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Classic Boat Skills – 6 day course – big and small boats combo TH200524

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Mon 20-05-2024, 15:00St Mawes, Cornwall Sun 26-05-2024, 10:00St Mawes, Cornwall Tallulah 6 NightsTH200524

Learn seamanship skills on an offshore pilot cutter, open sailing boat and row boat

This is a comprehensive 6 day course for all levels of sailors who want to focus on the skills to sail classic wooden boats of all sizes with style and confidence. We use 3 wooden boats to teach on:

Spend 6 nights on our 22 ton pilot cutter Tallulah learning big boat skills from the basics of handling big sails to how to organise a deck crew, or park a long keeled boat like a pro. On this longer course we can also go sailing off the beach on one of our 17ft Spritsail yawls. ‘Outdoor Girl’ and the recently built ‘Wild Boy’ are used for wild camping trips and make ideal vessels for the current trend of dinghy cruising. Learn beachcraft skills like setting stern anchors, using beach legs and sailing into small ports on these versatile historic working boats without an engine. You don’t even need a sail to learn seamanship skills. Tallulah’s tender is a 15ft clinker rowing boat if you want to feel confident that you can just jump in a row boat and do your own thing.

max 6 guests on this course and a mate. Your instructor is Debbie Purser who founded Classic Sailing, has been a professional skipper for 25 years and is still a RYA Yachtmaster Instructor. She has recently learned to build and repair boats on the 40 week professional boat building course at The Boat Building Academy.

Solo travellers welcome, but we also have a lovely double bed cabin for couples on board Tallulah.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Ideal voyage for:

Beginners with taste who want a broad introduction to all types of boats. Keen sailors who dream of owning a little wooden lugger or a 2nd hand classic dinghy you can fit on a trailer. Sailors who dream large and want to explore the skills they need to live on a big boat. Wannabee career sailors who want to work on a big yacht or tall ship and travel the world.


  • 6 night course over 7 days
  • 22 ton offshore pilot cutter for big boat skills
  • All the fundamental sailing skills on the 3 day course
  • plus beachcraft & dinghy cruising skills on 17ft open boat
  • small boat handling under oar and without engines
  • discussions and tips about boat ownership and other ways to sail
  • navigation and pilotage for shallow waters
  • how to operate safely whilst having great adventures
  • how to live well on a self sufficient classic boat
  • Always time for exploring ashore or a wild swim


Vessel type / Rig gaff cutter
Guest Berths 6
Beam 13.5ft
Draft 7ft 5
Deck Length 44ft
Overall Length 59ft
Tonnage 22 tons
Year Built 2008
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description

Barrel windlass after breakfast


Just what is the best way to learn to sail?

The Royal Yachting Association will offer you several routes into the sport of sailing, but the RYA cruising courses are very much weighted towards sailing 30-40ft yachts that are mass produced and made of plastic. They also have separate courses for open sailing dinghies. These are typically taught on fast, 1-2 person plastic dinghies so you can race in a design class of similar boats at sailing clubs. If this is the sort of sailing you want to do, then RYA courses are perfect.

Tallulah’s skipper Debbie is a RYA Yachtmaster Instructor that has taught sailing skills and navigation for the full range of RYA courses from Start Yachting to Yachtmaster Offshore. She ran Classic Sailing as a RYA sailing school for 10 years, successfully adapting the RYA course syllabus to boats with bowsprits.

She has always wanted to design sailing courses more tailored to those who love small wooden boats and classic yachts. Whilst the fundamentals of sailing are the same for all boats – modern and traditional, there are very few places you can try out and perfect your sailing skills on characterful keel boats, classic dinghies and yachts with long keels and sail rigs like gaff, lug or sprit rig.

These courses on Tallulah and our small open boats aim to do just that. 

The 6 day course can be tackled by beginners, but it is also aimed at more experienced sailors wanting watch leader and command skills for classic boats of all sizes, or anyone who thinks they one day might like to own a traditionally rigged boat. It includes sailing, seamanship and trainee skipper skills on 44ft Tallulah, 17ft open spritsail yawl Outdoor Girl (or Wild Boy) and our trusty expedition sized rowing boat ‘Number 8’

If you don’t have the time for a week long course we also have a  3 day taster course for beginners and keen sailors wanting a taste of classic boat sailing. It will not be possible to sail the spritsail yawls on these shorter courses as their use is tide dependant and we want you to get to grips fully with Tallulah.

Skills you can learn on Tallulah

Handling ropes & Sails: Basic mechanics, crew teamwork & working with your own body weight, muscles and the wind – How to handle large sails and ropes with loads on. Where to stand to be safe during sail hoists and drops, how to secure ropes and ease them out under load.
Personal safety – how to be a competent beginner, contribute to the overall safety of the boat and be able to make informed decisions about sailing on other peoples boats.
Sailing fundamentals: Understanding how sails work and how to steer and manourvre under Sail. Tacking gybing, backstays and all the jargon demystified.

Communication & shared responsibility: On a RYA course this is where you are trained what to do in emergencies. Drills and learning how to use fire extinguishers or bilge pumps are important but there is more to it than that. One day you might have a boat of your own. Even if it is a small dinghy, how you communicate with your crew is critical. Do they understand their role?
Unless you are a wealthy boat owner who leaves everything to a paid crew you will have to rely on friends, volunteers and family members to sail the boat and avoid emergencies. Are they clear when they have some responsibility to do something? It might be keeping a lookout or knowing what to do if someone falls overboard. This course teaches you what your role is and where you have a responsibility to help. One day you may be passing those skills onto others.

‘parking’ your boat
If you asked skippers what parts of sailing generate the most stress then many will say slowing down and mooring (‘parking’) big boats in tight spots in ports and harbours. The more you can understand about the forces involved then the more alert and useful you will become as crew preparing to moor alongside, pick up a mooring or anchor. There is a lot more to it than worrying about which knot to use to tie a fender on…..but te best knots and fenders in the right place are a good start.
Intro to Navigation – Common sense pre planning. Navigation is not just for skippers. It is interesting for all the crew to be involved. Nobody wants to get lost. Basic intro to tides and weather. Where to find answers so you can anticipate what your arrival spot is going to look like when you get there, and what the hazards might be on route.

Carbon free skills. Learning boat handling under oar in our 15ft clinker dinghy. Try sculling with one oar or even test drive our silent electric outboard. Use a stern anchor to make a beach landing safer. It the weather is suitable we can try some picking up mooring bouy under sail manoeuvres with 20 ton Tallulah.

Learning to live on a boat. Never under estimate the importance of these skills. We want your sailing experience to match your dreams. Below decks can be heaven or hell. Sailing is a civilised as you learn to make it. Marine toilets, cooking with gas, storing food safely, keeping cloths dry, looking after your engine and batteries for electrics, respecting privacy in a communal environment, understanding bilge pumps and seacocks.

Conserving the ocean environment – Tallulah’s skipper is interested in marine wildlife and conserving the ocean ecosystems. A short break on Tallulah is a great opportunity to learn about the rich seas around Britain. Traditional sails are quieter than the bang and crack of carbon racing sails and we see and hear a lot of wildlife as sail the Cornish coast and rivers.

What next – Buying boats, sailing on other peoples, careers at sea, restoring wooden boats or building your own. Debbie has tried them all so you can quiz her about the best way forward and some of the amazing opportunities to explore the world under sail.

bound for the Isles of Scilly on pilot cutter Tallulah


What can I learn on a spritsail yawl?

Debbie has two spritsail yawls. they are both replicas of a 1880 Gorran Haven Crabbers.  These carvel construction wooden boats historically were kept on the beach and used for crab fishing with pots. They are seaworthy, tough and the large main sail can be dropped quickly when you need to row.  Similar to a Drascombe longboat but without a pesky centreboard casing to get in the way of sleeping on board, these boats are brilliant for the latest trend of raids and dinghy cruising. Debbie has run wild camping expeditions with ‘Outdoor Girl’ in the first year of lockdown and this open sailing vessel with two masts has proved itself with 100% bookings for exploring the shallow water between LW and HW. Whilst the dinghy cruising guru Roger Barnes loves Brittany, we think South Cornwall is close to perfect for dinghy cruising, but don’t tell too many people. Debbie and fellow students at The Boat Building Academy built a second Gorran Haven crabber called Wild Boy in 2021. Both boats are kept on the beach at Freshwater Boatyard in St Mawes so it is relatively easy to row ashore and collect one for some small boat sailing practice.

It is a nice break from the heavy sails and teamwork of sailing Tallulah, to jump on a boat that can be sailed single handed. There are many second hand boats that can provide similar affordable fun. This is a chance to explore the possibilities. Could you make the switch to camping stove galley boxes, the slower pace of engineless sailing and a high level of skills regarding anchoring, running outhauls and deliberate beach landings.

hide amongst the trees on your open boat weekend

What can I learn on rowing boat ‘Number 8’

There is a pair of oars and two large 13ft sweeps and a sculling oar on Number 8. If the conditions are suitable this is a very stable clinker rowing boat to set off on you own for a bit of recreational rowing, or go exploring along the shore with a few co rowers. The mate or skipper will make sure you have a grab bag, vhf and lifejackets and can demonstrate the skills to get back to base, or come with you if there is any doubt. We also have a SUP on board.

If you can come gently alongside a pontoon with a rowing boat, no rudder and a pair of oars and tie up to suit wind and tidal forces, then you are already gaining the skills to do it with a larger yacht. 

Skipper Debbie has spent 20 years exploring this local bit of Cornish coast by pilot cutter and rowing boat. There are some great spots for seal watching or bird watching, as well as secret coves and stone landing quays.

summer secret cove landing by rowing boat


Embrace Green Transport

Now we have a bigger pilot cutter, the low carbon theme remains. Trusty expedition rowing boat Number 8 is still with us. We tow her on most voyages so you can ‘toss oars’ on the way to a waterside pub, or silently row up a wooden creek until you are with the curlews in the salt marsh.

We are not purists though, so there is heating, hot showers, fridge, radiators and stove on board, and these need a bit of engine or diesel to work. Tallulah has a barrel windlass, oil lamps as well as 12v lighting and solar panels so we try to minimise our fossil fuel usage.


Where will we Sail?

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.

sailing holiday for fitness fans and anyone wanting to live a healthier life

St Mawes – The Pilot Cutter Harbour

Falmouth has always been an important deep water harbour and staging post for exploring the world and trading by sailing ship. In the 1890s many of the pilot cutters registered in Falmouth were based in St Mawes as the bay has fast access to the open sea. Tallulah’s mooring is far enough out in the bay for the crew to train you to sail off the mooring on the first evening. In summer there are many local racing fleets to dodge and off season the Falmouth Oyster Boats are out dredging under sail, trying to hang onto their unique fishery.

There are plenty of stunning locations to sail to on the first evening, from sunset spot off St Just to the grandeur of anchoring below Trellisick House. Its a short romp to the Helford River if the winds are right.

pilot cutters in St Mawes Bay

Lizard Peninsula for Basking Sharks & fishing villages

The sepentine cliffs of the Lizard Peninsula protect Falmouth Bay from the west. You have 14 miles of tiny fishing villages and great coastal walking at every anchorage from Porthallow to Cadgewith.

The fast tides and rocky reefs like the Manacles or Black Head, create eddies and plankton upwelling that cetaceans and basking sharks love to feed on. Easter might be a bit early for basking sharks surface feeding but the seabirds are starting to find nests and dolphins seem to enjoy the lack of boats about yet.

Even on a 3 day trip there will be time made to go ashore in some pretty unique places.

The nose of a basking shark

Basking Shark feeding by Will Wagstaff

Helford River – Marine Nature Reserve

Helford is timeless. You feel like you are in a Daphne Du Maurier book. Dense, twisted oak trees sweep down to the water. Oystercatchers flash between rockpools, bluebells, gorse, wild garlic and primroses waft their scent out to sea. Tallulah can tack into the widest part of the river and sometimes right up through to the moorings free upper reaches if the tide is high.

Roseland Coast & Beyond

Shoot the gap between Nare Head and Gull Rock with its guillimot colony, anchor off beaches where seals breed in caves. Skipper Debbie has lived here since 1996 and explored the coastline intimately, by sailing, rowing, swimming and coastal walking. The possibilities are endless if you are not obsessed with sailing great distances. If you do want to sail for miles – we can always go on a fast reach out to sea too.

Charlestown is the home of Poldark and many over movies, and full of bars and waterside restaurants. Polkerris is another place to anchor off and row ashore for a pint in an Easterly. Fowey was a privateers lair and impressive to sail into.

sister ship Eve in Lantic Bay


What to Expect on your Tallulah Short Course

Tallulah has a mooring across St Mawes Bay – so your first challenge is to meet Debbie on the Quay and row yourselves and bags out to your floating holiday base.

After finding out a bit about each other and individual hopes for the short break, the skipper and mate will introduce you life on a boat and how you sail Tallulah safety. The training is on going through the few days and the more guests participate, the easier it is for Tallulah to show you the best of gaff cutter sailing.

Some things on Tallulah are quite physical. Some things are easy peasy. She a has roller furling jib, but you need two halliards to hoist the mainsail (like all gaff sails). The barrel windlass is very manual and ancient in concept. There are loads of places to sit. There are high sides to the deck and there will be guard rails so walking on deck in rough weather feels very secure.

Meals are often taken on deck, but the saloon is also characterful with a big oak table and skylights above. Mindful of coronavirus still being around, we generally have all hatches open when stationary, so Tallulah has a well ventilated restaurant and al fresco options to take your meal on deck if you prefer.

Sailing instruction is informal, but the crew have wide interests so can answer most maritime questions from navigation to boat building. Never be afraid to ask to have a go at something.



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.

Learning THE ROPES


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.

Sailing on Tallulah always makes a spectacle


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 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better. 

Start & End Port

St Mawes, Cornwall

pilot cutters in St Mawes Bay

This is the home port of Classic Sailing. A seafaring village on the East side of Falmouth Harbour.

Latest Updates

Where to Meet in St Mawes to Join Tallulah

Updated 7-03-23

The historic Quay in St Mawes Harbour (TR2 5DW) is the official rendezvous for all Tallulah Voyages. Plan your travel for the quay in your first instance.

Tallulah has a mooring in St Mawes Bay. Skipper Debbie or the mate will normally meet you at the quay steps /harbour pontoon in Tallulah’s tender – a large blue rowing boat with ‘8’ on the side.


Bad Weather Alternative Ports

In the event of St Mawes being exposed to strong winds / big seas from the west or SW, we may start the voyage from more sheltered waters. This is likely to be the River Fal – Smugglers moorings near St Mawes or Falmouth Estuary. 

Debbie will contact you at least 48hrs before the voyage with final joining instructions by email and text. All confirmed customers will be sent Debbies mobile number for emergencies or late arrival.


How to Get Here

By Road & Parking

The A30 is the best route into Cornwall for St Mawes – if you follow a Sat Nav you will probably be taken via King Harry Car Ferry which is not the quickest route but is worth doing for the experience.

The best way is to leave the A30 at Fraddon and follow the B3275 until it meets the A390 where you turn left for a little way back towards St Austell. Then follow the signs to the right for the A3078 which ends in St Mawes.

There are two car parks in St Mawes both trouble free and you can pay by card

St Mawes Quay Car Park is very convenient as it is where you join your voyage but is a little more expensive.

St Mawes Central Car Park run by the St Just in Roseland Parish Council  is recommended. It is just a minute walk from the Quay.

You can pay for a number of days with a debit card

There is  free street parking in the roads up from the main beach, if you can find a space. Buckeys Lane is one way so please park on the right. The private roads of Pedn Moran or Freshwater Lane are popular with beach visitors and holiday cottage customers. Local residents are used to mystery cars parked outside for several days, as long as no drives are blocked, it seems the accepted thing. As with all street parking please make sure there is room for fire engines to get through. From any of these roads the Quay is about 5 minutes walk.

Rail & transfers

To get to St Mawes by train, buy a ticket for Falmouth Town Station, walk down to the waterfront and come across the water from Falmouth to St Mawes by passenger ferry.

Falmouth is on a branch line from Truro which is on the main London – Penzance rail line.  Trains come into Cornwall to Truro from many parts of the UK and it is only 30 minutes down the branch line to Falmouth. Beware there are several small stations in Falmouth. Get off at Falmouth Town Station.

Falmouth Town Station (the Dell) is ten minutes walk from Customs House Quay where one of three ferries runs to St Mawes in the summer. If you just miss a ferry there are other departures to St Mawes from Prince of Wales Pier, the other side of town. In the winter – all ferries run from Prince of Wales Pier only. It is about 15 minutes walk through the town to the Prince of Wales Pier.

Ferry is the best way. St Mawes Passenger Ferry timetable for both piers This has a live update to confirm which ferries are running on the day. It only stops in really bad weather.

St Mawes Ferry  01872 861 911 or 07855 438 674

 Ferries are hourly in winter and three per hour in the summer and the journey is 20-25 minutes.


There are buses from Truro to St Mawes but they are very infrequent and take about an hour. 

Air & transfers

Newquay is the nearest airport but it is poorly served by public transport. A taxi to St Mawes can cost over £60

Feeling Guilty? – Carbon Offsetting Schemes

Classic Sailing recommend Treesisters charity as a carbon offsetting scheme and we have our own Classic Sailing Forest you can add tree planting to. These community tree planting schemes are all in parts of the world that desperately need reforestation and have maximum scope to reduce CO2

Kit List

What to pack for a sailing holiday on Tallulah


  • Sailing Instruction
  • Safety Equipment (Life jackets and harnesses)
  • All meals on board & refreshments throughout the day
  • Bed linen, duvet, pillows
  • Wooden rowing boat activities
  • 2 x Stand Up Paddleboards & buoyancy jackets (on summer voyages)

What is not included

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Towels
  • Wellie boots
  • Waterproof jackets & trousers 

What to Bring

Please limit yourself to one soft bag or rucksack as there is limited storage space on board. No suitcases please!

Tallulah does not have waterproof jacket and trousers yet, so please bring a properly waterproof jacket and trousers on all voyages.

Walking and cycling waterproofs are usually adequate and much lighter to pack, so there really is no need to buy a coastal sailing jacket (unless you really want an excuse to invest in your future sailing). If you need any advice, or lack of a jacket is preventing you participating, please ring us on 01326 53 1234

  • warm, windproof jacket for days when you don't want to wear a 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.
  • we have space if you want to bring a wetsuit for wild swimming or SUP adventures
  • Flat shoes with a good grip e.g. trainers or sailing deck shoes.
  • Sailing boots or wellies as the sea can come over deck if rough*.
  • (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 for European or Ireland Voyages, Reciprocal Free Health Care card in Europe.
  • Please bring a passport on French trips
  • 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.


Tallulah does not always have wine bottles for sale on board so you are welcome to bring modest quantities of alcohol, (unless it is an alcohol free voyage) e.g. to drink with evening meals, but drinking whilst sailing is not allowed.

A Note on Covid 19

While Tallulah's guests do not need to prove Covid Vaccination status at this time, it is expected that if a guest feels unwell prior to joining the ship they should always use common sense and test when appropriate to decide whether they should join the voyage, for their own safety and the safety of others onboard. It is a requirement that guests on residential voyages take out appropriate Travel Insurance and care should be taken to ensure insurance includes cover for such a case. Likewise, should members of Tallulah's professional crew including the skipper feel unwell prior to a voyage, they will always use common sense & test when appropriate.


A welcome in oak

Vessel Gallery

Photos and images of the striking 44ft pilot cutter Tallulah, offering charter voyages for individuals, couples and groups from 2022.  Based in St Mawes, Cornwall. No experience is necessary and a local skipper as your guide.

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