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Square Rig Sailing out of Fowey:
on the Brig "Phoenix"

Sailing aboard the Phoenix is an amazing experience - even more so for those with a love of the sea, and a sense of the great sailing vessels of the past. To be aboard a square rigger under sail is like taking a step out of time, and for three hours - or for longer trips - it is still possible to do so!

The Phoenix is a two masted Brig, one of three square-riggers owned by Square Sail. She is 112ft long, and carries 4000 square feet of sail - 12 sails in total. She was launched in 1929, and was originally a Danish Evangelical Mission Schooner. Converted to a Brigantine, she was bought by Square Sail in 1988. She has featured in several feature films, including "1492: Conquest of Paradise" as the 15th century Caravel Santa Maria; "Frenchman's Creek" as the French privateer La Mouette; "Mansfield Park"; and "Moll Flanders".

A Brig, by the way, carries square sails on both masts, and a Brigantine carries square sails on the foremast only, with fore and aft sails on the main mast. A Barque is three masted, with square sails on both the fore and main masts, and fore and aft sails on the mizzen, and a Barquentine is again three masted, but with square sails on the fore mast, and fore and aft sails on the other two! A Ship, or Ship Rigged, is a three masted vessel with square sails on all three masts. Easy!!!

The Phoenix on her mooring
The Phoenix swinging peacefully on her mooring in Fowey Harbour

"Sea Fever"
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

(courtesy of John Masefield)

To sea and sailing on the square rig Phoenix
To Sea!

"The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!"
(from The Sailors' Song - Thomas Beddoes)

Square rig on the Phoenix
The Phoenix with sails set ~ a privileged view from a square rig ship at sea

Sails set on the main mast
Looking up at the main mast - with the square Topsail above the Spanker on the gaff

Sails set on the fore mast
The fore mast with Topsail set

Looking up at the mainmast on the Phoenix
Looking aft an up at the main mast

Views around the ship as she sails out into the English Channel (or should that be the "Cornish Sea"!)...

Looking forward to the bowsprit
Looking forward to the bowsprit from below the fore mast

Looking aft on the Phoenix
...and looking aft from the fore mast

The day we sailed out was overcast but gave a wonderful moody feel to the trip, and an all the more of a realistic feeling of the way it must have been when sailing an old square-rigger of the nineteenth century, on a typical day at sea - not all days at sea are bright and sunny!

Moody sky while sailing on the Phoenix
Sailing under a moody looking sky, and rolling gently in the swell

Rolling gently in the swell
The view forward as she rolls gently in the swell

Land Ho!
Land ho! (well, the Dodman in the distance anyway!)

A trick at the wheel
"A trick at the wheel"

The Phoenix is a square rig vessel in every sense of the word. It may have an auxiliary engine for when it is needed against wind, tide or time, and indeed safety, but the sails are worked as they always have been, and are set and furled by the same rope halyards, sheets, braces, bunt lines and clew lines of old. Which means that working aloft is still the order of the day, fair weather or foul. There may now be safety lines in use to prevent falling screaming to the deck, or over the side to be lost at sea alone, but there is still a lot of hauling and heaving involved! Life at sea "before the mast", in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries may seem romantic now, and maybe it was at times then, but it was a hard life, and at times a dangerous one.

Working the sails on the Phoenix
Time to furl the sails and work begins aloft

A working square rigged Phoenix
A working life out on the yards
(the yardarms are the outer ends where you swing from!)

Ship shape and Bristol fashion
All "Ship-shape and Bristol fashion", and returning to harbour

And finally back to the mooring in Fowey harbour, and memories of an amazing sailing trip, a tall ship with sails set, and even a trick at the wheel!

Phoenix back on her mooring
The Phoenix back on her mooring in Fowey Harbour

Red ensign flying on a square rigger
The Red Ensign still proudly flies on square rig sailing vessels

For details of other square rig sailing trips from Fowey, Charlestown, or elsewhere:
Contact Square Sail at...
Charlestown Harbour, St.Austell, Cornwall PL25 3NJ; Tel. +44 (0)1726 70241
...or visit their website at Square Sail!


All photographs are copyright of Clive ffitch; please contact PhotoFile Cornwall if you wish to use them.
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