A Passage into Cornwall

4 – Poor light, Carrick Roads, Quarantine

It was a poor day for photography. I had spent the night in Falmouth Yacht Harbour, sheltered from the strong easterly wind by the pilot boat Arrow.


Waiting for the tide to turn in my favour gave time to clear up below deck. When I eventually set off mid-morning, I kept the reef in and the working foresail. Looking for an image that would reflect the wind speed, I didn’t have long to wait:


In the last post, I mentioned being envious when boats sail past Blue Mistress. I felt no envy here, only admiration!

This image relates better to the conditions.


So far, I have been writing about photography on this trip, but there is more.

We are in Carrick Roads, Falmouth, apparently the third largest natural deep water harbour in the world. Whatever the “ranking”, it is huge and a great pleasure to sail in.

The image above was taken just south of St Just in Roseland, whose churchyard was described by the poet John Betjeman as “to many people the most beautiful churchyard on earth.” I am not a church-going man but having walked through the churchyard previously I can vouch for the intense spirituality of the experience. It is indeed a beautiful place.


St Just Pool was the quarantine pool for ships entering Falmouth from overseas. Plague and Cholera were the main concern but a whole host of contagious diseases were importable and the port authorities knew to take no chances. I have an example of the Bill of Health that a ship’s captain would be expected to obtain before clearing a port bound for England – this one signed by the Consulate General at Odessa. It contains the words: “Now, Know ye that I, the said Consul, do hereby make it known to all Men, that at the time of granting these presents, no Plaque, Epidemic Cholera, Yellow Fever, nor any dangerous or contagious disorder exists in the above Port or neighbourhood.” It need not have been a “Clean Bill”. It could have been a “Suspect Bill” or a “Foul Bill”, in which case the quarantine pool would have been compulsory. I believe that a ship would anchor off for at least two weeks before anyone was given clearance to go ashore. Disease aboard would have extended the stay, of course.


For ships at sea that found they had disease aboard, the Pest House, an isolation hospital, had been established on St Helens in the Isles of Scilly in 1764.

The deep water channel comes close to shore at St Just in Roseland and then turns north west across the Roads towards Restronguet Creek, which lies north of Mylor Creek with its forest of masts.


I am pleased to be back in Cornwall and am relishing the names to left and right ahead of me – Mylor, Trelew, Restronguet, Tregunwith, Devoran, Feock. I round the starboard-hand Arick buoy off Restronguet, turn into the wind, drop the foresail and stow it before sailing under main north east towards Turnaware Point and the entrance to the Fal proper. At the Pill buoy, the mainsail comes down and is stowed against the boom. I will motor up the River Fal.

(Images by Bill Whateley)