A Falmouth Pilot has realised a childhood dream by acquiring and restoring, with the help of the master shipwrights of Mylor Yacht Harbour, the classic launch, Soleil d’Or, which carried royalty and VIPs around the Isles of Scilly between the late 1950s and 1970s.

Captain Dave Pickston, who grew up on the islands, traced ‘Sol’ from her early voyages as a passenger boat owned by the Dorrien Smith family of Tresco, via the River Medway and Liverpool, to Cardiff where he was “lucky enough” to buy her last year.

In her first two decades, this 43 foot tender carried a number of dignitaries, including the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher.

Pickston said: “I knew the Soleil d’Or when I was growing up in the Isles of Scilly and had always admired her elegant lines.

“Knowing that she was built to a very high standard – Burma Teak on Oak – I felt sure that she would still be around and with the help of the National Historic Ships Register, and  a couple of Harbour Master friends, I tracked her down to Penarth Marina, Cardiff.”

Having worked with Mylor Yacht Harbour on his previous boat and knowing that the Marine Team had all the necessary expertise on site, Pickston brought her down to complete the restoration work begun by her previous owner.

“A wonderful, historic vessel like this uses all our Marine Team’s skills – ancient and modern,” explained project manager Henry Goldsmith, “and it was fantastic to see her looking so beautiful as she went back into the water and seeing her as sturdy and reliable as in her early heyday carrying VIPs in the Isles of Scilly.”

The Queen Mother on Tresco, with Soleil D'Or in the background
The Queen Mother on Tresco, with Soleil D’Or in the background