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Brian Nobbs Cornish Gig Builder is exactly that – a builder of traditional Cornish pilot gigs.
What is a Pilot Gig?
The Cornish Gig is a six oared rowing boat, almost ten metres long, built of elm. Originally they were used as general purpose work boats and inshore lifeboats. The tradition of racing gigs comes from the race to get a pilot from shore to an incoming vessel which needed the pilot to navigate into harbour – the fastest gig rowers got the payment.
Brian builds and repairs traditional Cornish Pilot Gigs, at his workshop near the Devon/Cornwall border. Construction methods and materials have remained almost unchanged for over a hundred years.
After serving a traditional five-year apprenticeship as a shipwright on the Thames and in London docks, Brian, his wife Ginette and their young daughters moved to their Devon smallholding in the 1980’s.
Every gig that Brian builds has a story. Each build takes around four to six months and during that time, the gig becomes almost part of the family. The launch of a new gig is a major occasion. Often gigs launch at the World Championships on Scilly, where the local vicar blesses new vessels.
Brian enjoys the challenge of refurbs and repairs. His large, well-equipped workshop is rarely without a project through the winter. This can be anything from a tidy-up and repaint through to major repairs. Boats are occasionally damaged in the chaos of competition.