Falmouth’s iconic 46-year-old pilot boat LK Mitchell will leave the port for a new working role on the West coast of Scotland in September this year - a fitting next stage for a vessel that has served the port of Falmouth with distinction for almost half a century.

When she leaves for Campbeltown, Scotland, and a less strenuous role with new owners Class 1 Maritime, she will be carrying the name of Falmouth Trinity House pilot Captain Laurence Kerr Mitchell back home on the anniversary of his tragic death in service 50 years ago.

Captain “Laurie” Mitchell, a proud Scotsman from a sea-faring family, lost his life in September 1974 whilst attempting to board the P&O ferry Eagle when she was in trouble and requesting a pilot in heavy weather three miles off Falmouth. Captain Mitchell lost his life when he fell into the water having been struck by the pilot boat.

The harbour tug St Agnes was nearby and raced to the scene. First mate Mike Tuffery, who served with the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners as a coxswain for many years after leaving the tugs, dived overboard from the tug in gale force conditions to try and save Captain Mitchell. He managed to get hold of him but due to the heavy weather the tug was unable to recover the pilot. A Royal Navy helicopter picked up Captain Mitchell’s body and he was later pronounced dead.

Capt Mitchell’s death was instrumental in bringing changes in Maritime Law governing the safety of pilots boarding ships.

Falmouth Packet: Captain Laurence Kerr MitchellCaptain Laurence Kerr Mitchell (Image: David Barnicoat Collection)

Trinity House had the LK Mitchell, a 17. 5-metre Nelson 56 pilot boat, built in Scotland at the yard of Alexander Robertson.

The first pilot boat in the UK with an high vis orange wheelhouse, LK Mitchell was officially named by Mrs Maureen Mitchell at Customs House Quay on May 26, 1978 when she said: “ He would have been proud to have had her as his ship.

"She is a handsome reminder of a handsome man, she is as strong as he was strong and I am sure she will endure difficulties at sea as he faced them.”

Captain Mitchell, affectionately known around the Falmouth waterfront and beyond as Laurie, was a man who was very much respected by all for his integrity, professionalism and enthusiasm.

Born in Dundee in 1925 he came from a Shetland Islands family who for three generations had gone to sea. He was the ninth sea captain on his mother’s side of the family.

LK Mitchell remained in service with Trinity House Falmouth station from 1978 until 1988 when Pilotage was deregulated by the government and transferred into the hands of port authorities around the UK.

Falmouth Packet: The LK Mitchell pilot boat, going into semi-retirement in ScotlandThe LK Mitchell pilot boat, going into semi-retirement in Scotland (Image: Falmouth Harbour)

Soon, after 46 years’ faithful service in the busy Trust Port, LK Mitchell will “retire” from the 24/7 operations of the Falmouth Harbour Pilotage fleet in the UK’s Western Approaches and travel to Campbeltown, near where she was built, to provide Pilot services for her new role with Class 1 Maritime.

“We are very happy to be able to extend LK Mitchell’s operational life in the role that she was specially built for, albeit in a much less busy port,” said Captain Robert Keir of Class 1 Maritime.

“We provide Pilotage and work boat services mainly in remote areas in the west of Scotland and LK Mitchell will support these services in Campbeltown.

“We are delighted to have agreed the purchase of LK Mitchell from Falmouth Harbour Commissioners and we’re very happy to have such a well-maintained vessel join our company - a well-deserved semi-retirement role for such a hard-working iconic vessel.”

Falmouth Harbour CEO Miles Carden said:, “This is just the outcome we hoped for the LK Mitchell in her later years and it seems poetic that she is carrying Captain Laurie Mitchell’s name back home to Scotland.

“Our Falmouth Pilot vessels and their crews have a tough working life operating in all conditions 24/7, 365 days a year and completing more than 1,000 boardings and landings per year.

"Our greatest hope as we looked to replace LK Mitchell was to redeploy her in a second, less demanding commercial role and we are so pleased that this will come to pass in her new working home.”

Falmouth Packet: What Falmouth Harbour's new pilot boat will look likeWhat Falmouth Harbour's new pilot boat will look like (Image: Falmouth Harbour)

Taking LK Mitchell’s place in Falmouth Harbour’s Pilot fleet will be a £1.6M state-of-the-art vessel, currently under construction by Holyhead Marine in North Wales which, when commissioned in the summer, will be one of the cleanest, safest and most fuel-efficient pilot boats in the UK.

As one of the few Tier 3 compliant pilot vessels operating in the UK, it will include features which help Falmouth Harbour meet its sustainability targets and provide an asset for the next 20 to 30 years.