Spirit of Mystery to sail the Southern Ocean

Pete Goss likes a challenge. He made the headlines for trying to push the limits of technology with the giant catamaran Team Phillips. Now he has gone back to basics and on Saturday 21 June watched as his 37-foot Cornish lugger ‘Spirit of Mystery’ was launched in Millbrook, near Torpoint, Cornwall.

The new adventure: to sail to Australia using traditional navigation techniques. That means crossing the Southern Ocean with a sextant and no weather information.

The voyage replicates that of the 37 ft ‘Mystery’ – an open Mounts Bay Lugger built in Newlyn. It was 1854, times were hard and the seven Cornishmen, all related by either blood or marriage and shareholders in the Mystery, made the decision to try their luck at the Australian gold rush over a pint in the Star Inn, Newlyn. It was suggested that the Mystery be sold to cover the passage. Captain Richard Nicholls, with a couple under his belt and in good spirits, said: “I’ll take you in the Mystery”; and so an amazing adventure was born.

The Mystery measured just 37 feet in length, had a beam of 11 feet 6 inches and weighed 16 tons. After beaching the boat to sheathe her hull with Zinc and decking her in fore and aft, the vessel was ready for the epic journey ahead.

Leaving Newlyn on Saturday 18 November 1854, the Mystery travelled about 11,800 nautical miles in 116 days before arriving in Melbourne on 14 March 1855. The only break in the voyage was a week in Cape Town for repairs and replenishment. They had made such good progress to South Africa they were commissioned by the Royal Mail to take the post on to Australia.

Goss’s crew were afloat together for the first time as they stepped aboard Spirit of Mystery and felt the history beneath their feet. Like the original crew, who were all related by either blood or marriage, it will be a family affair with the crew comprising: Pete Goss; his younger brother Andy; Pete’s youngest son Eliot (who will be 14 when they set sail); and Pete’s brother in law Andy Maidment.

Pete said: “Spirit of Mystery is a real community affair; many people have donated items such as wood for the hull, lead for ballast or just time, enthusiasm and energy to the project, which has generated interest from around the world. I hope people will follow the project on the website .”