Brian Jackman travelled on board Provident with the Trinity Sailing Foundation (01803 883355; trinitysailing.org), a registered charity dedicated to supporting the personal development of disadvantaged young people through offshore sail training and conserving historic sailing vessels in its care. Its wooden trawler fleet – Provident, Leader and Golden Vanity – also offer traditional sailing holidays in the West Country, Channel Islands, Brittany and the west coast of Scotland, with prices ranging from £295 for a three-night Taster Cruise to £1,095 for a nine-night extended trip to Brittany. from green to deepest midnight blue, and the land changed also, with hardly a tree to break the windswept Cornish skyline.
The further west we travelled, the wilder the coast became, its gaunt cliffs pierced by caves and chasms, until in early evening, rolling down the silver path laid by the setting sun, a haggard headland called the Gribbin loomed ahead of us, its daymark raised like an admonishing finger to announce the imminent presence of Fowey.
Lulled to sleep by the sound of church bells, I woke to find the weather had changed. Fowey’s slate rooftops were lagged with mist; but by the time we left our mooring the sun had returned and the wind blew strongly from the west, whipping up white horses all around us as we beat away towards the Dodman, the highest headland on the South Cornish coast.
In late afternoon the wind abated and the sea calmed as we rolled on past St Anthony Head to drop anchor off Swanpool Beach on the outskirts of Falmouth. There we lay until our last morning, enjoying a lazy breakfast on deck before cruising into Falmouth Roads and coming to rest behind the National Maritime Museum, an appropriate berth for a doughty old relic of our seagoing history.
Only then, at the end of the voyage, did I realise what a privilege it had been to sail with such a friendly and forgiving crew. I would miss the skipper’s cheerful banter and that of Martin Hendry, the mate from Edinburgh, with his inexhaustible repertoire of sea shanties; but the real star of the show was “Provi” herself, and long after I had gone ashore for the last time I could still feel my body rocking to her easy rhythm.