PR01 – Historic Cornish Lugger sets sail on 1,000 mile ‘living heritage’ voyage

Volunteer sailors from the Cornish Maritime Trust (CMT) set sail from Newlyn today on an epic six week voyage aboard a unique 143 year old wooden boat.
143 year old ‘Barnabas’ to receive new masts in Scotland!

Volunteer sailors from the Cornish Maritime Trust (CMT) set sail from Newlyn today on an epic six week voyage aboard a unique 143 year old wooden boat. The mackerel driver, ‘Barnabas’ is the only surviving  ‘St Ives double-ended dipping lugger*’ in the world and the ambitious journey will link four ancient Celtic lands – Cornwall, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The purpose of the endeavour is threefold: education, preservation (including the collection of new masts) and fundraising to keep Cornish maritime heritage alive.

Following a traditional blessing by Rev’d Derath Durkin, the historic vessel, sporting flags from all four Celtic nations, once more raised its sails, caught the wind and glided elegantly out of Newlyn to cheers of ‘Oggy, Oggy, Oggy’ from crowds on the quay. The sight was captured by Artist in Residence, Vicki Norman, painting ‘en plein air’ just as Newlyn School artists would have done when Barnabas was a ‘youngster’.

Living and learning aboard the Barnabas

Once 1000’s of lug-rigged* working boats graced Cornish waters but now the know-how to sail this historic rig is dying out. CMT will be passing on these ‘endangered’ heritage skills to 30+ volunteers who have signed up for the unique educational opportunity. Up to seven will live aboard the lugger on each week-long leg, in the same close conditions experienced by Cornish fishermen in the late 1800’s.

New handcrafted masts from Ullapool, Scotland

The furthest destination is Ullapool, Scotland, North West of Inverness. It was here, that Dave Need, Shipwright and CMT Trustee first conceived the ambitious voyage for Barnabas, while helping to build the 52ft engineless lugger, St Vincent, in 2023. He envisioned a way to source Barnabas’ much-needed masts without costly shipping; to reconnect the maritime heritage of ‘lugger-loving’ communities and to share endangered sailing skills. In October 2023 the vision took shape when Dave and fellow trustees helped selected 150ft tall Douglas Firs from nearby Leckelm Wood, a local sustainable forest on the shores of Loch Broom. Now, with the help of Johnson & Loftus Boatbuilders, Dave will oversee the refit of Barnabas with the two handcrafted masts, an outrigger and several spars, to replace those which have succumbed to weather and time. In May, Barnabas then journeys on through the Hebrides before returning via Holyhead, Cork, and the Isles of Scilly back to Newlyn by June 22nd.

Sharing Cornish maritime heritage and raising support to sustain it

The voyage is part of CMT’s mission to preserve Cornwall’s intangible cultural heritage, including training the next generation to sail Barnabas’ unique ‘lug rig*’. To that end trustees recently set up an online educational forum together with National Historic Ships and in each port there will be the opportunity to connect Cornish maritime heritage with the wider national heritage, harking back to the 19th century when Cornish luggers were regular visitors to ports around the British Isles, following the herring throughout the fishing season. A highlight of this exchange will be the Ullapool Lugger Festival (10th-12th May), when Barnabas will join lug-rigged boats from all over Scotland and will treat crews to ‘St Ives Island Rum’, gifted by descendants of Barnabas Thomas, for whom the boat was built.

The CMT community has already raised half the £15,000 needed for the new masts. Now the Trust is seeking support to meet this target and secure its ongoing work. Trustees hope the sight of history brought to life will inspire individuals and businesses to come aboard and help sustain Cornwall’s maritime heritage for generations to come: http://cornishmaritimetrust.org/.

Artist in residence captures life aboard historic boats

Internationally renowned, award-winning artist, Vicki Norman, is a keen sailor and CMT’s Artist in Residence. Now painting in the studio of famous Newlyn School artist, Walter Langley (1852-1922), Vicki is dedicating her year’s residency to capturing life and heritage skills aboard the Trust’s boats which worked local waters during his lifetime. Vicki hopes to join in Ullapool and will be donating 10-25% of her sales to the ‘mast-fund’.

Precious Cornish cargo travels carbon-free to Scotland

The beautiful ‘Barnabas’ won’t arrive in Ullapool empty-handed as she will be carrying award-winning Cornish exports, including Yarg cheese from Lynher Dairies and Cornish Sea Salt.

Follow her progress

Please follow the Cornish Maritime Trust’s Facebook page for regular postings on Barnabas’ epic voyage: https://www.facebook.com/groups/48725168123. Route map attached.

Comment:

Volunteer, Olivia Byass Smithies, 24, is one of the youngest joining the voyage. She is excited to learn new skills on the Mallaig to Oban leg and commented, ‘My partner is from Scotland and weve explored the West Coast but never had the opportunity to sail. To be able to do this on a beautiful boat with so much history and learn the skill of sailing a lugger feels like a huge privilege. Im especially looking forward to exploring some of the islands and hopefully pinning down how to do some knots!’ Olivia is one of 12 volunteers who have recently gained RYA theory qualifications through CMT’s partnership with Cornwall Seafood Training Centre, Newlyn.

Vicki Norman, CMT Artist in Residence said,Sharing and recording how to sail a dipping lug rig is hugely important to British Maritime history in preserving the methods of sailing and maintaining these magnificent old boats. In addition to this unique connection to Cornwall’s maritime past, sailing with CMT is giving me friendships, adventures and a tonne of visual inspiration for my work!’

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Press contact:

CMT skippers – limited access during the voyage: cmtskippers@gmail.com

Esmé Page: ep@esmepageconsulting.com – 07803 594 285

About the Cornish Maritime Trust

The Cornish Maritime Trust is a charity which exists to preserve Cornwall’s maritime heritage by maintaining and sailing working vessels from the days of sail. Run by volunteers, it aims to educate people about Cornwall’s maritime heritage, trains people of all ages in the skills associated with traditional sailing, restoration and maintenance, and shares the enjoyment of sailing historic working boats. The Trust operates four unique boats: Barnabas (1881 dipping lugger, 40ft), Softwing (1900 Truro River oyster dredger, 24ft) and Ellen (1882 Gorran Haven crabber, 17ft) as well as one replica (1890’s dipping lugger, 22 ft), Silver Stream, used for training.

The Trust is always happy to welcome new members with an annual membership scheme from £30 which makes sailing and learning affordable. The charity relies on donations and sponsorship to continue its vital work. To find out about membership or to support the Trust, please visit: http://cornishmaritimetrust.org/ or follow Cornish Maritime Trust on Facebook. 

About Barnabas and the historic dipping-lugrig*

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 denoting the way the lug sail on her foremast is partly lowered to tack, and the foresail and 23ft yard is passed around the front of the mast. The main sheet on the new tack is then attached to the sail. The sail and yard, from which the sail hangs is then raised on the appropriate side of the mast. This method means that the foresail sets efficiently on both tacks for faster sailing. Sailing this rig requires specific skills and well-honed teamwork by a crew of at least five.

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