Sailing plus…

cushion cover
Pilot cutter cushion cover

There’s something about pilot cutters. They earned their keep by being fast, seaworthy and powerful enough to beat against wind and tide in the days when pilotage was a competitive business – first out to the ship got the job. They are used now for more gentle pursuits – sail training, charter, and in recent years a whole new generation of new wooden pilot cutters has been launched; many from the artful hands of Luke Powell, but from other designers too. I’ve just come back from five days sailing on Pegasus, designed by Ed Burnett and built in 2008 by the Bristol Classic Boat Co. Based in Plymouth, her main role is sail training for youngsters ( but occasionally grown ups get to have a play as well. I have come back from my trip deeply impressed by a boat that can power to windward through lumps of Atlantic swell in a force 6 gusting 7, conditions that would have most boats safely tucked up in harbour.


There was only one day of mean headwind as the rest of the week winds were light or annoyingly absent altogether, but such is life. A perfect sailing wind is always the one that other people enjoyed just before you went sailing or just after you got back.

falmouth vista sketch

The main reason for my trip on board Pegasus was musical rather than arty. Fans of the rather brilliant ‘Show of Hands’ may or may not know that Phil Beer sails as well as being a first class musician, and he has cleverly arranged for himself a summer afloat by running what he calls Folkboat cruises. This means that ordinary amateur musicians like me can spend five days sailing by day and playing music with Phil each evening. That was my idea of a perfect holiday. It didn’t come cheap (especially as I’m used to sailing for free by crewing for others), but I saved up over a year or so in the knowledge that it would be worth every penny, and it was.

 phil sketch

The downside of playing music with someone who is incredibly accomplished is of course that you are more aware than ever of your own shortcomings as an amateur. That can be quite daunting. I made up my mind not to get despondent but to learn all I could and enjoy the opportunity, rather than judging myself too harshly. There are a few spaces left on other Folkboat cruises this summer as far as I know, and hopefully Phil will be doing more of the same next year. (


From sailing-and-music to sailing-and-sketching, the art cruise I’m tutoring on Eve of St Mawes is only two weeks away, so I’ll be heading west again for another pilot cutter experience. All places are now booked which is good news… I’m not sure I can emulate Phil and wangle a whole summer afloat next year, but it would be good to try! Are there as many amateur artists as amateur musicians, I wonder? Both art and music satisfy our need to connect and communicate, through colour, line, notes, chords, rhythm; there were moments on board Pegasus when, with time away from the messiness of day to day living, creative ideas began to flow. But then, being a dabbler in all things, I can’t decide whether to draw them, write them down or put them to music. Sometimes I end up doing none of them particularly well!  I tell my art students that the good stuff is in you, but it lies underneath the more wobbly stuff; you just have to have the patience and critical faculty to work through and enjoy the process of creativity in all its imperfections. Life’s too short for embarassment! With that in mind, here’s my bit of a song inspired by the upper reaches of the River Fal. It is, like life, a work in progress….

Anchored up a river as the tide flows slowly by

Watching from the sun warmed deck as unseen herons cry

In wooded shores and silent creek

Where else is found the peace you seek

Anchored up a river as the tide flows slowly by


Rolling down the channel with all sail, running free

Bow wave hissing, sparkling as the ship cuts through the sea

The mast draws circles in the sky

How else can moments slip on by

Rolling down the channel with all sail, running free


Punching through a headwind, grey clouds growing with the seas

Heaving rope on sea drenched decks, waves throw you to your knees

The tiller’s pull beneath your hand

Is a flash of joy you understand

Punching through a headwind, grey clouds growing with the seas


That’s it for now – more news after the art cruise….. wishing you fair winds and a glass always full!




3 thoughts on “Sailing plus…”

  1. Alex says:

    Saw tidbits through your FB. So fun to read more in depth. Claudia you keep your eyes open, your talented with art and written words… No doubt fun music too. We enjoy your bringing your boat to fun useable comfort.

    All good and you share our love for sailing

  2. Hello Claudia, I just wanted to thank you for writing such a lovely piece about sailing on Pegasus with Phil this year. I am so sorry that I have only just found the link- it was well hidden within the wordpress backroom stuff of the website! But thankyou thankyou thankyou and you are very welcome anytime to join us onboard with the grownups! XX

    Cheerio Amy
    ps your work is lovely…

  3. Thanks Amy! I thought Pegasus was great, and we were so well looked after. Good luck with the Island Trust, you do an amazing job and I hope to sail again with you sometime.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



◄ Back to blog home