The TamarSail boat

Tessa is a gaff-rigged boat, copied from a nineteenth century Mevagissey Tosher called Yo-yo. Toshers were typical of the fishing boats of the nineteenth century that worked out of many small Cornish harbours and Plymouth itself.

They varied greatly in length, reflecting the distance offshore that they would work. Yo-yo was one of the smaller boats at 6 metres [18'6"], sailed by a single fisherman, working close inshore along the rocky coastline. Fish were caught on long lines and returned to port within just a few hours.

Tessa was built in Penryn in 1974. The mould for the GRP hull was taken direct from the wooden-built Yo-yo by Terry Heard, who is most famous for building Falmouth Working Boats - many of them fitted out as beautiful, cruising yachts. His son, Martin, now runs the business, Gaffers & Luggers, producing a range of traditional south-west boats.

The earliest toshers were rigged as luggers but, by the early twentieth century, many had converted to 'gaff-rig', which is how Tessa is rigged today. Instead of the triangular main sail of the modern yacht [and the children's cartoon boat], the almost square sail is hung from a wooden 'gaff', which is hoisted up the mast.

Although modern materials are used alongside traditional wood and bronze, Tessa has been designed to give us a taste of sailing on the sort of boat that would have been a common sight a century ago. Even if you have never sailed before, you are welcome to join in with the helming and rope-pulling and imagine setting out from Mevagissey to face the waves.