Barnabas SS634, with the Dolly Pentreath SS679 and a Jumbo, St Ives

Barnabas SS634, with the Dolly Pentreath SS679 and a Jumbo, St Ives

Barnabas

LOA 40’, LWL 38’ 6”, beam 11’ 6”, draft 6’.

Barnabas Thomas

Barnabas Thomas

Barnabas is the only survivor from St Ives of the thousand-strong fleet of lug rigged seine and drift net fishing boats registered at Cornish ports at the end of the 19th century. She was built for Barnabas Thomas by Henry Trevorrow above Porthgwidden beach, St.Ives.

Barnabas was first registered on 28th October 1881 as a Class 2 pilchard boat, with the number 634 SS. Later, she was re-registered as a Class 1 mackerel driver and her number switched to SS 634. The number is said to have been chosen as it corresponded to the hymn “Will Your Anchor Hold” in the Methodist hymn book used at the time.

Barnabas is known as a dipping lugger because of the way in which the lug sail on her foremast is partly lowered to tack, and the whole of the foresail is passed around the front of the mast. The sheet on the new tack is attached to the sail and the lug, or yard, from which the sail hangs is raised on the appropriate side of the mast. This method means that the foresail sets efficiently on both tacks for faster sailing, although she needs a more numerous and skilful crew to sail her.

She is a mackerel driver, so called as the boats were driven by the effect of the tide on their nets. Her year began in March, fishing for mackerel, sometimes as far as west of the Isles of Scilly. In mid-summer the catch switched to herring, often fishing out of Howth, near Dublin, with her crew of five men and a boy. They would have all slept in the cramped foc’sle.

Diagram of fishing

Diagram of drift-net fishing

The drift nets were like a curtain hanging in the water with floats at the top. The fish swam into them and were caught by their gills. As the nets were pulled in and restowed in the net room the fish were shaken out into the hold. The drift nets were made up of sections joined together vertically, their total length extending for up to a mile and a quarter.

Barnabas, c.1900

Barnabas, c.1900

The boats left port early in the morning and set all to get to the fishing grounds by early evening. Both mackerel and herring are nearest to the surface at night so this is when the nets were shot. To recover the net, the footrope, the only connection to the nets, was hauled in over a hand cranked flywheel capstan on the starboard (right) side and flaked down by the boy – and this was the wettest,dirtiest job! Later a steam capstan was used. Once the fish hold was full it was back to port as fast as possible to make the first landing and get the best price for the catch or to make the train for London or other main town, as this would also give an improved price.

Barnabas is similar to the double-ended lugger Mystery Spirit of Mystery, sailed to Australia by Pete Goss and crew in 2008, a testament to the seaworthiness of these craft. She is an important part of our national maritime heritage, mentioned in the Historic Small Ships Register as well as many accounts of coastal and fishing vessels from the age of sail.

Layout of the Barnabas

Layout of the Barnabas

Barnabas continued to fish from St Ives until 1954, when she was sold as a yacht. In the 70s she was given to the National Maritime Trust and in the 1980s she was restored to her original state thanks to the generosity of Peter Cadbury, whose family had her in the 50s. In 1994 the Cornish Maritime Trust bought her from the National Maritime Trust for a nominal sum of £1. In 1996 a new engine was fitted; Barnabas had previously had a 26hp petrol/paraffin engine fitted in 1917.

By the early 2000s, surveys revealed that the fabric of the vessel had deteriorated and she lay on a mud berth in Penryn and at Mylor while the Trust sought funding to restore her again. In 2005 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a substantial sum, and in October of that year, aged 123, Barnabas returned to West Cornwall where restoration began in Penzance Dry Dock. Click here for images of her restoration.

By July 2006, Barnabas was back in the water and had her first sea trials in August. Since then, she has sailed regularly to maritime festivals in France and the Isles of Scilly. She was the oldest vessel in the Jubilee Pageant in 2012, and in 2015 she followed in the wake of the sailing luggers by sailing round Britain via Ireland, the Isle of Man, Fort William and the Caledonian Canal, Orkney, Shetland, the east coast of Britain and the Channel.

Today, Barnabas is sailed, maintained and loved by members of the Cornish Maritime Trust.