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Pyronaut and steam tug Mayflower, outside the former Bristol Industrial Museum.
Career (England)
Builder: Charles Hill & Sons Ltd
Launched: 1934
Christened: Phoenix II
Decommissioned: 1970s
In service: 1934
Out of service: 1973
Renamed: 1938
Homeport: Bristol
Fate: Museum ship in Bristol Harbor
General characteristics
Length: 16.77 metres (54.98 feet)

Pyronaut is a historic fire-float based in Bristol's Floating Harbour.

A float was originally a form of low-bodied cart or lorry, used for delivering cargoes that were delivered by hand, so as to avoid lifting them to or from the higher deck of a normal lorry. Bristol's harbour has a number of swing bridges and so a fireboat built with a deliberately low clearance height and without any deckhouse would be able to travel quickly throughout the harbour, without having to wait for these bridges to be opened.

She was built by Charles Hill & Sons Ltd in 1934 and was originally called Phoenix II before being renamed as Pyronaut in 1938, at the suggestion of the teenage son of a member of the committee that ran her. During the late 1930s and The Blitz in World War II she was in frequent use fighting fires on board vessels and in the surrounding dockside warehouses and factories. The many post-war fire fighting operations with which she dealt include an oil fire in September 1951 at Avonmouth DocksPyronaut made the journey down the Avon Gorge and pumped water continuously for 2 days. The following year saw her fighting a fire onboard MV Stalheim in the City Docks.[1]

She was re-engined and refitted in 1968, but by 1973 it was decided that there were few buildings which could not be reached by land based fire fighting equipment. She was sold, and underwent various modifications before being sold in 1989 to Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, where restoration and preservation was completed in 1995.[2]

Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection, she is now moored at Princes Wharf in Bristol's City Docks and performs spectacular displays during major harbour events as well as operating for trips on some summer weekends.[3]


  • Length Overall: 16.77 metres (54.98 feet)
  • Gross Tonnage: 20.32


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Coordinates: 51°26′53″N 2°35′53″W / 51.44806°N 2.59806°W / 51.44806; -2.59806