Sailing yachts

Westcountry Trading Ketch Bessie Ellen

(REF: 24912)


  • Designer: Traditional
  • Builder: W.S. Kelly, Plymouth
  • Year: 1904
  • Location: United Kingdom
  • Length on deck: 84'
  • Beam: 20'4"
  • Draft: 7'10"

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Full specification

Westcountry Trading Ketch Bessie Ellen For Sale

Wooden Ships Comments on this traditional wooden tall ship For Sale

A tall ship for sale, Bessie Ellen, is a 118ft gaff ketch built in 1904 by W.S Kelly of Plymouth as a trading ketch, one of many similar vessels plying their trade around the coast of the UK and Ireland.

The current owner refitted her as a charter vessel, retaining as much of her original charm as possible. She has operated successfully around the UK, northern Europe and the Canary Islands for many years.  This is an active vessel with an excellent reputation and has an income potential with current activities upwards of £250,000 per year.

Bessie Ellen has a traditional feel but is equipped with modern electrical, mechanical and domestic systems making her a warm, safe and comfortable sailing yacht to be aboard even in cold northern climates.

She has a large saloon, historically her cargo hold, with 12 single berths for guests and lots of seating.  Forward is a crew cabin with separate heads; aft is the owner/skipper’s cabin.  The commercial-grade galley is fully equipped for charter sailing.

She is virtually unique due to her certification level, which would be very difficult to obtain if starting afresh with another vessel.  Her certification includes:

  • MCA Category 0 for 12 passengers plus 6 crew
  • Class VI passenger licence for 60 day passengers
  • Cargo licence for 50 tons of cargo.

Bessie Ellen is registered under 24m so can be captained with an RYA Yachtmaster commercial licence making her an easy boat to crew.

The vessel is fully equipped with all the necessary safety, navigation and general equipment for her certified level of commercial operation.

Constantly maintained by a professional group of experienced craftsmen, this vessel must be one of the best examples of a traditional wooden sailing ship afloat and is in first-class condition ready for commercial sailing.  Her MCA commercial licence is fully up to date with all necessary gear and equipment.

Charter vessel for sale

She has a very well booked charter season for 2024 and a schedule coming out soon for 2025.  The current owner will continue to market, operate and maintain the vessel until she sells.  If desired, a new owner could take on the vessel and business to include all the current bookings.  Details of her income potential are available upon request, however a quick study of her sailing itinerary will show income potential upward of £250,000 per year.

Read about our trip from Tenerife to Lisbon on Bessie Ellen.

Full specifications, previous MCA surveys and inventory lists available on request.

A unique opportunity to purchase a very special traditional sailing vessel with numerous potential commercial opportunities and is certified to the highest of standards.


Length Overall                   118′ / 36m

Length on Deck                 84′ / 25.6m

Registered Length            74’6″ / 22.7m

Beam                                    20’4″ / 6.2m

Draft                                      7’10” / 2.4m

Air Draft                               79′ / 24m

Sail Area                               330sqm

Traditional wooden charter vessel bessie ellen under sail

The Bessie Ellen – 1904 West Country Trading Ketch





Planked in a mix pitch pine, oak and elm on sawn oak frames, fastened with trennels originally, all new planking fastened with galvanised boat nails.

Internal ceiling for added strength and to carry the cargo loads from her trading days.

Internal iron ballast under the cabin sole.

Solid straight laid deck in pitch pine.  Caulked and payed with pitch.

High Bulwark on oak stanchions with a painted oak capping rail.


Gaff ketch rig on solid varnished wooden keel stepped masts.  New mainmast in spring 2022.

Varnished wooden booms, gaff yards and bowsprit.

Standing rigging in galvanised wire with dead eyes and lanyards.  All parceled and served in the traditional manner.

All running rigging in traditional appearance 3 strand synthetic.

Sails made from hard wearing Duradon synthetic canvas.  Mainsail new 2019.  All other sails in a good state of repair.

There are no winches aboard, just traditional block and tackles, meaning the guests are treated to a very traditional sailing experience.


Volvo Penta TAMD 121AK 6 cylinder diesel developing 235Kw.  Engine completely rebuilt in Denmark in 2017.

Hydraulic gearbox to a fixed 2 blade bronze propeller gives a comfortable 6 knots cruising speed.

4000 litres of diesel in 2 separate tanks.

Twin generators provide power for the whole vessel.  Beta Marine 16Kva and Kohler 6Kva.

Professionally installed electrical system to MCA standards.

6000 litres of fresh water in galvanised tanks under the focsle sole.

Webasto Pro90 diesel heating system feeding radiators around the vessel, plus under floor heating in the heads compartments.


Fantastic layout offers 12 individual private guest berths in the main saloon. Total number of berths is 20 with 6 crew berths in the forepeak and a double berth in the aft captains cabin.

Companionway below decks through the charthouse.

Galley to port and passage aft to the engine room. Galley well equipped to modern MCA commercial standards with large gas oven and stainless steel work surfaces. Forward into very large main saloon with 6 very private single berths either side.

Middle of saloon has long tables and benches, capable of seating 32 people for a formal dinner but space for 40 people for a buffet dinner arrangement.

Heads compartment at aft end of saloon, large wet room with an electric sea toilet and shower.  Waste water tanks for both black and grey water.

Water tight bulkhead at forward end of the saloon with doorway into the forepeak.

Bosuns store to starboard with washing machine and workshop space.

6 recently fitted single crew berths with privacy and storage space, all new in 2017.

Heads compartment with a manual Jabsco sea toilet and shower for crew.

Collision bulkhead in the bows between anchor locker and focsle.

Aft cabin accessed through the aft hatch by the wheel with a double berth and a seating area.

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Wooden Ships classic yachts brokers have an extensive database of boats for sale. With a wide range of sailboats, classic yachts, motor yachts and small classic boats, Wooden Ships has one of the largest selections of traditional wooden boats and yachts for sale in the UK.


These particulars have been prepared in good faith from information provided by the Vendors and are intended as a guide, Wooden Ships cannot guarantee or warrant the accuracy of this information nor warrant the condition of the vessel. The Purchaser should instruct his agent or surveyor to validate all details as necessary and satisfy himself with the condition of the vessel and its equipment.

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