Launched June 11th 1888 at 8:15 am at The River Head Grimsby
And so began the life of Esther a Grimsby Sail Trawler. Formally known as G.I.C. (Grimsby Ice Company) she sailed from the town under the port registration number of GY 157. There is nothing remarkable as such about Esther that sets her apart from the thousands of sail trawlers that frequented the port other than the fact that she has survived when others have long since broken up or rotted away in the depths of the North Sea. Esther is one of the few remaining sail trawlers in the world and I believe she is the last surviving sail trawler built in Grimsby. There are a few smacks left that were registered to Grimsby before being sold abroad like Johanna who can be found in the Faroes but I do not know if she or the others where actually built in here in Grimsby.
The building of wooden fishing boats in those days was almost a cottage industry where shipwrights could haul up on any suitable embankment and foreshore to construct a boat. So long as there was the labour with the skills and the materials to hand and a decent amount of water to launch into then a boat could be built almost anywhere. In Grimsby there was a lot of competition for space with the commercial yards and fishing industry so much so that ship building never became a main stream activity for the port.
Many boats attributed to being Grimsby boats were not in fact built in Grimsby at all but lay claim to being Grimsby boats built for Grimsby owners even though they were built else where, or the history of their builders is not known and forgotten, or they were called Grimsby boats for no other reason than they were "from Grimsby" long ago. When I come across another genuine Grimsby Sail Trawler I shall make mention of her here but in the mean time as far as I can tell Esther is the last Grimsby Sail Trawler. If you know of any other please drop me a line.
Esther is without doubt a Grimsby boat born and bred, built here in sight of the town, and ear shot of the bells of St James Church. The building of Esther in the middle of Grimsby might have been seen as an infrequent event. If you add to that the remarkable fact that she is actually a survivor from the thousands of sail trawlers that were built over a hundred years ago, then what you end up with is one very special boat indeed to the people of Grimsby.
Was Esther the Worlds oldest working Boat?
Her story began in Grimsby in 1888. From there she moved to Great Yarmouth in 1896 and then on to Iceland around 1901. From Iceland she went to the Faeroe Islands in 1922 before finally returning to Grimsby in 1992. From when she was built in 1888 until she was officially retired from fishing in 1992 she had always worked to support herself representing a working career of 104 years. Now as far as I have been able to tell this is probably the longest working life time of any boat ever. A big claim I know, and I am sure there is someone out there who might know otherwise, but if this is so then Esther is a very special fishing boat and this needs to be recognized both locally and internationally. If you have heard of another boat that has been in service longer than Esther was please contact this site to let us know.
For the fisher folk of Grindavik on the South West coast of Iceland Esther will always hold a special place in their thoughts for it was there that she saved the lives of 38 of fishermen in 1916 during a dramatic rescue at sea.
During her war years in the Faroes Esther had a narrow escape from Hitlers Luftwaffe during one of her perilous trips across the North Sea bringing fish to feed a beleaguered British nation.
To find out more about these stories and the interesting history that surrounds Esther please click through the links to the left and browse the video and picture gallery. News paper articles, cuttings, and other written documents can be found on the resource page.
If you would like to show your support for the project to restore Esther, or have any suggestions or wish to get involved please do by posting a comment or by sending an email to me. My contact details are on the contact page. Please feel free to add a link to this page from your own web site if you have one or send a link to anyone you think might be interested in reading her story or getting involved in championing the cause of the unique fishing trawler called Esther.
Click here to start the Esther story with the people who built her.