The biennial Mousehole Festival, cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, got underway once again over the weekend of 1 to 3 July, reports Mike Smylie.

It is otherwise known as ‘Sea Salts and Sail’, and there was, indeed, plenty of sail, along with a fair helping of salty sea dogs and other fish-orientated activity.

Some 50 vessels were booked in, although some didn’t make it because of the wind direction. But amongst the fleet were plenty of ex-fishing craft such as the 1881- built St Ives lugger Barnabas SS 634; Happy Return FE 5, the 1905 Porthleven-built Mount’s Bay lugger saved from the decommissioning chainsaw in 1998; and Gleaner LT 64, the Lowestoft drifter built in Porthleven in 1878 and recently reconstructed by Spike Davies in Falmouth.

Add a few other Cornish luggers, one East Coast smack and several smaller fishing craft such as the Truro river oyster boat Alf Smythers TO 17 (the only vessel still fishing) and Celeste, a replica of a St Ives jumbo, one of two built by Jonny Nance.

But the festival is not just about boats. Onshore, to entertain the thousands of visitors, there were many fishy antics. The National Lobster Hatchery at Padstow had a stall and also gave a talk on its work.

In the Memorial Hall, a photo exhibition showed Mousehole back in the day when the harbour was crammed with fishing boats and fishing was the sole occupation. Mousehole fishermen Gus and Andy were aboard their boat Sheila T, showing her off.

Kipperman – who has been to Sea Salts and Sail every time since 2000 – was busy smoking his kippers, which almost sold out during the show. Meanwhile, local chefs were demonstrating their skills with fish and shellfish at various times. Local bands played music, with a few sea shanties being heard.

The boats departed each morning to race around the bay, providing a spectacle for visitors. The racing was pretty laid-back – when asked where the start line was, the race officer was heard to say ‘somewhere between the harbour wall and the island’! Not exactly a tight race, then.

On the Saturday, the infamous Cornish lugger Guide Me FY 233 came first, closely followed by the Manx nobby Gladys PL 61 and then Gleaner. On Sunday it was the Bristol pilot cutter Mascotte that took the prize.

Photographing Gleaner close up, the force of her surging through the waves, powered by her two huge lugsails, brought to mind echoes of her racing home to Lowestoft to land her catch of herring, always hoping to be first to the market – followed, probably, by a whole fleet of these 60ft vessels. They achieved amazing speed compared to today’s engined vessels and, as I was photographing Barnabas, the Stelissa PZ 498 steamed past: new meeting old.

Richard Ede was listed as being at the festival, showing how traditional withy inkwell lobster pots are made, though unfortunately he was unable to make it. Nevertheless, Monday morning saw me fishing from Cadgwith with Nigel Legge with his own withy pots. But that’s a story for later.

As I’ve said many a time, this really is my favourite festival, encompassing everything you need in a small village such as Mousehole. Long may it continue.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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