Yesterday was not the right time of the year for birdwatchers to visit the Scillies — too late for migrants and not enough wind for blown-in vagrants.
But yesterday was exactly the right day to travel to the Scilly Isles — not a breath of wind, brilliant winter sunshine and water like a millpond.
So catching the train to Penzance before dawn,
we piled onto the Scillonian III with lots of other followers of the weather forecast. The islands are about 30 miles from the tip of Cornwall.
Unlike many other ships. On our outward journey Bill regaled me with tales of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, a mate of Marlborough (his hero) who lost four ships on the rocks around the Scillies in 1707, with the loss of nearly 2000 sailors. This may have been due to the problems at the time in plotting longitude, though 80 years later it was rumoured to have been due to the Navy’s failure to listen to a seaman, native to the Islands, who told them they were heading for the rocks! He was hanged for trying to incite mutiny. This may or may not have been true or may be an early example of how we edit history according to our own prejudices!
Yesterday the islands looked tropical.
The beech was patrolled by a little platoon of ducks and one or two people were swimming without wet suits. We did see some birds:
As we head back along the south coast of Cornwall, the passengers all gather on the aft decks and despite an increasing chill, gaze as one at the mesmerising sunset. No one looking at their phone or scanning the sea for more dolphins — as man has done for ever, we watched the sun go down.