Volunteer sailors from the Cornish Maritime Trust (CMT) set sail from Newlyn today on an epic six-week, 1,000-mile voyage aboard the 143-year-old wooden mackerel driver Barnabas.  

The world’s only surviving St Ives double-ended dipping lugger in the world, Barnabas is in need of new masts and will collect two handcrafted Douglas fir masts from Scotland in an ambitious journey linking four Celtic lands and serving to keep Cornish maritime heritage alive through education and fundraising.

Following a traditional blessing by Rev’d Derath Durkin, the historic vessel 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 CMT artist-in-residence Vicki Norman, painting ‘en plein air’ just as Newlyn School artists would have done when Barnabas was a youngster.

More than 30 volunteers have signed up with the CMT to live aboard the lugger on each week-long leg, in the same close conditions experienced by Cornish fishermen in the late 1800s, learning heritage skills that are in danger of dying out.

The new masts will be fitted by Johnson & Loftus Boatbuilders in Ullapool, coinciding neatly with the Ullapool Lugger Festival from May 10 to 12. Barnabas will be carrying award-winning Cornish exports, including Yarg cheese from Lynher Dairies and Cornish Sea Salt.

Barnabas will then journey on through the Hebrides before returning via Fishguard, Cork and the Isles of Scilly, returning to Newlyn by June 22.

Olivia Byass Smithies, 24, is one of 12 volunteers who have recently gained RYA theory qualifications through CMT’s partnership with Cornwall Seafood Training Centre, Newlyn. She is volunteering on the Mallaig to Oban leg.

“To learn the skill of sailing a lugger feels like a huge privilege,” she said. “I’m especially looking forward to exploring some of the islands and hopefully pinning down how to do some knots.”

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 October 28, 1881 as a Class 2 pilchard boat, with the number 634 SS - said to have been chosen as it corresponded to the hymn Will Your Anchor Hold? in the Methodist hymn book used at the time.

The epic voyage will be recorded on the CMT Facebook page.

The community has raised more than a third of the £15,000 needed for the new masts, and the CMT is seeking support to meet this target and secure its ongoing work. For more information, visit http://cornishmaritimetrust.org/