by Claire Corbett inCornwall: In the Know

The Best Sailing Experience in Falmouth, Cornwall

Ahoy there
In late August we had the absolute pleasure of being invited on an adventure like no other by Simply Sailing and The Sea Sanctuary. We jumped on board the historic tall ship Irene of Bridgewater for the ultimate Cornish sailing experience. For all of those seeking to create sea memories like no other we highly recommend day sailing on Irene of Bridgewater.

Designed for individuals, groups and families this trip is ideal; for those looking to explore the local area and see a different side to Cornwall. No sailing experience is required but they encourage passengers to take an active part in sailing the ship through raising the sails, taking the helm and hauling up the anchor.

From the moment you set foot on Irene’s sturdy deck, your invigorating adventure begins as you explore the waterways around the sheltered Carrick Roads, nestled between the bustling port town of Falmouth and the stunning scenery of the Roseland Peninsula. 

Built over a century ago, Irene of Bridgewater is a 120ft gaffer and one of the last traditional west country trading Ketches to sail our seas. Built in the docks at Bridgewater in 1907 by FJ Carver and Son, Irene has had a fascinating life – serving as an Edwardian cargo vessel; a family home; a play vessel for the rich and famous; and even as an illustrious movie star (she was the ‘other’ leading lady in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean).

Irene is no stranger to luxury hospitality and is fully crewed with an experienced skipper, a first mate, a deckhand and a chef. With a beautiful and traditional interior, her saloon is spacious with plenty of room for guests and crew to enjoy meals and relax. 

With a commercial-grade kitchen, meal times are a real highlight. Food is freshly prepared using locally sourced ingredients and, with advance notice, catering for specific food and dietary requirement.

Simply Sailing works in partnership with Sea Sanctuary, a Cornish-based mental health charity (one of the world’s leading exponents of blue health, the concept that ‘blue spaces’, are beneficial for people’s mental and emotional wellbeing) who assess, improve and maintain people’s positive mental health and wellbeing through marine-based activities and health development.

We met on a Sunday morning at the Sail HQ in Falmouth, gathered our life jackets and wet water clothing and walked down to the quay to catch our water taxi to Irene. Watching Falmouth with its multicoloured houses and waterside buildings become smaller as we approached our destination is a rare treat that we always enjoy. It feels so special seeing our favourite Cornish town from this perspective. 

Irene with her masts reaching high into the sky and her blue oak and pine hull was bobbing in the water waiting for us. We clambered carefully off the taxi boat and onto the deck, and were greeted by the chef, skipper, first mate and deckhand, and were guided below for a brief history of the ship, with tea, coffee and biscuits. 

Returning on deck, first mate, Tori, taught us all how we would be raising the sails through ‘sweating the line’ rather than using winches, how to tail the line and how to tie ropes off. Her instructions were clear and informative, however the Confucius quote: ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand’ felt extremely relatable.

Skipper John motored Irene out of the harbour in search of the wind. Although the day started off still, once we travelled past St Anthony’s Lighthouse and around the gorgeous Roseland Peninsula the wind picked up and we were able to begin raising the sails as a team. The work took some strength and good group communication but after half an hour or so we had all of the sails raised and our speed increased. Sailing such a beautiful, tall ship and being out in the ocean was a surreal experience that felt both out of our comfort zone and completely safe.  

We spent the next few hours happily sailing and even managed to spot fishing gannets and a pod of dolphins. At 1 pm we all sat down on the deck and indulged in a delicious lunch of freshly-cooked bao buns filled with mushroom stir fry, Asian slaw and sticky ribs. Later we were also treated to delicious fresh brownies and plum cake with tea, all made on board Irene. The sun came out to shine warmly on our faces as we headed back towards Falmouth harbour and many of us were lucky enough to have a go on the helm. After working together to put down the sails we slowly reduced our speed and arrived back in Falmouth harbour to our 4:30 pm water taxi. 

Our time onboard Irene was a magical experience that we cannot recommend highly enough to our guests. Not only does she offer day and half day Simply Sailing from Falmouth but also award-winning, therapeutic sailing programmes which successfully combine the medium of sailing with psychological therapy to improve the lives of individuals, families and organisations in such a way not offered anywhere else in the world. When Irene is not at sea she can provide a stunning and unique backdrop for events and functions, offering catering and space for groups of up to 20 people. 

To find out more about day sails on board classic tall ship Irene, or to make a booking,  please email Claire Watt through or call the office on 01326 378 919.

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