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Breton Adventure including Paimpol Shanty Festival

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Mon 31-07-2023, 12:00Falmouth, Cornwall Wed 09-08-2023, 12:00Falmouth, Cornwall Mascotte 9 NightsMT310723

Fantastic sailing across the channel and along the beautiful coast of Brittany, with a host of other traditional ships as they gather for the passage upriver to the biannual Paimpol Chant du Marin music festival. This event is a real favourite among sailors and music lovers alike, and the air of camaraderie and excitement is infectious. Crowds of people gather to watch the flotilla sail up river to the tidal harbour, before the ships nestle in, rafted one to another, for a weekend of dancing, singing, boat-spotting and fun.

And what a boat to sail there on…built in 1904, Mascotte is no pretender. She was the largest Bristol Channel pilot cutter ever built and takes a romp across the Channel to Brittany in her stride.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel


Anyone who loves traditional boats, traditional sailors and traditional (and not so traditional) music. Light sleepers should bring earplugs!


  • Help create a spectacle of wooden masts and sails
  • A photographers or artists dream backdrop
  • About 300 miles of offshore sailing
  • Interesting navigation and tides in Brittany
  • Music and sailors from around the world
  • Summer evenings with concerts and impromptu sessions


Vessel type / Rig Gaff Cutter
Guest Berths 7-8
Beam 15ft
Draft 8ft
Deck Length 60ft
Overall Length 75ft
Tonnage 55 tons
Year Built 1904
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description


An amazing experience for musicians and traditional music lovers, artists and photographers but you need to be a keen enough sailor to enjoy two Channel crossings, there and back, plus sailing from the corner of the North Coast to Paimpol. Often a beam reach in a prevailing South Westerly, Mascotte can make short work of the Channel crossing. It is about 130 miles to Isle de Brehat on the French side and there will be night sailing and watches. With 9 nights aboard there should be time for a little bit of coastal exploring in Brittany or the Channel Isles either before the Festival or on the way back, but where depends on the wind.

Once you are in Paimpol Festival for a few days, there is no scope for day sailing. It is an amazing festival atmosphere, and music happens everywhere. Being crew you can escape the bustle ashore by returning to your own vessel or going for a walk in the surrounding countryside. On big wooden ships like Mascotte, being below decks is reasonably sound insulated if you need a rest from partying. This is not a good voyage if you don’t like traditional music, world music and chilling out on wooden boats.



Paimpol Chant Du Marin Festival is one of our favourite summer festivals and a great excuse to sail around the Isle de Brehat and into the Gulf of St Malo. The British call it Paimpol Shanty Festival but it is much more than just sea shanties or fiddle music. Think Glastonbury Festival with Boats. The musical roots of many countries from Brazil to Lithuania, Russia to Ireland come together for an incredible mix of nautical culture, wooden boats, music and dance. Regular guest crew who have been to the festival before, skippers and all lovers of traditional music and street theatre eagerly await the voyages that feature this 2 yearly festival.

On a sailing voyage we never use the word itinerary, as skippers will always be aiming for the best sailing and shore landings for the forecast and most idyllic or sheltered anchors and ports. They are as keen as you to include some of the highlights described below, but you have to go with Mother Nature, not fight her. The description below is based on what we think might be possible, based on past trips, or experience, but nothing is guaranteed on a sailing voyage.

Brittany Coast
Brittany Coast

Across the Channel to the Granite Rose Coast

Paimpol is in the Western part of Gulf of St Malo made famous b y its Granite Rose coastal rocks. In past years several wooden ships and working boats have headed for Lezardrieux before the festival and there has been an informal race – parade of sail around the corner of France and past the Isle de Brehat. Sailing up the Trieux River to this beautiful inland town could be your first stop and a welcome change from offshore sailing. Other first stops might be Guernsey, the Sept Isles, Isle de Brehat or Tregieur.  There are also anchorages in the shallow waters off the Paimpol.

Mascotte for Paimpol Shanty Festival

Up the Channel to Paimpol

Getting into this tiny harbour involves a long approach channel over shellfish beds and mud flats and with hundreds of wooden boats nose to tail in a small channel. Chaotic, photogenic and building a sense of anticipation this procession ends with a sea lock into a wet dock. Thousands of people line the harbour walls to welcome the fleet and for a moment every vessel is a celebratory.

Once you are in position, possibly rafted up alongside other sailing trawlers or working craft, many vessels leave their sails up to look colourful. You can chill on you own boat, visit other vessels, or join the throngs ashore. Early morning the festival site is shut to the public so you can pop out to get the fresh baguettes or enjoy the peace. 

music everywhere and not just shanties at Paimpol
music everywhere of many varities at Paimpol

Paimpol Harbour – Nautical Tradition

Paimpol was home to a big fleet of deep sea fishing boats that sailed all the way to Newfoundland Grand Banks. Many fishermen didn’t return so there is a melancholy to some of the Breton shanties that sailors around the would would understand. The jolly Breton dancing and more up tempo brass Omph pa bands and jazzy saxaphones make up for the late night sad songs.

On the mainland the historic port of Paimpol is a busy fishing port popular with visiting tourist boats as they enjoy the many restaurants and bars. Paimpol provides a warm welcome to a traditional wooden ship and her crew and you are guaranteed to enjoy the french hospitality shown to you. If it is festival time, over 200 boats with wooden masts fill the main harbour basin and you can almost walk across the middle on boats rafted together.

Breton pipes
Breton pipes

Music Venues and Impromptu Sessions 

Biannually, Paimpol hosts an amazing Sea Shanty Festival The French, and the Bretons in particular, are very proud of their seafaring roots and their festivals are full of life, fun and music. Many young people are involved and musicians and sailors come from all over the world. You might hear Polish Polkas or Brazilian drum bands as well as Breton Pipes playing more familiar shanties. Paimpol Festival is a well kept secret and eagerly awaited every two years by those who know about it.  In terms of setting this shanty festival is in the perfect venue as it provides moorings for a whole host of visiting yachts and ships. The lock basins are right in the heart of the village with outside cafes and bars all around. The dock provides a natural focus and the organisers arrange the traditional boats and tall ships like a scene from 200 years ago. All grouped together there is a great atmosphere of camaraderie and meeting new similar like minded wooden boat enthusiast feels like one big family.  

young love in a boat
young love in a boat

Sailors Know How to Party

Traditionally sea shanties and folk songs can be rather sad telling stories of lost loved ones out at sea. You won’t be crying in your wine or calvados for long as there is folk and world traditional music and dancing all around.  Having a large number of sailors in the audience – including yourselves – who have actually sailed their traditional wooden vessels to the festival, gives a real purpose to the festival. Shanties were working songs for sailors and you will have earnt your excuse for drinking beer and singing badly by hauling on blocks and tackles, standing on watches overnight as you cross the Channel on your voyage. 


Any Channel crossing has the potential to be rough but Pilgrim is a big ex deep sea fishing trawler. Along the North Brittany and Channel Isles coasts the tides are fast and can kick up choppy seas. Once around the corner of the North Brittany coast the land creates some shelter from Atlantic swell. In Paimpol it is flat as a pancake …or crepe 


Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete beginner, the professional crew will train you to be guest crew from the moment you arrive, with the intention that everybody works together to sail the ship. The common thread to all Classic Sailing holidays is ‘Hands on’ participation on ships that use ropes, blocks and tackles and ‘people power’ to set sail.


We cater for a wide range of ages and physical abilities and how much you are expected to do varies a bit between vessels. See the vessel tab above which explains all about the ‘sailing style’ and what to expect in terms of hands on participation. There is a lot of information about day to day life, the ships facilities and accommodation on the vessel pages.


Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office on 01872 58 00 22 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.

Start & End Port

Falmouth, Cornwall

We now have several vessels that use Falmouth as a joining or leaving port. As every vessel is different, and we do not have our own pontoon there, all joining instructions are slightly different. Any changes will be communicated to you before your voyage start date.

This is a list of the likely joining locations, but sometimes the ship can also be at anchor. Read the vessel’s joining instructions carefully for full details.

Click on the two Blue Pins for more information on the joining locations on the map below:

Port Pendennis is the small marina behind the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and the nearest rail station is ‘Falmouth Town’ (3 mins walk). The Maritime Museum has a big tower like a lighthouse so aim for that and at the entrance, turn right and walk down the side of the museum. The gate to the marina is behind the museum building.

Custom House Quay is a stone quay enclosing a small wet dock in the Centre of Falmouth Town. It is used for some of the foot ferries to St Mawes in the peak summer. Only 5 minutes walk from Falmouth Town Station if you head towards the town centre. Situated at the Maritime Museum end of the high street and has its own short stay car park between Trago Mills Store and the Chain Locker Pub if you are driving (see long term parking below) and want to drop your bags first.

Falmouth Visitors Yacht Haven is about 100 yards beyond Custom House Quay but if walking from the rail station towards town it is best if you walk accross Custom House Quay short term car park and nip through the alley tunnel through the Chain Locker Pub. The yacht haven is a small marina only yards from Falmouth main shopping street (Arwenack St), tucked away down the bottom of Quay Street.

Falmouth Port Map and Details PDF


Joining Mascotte in Falmouth 2022 pdf

Kit List


  • Sailing Instruction
  • Safety Equipment (Life jackets and harnesses)
  • All meals to include refreshments throughout the day
  • Bed linen, duvet, pillows
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers - but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer

What is not included

  • Travel to and from the port/s
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Towels
  • Wellie boots

What to Bring

Please limit yourself to one soft bag or rucksack as there is limited storage space on board. No suitcases please! Mascotte does have waterproof jacket and trousers you can borrow in a variety of sizes. if you have your own outdoor waterproof of any type you might want to bring your own so you know you can get a good fit. If you need any advice please ring us on 01872 580022
  • warm, windproof jacket for days when you don't want to wear a heavy waterproof jacket
  • Hats for sun and cold weather.
  • At least two sets of warm clothes - layers e.g. tracksuit bottoms, shirts, fleece jacket, wool jumpers, thick socks, and neck scarf. It can get cold at sea even in mid summer.
  • Swim suit, towel, and suntan lotion.
  • Flat shoes with a good grip e.g. trainers or sailing deck shoes.
  • Sailing boots or wellies.
  • (An alternative to boots in summer is to bring another pair of flat shoes with a good grip in case the first pair get wet).
  • All terrain type sandals are great for dinghy trips ashore – but you do need shoes which protect your toes for sailing.
  • Scillies trips – Walking boots are useful and can be these can be worn on deck too
  • A small rucksack is useful for going ashore.
  • Camera, binoculars, sketchbook, a relaxing read.
  • Passport and Reciprocal Free Health Care card if sailing in Europe.
  • Any medication, spare spectacles. Seasick tablets - check with your Doctor, which brand if you suffer asthma or are on medication.
  • RYA Cruising Logbook or similar if you want to log your sailing experience e.g. sea miles, night hours
  • Musical instruments are always welcome.
  • You can bring a small amount of alcohol if you wish, but please be aware that drinking is always at the discretion of the skipper and will only be permitted when it's safe.


Great trip, good food and company.


Loved every minute. Fantastic experience on a beautiful boat!


Beautiful boat, friendly experienced staff, give it a go!


Such a wonderful experience aboard the most fabulous pilot cutter. It truly was 'as good as it gets'. Three days of the most wonderful sailing imaginable, in the most beautiful boat, in the most capable, charming and safe hands of the crew. Thank you, thank you, thank you all.

John & Chrissie

Vessel Gallery

The largest surviving Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Mascotte is 60 ft on deck. Built in 1904 in Wales and restored in Gloucester Mascotte is a magnificent example of Welsh maritime history. She is now offering short sailing breaks around Cornwall from her new home port of Charlestown Harbour.  

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