Harbours in Cornwall - Fal, Helford and Roseland
Already popular as the first and last port of call for grain-trade sailing ships travelling from the Atlantic or the Bay of Biscay, in 1688 Falmouth became a vital link in the chain of communication between London and the rest of the world when it was designated a mail packet station. When sail gave way to steam much of Falmouth's former industry shifted to the more usefully located Southampton, but thanks to burgeoning tourism the town continued to prosper. Ellen Macarthur is the latest in a long line of adventurers who have attracted the world's press to this remote Cornish town, whose character continues to be well and truly shaped by her maritime landscape.
Falmouth's cobbled streets and narrow alleyways are dotted with figureheads from ships long-since wrecked, four marinas and several island pontoons serve visiting yachtsmen, and huge oil tankers from across the globe hang offshore like giant birds, waiting for the economic downturn to reverse itself so that their exiled crews can return home.
Within easy walking distance is the larger Port Pendennis, whose wider concrete pontoons can accommodate yachts more than seventy metres long and with a six metre depth on outer berths. As well welcoming superyachts, the marina at Port Pendennis, which sits adjacent to the National Maritime Museum, is well-served for regular boats, offering both sheltered winter mooring in the inner harbour (access three hours either side of high water, minimum depth three meters) and visitor berths in the outer section, with direct access to shops, restaurants and pubs.
Aside from the harbour in Falmouth itself, there are numerous other places to stop along the many arms of the Carrick Roads. Directly opposite Falmouth is Flushing, a small town famous for the regatta held there every summer at the end of July. A week of events (including bathtub racing) culminates in the unmissable sight of dozens of gaff-rigged Falmouth Working Boats racing across the harbour. These traditional boats are still used in the Carrick Roads today where the traditional practice of oyster dredging is only permitted from sail-powered boats. The gaff-rigged Falmouth Working Boat is the result of generations of traditional workmanship.
Across the channel to the east of Falmouth is the super-sheltered Percuil River, home to St Mawes, a picturesque town with a medieval castle. Visitor moorings are available by arrangement with Percuil River Moorings or St Mawes Sailing Club (excellent showers) which also operates ten green visitors buoys and further sheltered anchorages to the south of the town, although these can be uncomfortable in a strong southerly swell.
Entry to St Mawes harbour is free of obstacles apart from the permanently-covered Lugo Rock, marked with a buoy.
Heading north from Falmouth will bring you to Mylor Yacht Harbour, for many years the smallest Royal Navy dockyard in the country. Mylor is an attractive sailing village with an impressive range of facilities including a recently extended marina with all the usual provisions including a restaurant, bar and WiFi, a boatyard with a thirty-five ton travelift, a well-stocked chandlery, a fuelling berth and a visitors pontoon.
Running parallel to the Carrick Roads on the western side is the Helford River, which seperates Falmouth and the exposed Lizard Peninsula. The Helford Passage is a magical place of hidden inlets and crooked cottages to which entry is fairly straightforward, the only danger being a reef to the north marked with a green conical buoy. Private landing pontoons at the Old Helford Boatyard can be used in exchange for a voluntary contribution, while visitor moorings are available at the Ferry Boat Inn, Durgan Star Hire Boats and Gillan Creek. Upstream, the channel to Gweek, home to the Port Navas Yacht Club, is well marked.