The Falmouth Sail Training Ship was founded by Neville Jackson Feather, known as Joe Feather. He served during the war as a lieutenant in the RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve). Both before and after the war he worked for Lloyds Bank, running the branches at St Mawes and Mawnan Smith with his characteristic flair for organisation and efficiency.
With an interest in sailing, after the war Joe bought the Bristol Channel pilot cutter “Christabel”, and needing people to sail the ship, before long the youth of Falmouth were providing the necessary crew. At the time there were not the opportunities that exist today for young people to sail, and the Christabel became popular.
After a while the Christabel became too expensive to maintain, bearing in mind that this was still financed entirely by Joe and the crew. A new ship was needed. A charitable trust was set up to raise funds, and in 1956, “Shearwater” was found.
At twice the size of Christabel, Shearwater was built at Looe 1911 as a schooner, being altered to a ketch in 1929, as you see her here.
The mainmast was one piece of timber 65 feet tall, a substantial mast. Shearwater had a length also of 65 feet, carried two, sometimes three boats, and a crew of 18.
Joe managed the operation of Shearwater until 1972, when once again the annual refits became prohibitively expensive. The management decided this time to build a replacement.
In 1971 Joe Feather commissioned Percy Dalton to design a purpose-built sail training vessel, gaff-ketch rigged, keeping the sails small enough to be handled by lightweight crews, and with a number of sails to give an experience different ways of driving the ship.
In the meantime the Shearwater was sold and fundraising commenced in earnest.
The new ship was built of ferro-cement. The main reason for this was cost, with the added benefit of being low-maintenance. The hull was completed professionally by Stan Goldman, built in the shadow of Ponsanooth viaduct, and when complete, transporting the hull to the water at Penryn – by Pickfords removers! – was an epic journey. Once at Penryn, the fitting-out was undertaken entirely by the current crew and past members, who put in the deckhouse, masts, spars etc.
Parts came from other vessels, new blocks from Canada, and so on. The nameplate “Hardiesse” was carved out by Joe Feather himself, and in Breton French Hardiesse means “Boldness”.
Christabel’s original nameplate is kept in the deckhouse of Hardiesse. Joe Feather died in 1988. A capable, ambitious but also controversial man, the name “Hardiesse” with its meaning “Boldness” is an apt description of Joe himself.