Sailing Solo Around Britain

NEWLYN TO ST MARYS IN THE SCILLY ISLES - 39 miles

Newlyn to the Scilly Isles Saturday June 10th 2017 Newlyn Harbour

A dire day, rain, mist then more wind. Fortunately around 5pm I am able to get a stable TV picture and watch England play Scotland at Hampden Park -an exciting 2-2 draw.

Sunday June 11th 2017 Newlyn Harbour

A brighter but very blustery day. Walk along the seafront from Newlyn to Penzance and up the hill to St Mary's Church. The website says that traditional music is important to them and at 10.00 there is a sung Communion. I am a bit early but there is an organ already playing whne and I slip in.

In the front pew are an all female choir of eight voices rehearsing a communion hymn with two harmonies. Unfortunately for the small congregation, I know three of the four hymns and the fourth is easy to pick up. It certainly is quite high church, complete with traditional vestments and incense!

They are very welcoming and friendly but I didn't hang around for the post service tea and biscuits since there was a bus to catch to Marazion.
St Michaels Mount St Michaels Mount
Marazion is about 4 miles along the coast and is the departure point for the tidal causeway which gives access to St Michaels Mount. My the timing is good since the causeway is dry from 11.00 to 15.00 and it only takes about ten minutes to walk from the mainland.

St Michaels Mount began as a Benedictine Priory on the same lines as its French counterpart Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. Over the years it became fortified and ended up with a castle and was sold to the St Aubyn family in 1659.

Remarkably the St Aubyn's still reside in part of the castle today, although in 1954 most of St Michaels Mount was given to the National Trust.
St Michaels Mount Access not for the faint hearted
There are about a dozen rooms, including the medieval chapel, open to the public. However this is a National Trust property like no other Val and I have visited. The many steps leading pretty well 50 metre straight up, are very rough and ready.

At the top, granite blocks lie around randomly and access to the castle door is over yet more uneven blocks. The wind comes across the "path" in 30 knot gusts and visitors stagger with relief into the shelter of the castle doorway.

This is not a National Trust visit for coach parties! I meet a lady from Washington DC who relates that this visit was not on their official itinerary for "doing Cornwall" and now she understood why.

Return back to Penzance by bus, walk along the seafront to Newlyn, call into Aldis and by 16.00 a chicken is roasting nicely in the oven.

Monday June 12th 2017 Newlyn Harbour

I's blustery and chilly, but it looks as if escape may be possible tomorrow with a sail to the Scillies. In the morning, some young lads turn up at Dark Star to say hello.

They are fishermen from Fraserbugh and like me are stuck in port whilst conditions are bad. They are employed on two boats, fishing for prawns. I was amazed that they had come so far south in the search of prawns.

They are very complimentary about the Newlyn harbour authorities who "Cannae dae enough furr us". They usually fish for about a week and return to land the prawn catch at Newlyn, where it is loaded straight onto a lorry and driven 730 miles north to Fraserbugh for processing!

They insist there are no alternative facilities for processing the prawns....

Most of the day is spent getting ready for crossing to the Scillies and include another visit to Penzance Leisure Centre and swimming pool. I need to get my moneys worth out of those swim shorts.

Tuesday June 13th 2017 Newlyn to St Mary's in the Scilly Isles - 39 miles. . Wolf Rock

At last the wind has gone and a fine day dawns. Said goodbye to Dave the "night-watchman" and slip from the harbour at 11.00 hours onto a flat sea. Once past Mousehole, the Atlantic swell comes rolling up from the the direction of Lands End.

Main sail raised, pulled in tight, engine on at 2,500 revs, and off we roll on a course of 255 degrees for the next thirty odd miles. With the tiller pilot steering, it would have been nice to have had a sleep and set the alarm for six hours later when the Scilly Isles should be in easy sight.

Unfortunately there are lobster pots and nets everywhere, mostly well marked with orange buoys, but they cause constant changes of course.

Keeping out of the way of the big ones
Then there is the traffic separation zone. All shipping leaving and arriving at UK and European ports must use these one way separations systems as they enter the English Channel.

Departing ships travel west on the lane on UK side and arriving ships travel east on the other (or French) side. Small yachts must cross the separation lanes as quickly as possible, as right angles to commercial shipping.

Judging speeds of these large ships is tricky, but the golden rule is don't get in the way and if in doubt slow down and always pass behind the commercials.

Scillies Ahoy Scillies in Sight
At 16.00 the fabled Scillies hove into sight, pretty well where they are expected to be. By 18.00, Dark Star is tied up to a large visitors' buoy in the harbour at St Marys, the largest if the Scilly Isles. It is amazingly busy.

There are forty visitor moorings and nearly all are taken by 20.00. French flagged yachts far out number the rest. The moorings in St Marys are safe but they are not comfortable.

The harbour breakwater gives inadequate protection to the persistent swell which rolls in at high tide. Yachts sway from side to side so that anything not tied or fastened down tight within the cabin, bangs, knocks or rolls about. The only way to get ashore is by your own dinghy, so a visit to toilets or showers needs forethought and planning.

Wednesday June 14th Uncomfortable St Marys, Scilly Isles

I decide to explore St Marys and Hugh Town which sit on a narrow neck of land. On one side is St Marys Harbour and on the other the lovely beach and bay of Porth Cressa. There are mooring buoys in the Porth Cressa bay but most yachts appear to be using their own anchors.

Its a most attractive spot, much nicer than St Marys "harbour" but it offers no shelter from southerly winds.
Sir Harold Wilsons grave Sir Harold Wilson's grave
The plan was to climb up to the highest point on island for a panoramic view, but the coastal path, after promising an upward trajectory, meandered up hill and down dale over some wonderful scenery before depositing me in "Old Town".

This was the original, busy medieval port of the Scillies but it's a backwater now. However I did come across former Prime Minister Harold Wilson's grave.

Remember Wilson back in the 1967, the day after the Labour government devalued the pound, declaring on TV, gesturing with his pipe, that devaluation "does not mean that the pound, here in Britain, in your pocket or bank has been devalued"?.

What a mess we were in back in the 1970's. After last week's election results where Jeremy Corbyn made Lazarus look like an amateur, let's hope we are not headed back to the 1970's.

The wind has increased and backed to the north west. In St Mary's harbour, unprotected from the swell. Yachts are again pitching and rolling at their moorings.

I had intended to clear out and head for New Grimsby Sound which lies between the islands of Brymer and Tresco. Unfortunately New Grimsby Sound is only accessible close to high water at 21.30. The course to follow looks a bit tortuous and I chicken out as conditions worsened and the light fades.
St Marys Harbour

Thursday June 15th - St Mary's Scilly Isles

It was a restless night as the swell worsened. I didn't think it safe to use the dinghy to go ashore, but plenty visitors make the effort. Watching yachtsmen and women, no longer young, making the hazardous transfer from pitching yacht to bouncing dinghy was heart stopping (theirs and mine).

The water conundrum of St Mary's
By lunchtime conditions had eased and I go ashore to find the panoramic view which I had missed yesterday and to replenish water rations.
St Marys Harbour water Filling up two plastic water containers involves obtaining an old style pound coin from the harbour office for the service bollard, discovering that the position of the water tap on the bollard makes it impossible to place a container under the tap, and having to row back to Dark Star to find a piece of hose, before I could finally fill up.

Only public toilets are available for visiting yachties and there are just 3 showers which also require an old style pound coin. The harbour wifi system is so bad that my the phone declares it "too slow for use".

For visiting yachts, St Mary's harbour is probably best described as picturesquely dysfunctional.

At last managed to find the right path to a grand viewpoint above the Star Castle Hotel and even better, discover the only supermarket on the island, a very well stocked Coop.

Return to the "harbour" to find the wind is back and increasing, still from the north west.

Thursday night, with the wind blowing force 5/6, is seriously uncomfortable. As the swell rolls past, the boat and its large mooring buoy get out of sync and Dark Star is regularly brought up with a bang, shaking the rigging and making sleep pretty well impossible.

Friday June 16th St Mary's to New Grimsby Harbour, Tresco, Scilly Isles. New Grimsby Sound

By 08.00 the wind is definitely easing and I clear out of St Mary's "harbour" as soon as the tide allows, for the short trip over to New Grimsby Sound which divides the islands of Bryher and Tresco. The passage over the stretch of drying sands is not as tricky as expected and I strike lucky, tying up to the buoy nearest to the pier on Tresco.

There are no marinas of any kind in the Scillies. All power is self generated. It takes a wee while to set up the new 100 watt solar panel and 100 amp battery which delivers 240 volts via an inverter for the cool box, electrics and the TV!
Tresco New Grimsby harbour is basically a small bay with a pier. The visitors' mooring buoys are outside the harbour, which largely dries at low tide. It is a remarkably peaceful and attractive place, especially in the sunshine.

Going ashore involves pumping up the dinghy, launching it with the outboard, then wading through the shallows to land on the destination sandy beach. Dinghy and outboard need to be humped up the beach to stop the returning tide carrying them away.

Feet need to be dried and freed from sand before insertion into walking shoes - all worth mentioning in case you thought life was easy in paradise.

Something odd about Tresco?

It turns out to be a breezy but beautiful day and a walk around the east and north coast of Tresco produce stunning views. Returning back to New Grimsby, Tresco Stores proves an unexpected "find". A surprisingly good, upmarket little supermarket. Certainly won't starve here.

The Emperor
There is something odd about Tresco with its little chalets and low style bungalows and apartments, filled with visitors. Apparently the whole island is a time share development!

The Dorrien Smith family have leased Tresco from the Duchy of Cornwall since 1830 and the family still run the island entirely privately under the Tresco Estates banner. The time share concept has been developed over the past 30 years but it's pitched at "yer toffs" end of the market.

It's free from any crime and a very safe place for children. All cafes, the one hotel, the boat services and the supermarket are run by the Dorrien Smiths whose founding ancestor was nicknamed "The Emperor". Robert Dorrien Smith presently lives in Tresco "Abbey" which is surrounded by the famous Tresco Gardens, a big tourist attraction.

Tresco estates employ an army of young migrant workers for the summer. In the Ruin Beach Cafe, a young man from Portugal serves me coffee and the girl on the till is from Hungary.

Saturday June 17th Bryher - An Island of Independents

What a glorious day, hardly a breath of wind and the sound between Tresco and Bryer is a millpond. I take the inflatable dinghy over to Bryer and land on the beach at Green Bay where several yachts with twin keels have dried out as the tide falls.

This was my original destination until the fright I received when dried out in St Ives. Green Bay is much more sheltered and provides free anchoring/drying out. I set off over bits of road, but often, just tracks, and end up at the Hells Bay Hotel.

It's an upmarket establishment, quite a surprise on this rufty tufty island, but a very nice cappuccino was enjoyed in elegant surroundings (anything is elegant after a yacht). A youngster from Australia makes the coffee and a girl from Ireland serves it. It turns out that this hotel is owned by the Dorrien Smiths.

Island Fish
Next call (as instructed by Sussex Yacht Club grandee Tony Curtis), is a visit to Island Fish where a family business provide fresh lobster and crab at very reasonable prices. I fancied a crab quiche but it is still in the oven and would take another 20 minutes.

Vine Cafe
Next door is the Vine Cafe, the very place to pass the time. However the ambience in these establishments is very different from those in Tresco. Private houses, holiday accommodation, cafes, all retail businesses (except the Hells Bay Hotel) are independently owned.

The Dorrien Smith empire is held proudly in check by these local people. The Vine Cafe has been owned by the same couple for some 25 years. They reckon they originally got the lease because they had 4 young children to swell the roll at the tiny primary school! Their cheese scones are home made and delicious, so I scoff one and take a couple away.

Back at Island Fish, my crab quiche is ready. The lady running the shop took her history degree at the Falmer Campus of Brighton University. Small world. Their cheese scones are home made and delicious, so I scoff one and take a couple away.

No Crime?
Walking back to the beach where I had left the inflatable dinghy plus outboard, the thought occurred that leaving them unattended on a south coast beach would result in the disappearance of the outboard engine. Had they been left on any of the Caribbean Island beaches we had visited by cruise liner, the inflatable would have disappeared too!

Join us in Green bay
On the beach a helpful sailor offers to help carry my dinghy and outboard down to the water since the tide has receded quite a long way. He owns a MacGregor 26 (complete with sails and a 60hp outboard engine!), beached well up on the sand.

A new arrival drives his twin keeled yacht on to the beach and jumps ashore. A long conversation ensues and they insist that I bring Dark Star from her mooring on the other side of the Sound, to join them.

However the forecast is for fairly strong easterly winds from Monday to Wednesday which makes Green Bay a lee shore and somewhat exposed to wind and swell. I think my present mooring would be safer and more comfortable when it starts to blow.

Since the wind is now from the east, I could be "stuck here" till next Thursday/Friday. Oh dear!

Thanks for reading this.