Late July 2006 – Return to England and the Isles of Scilly
After just over a week in Morlaix, it was time to return back across the English Channel to Falmouth, a passage of around 115 miles. We locked out of the basin on Sunday morning 16 July and headed up river and out into the open sea once more. It is not surprising that after a week in the locked basin, where the waters were virtually still, we had totally lost our sea legs and it took a few hours to regain them! There was little traffic and overall the passage was uneventful. We tied up in Falmouth Yacht Haven around 08:30 on Monday morning - the first thing that hit us was the heat, it was very much warmer in Cornwall than it had been in Brittany.
While in Falmouth, we picked up our charts for Southern Ireland and also had a trip into Truro to see 'Dead Mans Chest' , the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. It was just our luck that we had to endure a party of teenage Spanish Exchange students in the small cinema theatre - thankfully, a loud Shhh! seemed to shut them up at the start of the film.
We only stayed in Falmouth for a couple of nights and then set off for the Isles of Scilly which are about 30 miles off Land's End.
There are 56 islands in all, 6 inhabited leaving 50 for the birds (and some of these are really just large rocks). St Mary's which is the largest island is less than 3 miles across at the widest point and only a 10 mile walk around its coastline. The weather was very settled during our visit and over a week we explored each of the inhabited islands. There are some fantastic anchorages, (the photograph above is New Grimsby Sound, with Cromwell's Tower on the right and Bryher in background - Innisfree is the blue hulled boat closest to the near shore). However, the pilotage around the shallows that separate the islands can be tricky.
The main income is from tourism but the islands are also renowned for their flower growing, especially early season Daffodils. Each island has a different flavor and well worth the effort in getting to see them all. (Above: rainbow over the Hugh Town moorings, St Mary's.). The islands have a long history with several ancient burial sites and standing stones. The bird life in Scilly is also varied and it is a hot spot during the migration periods. While walking around St Mary's we spotted a baby cuckoo with its foster parent (a rock pipit)- the cuckoo was nearly 3 times the size of the pipit.
The islands have an extremely Mediterranean climate as they are bathed in the Gulf Stream. On Tresco there is the Botanical Gardens of the Dorrien-Smiths (leaseholders of Tresco since 1834). The gardens contain a superb and varied collection of plants from all over the world.
While in Scilly, we also got out our collapsible prawning nets and tried our luck. For bait we used some old pate that had been lurking in the corner of the ice box. We caught a number of crabs - most of which were small so were thrown back but one large crab did find its way into the pot!
Gig racing is a keen island sport, that has also spread to the West Country in recent years. These are traditional six oared boats which historically used to deliver pilots to ocean going sailing vessels as well as supply the off lying islands - the six oars was set down as a maximum in law as a gig with more than six oars could out run the old Customs sailing pilots - the islands were well know for their smuggling exploits! On two evenings each week gigs from all the islands congregate at Nut Rock, off Samson and then race to the quay on St Mary's. We watched the men's race from the Star Fort in Hugh Town, St Mary's - others chased and cheered on the gigs in pleasure boats, it was quite a spectacle.
The settled weather was forecast to break around the end of July and we had originally planned to be in South West Ireland by mid July so it was time to move on. The passage from the Isles of Scilly to Dingle in County Kerry is around 240 miles and would take us a little over two days. We wanted to be safely tucked up in the marina at Dingle before the gales arrived!