Sailing past the King Harry Ferry, River Fal, Cornwall.

The crew onboard Sailing barge Drifter exploit every chance to get under sail. This is what makes every one of our sailing trips different.

Different wind conditions and states of tide mean the challenge that we set ourselves is always that, a challenge. Sometimes it is an easy sail over the current, other times there is need to tack and gybe (changing direction often) to find the best route. On some occasions we also have to concede defeat, but usually only because the time that passengers have onboard is limited and there is a lot to see, and so the engine is started but only used until such time that we can get under sail once more.

We have thrilled our passengers by being able to sail down or up river on many of our sailing trips. Silently weaving in and out of the moorings and boats at anchor. We clearly hear the wildlife, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees and the rippling waters.

We like to think we know the River very well. We live onboard the barge in the Summer, either at anchor or at one of the visitors pontoons. Neil also holds the post of a seasonal River Patrol Officer for the Port of Truro where weekday evenings he gets to meet and greet visitors to the river, as well as carrying out other important port functions. In the winter 2018/19 Neil also worked full time for the port assisting with maintenance of the moorings, quays and slipways in the River and around Cornwall. At that time we wintered the barge at Truro town quay, the limit of navigation in the Truro River.

It has to be said that there is always more to learn about the River but we have certainly spent more time on the water here than many others. We have seen it in all its moods throughout the four seasons. We have a real love for the river, and have a fervour for ever increasing our knowledge of its nature, history and industry.

Recently we were sailing with some local passengers which included a couple of older gentlemen whom had grown up and enjoyed the river over their lifetime. We were happy to learn still more about some of the Rivers secrets from them and in return they were happy to hear from us of some more recent changes along the way.

When entering the river again after a sail in the Carrick Roads they commented that we would have to drop sail as it was difficult to sail up the river. The wind was quite strong and gusty from the South and we had already reduced the sail area to compensate. Our reply that we would sail up the river delighted them.

On every trip one of our most difficult parts is navigating past the King Harry chain ferry. We have to time this perfectly so as not to interfere with its passage or crossing schedule. As we approach we look for tell-tale signs of its imminent departure from the shore. Perhaps the skipper walking back to the wheelhouse, the crew closing the gate etc. On this occasion they seemed to be taking a little longer to leave the shore than normal, scuppering my plan to sail close behind them as they left. As we got quite close, it was clear we would need to take evasive action. This involved tacking the barge back down river away from the ferry crossing. A few moments after we did this, the ferry left the shore and so we then gybed the barge around promptly to resume our course passing safely by the stern of the ferry. Our gentleman passengers looked enthralled and the wind pushed us quickly past the crossing and towards Smugglers cottage.

Just the week before we also performed a ‘hat over board’ recovery in the same area. Under mainsail, we managed to recover the pretty turquoise hat from the emerald water and reunited it with its grateful owner.

As we said before, every one of our sailing trips is different, but always a delight.

Sailing barge Drifter is available for sailing trips from 2 hours to all day in the River Fal and around the Falmouth area. Visit for more details.