Jump to content

Spirit Of Mystery To Retrace Epic Voyage Of Cornish Fishing Boat To Australia


Recommended Posts

Spirit of Mystery to retrace epic voyage of Cornish fishing boat to Australia

It was a heavy night in a Cornish pub when a small group of friends hungry for adventure decided to sail to Australia in a small wooden fishing boat.

The discussion in the Star Inn in Newlyn in 1854 led seven fishermen to set sail in the hope of finding their fortunes: 116 days later, their Cornish lugger, Mystery, a 37ft fishing boat that had never previously been out of sight of land, arrived in Melbourne, 12,000 miles away.

A century and a half on, the round-the-world yachtsman and Cornishman Pete Goss decided to follow in their wake. For the past nine months Goss, best known for his rescue of a fellow competitor in a solo round-the-world yacht race, has been building the Spirit of Mystery. The boat, with its ochre sails and planked construction, could not be more different from the craft that Goss is used to sailing. His past vessels have included Team Phillips, the world's largest glass-fibre structure, which looked more like a space ship than a yacht and was capable of cutting through the waves at more than 35 knots, though not without bits falling off.

Spirit of Mystery, a near-perfect replica of the original, will be sailing at a more sedate six or seven knots when she sets off from Newlyn in October and is likely to prove a lot more seaworthy. Last month Goss, who scoured Cornish hillsides for the fallen oak to build her, took Spirit of Mystery for sea trials. It was love at first gust. The yachtsman said: “I'd wanted to build my own wooden boat since I was a kid. It's always been a dream of mine. She handled beautifully, better than I had dared hope. I was able to sit back and relax and really enjoy myself.”

The journey that inspired his latest voyage began when times were tough in Cornwall. Stories of fortunes being made in Australia were arriving home with every post as Cornish miners joined the gold rush. “There was a saying that if you looked into a hole anywhere in the world there would be a Cornishman at the bottom of it, and it was true,” Goss said.

At first, the men - Richard Nicholls, William and Richard Badcock, Job Kelynack, Charles Boase, Philip Curnow Mathews and Lewis Lewis - discussed selling Mystery to pay for their passage. But Nicholls, a master mariner and the only one to have sailed farther than a few miles, suggested that as they had their own boat they might as well make use of her.

It was very much a family affair: Nicholls and the Badcock brothers were married to Victoria, Harriet and Nanny, the three sisters of Kelynack. The others were old friends.

They set sail on their epic journey amid a flotilla of small craft, with wellwishers waving from the quayside, on November 18, 1854. Sailing via the Caribbean, stopping briefly at Cape Town, and then setting off across the Southern Ocean, they enjoyed an almost incident-free voyage, barring a couple of hurricanes, an occasional lost mast, and visits from flying fish, according to Captain Nicholls's tersely-worded log book, which is in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

When Goss heard the men's story four years ago it was barely known outside Cornwall. “I knew I had to retrace their journey in the hope of casting light on their forgotten achievement,” he said. Like the original voyage it is very much a family affair. Spirit of Mystery will be crewed by Goss, his brother Andy, his brother-in-law Andy Maidment and his 14-year-old son Eliot. They may take a fifth crew member, likely to be a descendant of one of the original voyagers. “There are volunteers queueing from here to Land's End,” Goss said.

They will live in a tiny cabin lit only by oil lamps, taking it in turns to take the helm round the clock just as the seven Cornishmen would have done.

Unlike the original, Spirit of Mystery has an engine, to comply with Australian harbour regulations, but Goss is determined that it will not be used. They will row into and out of port pulling on two huge oars. He will navigate by the stars, using a 19th-century brass sextant. There will be an emergency satellite beacon on board in case the crew have to take to the liferaft. He said: “It will be in a grab bag below decks and is really only in case the boat sinks. If there are other problems, like losing a mast, we will just have to sort it out ourselves.”

But he draws the line at replicating the food and the clothing. It will be Gore-Tex rather than oilskins and there will be no salted pork in the galley. There is one other aspect of the original voyage that he is also keen not to copy. By the time the men reached Australia, they could barely stand the sight of each other.

Within a year, five of the original seven had returned to England, their dreams having turned out not to be golden after all.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...