Paimpol Festival 2017

Paimpol Chant du Marin Festival 2017

Paimpol Festival has just happened. We were there. And it’s the voyages and moments like those that remind us why we do what we do.

Two years ago, I had a phone call asking if I was available to sail as a relief First Mate onboard Excelsior, chartered by Trinity Sailing, for a ten-day trip to Paimpol. It turns out that Paimpol, something I’d never heard of before, turned into the best time of my life.

For the uninitiated, Paimpol is one fantastic weekend of traditional boats, sea shanties, live music, festival stages, and French food & drink. Not forgetting all of your friends who also sail for a living. We rarely get to see each other throughout the sailing season. Oh, and tens of thousands of people with a passion and appreciation for beautiful working ships.

Paimpol only happens every two years, and I’ve been conscious of it coming round again this summer. Thanks to friends in Brixham onboard the 1921 Looe lugger I.R.I.S., an opportunity arose to sail to Paimpol on her sistership Our Daddy, and the world aligned once again.


Eleanor & Briana sailed to Paimpol onboard ‘Our Daddy’

Sailing onboard Our Daddy

We were very grateful to sail onboard Our Daddy. She was built in 1921 for the Pengelly family in Looe, Cornwall, for £435. Her owners Steve Styles and Tim Sunderland have spent three years restoring, refitting and converting her back to a lug rig – at far greater cost!


Steve Styles and Tim Sunderland, owners of ‘Our Daddy’

They took her on as their next project after operating a Brixham sea school running multiple boats. They have done a fantastic job with Our Daddy and she is ideal for their traditional charter plans.

Our sail across the channel from Dartmouth to Paimpol was complete with dolphins, shooting stars and the most beautiful sunset. Our Daddy’s rig was simple to handle – it’s easy to see why luggers have such a strong following.


Dolphins surrounded us mid-Channel


The most beautiful sunset at sea

You know the rest of the weekend is going to be just as magical as soon as you arrive at the lock entrance to Paimpol harbour. With boats jostling to stay in the channel, spectators line the quay walls to watch the surreal sights.


Spectators lined the harbour wall to welcome boats

Paimpol has very big tides so there is a small window of opportunity for so many big ships to get in. Each boat is applauded and given a commentary over loudspeakers as it enters. It makes for a strong feeling of achievement after sailing there across the channel.

It was great to see Steve and Tim achieve their goal of sailing Our Daddy to the Paimpol Festival, and be welcomed so warmly. Their first ever visit to Paimpol, they are definitely going back again in 2019 – you can join them.


‘Our Daddy’ entering Paimpol harbour to crowds of applause

The traditional English fleet

Alongside Our Daddythe English heritage fleet is usually well represented at Paimpol, with this year being no exception.

Trinity Sailing took their two bigger ships Leader and Provident this year. Trinity run a mix of adult charter and youth sail training voyages across their fleet of three traditional boats. It’s the adult charter trips such as to Paimpol Maritime Festival that help fund the youth sail training voyages.


Trinity Sailing’s vessel Leader on her way in to Paimpol

Pegasus, built in 2008 based on a classic Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter design, was also there again. She was built by The Island Trust, a sail training charity based out of Plymouth. Pegasus also does a mix of youth and adult charter alongside the two other boats the Trust operates, Tectona and Moosk.

The Lowestoft trawler Excelsior was there, as she was two years ago, planning a busy schedule which sees her just back from spending summer in Norway, and now down to Paimpol. Excelsior is a charity in her own right, run by trustees and with a permanent Skipper, Mate and Bosun. They have done well to build a steady team of volunteers who help maintain and sail her.

The Looe lugger contingency was well represented with Our Boys (1904) and Our Daddy (1921) drawing appreciation from French boat lovers.


1921 Looe lugger ‘Our Daddy’ arriving in Paimpol festival harbour

Appearances from other English traditional boats included Keewaydin, a Lowestoft trawler similar to Excelsior and privately owned by a lovely Cornish family.

Luke Powell’s pilot cutters

Luke Powell, the prominent boat builder from Falmouth, skippered Agnes whom he designed and built based upon the lines of the original 1841 pilot cutter Agnes. What better feeling in the world than to design and build your own boat, and then sail her to a festival like Paimpol. Agnes received a huge round of applause from the crowds lining the quayside when she departed.

Pilot cutter Amelie Rose, also designed and built by Luke Powell and launched in 2009, was there too. She is owned by Topsail Adventures as a lovely charter vessel operated in the South West. We had a good chat with one of her professional crew about what working onboard these boats entails.

Waking up to the festival

Horns blasted at 10am every morning to signal the start of the festival for the day… here we are sitting in Excelsior‘s staysail hammock listening to the harbour waking up:

Marine Artists at Paimpol Festival

The backdrop of the harbour makes for great inspiration. There was great respect for maritime art, with many local artists showing off the most beautiful artwork in market tents all around the harbour.

Toni Knights is the owner of I.R.I.S., a good friend of SaltyJobs, a long-time skipper for Trinity and also a renowned marine artist. Toni was skippering Provident for this Paimpol trip, and made time to paint beautiful scenes of the harbour. This is taken from the deck of Keewaydin (alongside Dutch ship Hydrograaf):


Skipper & artist Toni Knights painting from the deck of Keewaydin

Tall ship Earl of Pembroke was alongside the quay, hosting live music onboard throughout the festival and with six other boats rafted out alongside her.

Paimpol Festival… a special kind of boat magic

Paimpol is special. It’s one of those rare occasions you get a whole weekend to spend with your friends who also sail. We spent our time looking around each other’s boats, watching live music and drinking Paimpol cider!


Crews of Leader, Provident, Our Daddy and Keewaydin

Our friends in these photos all work on traditional boats that sail to Paimpol as part of their charter schedule, or sail as guest crew on friends’ boats.

If you want to do something similar, there are so many opportunities out there. From volunteering as a deckhand to getting freelance work as a cook, or relief skippering jobs, you can work your way to maritime festivals like Paimpol. You’ll have to pinch yourself that you’re being paid to be there.

But getting the balance right between continuing to look after your guests once you get to the harbour, and socialising with your friends on other boats, is part of the job.


Catching up with friends and making new ones onboard Keewaydin

Guests love to socialise with the professional crew, and sailing together as part of a team breaks down boundaries between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet. Life stories are shared amongst friends new and old, over glasses of local cider with sea shanties echoing all round the harbour.


Paimpol cider was a big hit with the boat crews and charter guests at €2.50 a bottle

One evening was so great we didn’t want it to end. We walked to the beach for sunrise and stopped at the boulangerie on the way back, just as it was opening, to buy fresh croissants for our crews.


Muziekboot Notendop

Delights such as this ‘Muziekboot‘ pottered around the harbour, bringing sea shanties and classical pieces to crowds cheering from the boats:

Paimpol Festival 2019

Want to be there for the 2019 Paimpol Festival?


Sunset sailing across the channel on 1921 Looe lugger ‘Our Daddy’

All of the boats above are likely to be going again, and you could join them as a charter guest.

Or perhaps make it your goal to be working on one of the boats going there. Working on a boat at Paimpol is the best job ever – we’ve been there, done it, and can confirm it. Finding a job on a tall ship would be a great way to do this. Discover which qualifications you need in our article here.

The SaltyJobs crew will be there for sure, with plans to be onboard the Looe lugger I.R.I.S. Join us and see you there!

Did you go to Paimpol 2017? Want to go to the next one? Let us know in the comments below. 

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