To the Isles of Scilly – Studland to St Mawes

“As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself everyday.”
― Agatha Christie, Agatha Christie: An Autobiography

Saturday 12th June: Studland Bay to Weymouth – on The Jurassic Coast

Birgitta started the day with writing – and finally sent off the month of May blog! And did two loads of washing which had all but dried by the time we left.  We had an early lunch, made pasta to last for two days.  It’s Saturday on a sunny day in Studland and it was heaving with kayakers (nice), small boats (ok), jet skis (mostly ok), and large inconsiderate superfast motor cruisers going much too close to our boat (definitely not ok!).  It was nigh on impossible to cut vegetables for our lunch as the boat kept being bumped roughly by the wash of these boats.  An unusual thing to complain about, even for me, but there you go.

So we set off motoring out of the bay to avoid the many motorised and non-motorised vessels on the water, got the sails up and sailed quite fast out in large tacks , 10-15 knots of wind with the tide.  We had a few moments of lull in the wind, but sailed practically the whole way with the water maker going the whole way, powered by the sun!  We had full sunshine all day, and the air was warm until about 6pm.   We’re now on the Jurassic Coast.

From the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site: “The Jurassic Coast is a hugely diverse and beautiful landscape underpinned by incredible geology of global importance. In 2001 it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for the outstanding universal value of its rocks, fossils and landforms. It remains England’s only natural World Heritage Site.

The Jurassic Coast begins at Orcombe Point in Exmouth, Devon, and continues for 95 miles to Old Harry Rocks, near Swanage, Dorset. This span takes in four distinct geographic regions – East Devon, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland and Purbeck – each containing their own iconic towns, villages and natural landscapes.”

We’ve done this journey more than once before, and this gorgeous coastline just gets better.  We saw a massive erosion landslide in Swanage just before going round Durlston Head, then St Alban Head which is a familiar sight and I’m always surprised how different it looks from different angles.  We rounded the headland with plenty of space so as not to get too much of the overfalls caused by wind against tide, but even though we were about two miles out, it was still really quite choppy for about 1/ 2 mile. I’m glad to say that my fossilised sea serpent is still there, protecting Worbarrow Bay.  Lulworth Cove still looks beautiful and had many boats anchored in there and plenty of people on the beach.  And of course the spectacular Durdle Door, being a sunny day the beach was full of people.  The photos do not make this coastline justice – spectacular nature looks like a bit of grey landmass somewhere off in the distance.

We saw in the distance that some large ships were moored in Weymouth Bay.  We soon realised that they were five massive cruise ships, and from a quick google search we know there have been cruise ships moored here for the duration of Covid, to avoid expensive berthing fees.   We went quite close to the Norwegian Bliss and saw that it has a massive slide in the top deck swimming pool area.  We mulled over how on earth they construct these things – incredible.

We had rung yesterday to ask for an overnight berth at both Weymouth and Portland marinas, but Weymouth said no chance, and although Portland was a tiny bit more positive we decided to instead anchor in the bay in front of Weymouth.  Right in front of the beach where we watched fireworks in August 2018!  The Pilot says the anchorage suffers from swells, but it’s a calm night ahead so how bad can it be? 

Distance 31.5 NM, underway 5hrs 7m, average speed 6.2 knots, max speed 10.0 knots

Sunday 13th June: Weymouth to Dartmouth

It wasn’t too bad a night, not bumpy but quite ‘swingey’ and by early morning we could really feel the swell.  But we both got a decent amount of hours so that’s ok.  Today we’re going across Lyme Bay.  We’ve been waiting for a decent wind direction, which it is, but the amount of wind is quite low.  We talked it over, and decided to just go for it, even if we end up motoring as there’s not going to be much wind of any kind for days.  We had a wonderful outlook over Weymouth and the other villages along the bay.  There was some sort of running race going on at 8am, lots of yachts came out of the harbour to waft along in the bay and soon the beaches were filling up with people wanting to enjoy the sunny day ahead.

We weighed anchor in Weymouth Bay at 11 and sailed slowly up towards Portland.  Dominic had calculated that we wanted to pass The Bill no earlier than 1pm to avoid overfalls and to make full use of the tide.  We saw people rockclimbing in Portland and really enjoyed the view of Portland Bill with Pulpit Rock at the end.  We’ve sailed past here before, and been here by land as well.  A lovely site that brings back many memories!  Pulpit Rock is in fact not a natural geological formation, but was created in the 1870’s when a natural arch of rock was cut away by workmen from the Bill Quarry.

The Lyme Bay crossing took the whole day and was pretty non-descript.  We had to turn on the engine before getting to Portland Bill, motorsailed for a bit, but then gave up altogether.  Today Idun is a motor cruiser.  So with the engine producing so much power for the boat and heating the water we made good use of it.  We had the watermaker on, charged the battery for the electric outboard, used the breadmaker, laundered the guest bedding and anything else I could think of and charged every device possible, so at least the diesel used for powering the boat was then re-used for all sorts of other purposes!

Oh, and we got an infestation of a myriad of flying things when we were in the middle of Lyme Bay.  What on earth were they doing there?  It turned into a bit of a nuisance, but once we got to land again they flew off.

We arrived at the Dart 7ish and rang DartNav on Channel 11 who said we could raft up with Houselet on buoy V3 in Dittisham.  Perfect!  Dominic rang Quentin and made arrangements to see them tomorrow.

Distance 55.4 NM, underway 9hrs 5m, average speed 6.1 knots, max speed 8.5 knots

Settling down on the river Dart

Monday 14th June: Dittisham – meeting up with Quentin and Denise

Early morning on the green clad river Dart – whose name comes from a Celtic word meaning ‘river where oak trees grow’.  We had a very quiet night and no rocking whatsoever! It is so gorgeous here. The (land!) birds are singing, there’s the odd boat noise but basically it’s peaceful.  We’re pretty sure we’re sitting on the same buoy as when we were here in 2018, right next to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home. We occasionally hear the steam train as well!

Quentin and Denise met us at the pub by the quay and we had a drink in the sunshine by the river.  The streets here in Dittisham are narrow, steep and full of people and cars, and the lanes through the countryside are winding and people drive fast.  I’m very glad I’m not the one in the driving seat!  We spent the rest of the day in their lovely creek-side home, were treated to a very tasty bbq meal (Denise is a very good cook!) and had a wonderfully relaxing time.  So nice to see them both after so many years and we had so much to catch up on.  Quentin dropped us off by the playground and we walked along the back lanes of this idyllic village in the lowing light.  Pretty magical!

Tuesday 15th June: Dittisham – a day in Brixham

We had planned to dinghy up to Totnes today, but after careful battery capacity calculations of the electric outboard it was clear this was not possible. So instead we met Quentin and Denise in Stoke Gabriel, a bit further up by the river.   We walked around in the village which is very pretty, and had planned on a pub lunch but neither of the two pubs were open.  After a drink riverside, we drove round and ended up in lovely Brixham where we had a tasty lunch at the Anchor Inn.  Their chips are delicious!   We strolled around the harbour area up to the lido, and out to the end of the breakwater.  Both they and we have anchored outside Brixham before and it was nice to compare notes, watch Paignton and Torquay in the distance, and the cruise ships that are anchored here too. Such a lovely day!

Wednesday 16th June: In Dittisham

A very restful day. Our boat neighbours went swimming so Dominic felt he had to brave the water too but it was very cold! Birgitta, well she wasn’t brave in the slightest and stayed on our cosy boat.

Quentin very kindly took us food shopping today.  They know only too well how difficult it can be to re-supply a boat after their many years on the French, Belgian and Netherland canals. 

Thursday 17th June: Dittisham to Plymouth

We’re leaving this heaven on earth today, which is very sad, but the good news is that Quentin is coming with us on the next leg to Plymouth.  We loosened our lines from the buoy we shared with Houselet before noon and set off to Dartmouth to pick Quentin up from the town jetty.  When passing the training ships below the Naval College we clearly arrived at the ‘wrong’ time; just as we passed by a navy RIB came out, we heard machine gun fire, and shouts of ‘go go go’ and saw lots of navy cadet activity with continued gun fire, aimed at the RIB.  Not what we had expected!

The sails came up as soon as we got out to sea, then we motorsailed with Quentin at the helm across to Start Point at a leisurely pace while having our lunch.  Quentin pointed out several beauty spots and in particular Slapton Sands which we really want to explore at some point.  After passing the entrance to Salcombe the wind picked up and we got our stronger NNW’s and we tacked across the bay and passed the breakwater into Plymouth harbour before 7pm, as per the sailing plan!

Passing Drake’s Island on our right, we went through ‘The Bridge’ and up the Tamar past Devonport, the largest naval base in Western Europe which has supported the Royal Navy since 1691. Dominic took us safely past the three Torpoint chain ferries that apparently ‘stop for no-one’.

We anchored in Sand Acre Bay in the river Lynher, just beyond the Tamar Bridge and the Royal Albert railway bridge designed by Brunel over the River Tamar between Saltash in Cornwall and Plymouth in Devon. More on Brunel’s unique Bowstring Suspension Bridge design here:

We had our dinner outside in the evening sunshine, a fitting end to a really rather special day!

Distance 45.5 NM, underway 7hrs 55m, average speed 5.7 knots, max speed 8.3 knots

Friday 18th June: Plymouth to St Mawes

We had a leisurely breakfast on deck at our anchorage in Sand Acre Bay and then set off, first dropping Quentin off in Plymouth so he could get the train back.  We continued on with our voyage to Cornwall. After Rame Head the wind picked up and with good northerlies we had a fast and mostly sunny sail. 

Rame Head has a very visible and completely exposed chapel atop.  As early as 1486 Plymouth was paying a watchman at Rame to maintain a beacon there to both warn shipping and to bring news to Plymouth of important ships coming in. The first stone building was consecrated in 1259. The little chapel is dedicated to St. Germanus, the fighting German bishop who is supposed to have landed in the neighbourhood when he came to England in about AD 400. 

We also saw the Eddystone lighthouse, far off out to sea.  It was built by Trinity House in 1882, the fourth lighthouse to mark the small but dangerous Eddystone Rocks 13 miles south west of Plymouth.

Our fast sail continued on and in fact it got a bit too fast when nearing Falmouth so we put in a reef.  I had a rather amazing sighting of a large gull, hovering in the slipstream after Idun rushing through the water.  He stayed there for quite a while, and I imagine he was watching me just as much as I was watching him!

We arrived at St Mawes by 6pm and anchored in front of the town by Castle Point.  The bay is really quite busy with vessels both anchored and on buoys.  After doing a bit of laundry to make use of the hot water, we had dinner while watching the England – Scotland match.

Distance 43.8 NM, underway 6hrs 50m, average speed 6.4 knots, max speed 9.1 knots

Saturday 19th June: St Mawes

We woke up to glorious morning sunshine and I got all the laundry I did yesterday out on the guard wires to dry. After breakfast we got the dinghy down and Dominic rowed us ashore and we started walking into the village and looked (at a distance) at the various shops there are.  We thought we’d walk along the river, and a friendly lady gave us directions for a footpath starting by the boatyard on Polvarth Lane.  Along the way we noticed what a lot of effort has gone into seeding wild flowers by the road and creepers on the dry stone walls.   We found the path and what a gorgeous one it was, right by the Percuil river, through woodland and grass, over a rickety stile, no-one about – just perfect.  We walked to Percuil Point and admired all the boats on the river.  I know we go on about it, but we just love these lush rivers you find here in the southwest. And there are some pretty amazing properties to stare at as well!

Arriving back into St Mawes later we decided to visit the deli, but it was really quite an unpleasant experience.  Not because of the staff or the lovely food on display, but because it was crowded and the woman in front of us decided to choose very carefully which cheese and other products to buy for a very long time.  We were glad to get out of there and avoided all people on the crowded street and went happily back to our lovely boat home.  We’ve never been fond of crowds, and since hearing that infection numbers are growing very fast in Cornwall, we really didn’t like the lack of any kind of distancing by all the visitors here.

The expected rain started late afternoon.  We can’t complain as we’ve had absolutely fantastic weather for weeks.

Sunday 20th June: St Mawes

Last night Dominic got contacted by Sarah and David who we met back in 2019 in Tobermory. They had just arrived on their boat from the Scilly Isles and they saw that we are here. Did we want to meet up, of course! We had planned to motor over to Falmouth to top up on diesel and water, so we arranged that we would get them some petrol at the same time and then come over to theirs. It was lovely to see them again and they told us about so many lovely places where we could anchor and sites to visit in the Scillies. We chatted for a long time while enjoying coffee and very tasty flapjacks baked by Sarah.

In the afternoon we went for a lovely slow walk up along Lower Castle Road up to the castle. St Mawes Castle is an artillery fort constructed by Henry VIII between 1540 and 1542 to defend the Carrick Roads waterways in case the French invaded. You had to have pre-booked tickets to go in so we just walked around it instead, and then down along a lane where there were some pretty amazing properties with views over Falmouth, Mylor and the aforementioned Carrick Roads with the Fal winding its way north.

On the way back to the harbour we found Father’s Day treats in the bakery which we both thoroughly enjoyed while sitting in the warmth on deck. We stayed out til late in the evening, just enjoying being here.

St Mawes Castle looking out to sea

Monday 21st June: St Mawes

The longest day of the year but unfortunately it is raining and raining and the sky is very grey! We didn’t quite make it to the Isles of Scilly for this day which I had really hoped, but the planning is all done, the pilot and guide books read and it’s looking good for going tomorrow!

4 thoughts on “To the Isles of Scilly – Studland to St Mawes

  1. Hello Birgitta and Dominque. I finally managed to catch up on your sailings while sitting out our quarantine on Ruby Tuesday in Hoorn Marina. Your blog brings back fond memory of our sailings there…and of course that is where we met you. It is hard to believe that this is now three years ago….and I don’t know how Birgitta is doing it, but she is looking younger from year to year. Have a good sail to the Isles of Scilly. We will keep our fingers crossed for good weather.


    1. Thank you! I’m not sure it’s true that I look younger, but if I do, then Idun must be the secret as her name means Goddess of Rejuvenation! We have reached the Scillies now and it’s a gorgeous place. Hope you can get Ruby Tuesday out on wonderful adventures very soon too! x


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