Flags are flying at half-mast on the pilot boats and other craft in the port as the waterfront fraternity mourns retired pilot boat Coxswain Allen Stevens, of Mawnan Smith, who slipped his anchor and sailed on the morning tide after an illness fought with an indomitable spirit.

Allen, with whom I worked with in the Pilotage Service for nearly 20 years was one of life’s good men. A kind, considerate, multi talented “Man of Cornwall” and a proud family man.

As a pilot one has to have faith and absolute trust in a pilot boat coxswain and crew, to handle the pilot boat in extreme conditions to allow the safe boarding and landing of pilots when transferring to and from ships.

A pilot boat coxswain needs to be cool under pressure, act with split second timing to protect the pilot boat, pilot and crew, often in heavy weather as Pilotage is a 24-hour service for the shipowner.

Allen, who was 73, had all of these sterling attributes and more, making him a first class and extremely professional boat handler who gained the respect of all the pilots and his contemporaries around the port where he is held in high regard.

Former pilot Captain Gordon Kent said: “Allen was a true gentleman in every way. He was extremely competent and probably one of the best boat handlers that has graced Falmouth Harbour.”


n Pilot boats LK Mitchell and Arrow are among those flying flags at half mast Picture: David Barnicoat

n Pilot boats LK Mitchell and Arrow are among those flying flags at half mast Picture: David Barnicoat


On leaving school Allen started his career at RNAS Culdrose, Helston in a specialist unit of the Ministry Defence, The Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE), later becoming the Underwater Weapons Establishment. The ARE was a small specialised research unit carrying out sensitive work for the Ministry of Defence – mainly on the research and development of air launched underwater weapons.

He started his apprenticeship in 1964 and was Graduate of the Institute of Engineers in 1969. Allen developed into a highly skilled engineer and was one of a small team in the country who could maintain specialist military equipment such as the Kinematic Theodolite, that could track the deployment of torpedoes launched from from aircraft and subsequently underwater.

The theodolites were ‘acquired’ from the Germans after the war and came with no manuals or paperwork. The work took Allen to the missile range at Aberporth in Wales and to similar sites in Scotland and Barrow in Furness.

Allen never boasted about his engineering prowess but if you asked him a question he would always explain the subject in detail, but in layman’s terms. His ability to repair engines and fabricate equipment was second to none.

His 29-year loyal career at Culdrose came to end when his unit was closed down due to defence budget cuts in 1994. Prior to leaving he was awarded the Imperial Service Medal by Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of his Meritorious Service in Civilian Government.

He was no stranger to the sea, having spent many years sailing or enjoying pottering around in a motor boat with his family. Joining the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners Pilotage staff in 1995 he soon became a coxswain and much respected member of the team.


Coxswain Allen Stevens, who has slipped his anchor Picture: Andrew Campbell

Coxswain Allen Stevens, who has slipped his anchor Picture: Andrew Campbell


Throughout his pilotage career he has received numerous letters of thanks and commendations for rescues carried out with colleagues using both the pilot boats LK Mitchell and Arrow.

Most notable was in February 1996 when the bulk carrier Hope dragged anchor in gale force winds and heavy seas nearly going ashore on Castle Beach. Allen and Nigel Pascoe succeeded in putting pilot Gordon Kent onboard the ship.

The skill and seamanship of these men and Falmouth tug crews was duly recognised by the Thomas Gray Memorial Trust, who presented a Silver Medal to Gordon for “outstanding seamanship” with framed certificates to Allen, Nigel and the tug crews involved “in recognition of their professional conduct at sea.”

In August 2005, during the Trafalgar Reenactment, HRH The Princess Royal was taken from the docks around the harbour to Fish Strand Quay in the pilot boat LK Mitchell under Allen’s command. Rear Admiral Robert Woodard , Deputy Lt of Cornwall, who was onboard the pilot boat, wrote to the Harbour Board: "The Princess Royal has sent her congratulations and thanks to everyone involved and said it was a day she will remember for a long time….negotiating the launch through a heavily congested harbour so well done by the Coxswain."

Allen leaves his wife Trudy, son Ross, daughter Catherine, son-in-law Martin, daughter-in-law Lisa and grandchildren Josie, Jack, Ben and Joe.

“Fair winds and following seas to a sheltered anchorage shipmate and may you rest in peace forever.”