The ‘Erly Tour – The Isles of Scilly

I had intended to write this as I went along but I was just having too much fun!

So the ‘erly tour? No, that’s not a typo!

At the beginning of 2021, it had been my intention to set off on my second attempt at world domination but, with the continuing uncertainty around Covid 19, I decided to postpone that trip for a year.

Instead, I thought it would be Jolly Good Fun to make a trip around all the ‘erly points of Great Britain. The most South-erly, West-erly, North-erly and East-erly points of the country. That’s Lizard Point, Lands End, Dunnet Head (no, not John O’Groats as many people mistakenly believe) and Ness Point (Lowestoft) respectively.

For those of you still unsure, Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales and their associated islands. The United Kingdom is Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

So, here we go…

The Prequel

Having spent the winter in Sutton Harbour, where I had replaced the old Spinlock deck clutches with much beefier items, installed a Digital Yacht AIS transponder, replaced my one year old AGM house batteries with a 215Ah Lithium (LifePo4) battery, rewired the electrics to two new Blue Sea switch panels and installed a black water tank, I moved to Queen Anne Battery to have Moon Shadow lifted out in order to remove the old through-hull in the fore cabin which was no longer connected to anything and had started to leak. It had been the drain for the vanity unit there but I had replaced that last year with some storage. I also wanted to replace all the sanitary hoses and I felt it would be safer to do that out of the water just in case I dislodged a seacock!

I’d booked in for a week but when she was lifted I discovered that the antifoul on the keel had all but disappeared and was down to the bare metal in places.

Obviously, the job I’d done previously hadn’t stood the test of time! There was nothing for it but to strip back to the metal again and start over. So, after almost three days of sanding, paint stripping and grinding the keel was once again bare metal. Two coats of Ferex, Five coats of epoxy primer, three coats of antifoul and five days later I could get on with the job I’d actually lifted for!

Whilst out of the water I also had AllSpars install a new Furlex Furler to replace the old (original) Plastimo unit which was definitely well past its sell-by date. I also had them replace the remaining bits of running rigging – the mainsail outhaul, the reefing lines, the vang line and the spinnaker pole uphaul. I also improved the solar panel mountings and had the guys at Phoenix weld a grab rail onto the back of the spray hood frame and had Ocean Canvas make me a new sprayhood.

So I was all set!

27 May 2021 – Plymouth to Falmouth

I had a pretty uneventful passage to Falmouth with pretty light wind and ended up motoring a lot of the way. That was to become a “bit of a thing” in the months ahead.

Sunset over Falmouth

29 May 2021 – Falmouth to Penzance

I had some excitement leaving Falmouth. The wind was quite southerly which entailed me tacking out of the estuary. I’d sailed to the east side of the estuary then tacked and set a course past Black Rock and as tight as I dared to Pendennis point beyond in an attempt to get a good line to Start Point.

At the same time, a fleet of old pilot cutters were having a race and the tail end guy had fluffed his last tack and ended up behind me. With all his canvas up he was overhauling me and closing on my port quarter. It got to the point where, when I thought his enormous bowsprit was going to come into my cockpit, I shouted at him to take care (what I actually shouted isn’t printable!). I couldn’t bear away or I’d be on the rocks and I couldn’t point any higher. The bow man called back to the helm and they eased off. Ten minutes later we were clear of the point and he was able to pass behind me.

The visibility wasn’t great and I nearly ended up on the wrong side of the Manacles cardinal but still went through the eastern end of the overfalls which was rather uncomfortable for twenty minutes. After that things calmed down considerably.

I bagged my first “erly” at Lizard Point, the most southerly point of Great Britain. The wind was kind and I was able to sail the whole way which was nice. I had to be in by 7pm to meet the train bringing Alison. I made it with about thirty minutes to spare and, having rafted up against a boat already tied up I rushed off to the train station to meet Alison only to find she’d taken a later train!

30 May 2021 – Penzance to St. Martin’s

Well, almost!

We’d left Penzance harbour at 9am and made for St. Martin in the Isles of Scilly. Unfortunately, with a moderate South Easterly breeze, the sea was rather choppy and it wasn’t long before poor Alison was feeling distinctly under the weather. By the time we had passed Tater-du lighthouse she was almost delirious so I decided to turn back and made for St. Michael’s Mount where I knew we’d find calmer water to anchor. Once there and after having something to eat and drink she was right as rain.

St. Michael’s Mount

31 May 2021 – St. Michaels Mount to St. Martin’s

In the morning Alison was, understandably reticent about heading out again but we both really wanted to get to the Scillies so I said we’d head off and if it was too bad that we’d just turn around again and come back and stay around Marazion for a few days then head back to Falmouth.

So off we went and the weather gods must have taken pity on us because we had an almost perfect passage across.

Much happier today!
Land ho!
Perfect downwind run

As we approached St. Martin’s I started the motor and dropped the sails but completely forgot to pull the dinghy in and ended up over running the painter and got it tangled around the prop. I was pretty cross at myself for such a schoolboy error but had not time to dwell on it as the painter parted and I had just enough time to get into the dinghy to stop it drifting away. I managed to pull the painter clear of the prop and tie the ends together. We arrived in the quaintly named Bread and Cheese cove around 17:00 and nosed into the bay to the three metre contour and cropped the anchor. There is quite a tidal range here so I let out 40 metres of chain to be on the safe side. With the wind in the east and forecast to veer, we were perfectly sheltered.

Our own private beach
A beautifully peaceful setting
First Sunset

In the evening I popped up into the cockpit to watch the first sunset which was pretty spectacular and just as I was about to go below again I noticed that the dinghy wasn’t where I’d left it! Obviously, my knot wasn’t secure. Fortunately, it had just drifted a hundred metres or so to the rocks in the picture above and with the help of a neighbouring boat, I was able to retrieve it and tie it on properly!

It had been my intention to cruise around the islands but with, the wind firmly in the Southwest, I decided to stay put and explore by local ferry. One of the highlights was the extremely tame sparrows at the bakery in Higher Town…

Amazing

Some of the local flora is pretty unique also…

No, Alison isn’t only two feet tall!

Local ferries run all over the archipelago. We took one to the main island, St. Mary’s, one afternoon on a whim…

Hugh Town
Bread and Cheese Cove

All too soon it was time to leave.

Goodbye Isles of Scilly

5th June 2021 – St. Martin’s to Falmouth

In a very unusual stroke of serendipity the wind and tide conspired to give us a favourable run back to Falmouth. The plan was for Alison to take the train back to Exeter and I would wait on for new crew to arrive to start the “main event”.

They say that bad luck comes in threes and today was to prove that saying!

We had a perfect sail back from the islands and across Mount Bay toward Lizard point, at which point the wind died completely and we started the engine. All was going well until about half a mile from the moorings in Falmouth Town we ran out of fuel! I quickly unfurled the genoa and there was just enough breeze to allow us to keep station. I called Falmouth Coastguard to let them know what had happened and to ask if they knew anyone that might be able to give us a tow. If I had had experienced crew aboard we could probably have sailed up to the moorings but with a novice that wasn’t really an option. The coastguard kindly issued a “pan pan” call and a local sailing school yacht responded. They had been north up Carrick Roads and were on their way back to near Penryn. It was crewed by half a dozen students taking their RYA Yachtmaster certificate so, not only did they get to practice something unusual, I was totally confident in their, and the skipper’s ability, win-win!

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