After a blissfully peaceful night at anchor we went ashore on St Agnes and went on a long hike right around the island taking an entire 40 minutes! There is one pathway that circumnavigates the island and along the route there is much to look and marvel at. There are no cars so everyone is either on foot, on bike or hitching a ride in the trailer of a farmer’s tractor. Everyone wants to say hello and have a chat, even the joggers. It seems that by getting on a bike or putting your trainers on in this place you take on a very positive demeanour which is totally opposed to empty zombie look and ‘Get in my way and I will dismember your entire family’ attitude that you get with cyclists and joggers on the streets of London.
The route took us past the pub again and despite being 9.30 in the morning it took all my powers of persuasion, a couple of heavy set locals and a long heavy stick to stop Sarah’s habitual ordering of a glass of Prosecco in favour of a coffee and my promise to free pour Prosecco from the top of the mast as soon as the sun was at least above the yardarm.
We left our beautiful little anchorage at midday and headed for Tresco. I wanted to navigate across the Tresco Flats which is an area between St Mary’s and Tresco that completely dries at every low tide and is a winding route over white sand and past several islets but as the tide was going out and to avoid any embarrassment we chose the outside route which is marginally longer but all deep water. The entrance to New Grimsby sound is very well hidden and it was only when a fishing boat shot out ahead of us that I was sure that turning in towards the steep rocky shore was the right thing to do and despite going close to the sides, the water is very deep. You immediately get a lovely view of Oliver Cromwell’s castle on your left and Hangman’s Island on your right and then straight ahead is a small bay where once again we crept into the shallows and dropped the anchor in 5 feet of clear water. Following our ‘bump in the night’ experience in the anchorage at St Mary’s, I got the dinghy out to have a look round the surrounding area to make sure that any dark patches were not rocks that we might sit on at low tide. After 30 minutes of looking like a proper tool sticking my head over the side of the dingy with my mask on I was happy that we were in a good spot.
We had a walk ashore with Max that ended in a peace keeping visit to the New Inn for Sarah and we took advantage of their wifi to check the weather forecast for the next few days. What this told us immediately dictated our imminent departure.
Originally we had hoped for at least two more nights in the Isles of Scilly but the forecast was showing gale warnings for the areas of Shannon and Rockall which are the shipping forecast areas to the West of Ireland. It looked like this low pressure area could move eastwards into our area of Fastnet in 24 to 48 hours and once that had blown through the forecast was for light and variable wind so neither option was looking good for a 140 mile sail to Ireland.
What I wanted was the perfect settled forecast that I had fantasised about for the last 6 months but what we had was ‘Wind – Southerly Force 3 to 4 veering South West 4 to 5, maybe 6 later and sea state moderate to rough later’. This was ok other than a ‘moderate to rough’ sea state but there was also the possibility of mist and sea fog not to mention the gale 8 forecast for the West of Ireland albeit that should stay clear for long enough. I’ve got to be honest, I was nervous.
Having a penis is a wonderful thing but I am all too aware that he’s not a friend you can trust implicitly. He will never say ‘Take it easy son, you might want to think twice about that’. Instead he will say ’YOU DA MAN, YOU CAN DO THIS, YOU’RE THE BEST, DON’T BE A PUSSY, DO IT, DO IT, DO IT’ and it’s all too easy to listen to and believe your little self. You don’t want to go against advice from your most loyal friend but on the other hand, if he gets it wrong and you find yourself in the sh*t you will look down to find him now hiding with his two other little mates looking at you like you are now the penis and saying things like ‘You idiot, I suppose you’d jump off a bridge if I told you to wouldn’t you.’ It’s a very complicated relationship but after many years of trying I now feel like I have a good grip on it…
So, after about 5 minutes deliberation and going with my gut feel which, on this occasion was in agreement with my smaller self, I said ‘Right Sarah, we’re going tomorrow afternoon at 3pm’. This should allow us to get through ahead of the gales, enable us to settle in to our sail before it gets dark and be confident of arriving in Ireland the following day before dark. That was it, the plan had been made.
On Thursday morning we went ashore, visited Tresco Abbey, looked at some truly strange botanical species, had lunch overlooking a beautiful bay on the east side of Tresco, got some supplies from the Island’s only shop and headed back to Fiesta.
We left at 3pm and pointed Fiesta out of New Grimsby Sound. At this point I would like to outline what an expert navigator you need to be even to contemplate this trip but that would be a lie. You get clear of the entrance, dial in as near as damn it north into the completely unbelievably awesome auto pilot, press the button and leave it alone for 20 or more hours. The tide will influence your course one way and then when it turns, take you back the other way more or less the same distance and you only need to adjust course when you are ten or so miles off Ireland to fine tune the final approach. The depth is rarely under 200 feet so it’s easy.
The wind was dead out of the south so right up our arse and at this point whilst in the lee of the Isles of Scilly it was only about a force 3. There isn’t much point in putting two sails up in this situation as the main will always shadow the jib or spinnaker causing the jib or spinnaker to flop around and be totally fecking annoying (I’m getting into the spirit of Ireland already). We decided to put the spinnaker up on it’s own for the remaining hours of daylight to give us the best possible start and this time the hoist was a dream. I always calculate a voyage on the basis of a least speed of 5 knots and the spinnaker on it’s own was giving us just over this. We settled into the sail and watched as the Isles of Scilly slipped away out of sight behind us. We left the auto pilot to do its magic and sat down for chilli con carne and a glass of wine in the evening sun. It takes a while to settle down to a longish trip but much like a long drive, the first hour or so seems to take an age but then a strange time warp ensues and the hours just tick by.
Out of the lee of the islands we were making just over 6 knots and we decided that I would go for the first sleep at 10pm leaving Sarah in charge for the first part of the night sail until 1am. I was happy that Sarah was happy and after repeating myself a million times about keeping a good watch, checking the AIS and waking me if there were any problems, I reluctantly turned in. This was the first time ever that I had not been in control of Fiesta’s destiny. Just before going to bed we checked the AIS and there were several fishing boats and ships around and one in particular caught my attention. It was a cruise liner heading to Fowey. It was 27 miles away and heading more or less straight towards us doing 17 knots. Although 27miles away I could see from the chart that it was headed towards a Traffic Separation System that goes past Lands End (a system of two one way streets running parallel to each other for big ships to pass each other at a safe distance) so that course would inevitably bring it right our way. I said to Sarah to keep a good eye out and give me a shout if she needed to. After about an hour Sarah spotted it on the horizon and woke me up which was the right thing to do. In the dark of the night a big cruise liner lighting up the horizon coming your way looks pretty ominous. Although I was sure that the crew on the bridge would be aware of our presence from their radar and our AIS signal, we turned on Fiesta’s other navigation lights and maintained our course. The human element in these situations dictates that despite all the navigational devices available, a ship relies on the Officer of the Watch keeping a good look out rather than scrolling through the sort of WhatsApp videos that make you miss your place in a Lloyds queue albeit with far less severe consequences.
As it turned out, the ship came within a couple of miles and passed to the west of us and all was well. I went back to bed and then relieved Sarah of her watch at 1am. There had been a few other cargo vessels around but none had come close enough to bother Captain Yuile!
During my shift there were no ships around at all and after the first busy ish hours of the night we didn’t have any other traffic giving us any cause for concern. Sarah emerged on deck at 4am and as we swapped over the black sky had given way to an inky blueness and there is something incredibly beautiful along with a sense of relief as you emerge from the night. The other thing that I was relieved about was that I had changed my mind before darkness fell the previous evening because the wind had been very steady and I elected to keep the spinnaker up overnight. The only reason why you don’t normally do this is simply because of the size of the sail and the innumerable ways to f*ck it up and you really don’t want to be having the kind of struggle during the night that we had with it when it dropped into the water on the way to the Isles of Scilly or if the wind increases unexpectedly and you have to clamber around the deck in the dark to get it down. Fortunately it was a good decision and it only required adjustment of the sheets about three times throughout the entire night.
When Sarah started her shift at 4am the wind was increasing and our speed was up to around 8 or 9 knots. Sarah didn’t need me during her time on the helm and when I emerged at 7am having slept pretty well for a couple of hours we were creaming along with a couple of double figure surfs here and there. The wind increased to a force 5 and brought with it a swell of about 4 meters. Fiesta was in her element, nothing was falling over in the cabin and despite the size of the waves there was no water over the deck so all was good. When the sun came up Sarah was treated to a visit from the dolphins and I can’t speak for Sarah but I had a feeling of total calm and gratitude for being in this very special place. Sarah went to bed again at 7.30am and her timing was spot on because when she returned on deck two hours later I had just had the feeling that the spinnaker needed to come down! It was now touching the forecasted force 6 and the wind had swung round to the South West. The spinnaker came down after over 17 hours and the jib went in it’s place, we had breakfast and then the rain came! We got a good soaking and the waves increased but were never a problem. We caught sight of the Irish Coast at about lunch time and cruised in past Dunmore East into the River Suir. After 6 miles motoring up river we put the anchor down at a place called Ballyhack, showered, chilled out, had dinner and went to bed at about 9pm. Total time from upping anchor in Tresco to dropping the anchor at Ballyhack was just over 24 hours.
What a f*cking blinder of a trip. I was feeling proud of Fiesta but more than that, completely and utterly proud of Sarah. I quite like taking the p*ss out of the almost constantly cold, non rufty tufty Prosecco swilling, sweet, charming, always smiling and once incapable rope coiling Canadian but at this point all I can say to you Sarah is a huge well done! I have no wish to sound condescending (that means to talk down to) but you were fantastic! You trusted in me and Fiesta, remained completely calm and totally capable. Well done you! A**
There’s a new video under the ‘Other bits’ page showing our trip from Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly……
Tresco, Tresco, Tresco, lunch at Tresco and more Tresco