The Cruise – Part 19
Friday 23rd May
Another sunny day with the wind from the east – ideal for coming to the Islands, but no good for returning, and the forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same, except there will be rain and showers along with stronger winds. Therefore we made the best use of the calmer conditions to sail to Samson, an uninhabited island to the south west of Tresco.
First we went ashore for fresh water and to dispose of our rubbish shortly after high water. There was no problem navigating between Great Crabs Ledge and Plump Rocks. Ahead lay the tiny Puffin Island, providing shelter at the official anchorage near the north end of Samson. Bar Point, a steeply banked sandy beach was an ideal spot for landing, and by laying two anchors, one on the beach and the other further out, the wind and current kept our boats from grounding on the foreshore.
Samson is only three quarters of a mile long from north to south, and no more than four tenths of a mile wide at the southern end where a hill rises to 40 metres above sea level. We followed the winding path up the incline and noted areas that had been fenced off for the protection of nesting birds. From high up the extensive views of the islands were the best to date. On the way we observed several brown furry caterpillars which one should not touch because they sting; we also saw loads of black beetles, nearly an inch long. The many grey backed gulls took no notice of us whatsoever and I was surprised to hear the distinctive song of wrens - my surprise was because there were no trees and very little foliage on the island, mainly grasses and ferns. Traps marked by poles with blue ribbons had been set for rats.
A tripper boat came to the island after our arrival, but only a handful of people landed and we encountered none of them at close quarters.
Returning to New Grimsby was more problematical than going to Samson because there was only an hour left on a falling tide before low water. Al chose to sail to the east of Puffin Island where many rocks were exposed. He shortened sail and at one point was forced to wade with his boat for a short stretch. I elected to motor north to Yellow Rock where there was deeper water and there joined Al who had made it past the shallows. We both took our boats between Bryher and Tresco with no less than 3 feet of water under their keels. In places long trailing weeds brushed the bottoms of the boats. Finally we arrived at the beach near the new slipway by a recent housing development at New Grimsby.Later in the afternoon we went ashore for shopping at the Post Office which is well stocked with goods – a little on the pricey side, as one would expect, because everything has to be brought from the mainland.
In the evening we plan to visit the New Inn.
Saturday 24th May
Not a great deal going on today, except sheltering from the north easterly wind; for that we drew our boats onto the beach at New Grimsby Harbour.
For most of the morning we tramped the paths of the northern end of Tresco. From the quay at Old Tresco we could feel the wind and see breakers between us and the islands of St. Helen's, Tean and St. Martin's. Nearby there was a spectacular display of mauve rhododendrons. Search as we may, we could not find 'Piper's Hole, a cave with a pool where a small boat can enter. High up at Kettle Point we stopped for a rest and to reward ourselves with chocolate and nuts. A small motor boat below twisted and turned as the waves heaved and fell on the swell; she appeared to be making her way towards Old Grimsby.
On the sheltered western side of the Island we met several other walkers, no doubt interested in visiting Cromwell's Castle and Charles's Castle. As we had seen them before we gave them a miss.
When we had finished lunch we took to the paths again, but this time to see the trees adjoining the Garden at Tresco Abbey. This woodland of special scientific interest has a large variety of trees and plants. Many of them were brought to the Island by sailors when returning from overseas. Al and I were amazed at their beauty and intricate design. We called into the Cafe for tea and coffee and to wait for the drizzle to stop, which it didn't, so we returned to our boats a little damp, in time for an afternoon snooze.
As I was resting I heard the voice of a female who enquired of her companions how the boat could be steered; whereupon I sat up and surprised her. She made an apology for snooping, but went on to ask the usual questions: “How old is the boat?” and “How far have you come?”
Sunday 25th May
Al and I have been in the Scilly Islands for a week, and it's time for us to make a move to the mainland, but without the right wind we are 'trapped' by the Syrens. So far we have explored four islands: St. Mary's, Tresco, Bryher and Samson. Each have their own characteristics. St. Mary's by far has the most to offer the tourist; it's from here that boats take visitors to the other islands for beaching, walking, bird watching, or at Tresco to see the Abbey Gardens which are rather special with their enormous variety of plants and trees. We have not yet been to St. Martin's, which according to the guide books is the 'softer' of the islands with long white beaches and a less challenging terrain, although at the eastern end the Daymark is at the top of a high promentary.
The way the weather is going with gale force winds from the east, it is unlikely we'll have a chance of visiting St. Martin's.
I've been whiling away this wet and windy morning by reading and watching any nearby activity, either on the beach or along the road leading to The Quay. The 37' Sun Odyssey 'Maximus' lay alongside The Quay to take on water. Her crew of at least four ran to and fro between the yacht and the tap outside the Gents carrying the essential liquid in plastic containers. For my personal amusement I observed the antics of various birds at the water's edge as they preened and cleaned themselves; first there were two Oystercatchers who bobbed up and down in the water; next there were a couple of ducks who fled along the beach from three children playing with the sand; then there was a lesser Black-backed Gull who repeatedly submerged his head in the water before using his feet alternately to scape the sides of his neck.
At 1100 'Faith' dried out on the sand and two Bryher Boat Services water-jet inter-island boats simultaneously arrived at The Quay to offload passengers and take on new ones. Five minutes later the more stately old-fashioned launch, 'Kingfisher of St. Mary's' disembarked her trippers curious for the delights of the Island.