We had an opportunity to study blue in all its forms and shades on the way back from the Scillies to Cowes.
Apart from a nice breeze round the Lizard, and a few interludes when the wind lazily stirred itself into action for an hour or two, it was motor-sailing most of the way on a flat and sometimes glassy sea.
In a perverse way I find this a great pleasure, though we might as well be in a motorboat. Hours of staring at brilliant blues above and below, with the occasional seabird or dolphin to intrude, induces an almost trance like state of calm mind on a calm sea, where time passes quickly and it takes an effort of will to do routine watchkeeping tasks.
Off watch down below, the thrum of an engine on low revs, the swish of water along the sides of the boat and the gentle rocking are just what’s needed for a good doze.
From St Agnes we sailed in our only decent breeze to Penzance, arriving at 2pm a few minutes before the harbour gates were due to close after high tide. We passed close to St Michael’s Mount on one of our tacks.
No marina, but a berth rafted up to a beautiful old gaffer along the harbour wall and a rickety steel ladder to climb. Next along the wall was an engineless 100 year old Looe lugger, which has sailed to Brazil, Cape Town and the West Indies, its only auxiliary power a pair of sweeps.
Penzance is an interesting town, with winding old streets and some decent looking restaurants – we dined in a nice Polish cafe.
The boat was in a real, if run down, harbour. Outside the gate, the Scillonian berthed, and inside was an assortment of old craft, some yachts, trawlers – most of which are in neighbouring Newlyn – and the Scilly Islands cargo ship. We spent two nights there, the second dining well on board on fish bought at Newlyn, a 20 minute walk away.
Next, we mainly motor sailed round the Lizard to anchor with one other yacht close to St Anthony’s Head lighthouse opposite Falmouth – St Mawes, our original destination, was packed with anchored yachts.
From there we went back to Dartmouth for the next night, refuelled with diesel, and headed out early across a limpid, glass-like Lyme Bay to pass south of the Portland Race and then well out from St Albans Head, clear of the army firing range. The coastguard announced in one of their regular brosdcasts that there would be firing that evening. We could hear the booms.
Our destination was Studland Bay, near Poole, where we anchored as dark was falling.
Tired and ready for a rest we noticed that there was a half moon and thought we were going slightly crazy – we were almost at spring tides so the moon should be full or new. Half moons were for neaps. Or were we just misreading the tide tables?
The penny dropped with a WhatsApp message from Chris asking whether we were getting a good view of the partial eclipse! No wonder the ancients were anxious about eclipses and saw them as portents: until prompted to remember, we were quite rattled by it.
Next morning, on a sea with barely a ripple, we motor-sailed to Cowes, catching the flood tide up through the Needles and arriving just in time to see a fleet of beautiful classic yachts racing. Last but biggest in the fleet was a restored Sceptre, a 1950s America’s Cup contestant which Chris and I last saw many years ago ashore at Glasson Dock in Lancashire, in a near derelict state. Years of restoration don’t seem to have helped her go any faster.
Third time to the Scillies, and it was definitely the best cruise yet round the islands themselves, thanks to a long period of settled weather. We logged just short of 500 nautical miles there and back, and the new engine was a treat: smell and smoke free, more powerful and thus easier to manoeuvre, and far better fuel economy.