Cornwall LivingIssue #75
Whether a foodie, keen sailor, avid music fan or simply one to let your hair down, there’s a festival happening in Cornwall this summer that’s just for you.
In taverns across the Cornish coast as the sun goes down, you’ll often hear the sound of sea shanties filling the air. The recent annual Sea Shanty Festival in Falmouth welcomed in the summer with throngs of visitors flooding to the town to celebrate the call of the sea. That very same weekend saw the town host the Falmouth Classics, the biggest event for classic and traditional boats in the UK. These are just two of the nautical events across Cornwall over the summer, with other regattas including Fowey Week and Falmouth Week. Falmouth has also hosted the world’s tall ships on several occasions – most recently in 2014.
“When you’re surrounded by the sea on almost all sides it’s only natural that this will inform the place’s – and people’s – character. Cornwall’s maritime tradition is deeply woven into its very fabric.”
Just a typical summer’s day on a Cornish beach, looking out over the bay, we witnessed a cruise ship, a tanker, a majestic tall ship with all its square sails set, wakeboarders, paddle-boarders, canoes, sailing dinghies, yachts anchored in the bay, pleasure boats taking small cruises towards the Helford river – all in the same view. The point here is that Cornwall without boats is like Cornwall without pasties… in other words, not very Cornish!
When you’re surrounded by the sea on almost all sides it’s only natural that this will inform the place’s – and people’s – character. Cornwall’s maritime tradition is deeply woven into its very fabric. It’s no coincidence that dinghy sailing supremo (and the most successful sailor in Olympic history) Ben Ainslie learnt to sail on these waters, in and around the Carrick Roads – you can see his golden postbox embedded in the wall of the Pandora Inn on Restronguet Creek.
Cornwall’s strong seafaring tradition has kept Britain in touch with the wider world for centuries. It was here that we first heard news of Nelson’s victory (and death) at Trafalgar, and also where the packet ships landed, carrying post and news from around the world. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall on Discovery Quay, Falmouth keeps this tradition alive and well, with fascinating exhibitions, lectures and children’s activities throughout the year.
Charlestown, near St Austell, is home to Square Sail Ventures, and tall ship Phoenix, where much of the filming is done for Hollywood blockbusters and small screen period dramas, from Poldark to Alice in Wonderland. If you watch a scene involving a historic boat or harbour, there’s a very good chance it was filmed in Charlestown – if not, then by the Square Sail crew on location elsewhere around the globe.
So, if all of this has inspired you to get out on the water yourself this summer, there are plenty of opportunities to try your hand at sailing across Cornwall, on both the north and south coasts. Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about sailing is that you need to be an expert; that it is elitist or exclusive. On the contrary, there are many ways to get involved and give it a go, with taster days and weekends, beginner courses and much more, catering for every ability and level of experience. It needn’t cost the earth either, particularly if you would just like to dip your toe in to see if it’s for you.
There’s also huge variation in the types of sailing you can enjoy, whether singlehandedly or as a pair in a small dinghy, or being part of a crew of up to 30 on a large performance yacht or tall ship. Likewise, many love the thrill of competitive sailing, whereas others like to cruise at a gentle pace, taking in the sights and sounds of the coast at their leisure. Each offers its own rewards and merits.
As with most things, the best way to get started is with a taster session; having a go, before making the commitment. There are sailing schools all across the Duchy, which hire boats for a few hours or a whole day, with tuition available to show you the ropes. On the south coast, you’ll find several on the Carrick Roads – in Mylor, Loe beach (Feock), Falmouth, St Mawes and the wider Roseland. As well as Fowey and Looe, another beautiful spot is the Helford river, abounding with pretty wooded creeks. Helford River Children’s Sailing Trust teaches children from eight to 18 how to sail, learn a respect for the sea and build their confidence on the water (discover more at www.hrcst.org.uk). On the north coast, the popular destinations of Rock and the area in and around the Camel Estuary have thriving sailing and watersports schools.
As you progress, it’s advisable to take some more formal courses, to learn the ‘rules of the road’, with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) being the official recognised governing body (find courses near you by visiting www.rya.org.uk). While sailing is fun, you obviously need to be aware of potential hazards and the laws of the sea, changing tides, rights of way, navigation and so on. If you’re sailing larger boats, you can gradually progress from competent crew, to day skipper, all the way to becoming an ocean master as you clock up your sea miles and experience. There’s nothing more thrilling than the sea breeze ruffling your hair, with an endless blue horizon and world of opportunity ahead of you.
With advances in technology, modern sailing is very different to traditional ‘block and tackle’ sailing of years gone by, so if you want a taster of how it was done back in the age of the sail, a great starting point is a taster weekend aboard a traditional sailing vessel with VentureSail Holidays. We had a go ourselves – and can thoroughly recommend it! – sailing out of Fowey, aboard Johanna Lucretia, a beautifully restored, 96ft, two-masted topsail schooner. Owner and skipper, Rodger Barton and his trusty crew will provide the perfect introduction to traditional sail, providing the opportunity to test your sea legs under their expert guidance. Most of our fellow passengers were novices, yet all got stuck in, creating wonderful memories to bring home. VentureSail Holidays has a fleet of beautiful vessels of various shapes and sizes, with a calendar of voyages scheduled throughout the season, both in Cornwall and further afield, geared towards sightseeing, wildlife spotting and more (discover more at www.venturesailholidays.com.
If you feel that sailing is for you and something you’d like to commit more time to, you could join your local yacht or sailing club. Another misconception is that you need to own your own boat to become a member – in fact, those with or without boats are equally welcome and you’ll meet other likeminded souls who you can crew for. Aside from the sailing itself, it’s a great social scene too, with events throughout the year, and seasonal regattas.
Of course, if you do get the sailing bug and would like your own boat, it can be quite an investment – both the initial outlay and ongoing maintenance, servicing and potential mooring fees to factor in. If you’re looking to buy a boat, speak to the team at Ancasta, with offices in Mylor and Falmouth (discover more at www.ancasta.com). As well as the financial considerations, much like buying a house, buying a boat can be a tricky process to navigate, with lots to consider and paperwork to get in order. So, whether looking to buy second hand, or something new, it pays to speak to the experts who can guide you through the process. You’ll also need to consider where the boat is going to be kept, with various mooring options available across Cornwall.
Whether you’re planning to circumnavigate the globe, cruise up and down the coast at leisure, or simply enjoy a lazy afternoon in a dinghy in the bay, you’ll find the perfect sailing experience for you right here in Cornwall. So go on, start making waves!
Nautical summer events
Charlestown Regatta Week
21 Jul 2018 to 27 Jul 2018
10 Aug 2018 to 19 Aug 2018
Fowey Regatta and Carnival Week
19 Aug 2018 to 25 Aug 2018
Newlyn Fish Festival
26 Aug 2018
Falmouth Oyster Festival
11 Oct 2018 to 14 Oct 2018
BUYING A BOAT?
Speak to the team at Ancasta in Falmouth and Mylor for advice on finding the right boat for you. Click here to find out more
Make sure you look the part with a visit to Essa Collection in Porthleven, a wonderful independent boutique which includes some beautiful nautical inspired clothing for your next maritime adventure. Click here for more information. www.essacollection.com
"When you’re surrounded by the sea on almost all sides it’s only natural that this will inform the place’s – and people’s – character. Cornwall’s maritime tradition is deeply woven into its very fabric."