UP FROM THE LOFT FLOOR: Building a Falmouth Pilot Cutter from Scratch


Dec. 16/2021:  This truly is a magnificent book. The ultimate in traditional wooden boatbuilding porn, it follows in great detail, photographically and textually, the new construction of Pellew, the largest Falmouth pilot cutter to be launched in Britain in more than 150 years. The mastermind behind the project was British builder Luke Powell, whose goal was not only to provide a medium through which young traditional shipwrights might gain skills, but also to create a new working vessel that will hopefully earn her keep.

The mastermind behind the book is Christian Topf, a talented designer and photographer who has been kicking around the nautical publishing world for some time. When he found out Luke Powell was building a 68-foot pilot cutter from scratch just a short drive from his home in Cornwall, he couldn’t keep himself or his camera away and started dropping in on the work site on a regular basis. The result is a truly sumptuous visual tour of the entire process of building a traditional wooden boat.

Luke Powell at work on Pellew


Pellew’s design is based on that of the pilot cutter Vincent, originally built in 1852, which was in service for 70 years and ended her days as a houseboat. Pellew is named after the famous 18th-century Royal Navy frigate captain Edward Pellew, originally from Cornwall


Pellew’s profile as drawn by Powell. She has not been conceived as a recreation of Vincent, but more like a sistership


Lofting, the intricate art of scaling lines from a drawing up to full size on a loft floor


Lumber, the key ingredient. Wood for the build was selected so that natural shapes matched constructed shapes as closely as possible


Every step of the process is documented


Skylight construction


Getting splashed! You’ll notice the propeller. Pellew carries a number of modern systems and these and their installation are also described in the book


The finished interior is quite bright! And beautiful


On deck under sail


Flying along!


I really can’t do justice to a tome like this, short of scanning and publishing all the hundreds of photos (not to mention the copy) contained within it. (Which wouldn’t really be fair now, would it?) Anyone who is knowledgeable about traditional boatbuilding, and most especially those with a casual interest who would like to learn more, will find it all very fascinating and gratifying.

I’d say the book would make a great Christmas present, but I’m not sure you can lay hands on a copy that quickly. It’s available at the publisher’s site, Lodestar Books, and at Amazon, but it seems those books are all coming from Britain and will take a little while to arrive. It’s also available at Wooden Boat’s online bookstore; they just might have copies on hand.


From the Loft Floor to the Sea: The Art & Craft of Traditional Wooden Boat Construction

Text and photos by Christian Topf

Lodestar Books (2021)

360 pp.


Once you’ve read and studied the book, you can even go sailing on Pellew if you like. Follow this link here for a description and booking details of her next season’s adventure-sailing charter schedule. This includes 3- to 10-day jaunts in Cornwall, Scotland, the Isles of Scilly, and the Channel Islands.

To learn more about Luke Powell and the non-profit organization that built Pellew check this viddy here:

And for some sexy footage of Pellew under sail check this one here:

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