Antipole cruises

A Scillies Idyll

St Agnes and Gugh

After delivering Lucas to the ferry homeward bound, we sailed gently under Genoa to the islands of Gugh (pronounced like new) and St Agnes.  This pair of islands is connected by a sand bar which covers at high water.  This leaves two anchorages either side and we chose The Cove to the south.  There were perhaps a dozen yachts there and we used our shallow draft to slip past them and anchor in close to the bar.

It was twelve years ago, when we were here in Santana, that we saw an Ovni do this.  We invited ourselves on board and the rest, as they say, is history.

The weather is brilliant – gentle easterlies with clear blue skies.  It is delightfully warm but not scorchingly hot as we hear it is on the mainland.  We have had an idyllic four days here anchored in turquoise water over sand, with daily swimming.

We explored Gugh, which has no human habitants, beyond two holiday homes, but has vast numbers of resident sea birds.


By contrast, St Agnes has a resident population of 85, a church, a shop with post office and a café.  Down by the slip is the excellent Turk’s Head pub, which is popular as a supper excursion from St Mary’s.  Apart from this, it is a sleepy place.  We walked all round the island, marvelling at the extraordinary stone piles.  It is, perhaps, the loveliest of all the islands we have visited

Islanders are a resourceful lot.  There is no snow here to make snowmen etc. at Christmas but there are plenty of stones!

‘Snow’ men and Rudolph

Being anchored close inshore, we were well placed to observe the rhythm of the anchorage.  Morning and evening those boats with dogs on board have to dinghy them ashore for their doggy-dos – the dogs standing eagerly in the bow in anticipation of smells ashore.  Then late evening there are the returnees from the pub, rowing a rather erratic course and not always to the right boat.

On Tuesday we rather reluctantly left The Cove and sailed round to St Mary’s harbour to take on water.  This is the only place in all the islands where a yacht can get alongside a tap.   We had heard of long queues, so we went at low water when others would not be able to get in.  Indeed there was a motorboat which was stuck trying to do the same but we managed to scape past and get our water – the first since Plymouth.

Tresco & Bryher

From  St Mary’s we passed over drying ground to New Grimsby Sound, convenient for the islands of Tresco and Breyher.

On Tresco we spent a day enjoying another visit to the outstanding Tresco Abbey Gardens. There are many thousands of species from all over the world, especially sub-tropical ones. We recognised many from our times in New Zealand. We also walked much of the island across to Old Grimsby.

The Tresco Estate runs the entire island and, being an island, has to be self-sufficient in its operation. It has a large laundry for its holiday cottages and we were able to have our laundry done. We were also able to enjoy showers.

The next day we dinghied to Bryher, which we have not visited before. Bryher is much wilder than Tresco, especially its northern part. The people of Bryher were regarded as thorns or briers on account of their hardiness against the Atlantic winds. We had a magnificent walk right around the island and managed to call at the splendid Hells Bay Hotel at lunch time.

On the Saturday we walked around the northern end of Tresco with fine views over both the new and old sounds and thence to Old Grimsby.

New Grimsby Sound

The Scilly Isles have no marina and no all-weather harbour. Yachts shelter in whichever bay the winds dictate and, when the wind changes, have to move to a new location. We have been blessed with a week of warm weather, clear skies and gentle easterlies, which gave us considerable freedom in anchorages. However, the fine weather is breaking with a final burst of strong easteries. The best shelter for this is in New Grimsby Sound between Tresco and Bryher, which is why we timed our visit to those islands when we did.

And so almost all yachts piled into the sound. In strong winds and with quite a strong tide in the sound, the holding for anchors is not always reliable and made worse by the recent invasion of Japanese seaweed. The Tresco Estate has provided a good number of visitor’s buoys but not enough for all. So those unable to find a free buoy have to anchor. When the tide turns or the wind shifts, a yacht at anchor on 30-35m chain swings in a considerable arc, while those on buoys move very little. So the anchored boats may threaten to bump into the buoyed boats. Worse, the swing sometimes causes the anchor to drag and the yacht has to be repositioned.

When we arrived there were no free buoys and we had three goes at getting a good hold. We were, naturally, uncomfortable about leaving the boat to go ashore. However, we learned that a nearby yacht would be leaving early the next morning. We were up at 5:30 and swiftly grabbed the buoy as they left. This made the visits ashore possible. As a buoyed yacht, we watched with sympathy (and perhaps a little smugness) the concerns of the anchored yachts.

New Grimsby Sound from Tresco (with Cromwell’s Castle right) looking across to Bryher

With unsettled weather forecast for some time, we have decided to take advantage of NW winds and sail for the mainland on Sunday.

More news from there… Tony & Ynskje xx

2 thoughts on “A Scillies Idyll

  1. Nicky

    We are so enjoying reading your blogs once again and glad you are enjoying the beautiful West Country.
    With love
    Nicky and Peter

  2. heleen

    Hi Ine en Tony,

    Volgens mij boffen jullie enorm met het weer.
    Geniet ervan met zonnige groetjes uit het Amsterdamse, heleen

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