Three times lucky

The Scillies are beautiful, but they take much effort to visit, even by public transport, because the air and sea links are from Penzance, right at the far end of Cornwall.

I’ve tried to sail to the Scillies half a dozen times, but only managed to arrive after three of those attempts because of bad weather, which makes the islands a rather precarious place to be: there is no all-weather shelter, and it is an area prone to gales and huge swells. Once, the weather forecast was so bad we gave up trying to go west by the time we got to Dartmouth. (I’ve also passed close by the Scillies quite a few times on races without attempting to go there).

This time everything was in our favour, with beautiful settled weather for several weeks, good enough to spend the best part of a week pottering around various anchorages in the islands before we headed home.

We set off on the day of the Round the Island Race, a spectacular sight, with 1,500 yachts marshalled in a succession of morning starts over a line out from the Royal Yacht Squadron building. We waited till near the last two starts so as not to get caught up in the fleet, and then motor sailed on the north side of the Solent, leaving the fleets to battle it out on the south side.

Tail end of the Round the Island fleet in the distance

On the way we called at Weymouth, with its delightful harbour and beach, though sadly it all remains a bit rundown. (The local paper reported while we were there that it was the least socially mobile town in the UK.)

We rounded the end of Portland Bill inside the ferocious tide race, and made several long tacks across Lyme Bay in a pleasant Force 3 to 4 wind, thoughat times it was hard work, because at Spring Fever’s 6 knots the aparent wind over the deck was up to Force 5.

Dartmouth, our destination, is always a delight after the steep-sided estuary entrance opens to view in the cliffs.

Castle guarding Dartmouth entrance
Paddle steamer passing in front of the town

After a night on a pontoon – not one conected to the shore – we motored up the River Dart to Dittisham, where we found the Anchorstone Cafe, a lunchtime fish restaurant with splendid food at reasonable prices, then walked up the hill behind the village.

Above Dittisham
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Spring Fever moored at Dittisham
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Peter F and Tony on the way up river
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Leaving Dartmouth

After a night at Dittisham, we left Dartmouth for Salcombe, another beautiful harbour, with a spectacular entrance, waiting at anchor just outside at Starehole Bay for the tide to rise over the bar, carefully avoiding the underwater remains of the Herzogin Cecile, a four-masted sailing ship which went ashore there in 1936.

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Salcombe at night
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Starehole Bay

We briefly visited Newton Ferrers, tucked away up a creek so it is almost invisible until you round up to enter it, before spending three nights in Plymouth, where Peter F left the crew to head for the Cricket World Cup. We had dinner with Tony’s Plymouth friends.

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Plymouth’s Barbican, the old wall of Sutton Harbour in the foreground.

Plymouth is where Peter R’s father lived as a boy, and he used to tell tales of jumping in to the sea from the wall of Sutton Harbour with his friends on summer days in the 1920s.

Finally we sailed overnight to Hugh Town, St Mary’s, in the Scillies, where we picked up a mooring buoy in the crowded harbour.

Sunset on the way
Hugh Town as we arrived soon after dawn. The main harbour is over the hill on other side of the town

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