Life on Board Bessie Ellen

The first thing to know about life on board the Bessie Ellen is that guests absolutely don’t have to have sailing experience to climb aboard.

View Bessie Ellen's sailing schedule   Read more about Bessie Ellen

Sailing with traditional tall ship Bessie Ellen is certainly an experience you will never forget. From the moment you board, you can feel the 120 years of sailing history this magnificent classic has under her sails. Faithfully restored over many years by her owner and skipper Nikki, it’s clear to see how dedicated she is to the rich maritime history and authenticity of sailing such a tall ship.

Bessie Ellen is perfect for those looking for an immersive traditional sailing experience while enjoying Nikki’s famous hospitality, great food and team spirit. Whether you’re a solo traveler yearning for exploration or an adventurous couple seeking a unique journey, sailing aboard Bessie Ellen promises to create lifelong memories. It’s no wonder that guests return year after year, captivated by the ship’s allure.


The crew actively encourage guests to get involved with all aspects of sailing on a traditional vessel – it really is an all-hands-on-deck attitude. This all-hands-on-deck approach ensures an engaging and inclusive experience for everyone. Even if you have no prior sailing experience, the crew’s expertise and guidance will have you hoisting sails, taking the helm in open waters, mastering basic rope work, and even picking up some navigation skills. Bessie Ellen welcomes adventurers of all backgrounds, provided they have a love for adventure and the natural world!

The other important crew member is ships dog Bracken! A small border terrier who is well-versed in life on board, loves watching for dolphins, exploring ashore and sleeping while under sail.


Below decks, guests are indulged in a spacious saloon with original wooden beams, comfy open bunks and two toilet/wet-rooms where you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you were even on a boat! Each bunk has its own light, full bedding and a privacy curtain. A tiny galley sits tucked mid-ships and you will be in awe and wonder of the meals that come out of this space.

Nikki is not only a competent skipper but also an incredible cook using locally sourced produce everywhere possible. 


In addition to the incredible experiences mentioned above, Bessie Ellen offers the unique opportunity to embark on her round Britain sailing tour marking her 120th birthday. These voyages take you on an enchanting journey around the breathtaking coastlines and historic ports of Britain. From the rugged beauty of Cornwall to the mystical allure of Scotland’s lochs and islands, each voyage unveils the diverse wonders of Britain’s coastal heritage. Prepare to embark on an extraordinary voyage through Britain’s sailing legacy on board Bessie Ellen, where every moment is infused with the spirit of seafaring tradition and warm camaraderie.

See the full schedule here.

For further evidence of what you can expect of life on board Bessie Ellen, have a look at these write-ups by novice sailors Hazel Southam and Sarah Whitehead.

Skipper profile

Nikki Alford

Nikki, owner and skipper has proudly taken care of the magnificent Bessie Ellen since 2000.

Read Nikki Alford's Adventure Logs
Life onboard

Bessie Ellen

Life on board Bessie Ellen is as you make it. Relax and watch for wildlife, and get stuck in with either honing your skills or learning the ropes.

Read Bessie Ellen's Adventure Logs
The History of

Bessie Ellen

Bessie Ellen started life out in Plymouth, England, and is now one of the last remaining trading ketches in the West Country.

Read more