Month: July 2019

The Best of the 2020 Festivals Afloat

Douarnenez Maritime Festival

The beauty of sailing, fundamentally, is getting out and about on the water, the freedom and fresh air that invigorates your soul. However, for those that aren’t ready to cross oceans, or for first time venture sailors, taking part in a festival afloat is a classic way to learn the ropes and experience what traditional sailing has to offer. No tents or muddy fields to master, just rather elegant maritime glamping. So get your sea boots on, ready to dance across the waves!

2020 will play host to a real variety of festivals afloat, each taking place in picturesque locations around our coasts. This year will see the return of the Brest International Maritime Festival only held once every four years. Fleets of classic and historic craft parade across the bays creating a stunning picture of canvas and sail steeped in nostalgia.

May sees the start of events where the fishing town of Brixham hosts the Heritage Sailing regatta. Held in Torbay since the early 1800’s the fleet of sailing trawlers would race against each other for the glory of their craft. In 1914 King George V presented the winner with the King’s Cup, to be challenged by trawlers over 40 tons. The cup was challenged annually until 1939, resuming in 1997 by enthusiasts. The regatta is now one of the Westcountry’s most vibrant sailing events in the sheltered waters of the bay and you can soak up the festivities in 2020 on board the classic yacht, Escape for the weekend or enjoy day sails on our Cornish Lugger our Daddy. Prince William Quay is the focal point for the weekend long party and celebration of classic sail.  Brixham Yacht Club host the event with a complimentary fish pie supper and party on the Saturday night followed by a magnificent running buffet for hungry sailors when they come off the water on Sunday afternoon before the traditional prize giving.

Early summer sees the historic Cornish maritime town of Falmouth host the Falmouth Classics and Sea Shanty Festival, a weekend of sailing races, sail parades and shoreside entertainment and singers from the world over who gather to sing songs of the sea.

Sail with Escape, Pilgrim of Brixham or Our Daddy for the weekend or join us for Day Sailings.

Head over to St. Mawes or the famous Helford river during the weekend, proffering sheltered waters and stunning scenery for a moment to get away from the bustling marinas. The races include classes for all, from working boats to classic yachts and the emphasis is on taking part and above all having fun. Even if you have never sailed, the skippers love to share their knowledge and will give the voyage crew a rope to pull or sail to trim, and if you like, even the tiller.

Taking place every four years, Brest International Maritime Festival sees a flotilla of some 2500 sailing vessels coming together on the water and what a sight it is! From traditional classic boats to coracles, from windjammers to historic fishing vessels, this eagerly awaited maritime festival is a highlight in the sailing calendar. On land, the festival continues in full swing with plenty of music from all over the world, impeccably good food and freshly caught seafood. Entertainment for all is around every corner of the town with street performances, military processions, reenactments and period fancy dress.

Festival Temps Fête in Douarnenez is a little more intimate and is a haven for traditional wooden ship lovers. Whilst one is the old fishing port, Rosmeur, there is another with wooden wharves lined with harbour-side bars and restaurants in the medieval town. Douarnenez Festival also offers plenty of races, sailing re-enactments and other activities on the water. The cobbled streets are perfect to explore the music, local shops and cuisine whilst reminiscing of a time when the wooden boats provided the town with trade as they docked in the port.

Next year sees Our DaddyPilgrim of Brixham, Polly and Escape sailing to take part in Brest International Maritime Festival and Douarnenez’s Festival Temps Fête. Bessie Ellen will be making the journey over but has been hired by the festival themselves. Click the boat links for more voyage details!

Bessie Ellen & the newbie!

Bessie Ellen in Scotland

Emma Jamieson, food blogger and first-time sailor, shares her experience of a week aboard Bessie Ellen in the Hebrides – it was love at first sight!

“Dolphins!” came the shout from Skipper Nikki at the bow of Bessie Ellen. We were whipping along at a nifty 7.6 knots – a cracking pace as she sliced through the waves on her merry way to the Hebridean Isle of Canna. Over in the distance we spotted them, jumping and diving in their hundreds towards us to play under our bowsprit.

Three days before, I had never set foot on a boat, and suddenly there I was, wind in my hair, wildlife surrounding me, helming a traditional tall ship on a trip round the Hebrides!

When I’d boarded – three days before – with eleven other travellers looking for adventure, I had very little idea the lasting impact this trip would have on me. From all walks of life and ages all of us bonded immediately as we gathered on deck for warming whisky macs and our first briefing. Within an hour of leaving Oban, we had hoisted the sails, learned to make fast, got our first taste at the helm and practiced knots! Anyone joining Bessie Ellen can get involved as much or as little as they want, but there is always something to do and see and learn, so few of us ever sat still.

A warming dram of whisky

Each day brought a new surprise. The sun rose and we were straight at it, scrubbing the deck, plotting our course for the day and taking turns on watch. Paddle-boarding surrounded by dolphins was a clear highlight, as was spotting minke whales and seals, wild swimming in remote coves or being surrounded by puffins and razorbills on the Treshnish Isles.

Love these guys!

Our huge appetites from all the sea air were handsomely rewarded. We ate like royalty throughout the trip, with stellar meals apparating like Hogwarts feasts from a galley kitchen the size of a broom cupboard – from fresh baked bread to haunch of venison, Thai curries and homemade sorbet! Over evening meals by candlelight we played games, swapped anecdotes and even had a “pub quiz”.

Fresh Lobster for lunch!

All the fusses of terrestrial life seemed to melt away on board. Whilst there is no scrimping on comfort – from a spacious shower room and the cosiest bunks, I didn’t wash my hair or wear make-up once, spent most of my time with what looked like a tea cosy on my head, wearing ten layers and I couldn’t have given a monkey’s less.

Cosy down below
I’ve fallen for the Hebrides!

When the final night arrived I could barely remember the day I came on board. Numbers were exchanged and all of us revelled in the lifetime’s worth of stories collected in even such a short time. A sail on Bessie Ellen is no mere holiday. It is a moment of spirit-filling, pure, unadulterated happiness and adventure suspended in time.

Swimming was refreshing!

To read Emma’s full article please visit her blog The Edinburgh Epicure