Joining the company in 1976, John Peters brought experience in naval design and allowed the company to drop the base build of the Lochin and begin producing their own products. As their reputation grew so did the business and, with assistance from the local council, the company moved to a 25,000 ft2 workshop on the Penryn Industrial Estate. The move coincided with the closure of the Porthleven shipyard and Cygnus was able to offer posts to some of the skilled workforce.
With larger premises, the company was able to work on bigger builds and Cygnus added a 44’ hull to its catalogue.
With innovation at the heart of their design the company wanted to expand its offerings and include a faster fishing boat. They commissioned Ian Cullingworth to design a 33′ semi-planing vessel with multi-role capabilities which went into production, to that design, as the Cy-Fish. That proved successful and Ian Cullingworth was then commissioned to design a fully planing 26′, again with multi-role capabilities and which entered production as the Cyclone. Both designs, together with extensions of them, have continued in production since the early 80’s.
The success of the designs looked to have secured the businesses future and the management team explored alternative opportunities; Chris Brook left to start his own business in Worcester building displacement fishing boats and Patrick added Steelship Ltd to his business interests.
Unfortunately, the timing was not favourable and cashflow problems took their toll forcing a buyout of both Cygnus and Steelship by the lifeboat building company, Watercraft Ltd in 1983. A much larger firm, Watercraft, based in Shoreham and Gosport, also ran into financial difficulty as they failed to meet an order for the MOD due to contractual speed problems. The combination of the financial pressures across all three companies tipped them into administration.
Several months of uncertainty passed as the Receivers began to sell off assets and attempt to find a buyer for the businesses. However, it was only Cygnus which was able to demonstrate a profit and offers came in for the GRP yard only. After a couple of purchasers pulled out the management team at Cygnus, consisting of Ernie Cooke (sales and marketing) John Peters (design and production) and Andrew Clynick (admin and finance) were offered the chance to buy the business.
Focusing strictly on GRP builds the company thrived and began to grow an international reputation as John Peters branched out in a consultancy role with the UN. Visiting developing fisheries around the world Cygnus secured contracts for projects in Chile, Hong King and Yemen. They also became a subcontractor for various other marine builds including yachts.
European and domestic sales were booming until the combination of the cod ban and the introduction of Pressure Stock Licences in the mid 1990’s slowed down the order books. The licenses meant that if you wanted to buy a new boat then you had to scrap an existing vessel of similar dimensions. Cygnus spotted a potential opportunity and began buying up old boats to acquire their licenses. The company effectively became a license broker, trading their stock to allow new boats to built.
The gamble paid off and Cygnus expanded again, purchasing a new yard in Falmouth and renting additional factory premises. The expansion traded under the name of Bluewater Projects and focused on building the Mystic 55 and three Mystic 60’s for Alan Morgan Yachting.
As the three directors approached retirement age a decision was made to sell the business and Bluewater was sold to Royston. The main factory and machinery was all sold and the moulds were auctioned off to other boatyards with the workforce finding jobs elsewhere.
Though Cygnus is no longer operating today, their boats still live on in many ports across the UK and the moulds continue to produce excellent quality vessels under different brand name
Cygnus Marine is now 30 years old, being established in Falmouth in 1972 on the Tregoniggie Industrial Estate. Initially they fitted out the Lochin 33, then known as the ‘Falmouth Fast Fisherman’.
The mackerel ‘klondyking’ boom of the early 70’s led to a rush of orders, and an early association with Gary Mitchell a local designer, who produced the lines plans for a number of the Cygnus displacement hulls. These included the GM26 and GM32, hundreds of which were built for the UK and abroad.
Another yard was opened in Truro, ‘SteelShip’, where some very high quality steel vessels up to 120′, and aluminium patrol vessel and life boats up to 60′ were produced.
The GRP yard moved to its present location at Britannia Yard, Penryn in 1975/6, having outgrown the original premises, with a number of designs available growing in size. The new yard was a custom built GRP laminating factory with full insulation and controlled heating. The extra space allowed the company to develop its own in house metal fabrication, electrics and large woodworking shop, this reduced the use of subcontractors and thus increased quality control. The premises have been approved by all the major classification societies for full construction of all craft.
Cygnus Marine was acquired by the Watercraf Group in 1983, and built several of their work boat and patrol boats in addition to the work boat and fishing vessels, for three years until unfortunately the group failed, and Cygnus Marine went into private hands in the form of a management buyout. The new ownership of John Peters(Technical) , Ernie Cooke(Sales) and Andrew Clynick(Finance)
The decision was made to concentrate solely on the GRP production, though not just on the marine side, and there have been notable other successes in various fields such as caravan walling, sewage treatment, building/fascias etc.
Diversity was also made into the recreation market, with yachts and motor cruisers assuming an increased significance with changes in global working practices and conservation issues reducing the requirement for fishing related craft.
Cygnus have built over two and a half thousand vessels, which are in service all over the world, from Greenland to Antarctica, up the Amazon to Tahiti. They range from work boats, charter, passenger, angling, fishing, pleasure, research, sailing and survey. Cygnus has also built boats in Hong-Kong, Aden, Chile, India and other far-flung locations, through either supplying moulds or expertise.
The focus has changed from heavy displacement craft to fast planing designs like Cyclone 30, Cyfish 33, Typhoon 33/42, Tornado 28, Cygnet 23.
For instance the inshore smaller displacement hulls such as the GM19, GM21, Holton 24 and DS25 continue to be extremely popular, with several as part completed kits for owners or other boatyards to complete.
Initially located on the Tregoniggie Industrial Estate, Cygnus Marine boats began life by fitting out Lochin 33 vessels which were known at the time as a ‘Falmouth Fast Fisherman’. The story goes that co-founder, Patrick Bray, during a university break at home with his parents stumbled across a project at a creek on Helford River. A local fisherman needed a hand with fitting his 10m boat with some mouldings that had been supplied by Lochin Marine and Patrick pitched in. During the few weeks that the build took place a number of fishermen expressed an interest in the remodel and Patrick saw an opportunity.
Within a year, Patrick had enlisted the help of his university friend Chris Brook and established a company in Falmouth employing local tradesmen in a purpose designed workshop. The team consisted of Keith Harris (moulding), Dave Crocker and Denis Laity (engineers), Peter Always (metal fabricating) and Ron Coote as the foreman. Both Bray and Brook, from non-marine backgrounds, ran the business side of the operations.
The timing of the start-up couldn’t have been better and by 1975 the mackerel boom was creating a huge local demand for inshore vessels with good hold capacities. Teaming up with a traditional wooden fishing boat builder (Gary Mitchell), Cygnus commissioned a 32’ displacement hull from which mouldings were taken and the start of the GM range of GRP’s took off.
where we used to work
1972 to 1976
TR11 4SN Falmouth, Cornwall
Newham road, Truro, Cornwall
1976 to 2008
6 Annear Road, Penryn, Cornwall