motor torpedo boat. It looks odd on a Cornish fishing boat but it gives the helm at least some protection from wind and the rain, which you need because there’s no cockpit or autopilot.
Guiding Star was in a sorry state when Barry and his wife Jacquie Gillespie found her. They tried to sail her from Plymouth to Bristol to start work on her but had to turn back a few miles out because she was taking on more water than they could bail. Barry and Jacquie spent three years rebuilding the boat and then sailed her to the Caribbean and back. Classic Boat featured her in March 1997.
Barry thought she could do with more speed, though, and changed her Bermudan mizzen back to a standing lug sail. It’s certainly a powerful sail, worth a knot of speed in winds up to Force 5, when the weather helm becomes too much to resist.
The boat’s current owners are Paul and Sue Eedle, who bought her in 2016.
James Angear, who designed and built Guiding Star, was born in 1849, the middle of nine children including two elder brothers who were carpenters and one who was also a boatbuilder. James would have been in his late 50s when he was building Guiding Star, so most likely at the peak of his skills.
His great grandson, Brian Isbell, kindly sent information on the family history and this photo of James in comfortable middle age with his wife, LizAnn Little, and their dog. Both the Angears and the Littles were large Looe families.
This lovely boat might be Guiding Star, but isn’t. Frank Raine sent this photo and the boat is another lugger built by James Angear, Welcome, which his family owned in Brixham from 1940 to 1952. She looks extremely similar to Guiding Star in hull shape.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to find any information on what happened to her. If anyone knows anything about Welcome or about any other boats built by James Angear, please get in touch.
For more information on Guiding Star’s history and importance, please see the draft Statement of Significance assembled for National Historic Ships UK. Guiding Star’s existing entry in the National Register of Historic Vessels is here.