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Sailing in Devon on Classic Boats & Historic Sailing Ships

A rugged natural coastline with considerable environmental protection, Devon is a pleasure to sail along if you are a wildlife lover. The high cliffs around Berry Head, Prawle, Bolt Tail and Bolt Head are home to hundreds of seabirds in the breeding season and the many rivers and estuaries are home to heron, curlew and rarer waders. Offshore you are still not far from the Atlantic Ocean and gales bring in ocean birds up the Channel and occasional exotic species like turtles or jellyfish get swept East with the Gulf stream. 

Classic Sailing has day sails, sailing weekends, RYA Courses on classic boats, and longer sailing holidays that sail between Devon and Brittany or the Channel Isles. You can also join an 18th Century privateer and deliver cargoes to small ports along the coast. 

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Why we love this sailing ground

Headlands, Rias and Secret Coves

Both Devon and Cornwall have some great hideaways and secluded anchorages. Wherever you stop there is the SW Coast Path, which was originally created for the revenue men on horseback to patrol isolated peninsulas and bays to catch smugglers landing their contraband.

Crews love the beaches here. Sailing in Devon
Crews love the beaches here

Home to the Brixham Sailing Trawlers

Classic Sailing have always advocated that historic ships should be out on the salty sea  earning their keep. Brixham has 4 large sailing trawlers from the Victorian era still sailing and Classic Sailing are proud to work with three of them - 1895 Pilgrim, 1924 Provident and 1892 Leader. 1926 Vigilance is the 4th trawler and run by a local Heritage Trust. Brixham is still an important fishing port and Torbay, and the sheltering headland of Berry Head is a fantastic place to go out and play on these iconic sailing trawlers. Torbay was a storm haven for the British Fleet when South West Gales swept in and made blockade duty off the French coast impossible during the Napoleonic War and it has hosted several tall ships races in recent times.

Brixham Heritage Fleet
Brixham Heritage Fleet

Brixham Heritage Festival & Famous Chefs

Several famous chefs have made Devon their home so you really can get a 'Taste of the West' at various food and drink festivals during the summer. Rick Stein, Mitch Tonks to name a few. Crab Festivals, Seafood Festivals, Dartmouth Regatta, Torbay Air Show and the Sailing Trawlers favourite Event. Racing for the King George Cup at the Brixham Heritage Festival. Devon has moved on from cream teas to some really high class waterside restaurants, organic farms, locally made cheeses and awesome fresh seafood.  The bigger Devon sailing vessels that have a dedicated ships cook  know they are part of a Devon Foodie Revolution and do their bit to impress with their catering.

Photo by Peter Hunt
Original trawlers Vigilance and Pilgrim racing. Photo by Peter Hunt

Plymouth & South Devon - The Nicest RYA Teaching Arena in Britain

If you want to earn a RYA course in great scenery, plenty of deep water and blue seas, yachts and shipping to test your COLREGS decisions, big tidal ranges and creeks for pilotage challenges the we think Plymouth is one of the best places to come for 5-6 days (especially as you can dip into Cornwall 'territorial waters' too.  Moosk is a two masted vessel and a gaff rigged classic yacht. After sailing her you might just convince yourself that owning a second hand wooden boat is within your grasp. Dreams are made of this.

​Moosk and Pegasus in their home port of Plymouth  ​

East to West - The Devon Coastline for Sailing

Berry Head and Torbay

West of Brixham is the impressive Berry Head, its high limestone cliff's home to Peregrine falcons. The other side of the Bay is equally popular with rock climbers and you can sail past the distinctive Thatchers Rock.  It is rare to go East from here as the port choices are limited without covering big distances.

Dartmouth & River Dart

Only a short evening sail away is the almost hidden entrance to Dartmouth and Kingswear. The river is gorge like with a bend in the river which hides the historic ports until you are almost off Town Quay.  The new harbour-master here in 2017 is actively encouraging the charter vessels to sail up the River Dart, creating a timeless scene for tourists and lots of sail handling for you.

Skipper Marcus entering Dartmouth on Grayhound's maiden voyage
Skipper Marcus entering Dartmouth on Grayhound's maiden voyage

Start Point & Hallsands

The iconic white lighthouse on this famous headland features in many maritime paintings, and marks the tide ripped Skerries sand bank. If you take the inside passage you might stop at the abandoned village of Hallsand, where buildings were claimed by the sea in a great storm.

Salcombe - Golden Beaches & Yachting Mecca

Not many harbours have such perfect golden sands revealled at low tide. Salcombe is a holiday heaven for those who love messing about in boats, but very busy peak season. If you are lucky enough to get a mooring off the town you can admire you classic boat from the waterside inns.

Leader anchored in one of Devon's drowned River Valleys or Rias
Leader anchored in one of Devon's drowned River Valleys or Rias

Newton Ferrers, Plymouth & Cawsand

You could spend 6 days on a RYA course here and not get bored. Plan your pilotage up the Tamar or the River Lyhner. Anchor at Barn Pool for a BBQ or the village of Cawsand for a seafood meal in the pub that sits on the county boundary.  Behind the Breakwater you will find Navy ships, yacht races, ferries to dodge and dozens of navigational marks at night.

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Which ship for my adventure?

A large part of the historic vessels we work with are based in Devon and their working roots are here too.

Brixham Sailing Trawlers is what first springs to mind if you say 'Devon sailing' to a traditional boat enthusiast. Originally designed to tow a heavy fish trawl, these massively built fishing trawlers can cope with deep sea sailing in rough conditions so make ideally sail training ships to keep you safe. Don't be deceived into thinking they might be a bit sedate as they needed to be powerful to trawl so they have upto of 8 sails and huge sailing areas upwards of 3500 square feet.

 You can join Leader, Provident and Pilgrim at home in Devon at certain times of year, and there is even a Brixham Heritage Regatta in May where they compete for the King Georges Cup. 

1907 West Country Trader 'Irene of Bridgewater' was once a familiar sight taking cargoes up and down the Bristol Channel for decades and she still visits Bristol and graces the North Coast of Devon occasionally on her travels as a charter vessel. A softer option for Irene is to sail the South Coast of Devon and she has often has voyages from her current home port of Plymouth.

Sailing Lugger Grayhound was built in Millbrook just over the Plymouth Estuary into Cornwall. The original 1776 Grayhound was built in Cawsand overlooking Plymouth Sound. She often runs day sails out of Plymouth and Dartmouth  or you can sign on as sail cargo crew and help her deliver Devon organic Ale from Otter Brewery to France and come back with more 'alcoholic booty' from France.

Edwardian gaff yawl Moosk offers RYA Courses in Devon and has the whole of Plymouth Sound, the Lyhner, St Germans River, the Plymm and the Tamar rivers on her doorstep without even leaving Plymouth Bay. Nearby are Cawsand, Newton Ferrers, and Salcombe and some iconic headlands to sail around in deep waters.

39ft gaff cutter Golden Vanity is a bit further East, teaching RYA Competent Crew and Day Skipper out of Brixham, but you shouldn't see the same port or anchorage twice. The whole point of RYA practical courses is to give you variety - picking up bouys, anchoring under sail, pontoons, tiny quay walls, marinas and rafting up on other boats.  Even if you don't want a qualification it is a great way to explore South Devon on a classic boat with a bowsprit. 

Johanna Lucretia is a stunning topsail schooner based mostly in Plymouth, but she only has a few voyages each year so they will go like hot cakes. Rumour has it she will be in the last Poldark Series.

Sail in Devon this summer. Johanna Lucretia gracing the Devon Coastline
Johanna Lucretia gracing the Devon Coastline
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