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INTERVIEW


By the Dart INTERVIEW


PETER GREGSON


Peter Gregson (right) and his son Richard.


of knowledge about traditional wooden boats since he plunged headlong into the deep end and bought a 97-foot Spanish schooner. He swapped his career as the European director of a travel firm to become skip- per of the Pascual Flores, a 150-ton, three- masted Spanish fruit schooner which he brought to Dartmouth with a scratch crew assembled on the dockside at Ibiza. It was quite a drastic move, especially as


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Peter didn’t have much sailing knowledge at the time. ‘I had done a bit of sailing in small boats


but not very much,’ he said. ‘I wanted a change of career. I was then running a holiday company in Europe and, after five years of that, I wanted something different. ‘This seemed like an exciting thing to do and it was a challenge, a bit of an adventure’.


Classic boats have been his life since those early days and what he doesn’t know about wooden boats probably isn’t worth knowing. I met up with Peter in his South Ford Road office and the nerve centre of his brokerage Wooden Ships which he runs with his son Richard. The office is in a comfortable state of


disarray with books scattered around the room and it is from here that Peter and Richard run their busy brokerage and website, www.woodenships.co.uk. Peter has an intimate knowledge of


seemingly every yacht afloat. He is a classic yacht guru who has often sold the same boat many times. His record for one boat is five times. He has a knack of matching clients to boats.


LASSIC yacht broker Peter Gregson has amassed a mind-boggling wealth


He sold his first boat in 1978 and is still selling some of the boats that were on his books when he launched his brokerage. ‘They were then advertised as new boats because they were only 10 or so years old but now they are classics,’ he said. Peter spent his youth in Cumbria when he was not studying for a degree in language and philosophy at University St Andrews in Scotland. He sailed into Dartmouth on the Pas- cual Flores in the early 1970s and spent the next few years rigging and fitting her out. The boat starred in a number of films including Treasure Island and The Onedin Line series for the BBC. Peter sold her back to Spain where


“He is a classic yacht guru who has often sold the same boat many times. His record for one boat is five times.”


she was rebuilt as a National Historic Monument of Spain in her home port of Torrevieja. He then bought one of the last existing


Le Havre pilot cutters Marie Fernand, which at 50-foot was much smaller than the Pascual Flores. ‘We could have put four of her on the decks of the other boat,’ Peter said. ‘She was a dinghy for us after that’. Peter refitted Marie Fernand from Salcombe, where he lived at the time, before selling her back to France. The ship is now also a National Historic Monument of France, based in Le Havre. After this, Peter set up a traditional boat brokerage with his wife Pam in Kings-


CLAssIC YACHT BROKeR


bridge which took off within months. ‘We have never looked back,’ Peter said. Peter moved back to Dartmouth 15


years ago when he and Pam went their separate ways and today he owns three classic yachts including a 28-foot Miller Fifer motor-sailor called Punch and an early 25-foot Vertue. Aged 66, Peter is now handing the


brokerage’s reins over to his eldest son Richard, also a seasoned sailor and, despite the country’s economic downturn, the business is busier than ever and for the time being needs two hands at the helm. The pair say their new-look website


built by local girl Alex Watson of Dart Digital has ‘totally transformed’ the broker- age and this, along with some rationalisa- tion in the value of boats, has led to a boom in business. Selling boats is more a way of life than


a job for Peter and he seems happy to continue at his desk which is great for buyers who wish to tap into his encyclo- paedic knowledge of classic boats. Richard, 29, is a worthy successor and has his own fair share of yachting experience. He spent a gap year between school and university crewing the 138- foot wooden three-masted topsail schoo- ner Activ to the Caribbean and crewed her back across the Atlantic a year later. He has taught sailing with Dartmouth Sailing School and skippered various survey vessels around the coast on wind farm and hydrographic work. He sailed as First Mate on the Activ’s recent six-month voyage to the Arctic featured on a TV film this spring and is a regular skipper on the historic West Country trading ketch Bessie Ellen.• interview by Ginny Ware


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