Scilly July 2020

Spellbinder’s journey west has continued and she has just enjoyed 9 excellent days in Scilly.

Having bade farewell to friends Charmian and Julian, we were joined by Tom and Tiger for the passage onward from the Yealm. After an uneventful passage we anchored overnight in the Helford River, off Duggan Point given that the winds were northerly.  There we were joined by Simon and Karen who were aboard their lovely Swan Questar.

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A peaceful night anchored near ‘Questar’.  Great to catch up with you Simon and Karen!

From Helford we rounded Lizard in calm conditions and headed into Penzance, anchoring off to wait for the harbour gates to open. It’s a wet dock, where you jostle alongside supply ships for Scilly, fishing trawlers, and the odd visiting yacht.  Nothing very grand, and little in the way of facilities, but you are near the town centre and it’s good for a night.

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BBQ at anchor just outside Penzance Harbour. The Scilly passenger ship, ‘Scillonian III’, is in the background

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Entering the wet dock, which is open HW-2 to HW+1 approx

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A modest but convenient berth against the harbour wall

Jonty and I said good bye to Tom and Tiger after a night out in Penzance, which seemed to be opening, with great caution, after the pandemic lock down.  We were then joined by Johnny and Lucy, who were to be crew for the next 9 days as we headed to Scilly.

The journey over – which can be difficult against the prevailing winds and is effectively in the open Atlantic – proved to be an easy motor in calm conditions. First stop was The Cove, between the islands of St Agnes and Gugh – a delightful spot, with a sandbar which uncovers and helps prevent the Atlantic swell from entering. It was where we first landed in Scilly, 10 years ago, in our previous yacht Kianga.

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Views of The Cove, in ideal calm conditions

We spent a couple of nights there, walking around both islands, having lunch in the Coastguards Café, the UK’s most south western, and dinner in the Turk’s Head, which has the same qualification in terms of pubs.  Again, caution abounded as we were amongst the first guests of the season; over our stay people relaxed, and eating out has become a more normal activity.

Next stop was Porth Cressa, an anchorage south of the capital Hugh Town, on St Mary’s.  Often this anchorage is untenable owing to the prevailing winds, but it was ideal for us as the northern wind flow had continued.  It made it all a bit chilly, but we were well settled there and it was ideal base to walk around St Mary’s and to reprovision.

The flora and fauna this trip were excellent.  In terms of the former, here are a few Scillonian flowers, and some windswept vegetation for those who are interested:

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After exploring the ramparts around Star Castle, we then left with the tide to go over Tresco Flats.  The pilotage needs attention, and at high water neaps Spellbinder only had 50 cm under her keel at one point. Once over, however, we were able to pick up a buoy in New Grimsby sound, from where we were able to explore Tresco and Bryher.  While the former is more developed, and has become a well-provisioned timeshare centre, Bryher remains relatively untouched and is one of the wilder islands.

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A sign of healthy air: lichen growing abundantly on a bench on Tresco

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Spellbinder on her buoy in New Grimsby Sound, under a Cromwellian castle.  More views of the Sound below

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A view from Tresco, looking out to the Atlantic.  Scilly had a fearful reputation with mariners of yore, and one can understand why.  The Royal Navy had one particular disaster here, precipitating the search for a reliable means of attaining longitude at sea

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A young seal at rest between Bryher and Tresco

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Stone art, and (below) an artist’s studio on Bryher

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Green Bay, Bryher, where there were also many bilge keel yachts, and others which can take the ground.  It’s a lovely spot.

We then headed round to the other side of Tresco, to Old Grimsby Sound, so we could take up an invitation from friends David and Patsy to have a family supper in their timeshare.  It was great fun, and after a bit of a bumpy night owing to Atlantic swell coming in, the next day we headed out into the Atlantic, and round into Tean Sound, picking up a buoy to allow us to explore St Martin and Tean itself.

St Martin’s is my favourite island as it is quite wild, but with a little helpful infrastructure.  As well as a shop there is a hotel, pub, bakery, vineyard, campsite and a few little other establishments selling things.  We enjoyed it hugely, having lunch in the Karma Hotel and the Seven Stones pub, both of which have fabulous views. Having walked around St Martin’s, the crew had completed a circuit of each of the inhabited Isles of Scilly.

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St Martin’s Church

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One of the many beaches on St Martin’s.  It could be the Caribbean – were it not for the small matter of air and sea temperatures…

We also joined forces with old friends Rupert and Jules and their family on board their yacht Wind Song, enjoying a BBQ on the beach below the hotel, opposite our moorings in Tean Sound:

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Our final night in Scilly was spent in the Eastern Isles, which are quite remote and uninhabited.  We anchored near fellow OCC members Derrick and Ali, and had drinks with them after a stroll around Great Ganhilly and a trip to an uncovered sandbar, surrounded by azure waters.  There were seals everywhere.

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Anchorage in the Eastern Isles, viewed from Great Ganhilly. If you look carefully you can see a couple of inquisitive seal heads…

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Jonty thinking he was in the Caribbean, and (below) enjoying driving us around

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Our trip back was a fine close reach, with the wind freeing up enough for a fast passage back around Land’s End, with the tide lee-bowing us nicely.  The highlight was an extended visitation from dolphins.

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Johnny enjoying a good helm

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Bottlenosed dolphins (I think) playing with us

Safely back in Penzance, we said goodbye to Johnny and Lucy – thank you for being such excellent crew! We had walked around every inhabited island, seen much flora and fauna, and had a healthy and sociable time.  Spellbinder will now remain in Cornwall, based out of Falmouth for the rest of the month.

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5 thoughts on “Scilly July 2020

  1. Julian Hickman

    Thank you, a great write up and lovely to read more about the Scillies. It seems a fascinating place, so close to Cornwall and yet remote and rarely visited. I look forward to going one day, probably by air which will provide a very contrasting perspective to yours. So pleased you found a settled period of weather to enjoy it, and explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Crispin

    Great photos Nick and interesting account. Glad you had a good trip. Seems not so long ago that we made land-fall there inbound from the Azores!

    Like

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