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
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 swinging peacefully on her
mooring in Fowey Harbour
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)
"The anchor heaves, the ship swings
The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!"
(from The Sailors' Song - Thomas Beddoes)
The Phoenix with sails set ~ a privileged
view from a square rig ship at sea
Looking up at the main mast - with the
square Topsail above the Spanker on the gaff
The fore mast with Topsail set
Looking aft an up at the main
Views around the ship as she sails out into
the English Channel (or should that be the "Cornish Sea"!)...
Looking forward to the bowsprit from
below the fore mast
...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!
Sailing under a moody looking sky,
and rolling gently in the swell
The view forward as she rolls
gently in the swell
Land ho! (well, the Dodman in the
"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.
Time to furl the sails and work begins
A working life out on the yards
(the yardarms are the outer ends where you swing from!)
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!
The Phoenix back on her mooring in Fowey
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
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