Leader to The Scilly Isles July 28th to August 2nd

July 28th

45 today. Left Falmouth from Pendennis Marina aboard (another) Brixham trawler, ‘Leader’. Excellent company – 12 paying travellers/ 6 crew. Lovely day. Still warm. Some cloud. Got underway at around 2.30pm around Lizard Point and snuck into Mullion Cove behind the island only a few feet from the jetty with the Mullion Cove Hotel peering down on us from the hill up to the left.

Everyone unwound after a couple of hours. Crew quick to get us putting the bowsprit in place, sweating and tailing, pulling up the sails. The camaraderie started to grow. Several people in their sixties, a few middle aged bods like me, then a confident and keen 19 year old crew man and a 13 year old girl here with her mum. All affable and quick to laugh.

Enya brought cake and sang happy birthday. Nice surprise. How did they know? Must have been asked for DoB on applying.

Paul was director at BOV for 5 years til 1991. And is a director / scriptwriter. Urbane and a little out of place amongst the talk of boats or wildlife, yet interesting, bright, fun, eccentric and instantly likeable. Also taking lots of photos which is always good.

Simon a management consultant who lives in Munich, 41 – closest in age and personality to me.

David, a roofer from Doncaster. Droll. Good banter. As the skipper tried to tie on the sail to the mizzenmast at 11pm this evening with our torches on his behind:

‘It’s been a while since I’ve seen the sun shine out of somebody’s arse.’

Simon. The mate. Funny. Plenty of banter but also kind. Well built with a face that looks like..?

Saw dolphins twice on the way over and on the way into Mullion Cove huge white domed jellyfish with blue tentacles like 1960s table lamps giving off a slightly psychedelic green or purple glow as they float a few feet beneath the surface 2/3 feet in length – the domes 1/2 feet across. Alien. Ghostlike.

July 29th

Fairly soon after leaving Mullion Cove the bad weather hit. First rain and a driving North Westerly. As forecast. Before you even notice it land is a grey smear then just a memory. The world is millions of lines – varying tones of grey/black stretching to the sky.

And you realise this is all there’ll be now for the whole day: the movement of the boat, the spray and the swirls as she slips through the dark water. Resigned to the limitations of this new world you’re in, the mind starts to wander.

Pretty soon the wind was up to force 7 and the rain was driving from the stern making hard tapping sounds on the hood of my waterproof. We hunker down trying to get used to the motion. Pretty soon people are looking pale and have the stare. People are sick and then apologise. Others kneel and vomit over the side.

We start to rise and fall through bigger troughs of sea. I love the motion. Leaning forward and back with her, onwards we go. Under sail with 3 sails up and doing 5 or 6 knots. After a couple of hours amazingly the black clouds parted and blue sky was the dominant. Out of nowhere a pair of white shapes shot towards the bay like torpedoes. Dolphins. A trio flying / slicing through the water in unison. Following the bow. Are they just having fun? You can see why people would think so but someone said they can find fish at the bow.

Amazing how quickly things can change at sea. It was rough enough already but the swell had been following the boat. Dave and I were in the bow. The dolphins had swum across the bow out of sight. He said ‘That’s them saying goodbye.’

About 10 minutes later the swell was suddenly coming from the South and hitting the front of the boat. She started pitching at a 45 degree angle water rising across the deck, waves splashing over the side.

The next thing I remember the deckhand’s face was in mine. ‘Make sure you’re tied on’. I’m on my knees trying to get the red line from my life jacket clipped on to the safety line. I look up to see Dave arching over onto his face. It’s difficult staying on my feet. Your instinctive reaction is to get on your hands and knees – like trying not to fall off a 45 degree roof in a storm. Everyone who had been sitting in the stern – most of them poorly were rushed downstairs. ‘Anyone who wants to stay on deck tie on!’

Pitching and heaving in 8-10 metre swell – this was exciting sailing. The deck corkscrewing while being periodically drenched in water. Holding onto the side for dear life while trying to take down the jib, the feeling of being at the mercy of the elements alone, alone on the lumpen hills of the dark grey sea. I am good at this. Enya the cook, 20 , big, jolly was suddenly on deck on her knees stoney faced clearing the deck, making fast and waiting for orders. There’s something dramatic and heroic about this most ancient of battles between man and sea.

Walls of surf would roll towards the stern and pass underneath us.

Passed around to the North of the islands because we couldn’t go between St Agnes and St Mary’s. Around the top of St Martin’s and then in to St Mary’s from the West so that we could be sheltered from the West by Tresco and Bryher. Moored in St Mary’s Pool 2 miles out from Hughtown. Most of us tired or ill after a hard day’s sail.

July 30th

As predicted a force 9 gale blowing from the South. We moved a bit in the night and, God, does she creak in the night when we move. Discovered that she was built in Galmpton, Devon in 1892 but to be worked out of Lowestoft. A nice Suffolk connection. She would have had 5 crew doing everything by hand – one of them a boy – and no engine. Must have been tough.

Unable to move today because of the wind. Frustrating for us all being in sight of land and this amplified by the ferries that come past fairly regularly with day trippers waving. Fortunately we all get on well. Had a run in with grumpy Tim on the first night who sleeps in the bunk beneath me but now it’s resolved. We sit on deck, dry our waterproofs from the day before, chat, read and chat some more.

July 31st

A lovely day and a sea taxi takes us at 10.30 to Tesco. The Scillies look different from the mainland – bright white beaches, white not pale yellow. The ground is sandy and low like Caribbean islands with the odd hillock, collection of rocks or wooded area.

Incredible flowers – blues and oranges and in the Botanic Garden beautiful terraced gardens and a collection of figureheads from the various wrecks that litter the rocks around the islands.

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