In the distance as we looked up the Fal Estuary on a sunny October morning we thought we could see a fleet of traditional yachts enjoying a race. But then looked closer – they weren’t going round buoys and they certainly weren’t going very fast – it was of course the unique to Falmouth traditional oyster working boats, gathering native oysters from the sea bed.
For hundreds of years these traditional gaff cutter rig boats have fished for oysters in this beautiful part of the southwest. They are one of the few fishing fleets in the world to fish for oysters only under sail. The local fishermen throw a weighted net overboard and trawl it slowly along the bottom to collect their highly valued catch. They drift with the tide and control their speed and direction with their sails. The fishing season is controlled; it runs from October to March and the rules say ‘no mechanical means of propulsion.’
It was the start of the season and perhaps the pressure was on when we sailed passed them last week as they had to fill their nets in preparation for this week’s annual Oyster Festival.
The Falmouth Oyster Festival celebrates the start of this year’s Oyster dredging season from Thursday 12 – Sunday 15 October. Find out more here.