Falmouth EstuaryJust as the Solent with its strong tides and narrow channels has become the home of a fore-and-aft class of boat, so similar conditions in the beautiful estuary of the Fal, with its many creeks and winding wooded reaches, although set in the midst of a lugsail coast, have made it the home of a distinct class of deep, well-ballasted boat, carrying the gaff and boom mainsail, stay foresail, and jib.
The quiet old-world villages at the head of the many coves which lie along the indented coastline about the Fal estuary own a number of these boats varying in size and finish. Nearly all have great depth for their length, straight stem, transom-stern, waterways along the sides, and a fore-deck extending to the mast, and very high freeboard.
THE FAL ESTUARYFlushing, Pill Creek, Restronguet, St. Just in Roseland, and half a dozen other snug, wood-fringed anchorages have their little fleet, lying with bow-ropes among the primroses, and ready for use in the hundred and one ways which a waterside population with the sea instinct know. Oyster-dredging, mackerel-whiffing, long-lining, or crabbing, as the season suits, or even a cargo of wood or a pleasure-party-all have their turn. And better cut, flatter setting mainsails not even the Solent can show.
The Falmouth quay punt is the well-known class of Fal estuary fore-and-aft rigged boat, and is used for taking off stores to ships lying in the roads of that splendid harbour, and for long-lining, crabbing, drift-fishing, or pleasuring as the case may be.
There is nearly always a large fleet of deep-water sailing ships lying at anchor in the capacious anchorage of the harbour, waiting for orders, and bound to and from such distant ports as Calcutta, Rio, or Sydney.
QUAY PUNT--SUMMER RIGQuick in motion owing to their short ends and heavy ballasting, they seldom take any heavy water, although they throw it freely. Many hard winter blows they come through safely. The dangerous time is when they are out 'seeking' (i.e. looking out for ships.) off the Lizard. As the Atlantic depressions approach these coasts, the west and south-west winds with which they are heralded fly suddenly to the north-west and blow with great violence.*1 When caught offshore in these blows it is a hard beat up, and occasionally a quay punt has had to run away east, or has got lost, it was supposed, in the Race off the Lizard. But as a rule, with close-reefed mainsail and foresail, the quay punt stands up to anything, and will weather in against the hardest 'puffs' or squalls of the bitterest nor'-wester. At a certain angle of heel the boat seems to refuse to list further, and it is simply a case then of hanging on and not being washed out of her.
About forty of these boats are owned in and about the town of Falmouth alone. Formerly they seldom exceeded 22 feet in length, but the need for speed developed in racing off to ships has produced a bigger type of boat, and they now run to 24, 28, or even 82 feet lode-water length. The draught of a 24-foot boat would be nearly 6 feet, beam 7 feet, and ballast about 8 tons, there being generally in the newer boats a considerable iron keel. The large cockpit is used for placing stores in, and about two tons can he carried at a time in the worst weather, while in the summertime it affords plenty of accommodation for a pleasure party. The usual cost is from £80 to £100.
Like other Cornish ports such as St. Ives, Penzance, etc., Falmouth had a fine class of six-oared gigs for pilot and other duties. These boats are getting rare now, but may still occasionally be seen moving very fast with their low, long-yarded, lateen-like lugsail set in a short forward raking-mast.
*1* Just as in the Baltic the North-Wester is reckoned the most violent gale, and in one's own experience more accidents happen with the wind in this quarter than even with the the south-west and south-east gales, which often drive in an actually heavier sea, but which have less sheer ferocity and hitting power.
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