Enigma's Trip to the Isles of Scilly
  Ian Byrne describes the delights of this popular cruising destination.
  Author: Ian Byrne      Posted on: 24/11/04

Photos by Ian Byrne

The Isles of Scilly are a popular cruising destination treated with a little trepidation because of the passage length and Scilly's reputation for unmarked reefs and rocks, dragging anchors in poor holding and its historic relevance as the scene of the largest maritime disaster in history.

This reputation is re-enforced by old charts and cruising guides and the assumption that your departure is the Solent. In reality, progress has brought developments that ensure that with basic caution and skills, applicable to any cruising area, you and your crew will have a most memorable and rewarding cruise.

And so it was that on 22nd May 2004 the crew of Enigma, an HYC Bavaria 34 based in Kinsale, set sail for Scilly at the respectable hour of 1210 on the half ebb after a hearty breakfast and a farewell pint in friendly Kinsale Yacht Club. After passing the Bulman Buoy we headed southeast for New Grimbsy Sound motor sailing. New Grimsby is a deep-water anchorage with about 12 visitors' moorings and easy access especially from the north and west.

New Grimbsy Harbour looking West between
Hangman's Rock and Cromswells Fort

It's a great landfall, presenting as a gap in the cliffs to the south of Round Is. Lighthouse. As Cromwell's Fort to port and Hangman's Rock to starboard come into view the harbour on Tresco and the visitors moorings in the anchorage beyond become visible.

Anyway, our continued passage was uneventful save for passing the huge rigs and support tugs on the Kinsale gas field at about 1730. Our crew, a group of cruising pals of some years, were settling into a watch system. HYC members Paul Williams (skipper & owner) and Ian Byrne with Con O'Grady and Ciaran Kelly. Paul and Ian looked after the sailing and navigation, Con looked after the galley, provisioning and 'kitty' and Ciaran gave definition to the watch system; 'you watched and he talked'. The motor sailing remained uneventful other than passing through a French fishing fleet none of who were under command!
We sighted land at 0930 over a full Irish breakfast with fried potatoes and mushrooms and picked up a visitors mooring in New Grimbsy Sound just off the pier at Tresco at 1220 after 133M.

Paul Williams, Ciaran Kelly & Con O'Grady
at the highest point on Tresco

New Grimbsy Sound is formed by the sheltered gap between the islands of Bryher and Tresco. Bryher is wilder with good walks and the dramatically set Hell Bay Hotel, which is wonderful for food and drinks. Tresco is more ordered with its famous gardens and tropical plants growing wild all over. It has a friendly inn, the New Inn which has showers and good food and a plusher Island Hotel in colonial style overlooking Old Grimbsy Sound on the north of the island. The island is car free and the paved roads are an easy cycle on a rented bike. The supermarket is exceptionally well stocked with fresh fruit, veg., local meat and fish and a wide variety of international foodstuffs. The water on the mooring was blue and Caribbean clear as we pumped the dinghy to go ashore on Tresco in glorious sunshine which is more common in Scilly than at home. The New Inn had been extended since our last visit with a beer garden and restaurant building. After a pleasant walk across the island for pre-dinner drinks in the Island Hotel we returned to the New Inn for dinner and post dinner drinks - seems like a lot of drinks! Eventually found the boat in the dark and crawled into our bunks.

Mon 24th May it was bright eyed and bushy tailed ashore for milk and provisions and a cycle cruise around the island and Abbey Gardens. Despite a number of luffing incidents and one port and starboard everyone was still talking when we returned to the New Inn for lunch and to plan our afternoon trip to Bryer in the dinghy. Bryher is wilder and famous for rare migratory birds. The more rugged walk to the Hell Bay Hotel built up a thirst, which we addressed overlooking the rugged bay near where Sir Cloudsley Shovell lost most of the British fleet returning from the Battle of Trafalgar. That evening we slipped our mooring and moved to the north side of Tresco into Old Grimbsy Sound overlooked by the Island Hotel. We dined on-board in beautiful evening surroundings and later slipped ashore for a swift one.

A cool pint overlooking Old Grimbsy Sound
Paul Williams, Con O'Grady and Ciaran Kelly

Next morning Tuesday 25th May whilst 'chef' Con was preparing breakfast we sailed out of Old Grimsby leaving Round Island Lighthouse to starboard. We were sailing to St. Agnes and as we considered the many dangers on this passage we became confused with the positions of the familiar cardinal buoys. Since our last visit a number of new cardinals have been laid which take all the worry out of the approaches to St. Marys Roads. I would never have considered a night entrance before but all major dangers are now clearly marked and lit and as easy as Howth Sound.

We picked up a private mooring in The Cove between St. Agnes and Gugh off a white sandy beach. At low water there is a sand bar separating The Cove from Porth Conger a busier anchorage on the north side of the strait between the islands.

The Islands are covered with tropical plants

We lunched in the Turk's Head overlooking Porth Conger, explored the island and swam in the cove before heading for St. Mary's. We picked up one of over 60 visitors moorings in Hughtown the ferry port and commercial centre of Scilly, despite the extra bustle it is small and quaint with good shopping, banks and nautical bars. An excellent meal overlooking the harbour can be had by finding the Scillonian Club and paying the modest 1.50 visitors fee which will be more than recovered with the modest food and drink prices there.

With a poor forecast we passed on visiting either of St. Martin's two anchorages, not to mention its supposed best pub in Scilly, and stayed in St. Marys. Both anchorages were visible from Old Grimsby and look straight-forward. It was no hardship to stay in Hughtown enjoying the R&R and buying some guilty presents.

The mainstreet in delightfull Hughtown
on St. Mary's

Overlooking Old Grimsby Sound with the
plush colonoal style hotel on the left

On Bryher looing over New Grimbsy Sound towards Cromwells Fort on Tresco

Thursday 27th May we slipped our mooring at 1500 and sailed for Kinsale. We played musical chairs with the watches and otherwise did not encounter a soul until we tied up at 1445 in Kinsale the following day.

The passage from Kinsale is about 130M and from Howth about 160M . Scilly is special because it is unspoilt and has a wide variety of anchorages with visitor moorings. Yachties get a real sense of exclusivity when the day-trippers disappear on the ferry back to Penzance at about 1730. This is when the islands come into their own and you and your crew will always recall a most memorable cruise no matter how many times you visit.

Ian, Paul, Con & Ciaran

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