2016: My Last Year as ‘Eve of St Mawes’ Skipper

They say a ‘sea change’ is good for you, but in my 20th and final year of skippering our pilot cutter ‘Eve of St Mawes’ I was determined that I was going to have a good time, and that guest crews would treasure Eve’s final season as a charter vessel. I think we managed to achieve that ambition as 2016 was nautically amazing. Eve of St Mawes is now safely in the hands of new owners Helen and Mark, about to start an new era as a private yacht, and I can reflect on a remarkable year.

Take a sea journey through my 2016. With Brexit and Trump and all the sad losses of personal friends and famous icons, I can safely say….. “2016: I was better off at sea.”

Debbie Purser – Co founder of Classic Sailing


2016 Eco Warriors and Figurehead Carvers

Even after 20 years as a charter skipper, I can safely say my guest crews have been a comfort and inspiration for me. I know it supposed to be the other way around if you are the captain, but I have learned so much, enjoyed conversations about almost every topic under the sun, and been given sage advice by so many lovely Eve customers. This is the bit I will miss the most: picking up 6 strangers by rowing boat each week and letting a small wooden boat weave her magic and help reveal the new crews hopes and dreams.

Memorable guest crew on Eve included Ian – an ex army officer who now teaches politics and was getting some nautical training in before volunteering as an ‘eco warrior’ with Sea Shepherd. Alan, who carved huge figureheads for the Queens barge and played the squeeze box, the irrepressible Christine as mate in France, and my brother Steve who came at last.


2016: Sailing with co skipper Melissa

One of the toughest things I have ever had to do running Classic Sailing was to make a young skipper redundant back in 2013. Having watched Melissa’s career progress after this unhappy setback as she took on 8m yacht Pinnucia as skipper, and then mate on Eda Frandsen for 2 years, it was lovely to employ her again as skipper of Eve in 2016. It was great to see her confidence blossom as she took on the busy sailing amongst the fleets of ships at Brest and Douarnenez.

If you want to sail with ‘Melissa of the wonderful smile’ gain she will be skippering Eve’s bigger pilot cutter sister Agnes in 2017 so please do go and sail with Melissa as there are some great voyages in Cornwall and Scotland.

Agnes Sailing Schedule 2017 – voyage details, dates and prices


2016: Pilot Cutter World Championships

Back in 1997 Adam and I were so proud to bring a newly built pilot cutter into St Mawes Bay. Adam had lived in the village as a boy, but I was an incomer. As St Mawes had been a base for working pilot cutters in the 1890’s, we hoped if we called her ‘Eve of St Mawes’ she would be adopted fondly by the local community.

St Mawes is now truly my home, and the locals eagerly look forward to the arrival of a fleet of pilot cutters that gather here each June for the Pilot Cutter World Championships we host. I used to get very twitchy about racing with my peers, as I so desperately wanted to do well and Eve’s crews always worked so hard to try and beat the bigger pilot cutters, but this year it was pure pleasure. I even got to sail with my little brother Steve who used to race Maxi yachts and yet had never been on Eve.

You can participate in the 2017 World Championships on Pilot Cutter Pegasus ( Agnes is full).  17-23rd May 2017 Pegasus 6 day voyage £695


2016: Isles of Scilly – The weather was kind

As a skipper I had some lucky weather windows with 38ft Eve to get out West to the Isles of Scilly in 2016. Reaching this rock strewn archipelago is frequently a challenge. Yes the fast tides around the Lizard and Lands End are great for dolphin spotting, but you are effectively entering the Atlantic Ocean and it can be a bit of a shock for crews on the passage out to paradise.  With Eve now ‘retired’ the choice of Classic Sailing traditional vessels cruising  to the Isles of Scillies are now longer of waterline length and is now bigger and more spacious below.

Your Scillies Fleet is now Agnes, Irene, Pilgrim, Provident, Grayhound and Leader – with possible visits on route around Lands End by Eda Frandsen and Bessie Ellen.

2017 Isles of Scilly Voyage Dates – all vessels


2016: Agnes – A worthy successor for Eve

It was a privilege and revelation to sail 46ft pilot cutter Agnes across Biscay to Northern Spain this summer with Luke and Jo Powell and Diana Cotterell.  Eve of St Mawes was the first pilot cutter built by Luke, but Agnes is the flagship of his shipbuilding company ‘Working Sail’ and she sails like a dream.  If you enjoyed Eve, I am sure you will love sailing on Agnes.  Agnes has been a charter vessel of some renown for 3 years and has quite a following of her own, with guest crew coming from all over the world.She a a bigger more powerful mistress but the helm is light and better behaved than Eve, virtually steering herself. There is stacks of headroom below, linen and duvets instead of sleeping bags, a WC and washroom that is civilised and spacious, and instead of a skipper doing everything you Have Luke or Melissa in charge of the sailing and the lovely Joanna Powell as your host, mate and cook too.

Can’t recommend Agnes enough…try her for yourself.

Agnes voyages in Cornwall, Scillies and Scotland 2017


2016 Brest and Douarnenez Festivals – Heatwaves and Sea Breezes

The weather was so hot at Brest International Festival of the Sea, that virtually the whole fleet of 2000 boats and tall ships emptied out the port went sailing every day – just to cool down in the afternoon sea breezes.  Every evening there were firework displays, and floodlit parades of sail.  I will never forget the tableaux of beautiful ships – and the excitement of dodging tiny dinghies, schooners, bisquines, luggers and classic boats and the French frenzy every time their replica Frigate Hermoine came out to play.

My tips for the best 2017 nautical events would be:

UK fun – Falmouth Classics and Shanty Festival – Try Pilgrim, Agnes or Provident

Cross channel – Paimpol Chant Du Marin 2017 – try Provident, Pegasus, Pilgrim, Agnes

Biggest Tall Ship Event 2017 – Trans Atlantic Tall Ships Race via Bermuda (during the America’s Cup) and a grand finale in Quebec, Canada.

2016: Christmas Gifts – Its not the receiving – its the giving that matters

In November 2016 Classic Sailing sell one ‘slightly used’ but much loved pilot cutter to Mark and Helen.  We hope in passing on ‘Eve’s custodianship to you, she will give you as many happy years as we have enjoyed.

Debbie Purser – Signing out of the year 2016 and looking forward to new adventures.