What’s a Pilot Gig?

The Cornish pilot gig is a s a 32′ six-oared boat with a beam of 4’9.

The Cornish gig was developed in the early 1800s, and has its roots in the Scilly Isles, 40 miles off of the coast of Cornwall, England. The boats were used to transport a local pilot to incoming sailing vessels, and needed to be both fast and seaworthy. The first boat to reach the ship offshore got the job of guiding the vessel through the treacherous shoals in that area (and therefore shared in the profits).

These boats were multi-purpose, however, and were also used as shore-based lifeboats that went out to vessels in distress, freight carriers among the islands, and to smuggle contraband across the English Channel. Pilot gigs are actively raced in Europe today, and have been adopted (and often adapted) by many youth and adult rowing programs around the United States.