Sunday, June 12, 2005

Saturday, 11th and Sunday, 12 June


This morning we sailed to ‘The Cove’, which lies between Gugh and St Agnes. At low water there is a golden sandy isthmus linking the two, making them one island. To the north of the isthmus there is another cove, known as Porth Conger; its here the inter-island tripper boats dock at a small jetty.

On our arrival at this spectacular anchorage surrounded by rocky outcrops and open to the south, I recognized three boats encountered elsewhere; one in particular was of note, because it seemed wherever she went, I later visited the same places. She’s a Hillyard nine ton yacht, named ‘Kishya’; I first saw her at Yarmouth, which is her home port; then I came across her at Weymouth, Dartmouth, Hugh Town and finally at St Agnes.

Another of the yachts, a Hunter Impala, was at Porthcressa, where I met her young man and wife crew, but the people I was most pleased to meet again were Martin and Roma Morris in their Nick Skeats steel boat from Yarmouth. They had helped me when I most needed it by taking me in their large car to Cowes where I hoped to have my Autohelm repaired. Having built their boat over a period of two and a half years, they are now reaping the benefits while on their way to southern Ireland after exploring the Scilly Islands.

When lunch was over, I walked across St Agnes towards the west, passing through Higher Town, Middle Town and Lower Town. These names are rather grandiose, but in fact these three towns are composed of a handful of houses; some of them of historic note, due to their age and construction. The Island school is a little jewel, the sort of place all young children should experience before attending a senior school.

An adventurous part of my walk was climbing over rocks and boulders which link Burnt Island to the north western corner of St Agnes. At high water a significant section of these fantastically shaped multi-coloured boulders are covered by the sea. I doubt many people make the effort to reach this isolated part of the Island, but I was curious, because it was here the sailing vessel Charlotte Dunbar was wrecked in 1881. Sadly I didn’t find any bullion, but I did see a traditional lugger moored in Penglis Cove. I also accidentally disturbed an oystercatcher with her young chick, which she boldly protected by attacking me!

On my way back across the Island I met Martin and Roma again who gladly accepted an invitation to have tea later in the afternoon. They were eating Magnum ice-creams, a favourite of mine, and they told me they I could buy one at the Post Office in Middle Town. This wizard of a shop conjures up every type of food and drink a yachtsman would want.

Arriving back at the boat I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a large French yacht had anchored right next to ‘Bumper’ – it seems the French are very neighbourly. You’ll remember the same thing happened yesterday at Porth Cressa, but they were a friendly bunch who provided me with freshly caught fish. These aloof people will not even look towards ‘Bumper’; it’s as though the boat and I do not exist. I only hope our boats do not bump in the night.


This is turning into one of those memorable cruises, for all the right reasons. Today couldn’t have been better.

At 0710 the anchor was taken up, somewhat with relief that the French yacht close to ‘Bumper’ did not collide into her during the night. Under engine we made our way to a point just south of Taylor’s Island, which is half-a-mile to the north of Hugh Town Harbour. There we anchored again. Then I took the usual things ashore i.e., rubbish, water bottles, my computer and mobile phone. Between 1000 and 1200 I sat on the quay observing all the hustle and bustle one would expect when new visitors to St Mary’s are setting off on their first boat trips. While all this was going on I used one of the yachtsmen’s charging points to replenish the batteries of my laptop and phone.

Sunday on the Scillies is no different to any other day. In fact it is one of the busier days for the boatmen, although all five of the main islands have Church of England churches; on St Mary’s and St Martin’s there are Methodist churches, and there’s a Roman Catholic Church at Hugh Town. Things are no different to the mainland where only a minority attend church on a Sunday. Sadly, as far as I know, there’s no Baptist or Evangelical church on the Islands.

When lunch was over I took ‘Bumper’ for a sail, simply for the pleasure. Conditions were superb – bright sunshine, a gentle wind, excellent visibility and so many islands to explore. Firstly I concentrated on sailing around the southern and eastern shores of Samson, an uninhabited island which was last farmed in 1855, supporting around thirty people, but life became too hard for them and a benefactor of the Scillies, Augustus Smith, took pity on them and evacuated them from the island.

Next I had a look at the southern shore of Tresco, taking care to avoid numerous rocks, some of which were under the water.

As the tide was rising I sailed ‘Bumper’ to windward through the shallow channels that lead northwards to New Grimsby, the main town of Tresco, nothing more than a small village.

According to the echo-sounder ‘Bumper’ should have touched bottom, but I conclude it underestimates the depth of water. This sort of navigation is mostly done by sight, because the water is so clear one can see the rocks, sand and weeds.

As the sailing was so pleasurable I continued northwards between Bryher and Tresco until I reached Shipman Head, which is the most northern headland of Bryher. From there I returned to the moorings south of Cromwell’s Castle, which is a preserved ruin dating from 1651.

Once the evening meal was finished I rowed the Seahopper dinghy to an incredibly white sandy beach near Cromwell’s Castle. Then I climbed to the higher King Charles’s Castle where I could see the whole archipelago stretching from the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, to the south west, to the Round Island Lighthouse to the north east, and St Martin’s Island to the east.

It’s no wonder Augustus Smith leased all the Scillies from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1834 to set up a utopia, building the Abbey on Tresco as his home. Smith established the famous gardens where he brought plants, trees and shrubs from semi-tropical parts of the world, and because of Tresco’s equitable climate they survive to this day.

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