A BANGOR nautical venture is navigating the future using maritime traditions and sailing skills of the past.
Among its many objectives Celtic Coasts Sail and Trade, a Community Benefit Society, is hoping to harness the power of the wind to transport goods by sail around the coasts of Wales and beyond.
The group has been restoring a traditional Morecambe Bay Prawner, Mystery II, at Port Penrhyn for use as a dedicated cargo vessel for sail trading.
The project, at the Waterfront Marine boatyard, has used timber from the forests of Conwy and Gwynedd.
Much of the work has being done by a team of volunteers and supporters, keeping costs down.
It is estimated the Mystery rebuild will cost around £200,000 and is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
The project has also seen the creation of a traditional timber boat building on the dock, at a cost of around £15,000.
The construction of the building was also designed to share knowledge of timber, woodland management, as well as traditional building techniques.
On the team were two timber framers, a saw-miller and resident joiner/cabinetmaker, passionate about maintaining traditional wood working ways.
Mystery was designed in 1911 by William Stoba, who fished out of the Mersey until the beginning of the war, before it headed to Conwy as a fishing vessel until the 1960s.
Eventually, it is anticipated that she will sail principally between Brittany and Wales, rediscovering old trade links, such as the relationship with French onion growers in Roscoff.
An annual voyage to Brittany – with its Celtic links to Wales – will aim to revive the tradition of bringing the pink onions to the markets and shops of Wales.
In turn, the vessel, which can carry half a tonne of cargo, will take Welsh goods to Brittany.
Mystery II is being fitted with six berths to accommodate two paid crew and four paying voyage crew, and a mixed crew of experienced sailors and volunteers will work together to help to develop seafaring skills.
It will also take part in maritime events showcasing traditional wooden boats and sailing.
In August 2020, the group organised a pilot project; taking the 65ft Ketch Klevia from Porth Penrhyn, Bangor to the Brittany port of Paluden.
There it was loaded with a symbolic cargo of onions and cider.
It sailed with a crew of ten young people from North Wales and loaded 500kgs of onions and 400 bottles of cider.
Steering the project is Adrian Farey, with Scott Metcalfe and Elen Jezequel.
Adrian, who is the director/owner of a family run sawmill and timber yard, Elwy Wood, which specialises in Welsh traditional timber and frame manufacture, said: “The provision of quality timber for local industry has disappeared along with the industries it supplied.
“With it has gone the mature woodland with its habitats and biodiversity and amenity.
“We used the project to teach students about traditional woodland management from the growing of these tree species in our own plantations, thinning and high pruning our final crop trees and finally the felling, extraction and processing for the end use.
“At the Waterfront Marine, we will continue the educational aspect, inviting apprentices/aspiring boatbuilders from both Wales and Brittany to take part.
“This project will highlight the importance of maintaining all these traditional skills.”
On the Brittany voyage, and a return visit in 2021, he said: “[It had] established a good relationship with the producers of that area of Brittany and kindled enthusiasm amongst others to expand and develop this activity.
“It convinced us that there is significant potential, not only in the simple trade of relatively humble commodities, but in the demand for sailing experience and adventures amongst people of all ages for more meaningful and sustainable leisure activities.
“We intend to capitalise on the need for eco-tourism in Wales.
“We want to demonstrate the potential of wind trading as an alternative to fossil fuel dependency and to support traditional boatbuilding skills, whilst offering people the experience of sailing on a traditional wooden boat.
“We also hope to support local growers, makers and producers, help revitalise coastal towns and harbours through sailing and trading and to provide training and development opportunities for young and old alike.”
He added: “Once restored, Mystery II will embark on a voyage programme, transporting goods to and from costal towns, and enabling crews to experience sailing on a classic wooden boat.”
A Community Benefit Society is a type of corporate business owned by and run for the benefit of the local community, rather than for private gain.
Members of the public can become part of the venture by buying shares to help fund the complete restoration of Mystery II and become a Member of the Society.
For more information contact Adrian Farey. Email: [email protected] or see Celtic Coasts Sail and Trade on Facebook.