Monday, March 01, 2010

'Pinto's' Summer Cruise, part 3

Map of the Scilly Isles

Hugh Town Harbour

Thursday, 31st July

We awoke to find the anchorage outside the harbour at Hugh Town was uncomfortable because of the fresh north-westerly wind, but we did not intend to stay long before making sail for a crossing of the Celtic Sea to Cork, Southern Ireland.

It was mid-season and we found that the Harbour was quite busy. Visitors were being ferried in open boats to different islands where they would spend the day, bird watching, walking or just relaxing on a beach. If they were going to Tresco, most of them would certainly visit the famous Gardens or the fascinating Valhalla Museum with its collection of ship’s figureheads. Maybe some trippers would take a boat to the Bishop Rock Lighthouse, and while on the way they would hope to see puffins and seals at the rocky islet of Annet.

The 'Scillonian 2' berthed at the Jetty

Archive image of the 'Scillonian 2' leaving the Islands for Penzance

As we were inflating the dinghy, the ‘Scillonian 2’ arrived from Penzance. She was very skilfully manoeuvred into the Harbour where she moored alongside the jetty. Later in the day she was due to return to Penzance for an exchange of goods and passengers. Virtually every commodity required by the islanders had to be transported from the mainland aboard this Old Lady of the Sea. Today the ‘Scillionian 3’ has replaced her, and there are a few more cars on the island of St Mary’s than there were at the time of our visit in 1975. Cars were not permitted on the other islands of Tresco, St Matin’s, Bryher and St Agnes, and the same is true today. Nowadays, helicopters and high-speed inter island ferries make the islands rather noisy. In the good old days they were much more peaceful and less commercialised.

The Tresco Gardens

We found some rather primitive showers at the waiting room on the jetty and used them to clean ourselves. After having a look around the town and buying fresh milk, eggs, bacon and bread we returned to ‘Pinto’ for lunch and a rest. When going ashore, we hadn’t forgotten to take our rubbish for disposal and our fresh water containers for refilling them. After all, our next leg to Southern Ireland would be a non-stop passage of about 120 nautical miles.

Time went quickly and before we knew it, the rise of tide was sufficient for us to cross the bar between Samson and Tresco, so we weighed anchor, then we put a reef into the mainsail and hoisted the working jib. The sail northwards between Bryher and Tresco was exacting as we tacked between the islands. To port there was Hangman’s Island and to starboard there was Cromwell’s Castle. Ahead between the steep-sided cliffs there was the open sea. We felt pretty chuffed with ourselves when we emerged unscathed into open water at the northern end of the Islands. To the east there was St Helen’s Island and Round Island with its small lighthouse.

Cromwell's Castle and Hangman's Island

Because of the force 4 north-westerly there was a big sea running, but ‘Pinto’ did not hesitate. She was rather flat-bottomed, and although heeled, she pounded into the waves, causing water to fly everywhere. When we were a couple miles to the north of the Islands we decided the going was too unpleasant. Because we were getting very wet and cold we returned to Hugh Town by sailing around St Martins to the north and running down the eastern side of St Mary’s before beating into the Sound. We hadn’t fancied entering New Grimsby Sound via the northern route because we were uncertain of the course. With more experience this would have been the better option.

It had been an uninviting start, apart from the precision tacking between the Islands at the outset which we enjoyed and the exciting surfing while running along the eastern side of the Eastern Islands and St Mary’s. We found ourselves back at Hugh Town feeling a little deflated. We should have anchored at Porthcressa Cove to the south of Hugh Town, where there would have been more protection from the wind and a more comfortable berth. Fortunately, before nightfall the wind eased and so did the motion. After spending the evening at the Mermaid Inn we had a reasonable night’s sleep in preparation for our second attempt at crossing the Celtic Sea.

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