Cornish native oysters anyone?

Catching a tasty lunch in Cornwall.

Avast, I have a nautical tale to tell. After years of telling all and sundry how much I would like the chance of going in a traditional Falmouth oyster dredger, I finally had the opportunity. Last weekend may have been Easter for most, but for us lot down here – it’s the bank holiday that happened to fall this year on the last day of the oyster dredging season.

If you don’t know, Falmouth oysters are the last to be dredged the proper way – under oar or sail. Dredges are small and restrictions on fishing imposed by the wind and weather make this possibly the oldest sustainable fishery in the land.

Alf-smythers

I went in the Ivy – not the the Alf Smythers (the boat in the photo), but both boats are run by Chris Ranger of Cornish Native Oysters. I was blown away by how stable the boat was – admittedly we weren’t carrying a great deal of sail, but well – it was brilliant.

We sailed from Mylor, headed up wind, then pretty much drifted back downwind and dredged. In all we spent about an hour chucking the dredges over the side, pulling them in and sorting the goodies from the ‘cultch’ – hard work but I have to say – I really enjoyed it. I knew I would.

Then we went aground. An occupational hazard I guess you could say. But luckily for us, we only had to wait about forty minutes for the tide to come back in, and then it was off to Flushing with our haul of…ahem…eleven oysters. There we found the ‘Oyster gathering’ in full flow. Beer, friends and a very tasty pheasant burger made a very satisfying end to a great day.

Many thanks to Chris and skipper, Mike for a glimpse of a way of life that might not make you rich but is in fact all the richer for that.

And next season – you never know – I may be asking if you need any crew.

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