We’ve only got a few more days here in Glorious Scilly. We will miss it, but we also know we’re bringing back with us a heartful of treasured moments, many blogfuls of happy memories, suntanned arms and faces and stronger legs from all this Scilly walking!
Wednesday 21st July: A Journey on the Outside – and the Norrard Rocks
We’re heading to St Helen’s Pool for the strong easterlies that are coming up and this seemed a very good opportunity to sail around the hazardous shore on the north-western side of Scilly. We had a lovely, sunny and fast sail, taking very good care to avoid the many rocks and sand ledges.
Using the deep channel from Samson, our passage took us through the Norrard Rocks with Illiswilgig, Seal Rock and Maiden Bower on port. We could see three tour boats there, spotting seals. We went near Grimsby Castle and the Black Rocks on starboard and soon came out to Westward Ledge and Scilly Rock. We had our own sighting of masses of seals resting on the Ledge!
There was now nothing but water, not even a rock looking west. Only the Atlantic and masses of it. We had a fantastic view of Hell Bay on Bryher, past New Grimsby Sound, Tresco, Old Grimsby Sound, around Men-a-Vaur, St Helen’s Island and Round Island with its lighthouse and finally through St Helen’s Gap into our anchorage. As we have walked every one of these islands, and been in all the sounds it was a really wonderful experience to see it all from ‘the outside’!
You can see on the screenshot how deep the water gets and very quickly so, once you’re out of the original large Scilly Island that the peoples of the past would have experienced.
The yellow line is not quite right when going through St Helen’s Gap, we didn’t actually go over Round Island! This is also showing our trip to Tresco in the evening and our walk over to New Grimsby, and the beginnings of our trip to St Martin’s the next day!
Thursday 22nd July: Another Beautiful Day on St Martin’s in Pictures
Saturday 24th July: Walking on St Mary’s and Anchoring Three Times in a Day
We’ve walked all the big islands (and quite a few of the smaller ones), barring one quarter of St Mary’s. Obviously this had to be rectified so we left St Helen’s Pool early in the morning for plenty of tide to get us over the sand bars. We went in to St Mary’s Harbour to see about anchoring but it was very full of boats keeping safe from the strong winds we’ve just sat through. (We happened upon Fulmar again, lovely to chat!) So we kept going to Porth Cressa where the swells weren’t actually that bad, and as we expected them to slow over the day we anchored. There were only five other boats there, which is unheard of!
Taking the road to Old Town and getting a bit of lunch in the village store, we headed off along the coastal path. As we came nearer the airport we heard the warning sounds of an approaching plane, and had a fantastic view of it landing. This is not a big airport and the footpath goes just by the runway. There’s a sign telling you that when the lights are green you can go, but not to dawdle. I didn’t stop long, but had to take a few photos! And Dominic had an opportunity for another climb on a precarious boulder column nearby. He got all the way to the top, and did stand up briefly, but I didn’t catch that on camera, though you can see him trying if you look hard enough!
This eastern side of St Mary’s is very different to the ones facing the other islands. There are only a few houses and it’s more rugged. Feels more like the other islands do.
We soon came to Porth Hellick Cove where we knew to look for the memorial of where the body of Sir Cloudesley Shovell was washed ashore. He was Admiral of the Fleet and in 1707 while returning with the fleet to England after a campaign at Toulon, the ships were wrecked here in a storm with nearly 2,000 people dead; one of the greatest maritime disasters in British history. We had expected something more monumental than this stone to be honest, but apparently there is a monument for him in Westminster Abbey. More on him and his rather astonishing career here: http://aboutscilly.com/sir-cloudesley-shovell-scilly-naval-disaster-1707/
St Mary’s has many known prehistoric graves but one of the most obvious ones is the Porth Hellick entrance grave, a type of chambered tomb so common in Scilly. This tomb forms part of at least eight other funereal structures on the Down, dating from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age. It was meticulously (not always the case!) excavated in 1902 when some artefacts were found, but no burial remains. I crept in as far as I dared, and it felt, well, empty. This is most definitely not always the case, but this tomb felt abandoned.
We kept walking north, and from afar saw our next goal: Toll’s Island, one of the larger tidal islands here. It is 300 m long by 175 m wide and its highest point is 16 m above sea level. It is linked to St Mary’s by a sand tombolo, with a few rocks to climb over at the island end. We had our lunch sitting on one of the rocks, watching all the people sitting on the beach and not climbing over to Toll’s Island, and wondering why on earth not?
We thoroughly enjoyed the view over the Eastern Isles, one of our favourite anchorages. And with us was a forlorn sea creature, sitting on the granite shore, her head bowed thinking of many happy times swimming in the sea, many moons ago. What did she do to deserve such a fate; being frozen in stone forever?
It felt like a very long walk back to Porth Cressa. We had planned on visiting a cafe but it was soooo full so we kept trudging along. When we arrived we saw, and felt that the swell had most definitely not diminished, and it would be very uncomfortable staying here, so upped anchor and went over to St Mary’s harbour. We sat there for a few hours, enjoying the sunshine, and watching all the boats going to and fro, and checking if Wally would make an appearance, but no. In the early evening we decided it would be safe enough to move over to The Cove, by Agnes, which is where I wanted to wake up the next morning. Third time anchoring today, a record! The Cove was very busy, Dominic counting 33 boats in all. But we were ok, and tried very hard to sleep in the swell. Your boat is never quite still in Scilly!
Sunday 25th July: A Very Happy Birthday in the Scillies
I had a really rather lovely birthday on St Agnes, with a freshly-baked-bread-breakfast on deck, as much sunshine you could ask for and lots of lovely Happy Birthday phone calls and messages!
Lunch was thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside at the Turks Head pub accompanied by a half of very tasty Cornish cider. I dragged Dominic along on a walk to see the Western Rocks again. A nightmare for a ship on a stormy night, but strangely beautiful when you’re standing safely on land.
We had a very relaxing afternoon kayaking in the Cove and sitting in the evening sunshine drinking wine on our boat home. We had anchored in the same spot as last time we were here at the end of June, and again we had a wonderful view over the gullery and all the gulls sitting on the rocks by the water. On the last visit the brown gull chicks were small, sticking with their parents. Now some are big enough to fly around near the beach, others congregate in the water near the shore. They’ve grown so much!
We had unusual evening entertainment. Because of the sandbar between Porth Conger and The Cove, and as it’s a springtide, there were whirlpools, underwater flows and currents, and with all this all the boats were going all over the place; sailing on the water at anchor! Some boats were getting really rather close at times but we were safe in our spot.
Monday 26th July: Sailing back to the Mainland
We had a bumpy night, both felt a bit unwell so we got up early and left at 7:30 for the return to the mainland. It was too grey to take farewell photos of the islands but we amused ourselves by pointing out everything we now know and recognise. Odds and Ends we’ll remember from Scilly:
On all the islands, people set up roadside stalls by their house. Some sell craft items, others second had books, but mostly it’s produce from their garden. We enjoyed the freshest potatoes and really tasty carrots. Just scrub the dirt off and eat!
If you get ill here, the Star of Life ambulance boat will help you out. We saw it one day, out on call.
We were due a thunderstorm one evening and sat out on deck waiting. We saw the lightning time and time again beyond the Eastern Isles, and heard the thunder claps, but most weirdly, we felt the thunder through the water and the boat, a slight rumble. A completely new experience! And some days in St Helen’s Pool you can hear the roar of the ocean even though the pool is still.
Olivia’s Cafe on Bryher have vegan Magnum. We went there more than once… and I heard the Cuckoo on St Martin’s!
Back to the sail. The sea was weird; choppy with crested waves despite very little wind. We motored for a bit near Wolf Rock, then tried sailing a bit more as the wind was supposed to pick up after lunch. But we had to give up by the time we got to the Lizard as we wanted to anchor somewhere before it got dark. But to keep us in good spirits dolphins visited us time and time again, and it was magical to see them. A few times just a few of them on a quick visit, but a couple of times they stayed with us for 15-20 minutes, playing by the bow.
It was 12.5 hrs of a long, grey day with little wind, which makes it all so much more tiring. We anchored in Helford river in our usual spot. There were more boats than usual here too! Luckily we had a quiet night which was surprising as we were expecting hours and hours of thunderstorms.
Distance 58.5 NM, underway 12 hrs 24 m, average speed 4.7 knots, max speed 9.1 knots
Tuesday 27th July: To Mylor and a Bit of an End
On the Tuesday we sailed off to Mylor Yacht Harbour, foresail only to Falmouth but the wind got stronger and stronger (where was this wind when we needed it yesterday!). Dominic had to do a rather magnificent swivel before getting into the very tight spot that had been reserved for us on the visitors pontoon. Luckily a few blokes from the office came down to help us as there was no way I could have tied us up in the strong wind blowing us off.
We walked to Mylor Bridge for a food shop. We’re both feeling a bit strange. Tomorrow I’m off home then on to Sweden to see my Mum. I’m apprehensive about travelling abroad, but I so want to see her, has been such a long time. Dominic will stay on the boat. We’ve got Idun booked in for a lift out and hull scrub tomorrow morning, then he’ll stay in Mylor one more night to make use of the chandlery and plan the never ending jobs on a boat. Then he’s off for adventures on Idun on his own! (Until I come back again!)