Interview with Pete Goss

This interview was completed in September 2007, just as Pete started the build of Spirit of Mystery.


To build a 37ft Lugger to follow in the wake of the ‘Mystery’ which sailed from Cornwall to Australia in 1854. In so doing I would like to research the original voyage and shine a well-deserved spotlight on the amazing crew and their outstanding achievement.

I have always wanted to build a wooden boat and relish the challenge of sailing such a small vessel to Melbourne Australia. It is also a perfect vehicle to support Cornwall Playing for Success, an educational charity.


If you have to ask the question after reading the above you will never understand the answer – life is for living and this for me is life at its best. ‘Carpe Diem’ – seize the day.

 I think she is going to be a very pretty boat.


I want to celebrate the amazing achievement of the ‘Mystery’ and her crew as opposed to recreate it. ‘Spirit of Mystery’ seems to capture the flavour of what we are setting out to do. She will be as close to the original design as we can get without ignoring safety. We will however wear Musto HPX and eat the very best of food for I have no wish to eat salt pork and dabble with the possibility of Scurvy.

We will navigate by the heavenly bodies and follow their course with one stop in South Africa. I plan on being ready to go late October when we will wait – as they did - for a northerly wind. The reason I want to go earlier is so that we can have a family Christmas or New Year in Cape Town. Our stop over will be longer than theirs to make the most of an amazing port.


I guess I was vaguely conscious of the Mystery but not really aware of it until I heard from Campbell McKenzie and Diana Berry about four years ago. Diana, being related to six of the original crew, wanted to do something to celebrate the 150 anniversary of their voyage. Campbell, quite rightly suspecting that it would stir my interest, came down, introduced us and sowed a seed.

Ultimately, thanks to a variety of circumstances, we didn’t do anything but I found I couldn’t get it out of my mind and would spend the odd spare minute diving into Google to see what I could find. My interest just could not be satisfied and it became clear that this was what I wanted to do next. It’s quite different from any previous projects and I guess I am drawn to it for a variety of reasons. I love wood and have always wanted to build a wooden boat; the voyage is irresistible and the more I find out about these guys the more I feel that their story needs to be told. It’s a perfect project for Cornwall Playing for Success and is something that we can enjoy as a family.

In short I just fancy it and, as in the past, I find that is enough to just get up and go for it. So here we are on the brink of another exciting adventure that has the added element of history which I find I am really enjoying – the kids say that it is because I am getting older and balder and I suspect they are right.


Introducing Diana to the build site as she sits on some of the oak that is destined to become frames


There are and my hope is that they derive a lot of pride and enjoyment out of the project for it is thanks to their intrepid blood line that we are undertaking this project. Diana Berry is the first port of call but the hope is that the website will offer a centre of gravity for their interest. It would be great to hear any stories and receive any photographs or artefacts to help us build a clear picture of these amazing men and the life that they were born into. We are in contact with a number already, including one in Australia, and they are all welcome to come to the boat at any time. My hope would be to have some at the launch.


It’s a very exciting one, particularly as the decision to press the green button was made end of August 2007.

Our plan is to launch her on the 21st of June and be ready to set sail for Cape Town in mid-October after a work-up period. Obviously there are a thousand and one things that need doing, but I feel that all the disparate parts are starting to blend into a whole that has substance and feels good.

Keep visitng the events calendar and blog to find out more about progress and where you can see Spirit of Mystery.

Lofting out in the village hall - the lumps of lead that we are bending the batten round are called 'Ducks' - I wonder if that's where 'getting your ducks in a row' comes from?


The crew hasn't been fully confirmed. My feeling is that a crew of four, or possibly five, will be about right. Any more than that and the trip will suffer from too many people on a small boat, which is a recipe for boredom and can quickly ferment into friction. We have heard that the crew of the Mystery had had enough of each other by the time they made it to Australia which comes as no surprise. So I have a rough number in my mind and am happy to let it evolve and am minded that with the commitments of modern life that we all labour under we may well end up with some only doing a leg each.

So far I am going as is my youngest son Eliot if he decides that it is something that he would like to do. He has enjoyed the project so far, having been involved in every aspect of it from dragging out Oak to lofting her out in the Village Hall. He is thirteen and we we shall have to see but I would be delighted if it is for him, for as a father the experience would be a gift from the ‘University of Life’ that could only stand him in good stead if he takes to it. If he doesn’t it would be purgatory and I would never wish that on anyone. He will be fourteen and a half by the time we go.

Otherwise my youngest brother Andy and my brother in law Mark are also on the team. There may be a fifth person for the Southern Ocean leg but we shall have to see how things pan out with so much water to pass under the bridge before we even get to the water.


As ever the key to success is the team behind the project and I am delighted to be working with Chris Rees who has designed ‘Spirit of Mystery’ and will head up the build. We have Andy Grieve on board who is a shipwright, soon to be joined by Jon Albrecht. I will be following up as the apprentice, which is one of the attractions of this project. I love wood, have always wanted to build a wooden boat and look forward to learning new skills. We also have Patrick Selman making the sails in Falmouth.

So far on the history side of the project we have Campbell McKenzie, Diana Berry and Mike and Emma Ford. I know Campbell from the British Steel Challenge where he signed up as a crew volunteer and went on to sail on Rhone Poulenc, becoming one of the race characters. Campbell is a keen sailor and retired doctor who has made a huge contribution to sailing medicine with a number of books, as well as being the medical expert for many races and competitors.

Diana is a real character who is related to six of the original crew; it is her enthusiasm and friendship with Campbell that kicked of my interest in the voyage of the Mystery about four years ago. For me it is an honour to have someone so closely related to the original crew on the team.

Mike and Emma Ford of Point of View productions are going to be filming the project and will make a documentary using our trip to research and shine a spotlight on the original voyage. It is our hope that the publicity and website will shake the tree and turn up all sorts interesting information and relatives.

On the Communications front I look forward to working with Stuart Elford and his team at Formedia. Simon Osborn will as ever put together the website with the message board being looked after by Vikki Penny, who has helped out for many years starting as a volunteer in the Team Philips Visitor Centre.

Andy; we are building the shed over the boat.



My initial approach to Chris Rees was to build ‘Spirit of Mystery’; little knowing at the time that he has a passion for Luggers and could also design her. He is a man of many skills and credit for the design rests with him. That said I am sure he would be the first to admit that the foundations for ‘Spirit of Mystery’ were handed down over many generations of unforgiving Cornish Fishing.

Interestingly, our main source of information comes from a disaster in 1848 when a vicious storm swept across Scotland taking 100 lives and sinking 124 boats on a dark and unforgiving night. The disaster was such that parliament sent Capt John Washington to conduct a thorough investigation into what happened. Part of this far-ranging report was to look at the various designs of vessel in the area at that time. One of the craft he had drawings taken off was a Mounts Bay Lugger which was on its annual migration round the country in pursuit of the great shoals of fish as they moved north.

It’s a rare report and of huge significance to us as Luggers went through a dramatic change in 1859 when Brunel built the Saltash Bridge and pushed the artery of rail from London, the heart of England, through to Penzance. Suddenly the value of a catch was influenced by the Morning train. If you missed the train the value of your catch plummeted, boat speed was all and the fleet reacted with alacrity.

Much information and indeed a number of boats still exist from post 1859 but of course Mystery was from an earlier time when designs were passed on from craftsman to craftsman, rather than being committed to paper. The boats having had their time have all rotted away, making The Washington Report the only legitimate technical reference into the past. It is the foundation upon which Chris has based his design.

Chris Rees - boat designer and builder


There are three main types of wood used in her construction. The keel, stem and stern post are made from Ekki which is a particularly tough, stable, strong and parasite resistant hardwood. It is also amazingly heavy and so will add weight to the boat in the keel area which is never a bad thing – we tried a piece and it sank like a stone. Interestingly the original Luggers often used imported American Elm for this job because there was very little straight grained wood of this size as pit props had soaked it all up.

The Frames are made from fallen Cornish Oak and we have spent many an enjoyable weekend ferreting it out. We stumbled across the best find buried under a mountain of brambles and couldn’t believe our luck as we hacked them away. Oak is particularly good for this job as it often has bends in it which means we can select bits of wood that has its grain following the shape of the frame making it incredibly strong. One never quite knows what a limb will have to offer until it has been sawn which makes it exciting work. There is nothing more rewarding than a cuppa sat on a perfect piece of wood that has been wrestled out of some valley to the mill – it makes all that effort worth while.

Larch has been used for the Planking and Ash for the tiller and sweeps.

Eliot gathering fallen Cornish Oak for the frames


No boat is cheap but I have to say there is no comparison to a composite boat., which will make her the cheapest boat I have built. This is great as it means I can put some time to building her rather than chasing an endless round of fund-raising which is a necessity rather than a pleasure.


Yes, but we won't use it as the plan is to follow in the spirit of the original voyage so we will have no electrics apart from a solar panel servicing a satcom system such that we can update the website. For various legal and practical reasons it became necessary to put an engine in, but we won't use it for the trip and I like the idea of having a small carbon footprint thanks to going back to basics.


She will be comfortable is probably the best description that I would use. In terms of size, the main bulk of the boat between the masts is given over to the accommodation. This, as you come below, offers a galley to port and a navigation table to starboard with a wet locker behind. From there forward are two twelve foot bunk/saloon seats either side of the boat running forward to the watertight bulkhead. A table nestles between the two first seats with a curtain segregating the two forward ones into a sleeping space. This has a wood burner – that’s right a wood burner. I can’t wait to live on this boat as it will be so different from previous boats where comfort is given over to the frugal necessities of speed.

On Aqua Quorum I cooked on a tiny single burner camping stove using the toolbox as a seat. I cut my toothbrush in half and lived of freeze-dried food in a capsule devoid of any character. Well I look forward to putting my feet up in front of the fire and tucking into a Sunday roast on this trip. Curtains, pictures on the wall and a bookshelf of good reading are the order of the day. She will be a home from home and I am sure we will be making many more interesting cruises once we have made Australia.


Absolutely, I have often felt that to set off on an indulgence such as this or a round the world race is a rather selfish undertaking and have always tried to offset this by making the projects more than one way street. To this end the projects have always been open – and communications play a large part in this. It is a way of sharing and giving back to all those that find themselves drawn to what the project stands for. One of the key areas that I would hope we can make a difference is in supporting Cornwall Playing for Success.

Updating the website from the boat is crucial to this project as it maintains interest as the voyage unfolds. This in turn builds a following which helps give a return to the sponsors and promotes the original trip with the real time backdrop of our adventure.



I haven’t measured it yet but have read that they sailed approximately 11,800 Miles.


The original trip took 116 days and is a fair indication of expected progress on our part. Obviously the weather changes from year to year and there is no doubt that conditions were perfect for the start of the original voyage. All we can do is go for it and see what comes out in the wash. One area that will certainly add time to our voyage is the stopover in Cape Town where we are looking forward to a family reunion, which will be longer than the original week.


Of course there will be an element of danger; no ocean passage comes without risk – particularly if venturing into the Southern Ocean on such a small boat. That said, Mounts Bay Luggers were well known for their fast passages and good sea keeping abilities. We have improved her righting moment, added a couple of watertight bulkheads and unlike previous projects we don’t have the pressure of competition. Minded of the conditions that she will be facing we have upped the structure and she will of course be a new boat, in keeping with my policy of never venturing into the Southern Ocean on an unknown vessel.

We will carry the latest in survival equipment from EPIRBS to life rafts. Oddly enough I feel one of our greatest strengths is that we are taking such an old type of boat, for they are over-engineered and are very forgiving when it comes to repairs. A wooden boat, bag of tools and masses of spars gives huge scope for making good at sea.

Ultimately the decision to go into the Southern Ocean will be made in Cape Town after a full structural survey coupled with our knowledge of the boat on our voyage south. A trip that will enable us to dip our toe into the Southern Ocean and see what she’s like. 


‘Spirit of Mystery’ will be based in Millbrook, which is close to home and where she is being built. However the only place we can set forth on our adventure will be Newlyn – the starting point for those seven brave Cornishmen many years ago. I want to retrace their voyage.


I have a lovely old three-quarter size brass sextant from Cooks of Hull which I would like to navigate with. A lot of brushing up will be needed for this but I have always wanted to complete a long ocean passage using only the heavenly bodies. It’s not something that I have done as when competing time is better spent on speed, with GPS doing the navigation.


That’s the one question that I am unable to answer at this time as it is so far away. I guess the options are;

•    Sell her if I have to;
•    Ship her home; or
•    Lay her up for the southern winter and return home to earn some dosh before heading back out to an as yet unknown cunning plan; Tasmania and New Zealand will be on the list though.

My hope is that I am able to complete the circumnavigation via the Magellan Straights or the Panama canal.



Of course; check out the events calendar and come along to the launch, naming or any of the other places she will be.

We are already getting visitors - Noah's quality control team checking out the stem joint ahead of Global Warming?


Of course, it’s a perfect project to support the Charity both as an educational tool, a vehicle to promote the Charity as a whole and of course raise funds for this worthy cause.

We used an expedition to the North Pole to launch the charity and an entry in the Round Britain Race to raise over £40,000, open another centre and lay the foundations for future growth. Two years in and we will soon be the only county in the country with four centres.

At the moment we are still working through how ‘Spirit of Mystery’ can best serve the cause and will keep you posted as we move this area of the project forward. Unlike the other ventures we have enough time to do this one properly.

So if want to support the Cornwall Playing for Success or have any idea’s that we could use please email us.

She is going to be a very different boat from CPFS


Having just sold the trimaran I am lucky enough to be in a position to underwrite the build of the boat whilst we generate financial support. This is fantastic as it means we can both stick to our timetable and make sure that the spirit of the project is maintained by finding sympathetic partners. It would be awful to see this beautiful boat spoilt by a huge great corporate logo on its wonderful tan sails.

We would be delighted to have companies join us because they are interested in what we are doing and see a quantifiable return on their investment. Whilst this might not come in the form of a huge great logo on the sail there is a lot to offer a sponsor.

In my mind’s eye I see a clutch of sponsors contributing £10,000. In return they will get their name placed on the boat. They will get a large flag in the rigging rather than a logo on the sail, a prominent place on the website with a link and of course I would be delighted to come and give a talk. The boat will be available and the project can be used in any of their PR/Marketing media. An open invitation will be extended to any events such as the launch.

Obviously every sponsor will have different needs which can be catered for using the above as a common guide. Another area of support will be suppliers of equipment materials, which we will negotiate on an individual basis.

This a worthy project with many interesting facets from adventure to history and social support through Cornwall Playing for Success.

Journey to Date
  • Kayak Adventures 2012
  • The Route du Rhum 2010
  • Spirit of Mystery 2008-9
  • North Pole 2006-9
  • Fastnet 2007
  • RB&I 2006
  • SeaCart 30
  • Playing for Success
  • Team Philips 2000
  • Vendee Globe 1996/7
  • British Steel Challenge 1992
  • Cornish Meadow 1988
  • Three Peaks Race 1984