A Scilly Encore

Sunday 11th July – A ‘Lively’ Sail to Newlyn

‘It’s a bit rougher than I anticipated’, says The Skipper as Idun again thumps down hard after a wave. ‘Where do these swells come from?’ he asks a bit later as we sway majestically in the 2m+ long swells. ‘Predictwind must have got it a bit wrong’, Skipper murmurs several hours later when the wind is still east of south, and 19 knots whereas we had thought we’d be motoring for the last hour in a smooth westerly before anchoring. We’re wet, tired (especially poor Skipper) and now rafted on to a gaff cutter who is in turn rafted on to a fishing vessel in Newlyn fishing harbour. But it’s all gone well really, and now showered, Dominic has gone off to pay the harbour master for our mooring and to have a look at all the boats here.

We started out in the morning motoring down to Carrick Roads where we put up the sails, mainsail reefed as the winds were already good. We’re on our way back to Scilly, in time for the sunny days coming up. We have to do the trip in two tranches this time; southerlies to Penzance today and with north-westerlies to Scilly tomorrow.

We tacked out into Falmouth Bay where we were delighted to find that the RRS Sir David Attenborough, the new British Antarctic Survey ship was busy doing sea trials right in front of us! Read about this incredible research vessel here:


The RRS Sir David Attenborough performing sea trials

With southerly winds we went on a deep tack to Manacles Buoy, on past the Lizard and towards Penzance. I watched the incredible flight capabilities of terns and gannets; never fails to amaze me. It was raining on and off, the visibility was so poor when we passed the Lizard that we could only just see the light flashing from the lighthouse. We had expected a pleasant sail hereon in to Penzance, where we were going to anchor by St Michael’s Mount. But the swells really are too bad, so instead we’re tucked into Newlyn, with the whirring of the discharging trawlers and the hum of fishing boats going in and out. It will go on all night, we know that well, but hey, it will all be ok. (Haven’t I turned ever so laid back haha!)

Distance 47.3 NM, underway 7 hrs 35 mins, average speed 6.2 knots, max speed 10.1 knots

Ps. The England – Italy match was a disappointment… feel for the team

Monday 12th July: Dolphins and Seals ahoy!

Today’s sail was much nicer. We set off from Newlyn at 10am and very slowly wafted south. We tacked a couple of times to keep closer to land to better use the tide. The winds weren’t quite strong enough so it took a while to get up to Runnel Stone cardinal, watching as Newlyn disappeared from sight, Mousehole, Lamorna Cave passed us by, waving goodbye to St Michael’s Mount in the distance and remembering the wonderful long walk we took here a few years back.

The north-westerlies still didn’t turn up so we ended up doing a huge tack to Wolf Rock which was quite fun to see quite close by. A seal popped up its head, and looked around for a while! As the wind then died down it was engine on time and we headed straight for the islands. It was only half an hour later that the winds perked up and backed to north westerly allowing us to sail the rest of the way. We had to leave way for three cargo ships coming through the The Inshore Traffic Zone. The Pilot mentioned that you’re unlikely to meet any large ships, but they clearly all came as we passed through. After this little detour we had a really good sail straight to Eastern Isles in Scilly. We had several dolphin visits, again enjoyed terns and gannets, and saw a turquoise towel float by (!). The Atlantic swell was slow and long, 30-40 meters so it felt a bit like going up a hill, going down the hill, going up the hill….

It was lovely to see all the Scilly islands appear on the horizon and this time we could make out each and every one of them, and pointed out the various identifying daymarks and masts.

We anchored off Great Ganilly before 6pm, and sat outside with lovely views in the evening sunshine of Ragged Island, Great Arthur; enclosed by the Eastern Islands. The sun is setting and we’re enjoying the reptilian looking shags flying very fast close to the water, back and forth, sometimes stopping and diving in. Seals are popping up their heads, inquisitively looking around them. Oystercatchers and gulls are calling. Now it’s time to relax, enjoy and engross ourselves in Scilly – we’re so grateful we’re here again!!

Distance 37.3 NM, underway 7 hrs 25 mins, average speed 5.0 knots, max speed 9.1 knots

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Leisure’ by William Henry Davies

Seals Aplenty

We particularly anchored in this bay in the Eastern Isles as we wanted to see seals. And we have definitely come to the right place as when sitting on deck eating breakfast the first day we kept seeing heads popping up! Some of them look really big, maybe they’re bulls. The seals here are Atlantic Grey Seals and Scilly is a nationally important breeding ground for them. More info here: https://www.ios-wildlifetrust.org.uk/atlantic-grey-seal

When taking the dinghy near to Ragged Island to see the birds, several seal heads popped up not far away. Oops we thought: the nature reserve guidelines say ‘If the seal can see you, you’re too close’ so we turned the motor on and went slowly away. But the seals followed, and popped their heads up even closer, so we kept going, and so did they! Yes, it was fantastic to see them so close up, but to be honest a bit scary too. They are big! We now find that whenever we go out in the dinghy we soon have company!

When walking down the deserted beach on the north side of Great Ganelly we heard a strange guttural singing sound, and to our amazement found it was seals lying on the rocks further out. When we looked closer with our binoculars we saw seals resting on every rocky outcrop they could fit their bodies on to, and some were trying to climb up but kept falling into the water again. Not easy being a seal.

This is our last evening in Easter Isles (for now at least!) and we’re in the wonderful Porth Arthur. Just us, lots of birds, and seals. Yes, this is perfection as we have seals right by us, one of them just lying there in the water, minding his own business. This afternoon we had a fantastic dinghy ride to the outer rocky islands and we came across a huge number of seals lying there resting on the rock ledges. Some of them somehow manage to fit themselves on to the most inappropriately small rocks, and we can’t work out how it could possibly be comfortable.

We can definitely tick seals off our ‘want to see’ list!

Nornour and lots of lovely Archaeological Remains

The other day we visited the small island of Nornour, which at low tide connects to Great Ganilly via a boulder causeway.  We had intended to walk across from the larger island as it’s a spring tide, but when going across the higher ground through the deep heather on the ridge, it was made very clear by the large black backed gulls that we were most definitely trespassing on their land, where they were furiously defending their young and we felt very bad about this and turned back.  So instead we approached in the dingy at high tide and had a very easy landing on a stony beach.

Standing on Great Ganilly, with the causeway to Nornour ahead and below

Nornour is known in Cornish as Ar Nor, ‘facing the mainland’.  It was inhabited for a long period during the Bronze Age and Iron Age through to the early Romano-British period when it appears to have been a hillock overlooking the main Roman port on the single main island of Insula Sillina.  The settlement faces south and sits in a natural basin at the foot of the steep slope.  

Two dwellings with side chambers

A violent storm in 1962 eroded the sand dunes at Nornour, uncovering previously unknown hut circles. Excavations in the 1960’s – 1970’s found the settlement to include at least 11 rounded rubble buildings and major ancillary structures, and provided considerable information on the nature, dating and development of this settlement. The dwellings had a main room with a smaller chamber alongside, central hearths and courtyards. Large amounts of pottery were recovered, mostly locally made Bronze and Iron Age types. 

By the later 1st century AD, only the western double-roomed building remained open to accumulate further deposits and appears to be reused rather than involve any structural changes.  Large amounts of artefacts were found, including 300 brooches, 84 coins, 24 glass beads, 11 bracelets, 2 spoons, decorated studs and fragments of white-clay goddess figurines.  No signs were found of domestic occupation, and this is believed to be a religious site, perhaps a shrine.  The finds are in the care of the Isles of Scilly Museum, which unfortunately is closed at the moment.

More on the archaeology on Nornour from Historic England here:


Then we decided to climb up to the top!

Why we want to stay here forever – a Day on St Martin’s

Panorama from Chapel Down on St Martin’s

The photos will speak here, just add bees feeding off the heather, butterflies fluttering around your feet, birds flying swiftly over the heathland, gracefully up in the sky, expertly over the waves.

A Rather Unusual Scenario

A rather unusual scenario

Apart from the fact that we’re not used to so much sunshine fullstop, this presents us with something we’ve never had – lots and lots of power! Our solar panels are very efficient, far more so than the wind generators. Longer showers, washing up with warm water, make bread, charge the laptops whenever we want; a few days ahead of laissez faire, of throwing the towel to the wind.

Wally the Walrus Update

We’re pretty sure we saw Wally feeding one day off the rocks behind Great Ganelly! But the real news is that he’s now got his own pontoon to sleep on in St Mary’s Harbour:

‘BDMLR and the Harbour Authority have constructed a specific customised pontoon replicating his apparent need for physical contact.  His scent has been used on it to encourage him to feel safe. The aim is to test to see if he will use it and to encourage him to opt for this rather than the Star of Life (or any other vessel).  It has been moored close to the Walrus’ preferred haul out in the hope that he will choose this as a “better option”.   

Since the pontoon’s deployment the Walrus has found it and has now returned to it on a number of occasions in between feeding excursions.  The situation is being monitored and it may be possible to re-locate the pontoon outside the harbour area to reduce disturbance and enable him to rest more effectively. ‘  

Read more here: https://www.ios-wildlifetrust.org.uk/walrus-in-the-isles-of-scilly

Wally on his own pontoon

Goodbye Eastern Islands, we’re off to see Bryher!

2 thoughts on “A Scilly Encore

    1. We’re anchored in St Mary’s harbour where his pontoon is right now! But we won’t hunt him down. Strange that he wants to be here, as it’s a very busy place.


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