Blue Mermaid, 2019 (replica of original built 1930)

Sea-Change Sailing Trust

Blue Mermaid is a steel-hulled, 87’ Thames sailing barge built in 2019. She is a replica of an older vessel of the same name, built in 1930 and sunk by enemy action during the Second World War. Blue Mermaid was built specifically to operate under sail alone and does not carry an engine. She is owned by the Sea-Change Sailing Trust, who commissioned her for the purpose of sail-training voyages with young people, as well as to operate sail cargo. In 2023, she received permission from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to carry cargo of up to 110 tonnes. In 1900, there were around 4,000 such barges, each with a crew of two carrying cargo under sail, but Blue Mermaid is the first since 1970 to be authorised as a commercial cargo carrier.


Birubi, 1967

Stevie Hunt

Birubi is a 42’ steel, Bermudan ketch. She was built in the church hall in Reedham, Norfolk, and launched in 1967 to a unique design by Bill Beeson. Stevie bought Birubi in 2013. After sailing and living aboard for two years, he undertook a full-scale restoration, which included learning how to weld to a coding level, replacing large areas of her keel plates and frames, replacing much of the deck, and restoring her accommodation. Being an experienced Thames barge-skipper and sailor, Stevie already had a passion for sailing engineless. While sailing Birubi, he had challenged himself to never use the engine; he was successful in this endeavour. So it was that during the restoration, Stevie removed the engine and filled the aperture where the propellor once was. In replacement, she has been fitted with rowlocks and long oars, a new set of sails, many anchors, and long lengths of anchor chain.  She was relaunched in 2020, and Stevie is now planning long-distance sailing with Birubi, particularly to the higher latitudes.


Defiance, circa 1975

Rose Ravetz

An unusual vessel, Defiance is a Falmouth quay punt built with ferro-cement. She is 23’, not including her topping bowsprit, and word-of-mouth has it that she was built in a boatyard in Hull around 1975. Her previous owner sailed her twice across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and back via the Azores. Rose bought her in 2018 and lived on board for almost a year, while sailing her around the East Coast. Director Huw Wahl, who is Rose’s brother, visited for a week’s sailing, which is when the idea for the film was born. Rose then took Defiance out of the water for a restoration, which she undertook herself. After four years, Defiance was ready to sail again, this time without an engine. This first sail is captured in Wind, Tide & Oar. 


Dorothy, 2021

Giles Gilbert

Dorothy is based on the lines of an original St Michael’s Mount post boat, which were rowing punts commissioned by the Post Office to deliver post to and from the island. Built by her current owner Giles, Dorothy now performs a different task: used to catch fish in and around Falmouth Harbour. Some aspects of her design have been modified to suit her new work, but she retains the traditional style and clinker planking. Giles owns and runs a fish shop in Falmouth called Pysk, where he sells locally caught fish, and, on occasion, sells a catch from Dorothy.


Guide Me, 1911

Jude and Jonno Brickhill

Guide Me was originally built as a fishing vessel, a mackerel drifter, in Looe and fished locally from her launch in 1911 until she was sold away to the Channel Islands in 1968. She is 40 ft long on deck, 72 ft including the bowsprit and outrigger, and was built without an engine, though she had one fitted soon after. In 1977, she was bought by Jonno and Judy Brickhill, who restored her, removed the engine, and proceeded to sail her to South Africa via Brazil in 1988/89, returning to Cornwall in 1992. The Brickhills lived onboard for many years, bringing their children up afloat. They still own Guide Me and regularly take her to regattas and festivals in Cornwall and Brittany. She has a dipping lug design, making her relatively labour-intensive and requiring a strong crew.


Katrina, 1913

Jonathan Bailey

Jonathan has been fishing on the unique Fal Estuary Oyster Fishery, which only permits rowing and sailing boats to fish, since 1975. He bought Katrina, a 23’ gaff-rigged cutter built in 1913, in 1976 and has used her to fish for oysters in the Falmouth harbour since.


Tres Hombres, 1943


Tres Hombres was built in 1943 and is a 100’ brigantine-rigged vessel with two masts. In 2007 she was found in a wreck-like condition in the Netherlands by three friends, who decided to buy and restore her. After much work and volunteer help, she was made seaworthy again in just over two years. She now carries cargo, sailing Northern European seas and crossing the Atlantic once a year. She is engineless, covering these long distances exclusively with the power of the wind.


All images courtesy Huw Wahl