The Festival

Wooden hulls, spars, topsails and canvas are framed against the majestic beauty of Mounts Bay, transporting visitors back in time.

With this backdrop, our aim is to help preserve the identity of Mousehole as a working fishing village and to celebrate its maritime history. The Pezzack family and local Mousehole community back in 1996, set up the first Sea Salts and Sail festival. It has been repeated every two years since and hopes to continue recreating the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone era, when Tom Bawcock and his famous Mousehole Cat would have fished these waters.

In a nutshell, Sea Salts provides an abundant feast for the senses for all the family. There’s no entry fee which makes it all-inclusive, however, we rely on visitors buying a programme and lots of local food and drink. This revenue generates the much needed funds to help put the event on.

From the Friday afternoon, scores of historic and classic vessels start to appear on the horizon and then gradually assemble in and around the picturesque harbour, often rafted several deep. Home ports include places in Mounts Bay, Falmouth, St. Ives, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and beyond. Many of the boats represent the last in a handful of authentic examples of their kind. The dedicated crews brave ‘the gaps’, skilfully guiding their vessels through the narrow opening of the 500 year old granite harbour entrance. Some, seen as the elite of classic sailing, manage this without engines, just as Mousehole’s forefathers would have done on a daily basis, hundreds of years ago.

Around the harbour
Local bands provide live music throughout the festival and a well-stocked food and beverage tent will oil the dry inner timbers.

This is very much a family festival, so there’s plenty of entertainment for the kids. There’s poetry, storytelling, wood and stone-carving. The young mariners can also make traditional craft models and then race them in the harbour water – an event that causes much fun, noise and laughter. What might also be of great interest to the kids, is the Photographic Display. This captures village life from the 1800s to present day.

As well as the food and drink tents, there will be a dozen or so marquees selling locally crafted goods. Visitors can also enjoy seashore foraging, boat trips and cooking demonstrations or simply take a guided stroll through this beautiful historic village. The old faded black and white postcards showing scenes of the harbour filled with be-canvassed ships are brought to life on this very special weekend.

The community who make it happen

The planning for Sea Salts and Sails starts a year ahead of the event. It’s logistically immense and sees around 200 dedicated volunteers from the village community coming together as a team, to share their diverse skills and passion. For your information, a few areas that need covering include: food and drink ordering, catering, chefs, craft demonstrations, marquees, set build ups, council, harbour commission and resident considerations, insurance, electrics, toilets, bins, recycling, catalogue production, flyers etc. Then there’s getting the boats here, entertaining the crews and the courses to plan and lay…

In previous years, we have raised between and £4,000 – £6,000 per event, which was all donated to local charities. This is basically all the excess funds raised, after the event costs had been covered. This then allows a small working budget to kick the next festival. It’s tight but always worth it, when everything comes together and local charities really benefit.

This fun-filled long weekend relies on the magic of maritime history recreated, the skill of the crews and a great festival atmosphere. So pop it in your diary and be sure not to miss it…or you’ll have to wait another two years for the next one.

Cornwall boasts some of the prettiest fishing ports in the country, and Mousehole is – so its residents believe – the flower of them all. Not only its residents. Year after year visitors flock to the west side of Mounts Bay along the coast road from Penzance to see for themselves. They walk down its narrow streets between the granite cottages until they emerge into the daylight on the ‘Cliff’ and the whole harbour comes suddenly into view. There they pause, catch their breath, and drink in what they see.

Away to their right is the massive bastion of the South Quay, built from huge granite boulders, some dusted now with golden lichen, where cars park and people stroll in the summer and which sometimes vanishes beneath the surf in a winter storm as it protects the whole village from the fury of the ocean. In front the North Quay fulfils the same function, although less frequently tested by the elements; and in between lies the narrow gap where fishing craft have set sail or sought refuge for hundreds of years.

A couple of hundred yards offshore they can see the island of St Clements, a long granite finger almost without vegetation, washed clean by gales and spray each winter, a favorite haunt of seals and a night-time dormitory for thousands of gulls. Inside the harbour the sandy beach turns towards the harbour walls in a perfect semi-circle, the mooring lines of the boats like points of a compass angled towards the harbour mouth, beautiful in their symmetry.

Beyond the walls the blue waters of Mounts Bay stretch across to the Lizard peninsula twenty miles away, and as you walk around the Cliff the inner parts of the bay come into view until the rocky islet and magic castle of St Michael’s Mount itself appears framed in the harbour mouth.

"The loveliest village in England"

Dylan Thomas

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