My first voyage on Eve of St Mawes commenced on Tuesday afternoon from Falmouth, Storm Katie had brought with her heavy winds and some mighty swell from the south west over the Easter bank holiday weekend which meant launching from St Mawes would have proved a challenge. As I walked down to the water, Eve’s distinctive wooden mast stood proudly amongst the more modern boats.
Storm Katie had left us with some lumpy water and potentially a rather uncomfortable sail for the first afternoon, we unanimously agreed to make use of the very nice facilities in Falmouth (hot showers!) and not set sail until the morning. Of course, we would also benefit from being next door to The Chainlocker pub and get to know one another over a pint or two.
Melissa was our skipper for this voyage and there were six crew, Maddy, Rachael, Ethan, Dan and Arwyn. This was Rachael, Arwyn and Ethan’s second sail on Eve as a family having had such a good time the year before they were back for another Easter holiday. Dan had sailed Agnes before so was familiar with Pilot Cutters and is working towards his Day Skipper which is booked for September on Eve. Maddy also has a soft spot for Eve, she was integral to the launch of Classic Sailing twenty years ago and is a company shareholder. For me it was my first experience sailing a Pilot Cutter, or indeed any of the boats promoted by Classic Sailing, eager to learn the ropes and to explore the Cornish coastline from a unique perspective.
We set off Wednesday morning with the aim to head to Fowey, twenty miles east of Falmouth. The favorable south westerlies meant it would be an easy run to reach Fowey and although the air was fresh, several jumpers, waterproofs and tea and cake breaks meant we had a lovely day of sailing ahead of us. The forecast predicted a shift to northerly winds throughout the day and this was set to stay with us until Thursday night assisting our return to St Mawes and the Falmouth area, avoiding any lengthy upwind legs.
We sailed out of Falmouth, between St Mawes and Pendennis Castle and out into the open water where we were all quite reflective to be sailing once more. We couldn’t believe our luck following the heavy weather that had preceded our voyage, the forecast for the coming weekend didn’t look ideal either. With the stay sail, jib and main sail flying I attempted to familiarise myself with the rigging. As I followed each line and tried to identify each pin and cleat, it became clear that it would take a few re-rigs to know how to set sail quickly.
Eve was sailing well and as I took to the helm for the first time I was surprised at how responsive and relatively easy to handle she was, you can have a lot of fun with Eve and her size makes her very manageable. She does have noticeable weather helm which can make her quite heavy on the tiller, but that is normal to me and the versatility of sails mean it is easy to reduce the power and weight of the tiller.
Melissa kept us all well entertained and even gave us a few helpful lessons for taking a Three Point Fix and to plot this on a chart.
After a few hours, a bowl of soup, a tasty cheese board and lots of cake and tea later, we entered the River Fowey. Having never visited Fowey before, I was amazed at the tranquility and beauty. We moored up on one of the floating pontoons opposite the small town and admired the view whilst preparing some well deserved drinks, Melissa cracked on with the dinner preparations.
Shortly after settling down with various beverages and more snacks, a large traditional sailing boat glided in behind us. It was Irene of Bridgewater, a West Country Trading Ketch and one of the last two still in existence. She is more unusual below decks in comparison to some of the other boats available with Classic Sailing, each cabin is set out for two with separate washing facilities for each one. A little taste of luxury for those who enjoy a little more privacy. You can find more information on Irene and her voyage schedule here.
Thursday morning we awoke refreshed and ready to enjoy the sunshine, blue skies and consistent winds of the day. Sun cream application was even considered! Running before the wind we headed back out to sea to begin our twenty mile journey back to St Mawes where we planned to stay for the last night. It wasn’t long until we had the top sail hoisted and we were setting off.
Once out on the open water and admiring the spectacular coastline in St Austell Bay we settled into our course and chatted amongst ourselves. Arwyn and I watched as a wave broke about a mile away from the boat, we both expected to see some sort of power boat once the water had settled or perhaps a jet ski coming towards us, but nothing appeared.
At roughly the same time, we commented on its strangeness and with no clear cause were resigning ourselves to an unsolvable mystery when quite suddenly, a white fin disturbed the calm waters and quickly after, another. After that there was no stopping it, tail after fin after splash after fin danced around. By this point we were all very excitable, not wanting to dive below deck to grab a camera only to miss the sighting for real and all of us willing this huge whale to swim closer. We were directly downwind of the whale and a good mile away, it would have taken us a long time to tack towards him only to then probably find out that the whale had given up on his frolic and returned to the depths of the oceans.
We eventually calmed ourselves enough to locate cameras, binoculars and chat excitedly about what sort of whale it may have been. By this point of course the splashing had stopped, there were no more fins and definitely no tail to be seen. The water was still again and no matter how much we searched we never saw our whale again, it is a shame that there are no photos to prove the sighting to the world, but hopefully this will be the first of many over the coming season. It was believed to be a humpback whale and this has been confirmed by some separate sightings.
Our good luck was only set to continue after this, not only did we see a humpback whale, we also came across a basking shark and a seal. It was turning out to be quite the wildlife trip and all of our eyes were now peeled watching every splash, every wave and certain that every lobster pot or fishing buoy was another fin until we sailed close enough to realise the disappointing truth.
Once we had rounded St Anthony’s head we set ourselves to work with some upwind tacking. One of my favourite things about Eve is that every manoeuvre requires teamwork. Once we had got into a rhythm our jib sheet handling and tacking was beginning to look quite smooth, but it was soon time to head in to St Mawes and settle down for the evening.
After some quick refreshments we decided to row ashore and try our legs out on dry land, the evening was just perfect, the rowing easy, the sunset picturesque and the stars shone very brightly once the sun had gone down. Thanks to Arwyn for this amazing shot of the night sky and Eve’s mast!
The next morning the weather had begun to turn, we were on a mooring buoy out in the bay of St Mawes with a fairly strong westerly wind coming through. This meant the calm waters and gentle rocking was replaced with rather rough swinging as the waves began to roll. Maddy was due to be dropped off in St Mawes that morning before we took Eve across to Falmouth where the holiday would officially end. It was decided that the best course of action was to take No. 8 and Arwyn, Ethan and I would row Maddy ashore. No easy feat I can assure you!
As we were on our way back, Eve came to our rescue and we climbed aboard to head across to Falmouth where our adventure would come to an end. I was feeling a little despondent as one can sometimes do when a great holiday draws to a close. Happy in the knowledge that there was a whale out there that I had seen with my own eyes and refreshed from a active few days, if you can believe a little sunburnt too!