By Ros Bennet
I thought about the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter I had fallen in love with in my twenties, but had not fallen in love with the owner. I read and re-read the first chapter of the Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. I had noticed Cornish Crabbers in the Deben.
My retirement lump sum and part time work made me think it was ‘now or never’. I poured over a map off the south of England and decided the only possible place to get a mooring was in the Carrick Roads. The Truro harbour master gave me a list of 13 possible places to try. I was turned down 12 times, by the time I got to the last one I was near to giving up but the owner of Pascoe’s boatyard thought he could fit me in.
Having found some where to moor my non-existent boat I set about looking for a second hand Cornish Crabber. After six months of searching I eventually found one for sale at more or less the right price. Oddly enough the seller was the nephew of Richard Dongray who had designed the Cornish Crabbers in the first place.
It was love at first sight, the knowledgeable friend who came with me said she was a cracker and the deal was done. Demelza and 24ft Cornish Crabber built in 1978 was mine. She was taken by a low loader to Mylor in Cornwall, escorted across the Carrick Roads by launch and put on a mooring in the middle of St Just’s Creek.
Perfect, but I had not even got a tender to row out to her. My daughter, not a keen sailor, bravely offered to help me pick up a tender from Kingsbridge and then spend a night or two on board.
The boat had arrived without any instructions what so ever. We worked out how to operate the meths stove and the heads, (loo). . Dave Llewellyn the local engineer kindly explained how to use and look after the diesel engine, Hugh from the boat bent on the sails and we were ready to go.
I have spent the last few years happily learning how to sail Demelza including how to put up the tops’l. I have learnt a bit about the Carrick Roads and have sailed as far as the Scillies in the PASAB race. We won a prize for Merit and Overall Effort, it really means we came a resounding last but did not give up.
I am profoundly grateful to my family, the many friends, Alfie and Nancy who have helped me to realise a rather improbable dream.
Read more about my Cornish Crabber Challenge: