The scene was nicely set as our rag tag bunch of ageing motley macho males excitedly boarded the Scillonian III at Penzance. Only one thing was different to usual…the weather forecast for the next few days was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.
While others opted for the full breakfast in the galley I refrained until I could look at the Chelsea buns in the lttle glass display cabinet no longer, and selected the one which had a double cherry on top (the other ,inexplicably,didn’t have any cherry at all). This was a seriously bad act of gluttony which I was to soon regret,and it tasted of cardboard anyway.
We watched nervously as our kayaks were unloaded like a consignment of drainage pipes upon arrival at St Mary’s.
And so we shoe-horned all our clobber required for four nights camping into our kayaks and headed off towards the dream campsite at St. Martins, but progress was slow as we hooked a load of Pollack around the top end of St. Marys, Austen with his trusty Husky Jerk catching fish of the day at about four pounds and then a load more so he got left way behind.
We diverted for a snoop round the Eastern Isles partly to get shelter from the nagging north wind. And it was when we got out for a leg stretch on the idyllic island of Little Arthur my act of gluttony with the double cherry savoury wreaked its revenge in the most unpleasant manner. If you are planning a trip to this uninhabited isle I would recommend leaving it for a few months.
We encamped at St Martins and I managed to lurch to the Seven Stones Inn where I improved significantlywith my own patented form of nutritional electrolyte repalacement diet (N.E.R.D)……Guiness and a packet of mini cheddars.
Austen was pollack barbeque king and there was enough left over to feed many of our campsite neighbours including three Dutch sea kayakers, and the local cat.
Day 2 dawned stunning and sunny. In return for the great slab of pollack the cat had dumped a dead shrew beside our teabags. But not just any shrew…a Scilly shrew,endemic to these Isles. Amazing because the last time I had visited the Scillies, in 1976, was on a travel scholarship to study the Scilly shrew and saw neither hide nor hair of one for the whole time.
We loaded our kit for our days paddle on St Martin’s white beach under deep blue skies. Perfection.
We explored the sheltered and gin clear waters around Tean and St.Helens before venturing into the more exposed and lumpy seas for a circumnavigation of Round Island.
The north side of Round island received full swell and north wind so was quite entertaining. As usual in such an extreme place a peregrine put in an appearance-it was nesting on the very top of the lighthouse.
We had a bit of a leg stretch on St. Helens where those with functional limbs took a hike to the top of the hill and watched a gull’s egg hatch in front of their eyes.
Then it was back to the boats and a tour round Menavaur with quite a few puffins, several decent pollack on my big Rapala lure , and then into the cosy sheltered comfort of another world in Grimsby sound between Tresco and Bryher.
The pub in Tresco was absolutely buzzing with a raucous live band that I would love to say were completely out of character with the peaceful sleepy setting but were actually quite good. They even got the pauses right in that Steve Harley song. It was a short hop across the sound to Bryher’s pub( with the naff name of Fraggle Rock) where Austen sported a new style of hat:
A quick circuit of Samson and yet more white beaches and Turquoise water and back to St Martins.
The longest day of the year dawned sunny and stayed that way. And there was no wind. Campers were sleepy:
It was going to be a true five star rated day of paddling and as we paddled past Tresco en route for refuelling at St Mary’s it was a struggle to believe we were in England and not a Maldive type place.
I had gone on ahead to go for a prowl around the anchorage at St.Mary’s to meet up with Cushing who had boldly sailed solo from Newlyn the previous day to rendez vous with our motley bunch. I found him pootling in his tender.
It would have been REALLY impressive if he had come from Newlyn in that.
We crossed the fairly stiff tidal current of St.Mary’s sound and skirted the rocky north shore of St.Agnes around to the beach in front of Troytown campsite. This is easily the most dramatic location for a camp ground I have ever seen in UK and surely the best. A single low wall between it and the sea, and then a waterscape of jagged granite teeth sticking above the waves which 99 days out of a hundred would appear ferociously hostile and pounded by wind and swell (and indeed claiming many an unfortunate ship), but today, the day WE happened to turn up, was as smooth as a BP slick. And in the far distance Bishop Rock lighthouse marked the western edge of the rocks, beckoning us to visit. So off we went.
We dumped our stuff at the campsite first.
The paddle to the Bishop rock lighthouse encapsulates everything I love about sea kayaking.It is a wilderness experience in a vista unchanged for millenia (apart from the lighthouse and transient wrecks on rocks). No near sign of human existence. Just you and the sea and the things in and on it. We took a tour round the western rocks which even on this benignest of days were creepily unwelcoming. A fairly stiff tide race sucked through them and on the other side was a slurping swell.
Puffins nesting on Rosevear kept nipping past and seals came close see what was going on. My rod fairly curved when I hooked 10lbs of Pollack-but unfortunately not all one fish!….
Austen and I spent a memorable hour or two in this extreme location and although my hit rate fizzled out, his husky jerk kept producing the goods.
Following another nutritionally sound and healthy but maybe a bit too pollacky meal we retired to the Turks Head for a very entertaining evening and autopsy on the best tales of the day. Joel was so excited about getting to the Bishop rock he paddled round it twice!
Another perfect morning at Troytown.
A spin off from the testosterone laden talk in the Turks head was the idea we should paddle back to the mainland tomorrow. This has long been my number one ambition but sea conditions are rarely suitable. Tomorrow however looked about as good as it could get, and there was always the niggle that the other two groups of sea kayakers we had met had both made the crossing (the Dutch in BOTH directions). So myself and Austen and Keith were starting to sort of be committed, maybe.
We said farewell to Cush on his yacht and then Derrick ,Steve and Joel who were going to spend another night camping before taking the Scillonian home…..and maybe the Turks Head again,eh?
So Austen and Keith and I paddled north again towards St Martins and its green blue water and stocked up on provisions in preparation for the big crossing back to Cornwall tomorrow. We past possibly the most Caribbean-like beach yet on the top end of St. Mary’s.
What a stunning four day adventure. The weather could never be that good again. Not a cloud from Day 2 onwards. Where do we go from here for next year?
The only glitch from a kayak fishing point of view is that there are, apparently, no bass in the Scillies. Why didn’t somebody say and I wouldn’t have taken a load of sandeels.Clearly in the world of positive spin in which we currently lurk, stating such a negative in a tourism brochure or advert would be contrary to procedure. But we’ll let you off this time because EVERYTHING else was top.
p.s. separate post on the scilly crossing back to Cornwall coming soon.