Friday, 30 July 2010

Falmouth Working Boats

Carrick Roads, the large natural harbour formed by the Fal estuary is probably unique in being the only oyster fishery in the world (certainly in Europe) where fishing is still carried out under sail.

Governed by ancient law which protects the fishery, ecology and the riverbed, local oystermen are prohibited to use engines. Today there is a small fleet, working the fishery with traditional boats using sail power and hand pulled dredges.

Down at Mylor, a creek off the western side of the estuary, some of these boats were pulled up on the foreshore, although most of these appear to be wooden built, there are some modern boats in GRP, made by the Heard yard, up the creek at Mylor Bridge, though still built to designs based on traditional working boats.

As well as fishing many of the boats take part in local racing, although increasingly there has been a proliferation of dedicated racing boats.

These boats certainly show their working heritage, notice the aluminium yacht masts being used a bowsprits, reusing an old spar is probably cheaper, lighter and certainly less maintenance that a wooden one. Many of the boats fit a racing rig during the summer months, which is much bigger than that carried for fishing.

Sadly we weren’t around to see any of these sailing as it was July and the oysters are not fished during the summer. But come October Falmouth hold their annual Oyster Festival, which features celebrity chefs and celebrates the start of the oyster season as together with a wide variety of Cornish food, wines and ales.

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