Richard Collett, travel journalist, recently joined Cornish lugger Grayhound as she sailed from Plymouth to Falmouth and back again, following in the wake of sailors and smugglers from days gone by. First-time sailor Richard eagerly climbed aboard, keen to embrace the experience, learn to hoist the sails, tie ropes and fall in love with life on the waves.
Grayhound is a newly built Cornish lugger who launched in 2012 but don’t let her modernity fool you. She is an exact replica of the original ‘Grayhound’ who was built in Cornwall in 1776 having been commissioned for the collector of customs, Mr John Knill, in St Ives. Designed for speed, she subsequently spent her first few years working as a revenues lugger, patrolling and chasing smugglers who, when caught, had their goods impounded as well as their vessel. The latter was then later sold at auction, whilst the smugglers fate lay in the hands of the law.
Smuggling was rife in the southwest during this time period and ironically, the vessel of choice for many smugglers was a Cornish lugger as their speed was unrivalled. In fact, these vessels became so difficult to chase down that the government eventually banned three-masted luggers in an attempt to stymie the smuggling trade!
On winding down her career as a revenues lugger, from 1780 Grayhound served as a privateer – a privately owned armed vessel granted a warrant by the government to wage war on enemy ships. With conflict arising due to the Declaration of Independence by the North American Colonists in 1776, privateering in the English Channel and beyond became common place and Grayhound, being a well armed and fast ship became a successful privateer vessel. Her final fate is unknown but it is assumed she was sunk in battle, if so, we imagine it was a glorious one!
Back to modern day and on joining Grayhound in Plymouth, Richard explains “I didn’t know my fore from my aft, but as we raised the sails and set out across Plymouth Sound I was keen to learn the ropes.” Richard soon familiarised himself with the slower pace of life that is synonymous with tall ship sailing, unwinding and observing as the gorgeous coastline unfolded and an anchorage was chosen for the night. Read more about Richard’s sailing holiday on Grayhound in his article on Travel Tramp or experience it for yourself with a 2022 tall ship adventure!
Why not get a taste of life on board this lovely Cornish lugger yourself? She has a few berths remaining for the 2022 season, from Scilly to Brittany or sailing around the Devon and Cornish coasts, there’s something for everyone. View Grayhound’s 2022 Schedule >
Following two years’ of virtual festivities, we are absolutely thrilled that the acclaimed Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival is returning for 2022, running alongside the thrilling Falmouth Classics from 17th – 19th of June. The festival draws visitors in their thousands and this year is set to be the biggest and best in its 19 year history. If you have yet to experience it, here’s why you should join us!
IT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MARITIME MUSIC FESTIVALS IN EUROPE
Whilst a fairly bold claim, the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival is indeed one of Europe’s largest maritime musical festival and it has the added bonus of being completely free! Festival-goers can wander the streets of this harbourside town, marvelling in it’s rich maritime history whilst admiring the picturesque waterside views. As night falls, sounds of deep, hearty singing begins as over 70 shanty groups share their songs and stories. With over 20 official festival venues to explore and 700 performers to admire, there is plenty to see and do!
THERE’S PLENTY OF FUN TO BE HAD, BOTH ON AND OFF THE WATER!
As the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival coincides with the Falmouth Classics, there is so much for visitors to soak up. The Falmouth Classics is an esteemed three-day spectacle which sees a regatta of racing, parades and variety of onshore events. Take to the water on one of our vessels to participate in the racing or simply experience the action with the wind in your hair and spray on your face. Alternatively, head to one of the many onshore vantage points to feast your eyes on the exhilirating sailing as well as the magnificent parade of sail. Be sure to have cameras at the ready!
KEEPING THE HISTORY OF SEA SHANTIES ALIVE
With over 700 performers from around the world, the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival was founded in 2003 with the desire to keep the history of the sea alive through sea shanties, songs of the sea and local Cornish songs. For those new to shanties, they originate as a collective folk song, traditionally sung to accompany the rhythym of labour onboard larger sailing vessels, generally on British and European ships. Whilst the exact origins have been lost in the history of time, it is thought they can be traced back at least as far as the mid-1400’s as a working song. Traditionally there would be a lead solo singer, or ‘shantyman’, who would lead the singing with the crew joining in for the chorus. Known to bring a sense of fun, a ‘shantyman’ was often said to be worth two pairs of hands on board, so successful were they in maintaining morale and increasing productivity. Today, hearing these songs, one is certainly reminded of times gone by, the ballads often heartwarming, lifting the spirits and bonding and connecting us as one – which is exactly what they were designed to do.
We have several of our vessels joining this year, including one as a private charter with others offering some post-regatta sailing. Here are some of our classic sailing boats that will be heading to Falmouth for thia fantastic weekend;
The 2021 International G7 Summit will see world leaders visit Cornwall from 11th -13th of June – the accommodation for the summit being the Carbis Bay Hotel, near the quaint fishing town of St Ives. While leaders from the G7 countries discuss vital matters such as climate change, the pandemic, and economic recovery, the nearby town of Falmouth will accommodate the world’s media using the National Maritime Museum as a base. And, by happy coincidence, the G7 press will be in Falmouth this year at the same time as the famous Falmouth Classics Regatta!
The Falmouth Classics makes a return to our sailing calendar in 2021 with a scaled-down version of the event, but still promises plenty of exciting races. Falmouth is recognised as having some of the best sailing waters in the world, with many vantage points to view the events which take place in the Carrick Roads and Falmouth Bay. Falmouth town and its resident sailing clubs have held many major events, such as the “J” Class Regatta, the Finn Gold Cup, the Pendennis Cup, the start of the Golden Globe event in 2018, and the 2014 Tall Ships Regatta – which makes a return to Falmouth Bay in August 2021.
The Falmouth Classics Regatta merged with the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival in 2013 – so you could sail all day and sing all night. Sadly in 2021 the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival is unable to be accommodated live, but a virtual festival will be held as an online stream via a large screen in Events Square, in front of the National Maritime Museum. With any luck, we’ll have the G7 summit press signing along!
This year, although we can’t sing in person, we can still sail – and many of our classic sailing boats will attend the regatta. Some will be providing accommodation and a great spectating platform only, but others will be fully rigged competitors. Moored in the Falmouth Haven Harbour Marina, just next to the National Maritime Museum, guests on our charters during the Falmouth Classics will enjoy onboard accommodation and sailing each day, even if it’s not competitive!
Hiring one of our fleet as a private charter and staying aboard all weekend will be a perfect way to enjoy the Falmouth Classics Regatta, or the buzz of the G7 media hub. You’ll choose your own itinerary, with all food and drinks provided by the crew. There will plenty of time to sail to the Helford, and explore the south coast of Cornwall, as the G7 gets underway over on the north coast of St Ives.
Cornwall for many is the UK’s favourite holiday destination. With its astonishingly diverse and picturesque coastline, stunning sandy beaches and meandering streets in ancient fishing ports, Cornwall has so much to offer. A sailing holiday in Cornwall is the perfect way to experience a more undiscovered Cornwall, away from the crowds with local skippers as your guide.
Over the centuries, our nation’s foundations have been built on the age of sail and Cornwall played an integral part in the design and construction of wooden sailing boats. Today, Pilot cutters, trading schooners, rowing gigs and fishing smacks have all stood the test of time and offer a huge amount of pleasure to all who visit the county.
Escaping to the outdoors for the freedom of the sea and fresh air after the restrictions of 2020 has never been more needed. Thankfully, with a sailing holiday in Cornwall, you can explore the coasts and rivers at your leisure aboard a wonderful historic fleet of comfortable sailing vessels; each one superbly restored and hosted by wonderful captains and crew.
Spring sailing in Cornwall
Wake up from winter and spend a Spring weekend sailing in Cornwall. Find Bessie Ellen in the picturesque port of Fowey with its charming narrow streets and coloured cottages stretching the foreshore. It’s no wonder that the ancient town of “Foye” is such a mecca for outdoor sailing enthusiasts who come from afar to explore this perfect little estuary.
Explore the waters of St Austell bay, shielded by Dodman point and dominated by the Cornish Alps – the remains of China Clay spoils once so important to the historic harbours of Charlestown and Par. On returning to Fowey, the stark red and white bands of the Gribben Head day mark. Built in 1832, the daymark was constructed to avoid confusion to mariners mistaking the shallow reefs of the bay with the deeper estuary of Falmouth further down the coast.
Eda Frandsen shakes of her winter blues and sets sail from Falmouth under new ownership with the lovely Mungo & Stella. The historic port of Falmouth provides an ideal starting point for a sailing holiday in Cornwall, exploring the river where each bend reads like a book, opening a new story on each turn. A morning walk ashore is one of the most relaxing ways to begin your sailing adventure as oystercatchers chatter away, herons clack in the branches and the quiet cormorants dive with a satisfying plop.
As the river gives way to mud banks, the spires of Truro glint in the morning sun. Winding back towards the sea, the Fal is truly one of the great British rivers and remarkably unspoiled on all banks. The sea beckons, and with Stella’s fabulous bakery below from her tiny galley, munch contentedly on cake and she will happily divulge the secrets of the Helford river. Equally enchanting, the Helford is a smaller river hiding creeks and quays along the way. Daphne Du Maurier penned her famous Frenchman’s Creek after a sailing voyage from Fowey with her father. Today, the Helford is a place of absolute tranquillity and is surely a little bit of heaven on earth, and a must-see for any private charter sailing holiday in Cornwall.
Pilot Cutters unite!
The clatter of blocks and the crack of the canvas never fails to excite as the fleet assembles in the bay of St Mawes for the annual Pilot Cutter Review in May. Over four days, Pilot Cutters of all ages, from new-builds to restorations, gather together to cruise in company along the coast to Fowey and back before rejoicing in friendly racing around the cans in the famous Carrick roads. Join Pilot Cutters Agnes and Pellew as they join this spectacle of sailing along the Cornish coast.
Shanties and classic sailing in Falmouth
If you love the sea and you love a shanty, then the Cornish town of Falmouth hosts one of her biggest summer events in June, the Classic Boat rally combined with the increasingly popular Sea Shanty Festival. Street markets, food stalls and singers fill the streets, pubs infused with Breton stripe clad revellers resound with harmonies of John Kanaka and Fair Spanish Ladies.
From all over Europe, singers come together in song and friendship, keeping alive the old sea shanty traditions. Out on the water, graceful classic yacht Escape, traditional trawler Pilgrim of Brixham and gaff cutter Pettifox liven the bay with other classic boats, joining the parades of sail and friendly races that take place throughout the weekend before the tired sailors retreat to a corner of a warm and friendly pub to join in the merry singing.
Summer river sailing along the Tamar
Think lazy summer days spent messing about on a river. Life could not be more carefree as our traditional Tamar barge Lynher slides gently on the tide from the wide mouth of Plymouth sound up through the marshlands of the Tamar River. This great river divides the two counties of Cornwall and Devon and navigable upstream from the mouth a Cremyll.
Today, the industrial mines of tin in this region of Cornwall lie quiet, but the once busy quays are still there – famous Cothele, quiet Haldon and majestic Morwelham each have a unique story.
The banks of the meandering river come alive with wildfowl in the early evening light and a gentle peace descends over gently rolling hills after the heat of the day. Well away from the tourist trails, the Tamar Valley is a real gem of a destination to explore. Great walks lead to historic monuments all wrapped in the unspoiled woodland valleys. Perfect for a family sailing holiday and private charter weekend away in Cornwall.
Be part of the historic Tall Ships race
Falmouth has once again been chosen as host port to the magnificent Tall Ships Race as they set off on the start of the Magellan – Elcano 500 Series, celebrating 500 years of the first circumnavigation, crossing Biscay to La Coruna before heading south to the famous ports of Lisbon and Cadiz.
Falmouth is particularly suited to hosting the regatta, from St Anthony’s head to Helford, Flushing and Pendennis, everyone can enjoy a day on the cliff tops in the clean sea air, relishing in the excitement as the all Tall Ships and their crews prepare for their own adventures.
Or perhaps you want to be closer to the action onboard Escape or Pettifox as they offer guests the chance to sail in Falmouth Bay and see the start of the Tall Ships Race and join the parade of sail. A sight not to be missed!
Many of our fleet of sailing vessels visit the islands, but none are more suited to the area than Agnes, a true Isles of Scilly pilot cutter and gaff cutter Pettifox who was built on islands. Built specifically for the sea around the islands, both boats have a shallow draft so are able to venture into some of the more isolated spots around St Martin and Tresco, and the hidden island of all – Gugh.
With so much turquoise water and wonderful beaches, being in the water as much as on it is a must, netting prawns in the Tresco shallows is a favourite way to idle away the afternoon. Plants and gardens are very much a part of the island industry with plenty to visit or walk the gentle paths between old flower fields Whatever the weather or time of year, the islands impart a little magic to everyone who comes here and leaves you wanting more of this simple way of life.