Fishing under Sail

I found out about the early day motion mentioning Classic Boat’s Eco Fishing Boat Design Competition while I was looking around to find out more about other people fishing under sail. The St Ives Jumbo Association is an organisation devoted to the revival of the small wooden lug rigged beach boats that used to work out of St Ives, called Jumbos, and their website was one of the first I visited. Local boatbuilder Johnny Nance has been instrumental in using old documentation, pictures and sketches to build two new Jumbos, and in fact the Jumbo was featured in the original brief for the Classic Boat design competition. The first, Celeste, was launched in 2007 and was followed in 2010 by William Paynter. The page on the Association’s website dedicated to fishing under sail goes some way to explaining the difficulties facing those trying to fish commercially from an unpowered boat, and provides excellent links to reactions from MPs, including the early day motion. You can find more information here.  We’ve been trying to get in contact with the Association with a view to sharing our progress, given that we’ll be aiming to achieve the same outcome from what are in essence very similar boats.

Fish for the Future is another project I came across; a cruising catamaran refitted as a fishing boat and operating under sail from Devon by John Pedersen. It was very helpful to read about his experiences of dealing with licensing and MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) inspections on his page about commercial fishing under sail and the law. I have since gathered from his latest blog post that he has decided to stop fishing, on the basis that he was simply not catching enough fish. This was mainly due to the need for a crew member at all times and the restrictions of operating solely under sail, mainly due to reduced manoeuvrability. We really hope that by designing a smaller boat that can operate under sail and oar we should be able to embrace more fishing techniques and still be able to manoeuvre efficiently.

We’ve also come across Revival of Working Sail Ltd, a non-profit making company based in Cornwall and aiming to restore and use traditional sailing working vessels.  In addition, and very encouragingly, we’ve been contacted by a Looe based fisherman who fishes under sail on a Yealm crabber.

Finally, there is the Falmouth oyster fishery. Every year between October and April, several boats work around the Carrick Roads under sail and oar to harvest the native wild oysters that are protected by law. The boats are a mixture of tow punts which work under oar, and larger gaff rigged boat which work under sail. Due to laws made in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the oyster beds from over-fishing, the oyster boats are obliged to keep to this season and unpowered method of fishing. Of course, the inefficiency of fishing under sail rather than under power assures limited dredging, which in turn assures the survival of the oyster stocks. As a result, these laws have provided for the conservation of the wild Fal oysters for centuries, and allowed the survival of the last working sailing fishing fleet in Europe. You can find out more about Falmouth oysters and oyster boats from the Falmouth Oyster FestivalCornish Native Oysters and Cornish Shellfish.

There are also other people out there who are using sail power to propel their boats, even if not as a primary source of propulsion. Powered fishing boats have continued to use mizzens (a small sail at the back of the boat) as a means of stabilising long after the end of the era of sail. However, there are also a few commercial fishing boats looking at using sails to reduce fuel costs, especially on downwind legs of trips to or from fishing grounds, including our friends at Filmer’s Fish. It was also interesting to see an article in this week’s Fishing News talking about using kite type sails on powered commercial fishing boats and other power boats up to 65ft.

The kites mentioned in the article are being manufactured by a French company Omega Sails. A similar method has also been used by Skysails who supply large kites deployed at an altitude of several hundred feet from cargo ships. The fuel saving calculations offered by these companies are fairly staggering.  Skysails suggests that in optimal conditions, fuel consumption can be halved. It’ll be interesting to see how these develop in the future.


One thought on “Fishing under Sail

  1. Jerry Lyshkov says:

    I have been fishing under sail for over 10 yrs. I modified A Jeanneau Sunrise with a built in fishbox, livewell & a custom aft deck with outriggers, a center rigger off the mast top, a downrigger & a flatline. I run 5 lines and tack without tangles. It takes a minimum crew of 2- one to set & tend the rods and a helmsman who, with a large fish turns upwind, rolls up the jib & pushes the tiller over to heave to, making a knot or so headway. He then reels in the shorter lines & gaffs the fish. I’ve done this hundreds of times in seas 8-10’+ in winds 20-25+ knots. It definitely is hard work & it gets pretty wild with multiple hookups, but I’m not burning any fuel, I eat well & make good money on charters and selling fish. Any questions: Jerry at

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