The museum’s collections consist of a range of objects, boats, art, books and archives in support of its mission to promote an understanding of small boats and their place in people’s lives, and of the maritime heritage of Cornwall. We are currently working towards making a full catalogue of our collections accessible online.

The National Small Boat Collection
The National Small Boat Collection was originally developed by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. This is now housed in Cornwall where it has been extended by the addition of other craft. This collection is representative of boats from the UK and around the world. A maximum of length overall of 30ft (14.2m) is set for the collection although there are exceptions. A collection of objects and archives support the National Small Boat Collection.

The Cornish Maritime Collection
Much of the Cornish Maritime Collection came from the former Cornwall Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It contains objects, pictures, models and archives relating to the history of Cornwall and the sea, and Falmouth in particular.

An important element of this collection is the material relating to the Falmouth Packet Ships which includes six watercolours by Maltese artist Cammillieri.

Reserve Collections
The Museum has a large collection of objects, boats and archives. The majority of the collection is held in store.

If you would like to make an appointment to view objects which are not on display, please email outlining the type(s) of objects you would like to view

Conservation and restoration
Our conservation and restoration team is always working away to ensure that our collection is in tip-top condition. Their aim is preserve our boats, pictures and objects for the enjoyment and education of this and future generations. As its name suggests, our boat team concentrates on our fleet of boats, the majority of which are now ‘dry’ – no longer on the water – having being given a graceful retirement in the care of our experts. These boats form the core of the displays you will see in the Museum. Others are ‘wet’, and are kept on the water or are restored so that they can to return to the water. This is always more expensive but allows them to be shown as they were intended by their designers and builders. When not on display our collection of objects and pictures are kept in a purpose-built store. This meets the highest standards, with constant monitoring for optimum environmental conditions, infestation or physical damage. If you feel able to make a contribution to this important work then please visit the donations page.


Birch Bark Canoe (Large)

This canoe was probably made by Sarazin of the Algonquin Reserve in the Ottawa Valley of Ontario. It is a modern interpretation of the most developed form of birch bark canoe. It was presented to Prince Edward on the occasion of his visit to Canada in 1901 and has been lent to the Museum by…

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Strip Plank Canoe

This strip-plank wooden canoe was one of many imported into this country in the early 1900s from North America by Rowland Ward & Co. and sold through large London stores, in this particular case, Naturalists of Piccadilly. The heavy decoration is not typical of canoes in North America but appealed to the European market. Length…

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Birch Bark Canoe

The sport and leisure activity of canoeing became popular in the latter half of the 19th century and as a result large numbers of traditional North American birch bark and stripped plank canoes were imported into this country, to be sold through the large department stores or via smaller boat builder/agents. This particular canoe is…

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Oruwa Outrigger Canoe – Lathika

This is a typical example of a traditional outrigger canoe from Sri Lanka primarily used for fishing, both off the beach and further out to sea.  The shallow dugout hull, carved from a single log, is raised with side strakes fixed on shaped inserted frames and sewn to the hull with coir. The two booms…

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Lobito Bay Raft

This raft is from the Lobito Bay area of Angola and is one of relatively few examples of rafts found in Africa. It is believed to have been built about 1950, is constructed from a series of long and curved balsa wood branches/trunks, using the wood in the round, secured together with a mixture of…

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Isis – Plymouth Waterman’s Barge

Plymouth Waterman’s barges, with a wide roomy stern designed to accommodate both passengers and stores, were used at Devonport serving naval and merchant ships.  They were rowed by a single oarsman using 10ft spoon-bladed oars pivoted in pairs of thole pins. Although the traditional work of these boats has disappeared, some have survived by being…

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Shush was built to a very high standard by F C Morgan-Giles of Teignmouth in 1925. At only 8.5 ft long she must be one of the smallest boats with an inboard engine (a rare single cylinder Watermota petrol engine) ever built. Shush was used as a yacht tender but vessels of similar design would…

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Thames Gig

Together with the Thames skiff, the gig continues to be a very popular recreational rowing boat on non-tidal waters of the Thames and elsewhere. While similar to the skiff in shape of hull, the essential differences between Thames skiffs and gigs is that the former have a long curving stem and the tholes, gates, or…

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Puffin dinghy

The Puffin was designed by the famous DIY specialist and TV presenter Barry Bucknell as a collapsible car top dinghy/tender. The GRP hull has a hard chine shape with folding fabric sides and the DIY parentage is reflected in some of the vessel’s simple but effective fittings. It is complete with a Una Bermudian rig…

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