Simply Scilly Blog

About the Isles of Scilly … everything from events to news to pictures to how to get here and have a great holiday!

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World Pilot Gig Championships – Isles of Scilly

When Ships were made of Wood and Men were made of Iron!

The First Pilot Gig Boats were built in the 18th century with the purpose of taking a pilot out to a sailing ship and putting him aboard to carefully navigate ships into safe waters. Pilotage on Scilly was for many years the main source of living with a general rule that the first man aboard got the job and of course the rewards that came with it.

All Scillonian gigs and Cornish gigs were made of Cornish Elm and are approximately 30 feet in length and 5 feet in beam. They were built for hard work; had to withstand heavy seas, yet were required to be fast and stable.

Gigs were sometimes used in conjunction with Pilot cutters. These are larger boats that would tow the Gig closer to the oncoming ship then they would transfer the crew of the gig onboard for the race to the ship.

Pilotage in Scilly was a hazardous occupation and until the arrival of a lifeboat on St. Agnes Scillonian gigs were synonymous with saving and loss of life.

Pilot gigs were also used for smuggling and salvage. Gigs often rowed to France and contraband tobacco and spirits were also exchanged for fresh vegetables and eggs. In fact gigs were banned from having eight oars as the custom and excise couldn’t catch them!

Gigs were also used in salvage. Anything that could be salvaged from the sea from cattle to grand pianos brought in wealth to the islands, and the church on St. Agnes was built in the nineteenth century using the proceeds of the sale of a wreck. The church bell was also taken from the same wreck.

World Pilot Gig Championships

The Isles are awash with gig and rowers!  Over 120 gigs will be patricipating in this weekend’s races, which are  a vital part of the Islands’ culture and tourism economy.  This year’s races boast a team from the Netherlands, several new gigs in their first Championships, and rowers ranging in age from 20 – 85.

The Isles of Scilly will also be hosting two additional ships this weekend:  the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Campbeltown (find out more at: www.royalnavy.mod.uk/operations-and-support/surface-fleet/type-22-frigates/hms-campbeltown/) and also the MV Explorer Cruise Ship.

For more on visiting the Isles of Scilly, see www.simplyscilly.co.uk

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Isles of Scilly welcome the MV Explorer May Bank Holiday Weekend

The Isles of Scilly are welcoming over 40 Cruise Ships this summer, and the latest scheduled arrival is the MV Explorer.

The MV Explorer has a history dating back to the early 1970s when, as part of Lindblad Travel, she was the first custom-built expedition ship.  She is a small ship (100 passengers), whose ownership has changed over the years, and she has great experience and over the years has operated many cruises with success. She is small enough to visit small inlets and bays, yet large enough to ensure a comfortable and secure voyage.      

Visiting the Isles of Scilly by cruise ship is a great option for many visitors.  With over 40 ships, sailing between April and September, there are a range of options to suit everyone.

Travel to Scilly with the official Isles of Scilly Tourism website – www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Arriving on the Isles of Scilly is a special experience. Whether it is a helicopter, light aircraft, or passenger ship, getting here is just the start of a truly distinctive holiday experience. We are an easy journey from the mainland, but may seem a world apart. And our inviting climate, outstanding natural history, and timeless approach to life will entice you to come back again and again.

The Marco Polo Arrives on the Isles of Scilly on the 27th, just days ahead of the World Pilot Gig Championships (May Bank Holiday Weekend).

The Marco Polo Arrives on the Isles of Scilly on the 27th, just days ahead of the World Pilot Gig Championships (May Bank Holiday Weekend).

The Marco Polo is a fully stabilised and air conditioned classic ocean liner, extensively re-built in 1993 for the discerning premium cruise market. She can accommodate up to 820 guests and has eight passenger decks, serviced by three main lobbies and four lifts.  She also boasts two main restaurants, five principal lounge areas, a library, card room, internet café, gallery, wellness centre, outdoor pool, three whirlpools, and a traditional walk around promenade.   For more on Marco Polo cruises to the Isles of Scilly, see www.cruiseandmaritime.com

Cruising to the Isles of Scilly  — Escape.  Wander.  Daydream.  Explore.

This year, the Isles of Scilly will welcome more than 37 cruise ships from around the World.  Cruising offers a wonderful opportunity to arrive at, and experience the Islands, in a magical way.  Once you’ve experienced a taste of the sub-tropical climate, explored the white sandy beaches, and explored some of our many gardens, cafes, local galleries, or heritage sites, you will want to come back for a longer stay.  Many cruise ship passengers do just that!

The unique Isles of Scilly, Britain’s only island archipelago, just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, are a haven for those dreaming of open spaces, relaxation and tranquility.

With over 100 islands, there’s so much to explore. How about a sailing trip to visit seals or puffins or a picnic on a uninhabited island? For the more adventurous, there are many challenging dive sites around Scilly such as the HMS Association, a 300 year old ship wreck near the famous Bishop Rock Lighthouse, Britain’s tallest. For all who visit, the Islands offer a real escape, with many quiet coastal paths, nature reserves and coves to enjoy.

There are 5 inhabited Islands:  St Mary’s the largest and the hub of activity, Bryher, St Agnes, St Martin’s and Tresco. There are more detailed descriptions on each under “The Islands” tab above.

Due to the mild climate, a result of the Gulf Stream that passes close by, colourful displays of exotic plants and flowers abound; their scents accompanying the visitor on many a coastal walk. Indeed, numerous rare species found nowhere else in Britain, thrive here as a result.

So special are the islands, historically and environmentally, that the whole area is a protected Marine Park, a Heritage Coast and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Preserved, so that it can be enjoyed by islanders and visitors alike for many generations to come.

So, breathe in that air and enjoy your visit!

For more on the Isles of Scilly, see www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Tips for a Great Cruise Holiday

1. Planning your cruise:  plan as early ahead of time as you can; select your cruise by destination first, then time of year; find a cruise line that suits your needs and wants.

2. Don’t forget to pack some cruising essentials:  a basic first aid kit; bottled water; chewing gum; travel-size alarm clock; mini stereo; electrical extension lead/power strip/surge protector (it’s always good to ensure that you can use all your devices, especially as the advent of mobile phones, MP3 players, and laptops came after many ships were originally built), and fabric softener sheets (place between your clothes and in your shoes to help them stay fresh).

3. Explore with a European cruise option.  European cruises are a good holiday option for first-timers and for those who have been to Europe before.   They are ideal for those who want to see the history, art, and natural beauty of Europe without having to drive, change trains and train stations, or engage in extensive planning.

4. Take advantage of this efficient way to ‘Taste’ a destination. Europe is relatively compact and you can see many cities and sites easily. Most cruise ships sail at night and arrive in the next port of call early in the morning, giving you a full day to sightsee.   You will also then get planned excursions to see the local sites which you can book onboard, and often passengers can also alight and explore on their own.  European cruising is also very convenient.  You only have to unpack once and knowing different languages is not as important when you are cruising.

5. Take care of the Cruise staff and they will take care of you.   The cabin steward and other staff can really contribute to making the most of your cruise, and given the length of time of your cruise, they will have a daily impact on your comforts, planning, and special arrangements you may request.

6.  Research your cabin carefully.  There is a great deal of diversity among cruise ship cabins, so be sure to study the layout and architecture of the ship’s deck plans before selecting your cabin.   Ask your travel agent for advice and research online for others who have sailed the ship. Think about what is important to you and consider benefits of upgrading for additional cost.  If your holiday is limited, you might want to spend a bit more for a better cabin.

World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly this weekend!

PILOT GIGS … When Ships were made of Wood and Men were made of Iron!

The First Pilot Gig Boats were built in the 18th century with the purpose of taking a pilot out to a sailing ship and putting him aboard to carefully navigate ships into safe waters. Pilotage on Scilly was for many years the main source of living with a general rule that the first man aboard got the job and of course the rewards that came with it. 

All Scillonian gigs and Cornish gigs were made of Cornish Elm and are approximately 30 feet in length and 5 feet in beam. They were built for hard work; had to withstand heavy seas, yet were required to be fast and stable.

Gigs were sometimes used in conjunction with Pilot cutters. These are larger boats that would tow the Gig closer to the oncoming ship then they would transfer the crew of the gig onboard for the race to the ship.

Pilotage in Scilly was a hazardous occupation and until the arrival of a lifeboat on St. Agnes Scillonian gigs were synonymous with saving and loss of life.

Pilot gigs were also used for smuggling and salvage. Gigs often rowed to France and contraband tobacco and spirits were also exchanged for fresh vegetables and eggs. In fact gigs were banned from having eight oars as the custom and excise couldn’t catch them!

Gigs were also used in salvage. Anything that could be salvaged from the sea from cattle to grand pianos brought in wealth to the islands, and the church on St. Agnes was built in the nineteenth century using the proceeds of the sale of a wreck. The church bell was also taken from the same wreck.

World Pilot Gig Championships

The 21st World Pilot Gig Championships will take place from Friday, 30 April until Monday, 3 May 2010 on the Isles of Scilly.  The Islands extend our invitation to you to come experience this unique event. The format will remain much the same as in previous years, but with some changes.   The wonderful spirit of competition and camaraderie that endures during this weekend is what makes this such a momentous occasion. Please join us to celebrate all that is good about rowing.

Programme of Events 2010

Friday 30th April

5.00pm Coxswains Meeting and Registration Town Hall
All coxswains are requested to attend
6.30pm
8.00pm
Ladies Veterans
Mens Veterans
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.59 nautical miles)
     

Saturday 1st May

12.00noon
1.00pm
2.15pm

3.30pm
5.15pm

Coxswains Briefing
Ladies Round 1
Mens Round 1

Ladies Round 2
Mens Round 2

Holgates Green
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
St. Agnes to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.59 nautical miles)
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
(race length: 1.16 nautical miles)
     

Sunday 2nd May

10.00am
11.45am
1.30pm
3.30pm
5.00pm
8.00pm
Ladies Round 3
Mens Round 3
Ladies Final
Mens Final
Presentation of Trophies
Barbecue
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Nut Rock to St. Mary’s Quay
Holgates Green
Porthmellon Gig Sheds (Bar until 1am)
     
     

Monday 3rd May

10.30am
10.30am
11.30am
Rugby ‘International’
Gig Sail Race Briefing
Gig Sail Race
The Garrison
Holgates Green
For the Pilots Widows Trophy

You can find more about the 2010 World Pilot Gig Championships at: www.worldgigs.co.uk.

You can find out more about the Isles of Scilly at www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Easter on The Isles of Scilly ….

sandy beaches, children frolicking in the sea, turquoise waters, boat trips to an almost deserted Island …

It’s good to be back on the Isles of Scilly.  Having been away for a week, coming back is truly coming home to a community that is warm and like no other.  Hugh Town is bustling, cafes and galleries are opening up, pub gardens are awash with colour, horse-riding on the weekend was amazing. 

The trip away certainly filled the gap for modernity (a trip to the cinema was a delight, as there are none here) but travelling the 28 miles back, we could see the Islands from the air, like a jewelled necklace rising from the sea, and the feeling of getting-away-from-it-all comes flooding back.   No traffic, shopkeepers who know your name, passersby on the street who wave and shout hello, boatmen who remember your favourites from last year, no amusement arcades or crowds or litter.  They boys look forward to coming home almost as soon as they leave, knowing they can run and play with freedom like no other place.   And the Easter Bunny even left some surprise eggs, hidden around the house.

And the weather has been stunning, the suncream has been cracked open, summr hats firmly on.  It’s been warm and sunny, with wonderful inter-Island boat trips (only 15 mins) and dazzling sunsets.  The narcissi field outside the kitchen window is a blaze of yellow, with the sea in the distance and Samson gently rising behind.  You can hear the bees until sunset, and wake with the gentle bird calls (and those of the chickens just down the drive too!)  I can’t imagine a better place to welcome Easter, and the Springtime, than on these beautiful Islands.

For more about the Islands, just visit:  www.simplyscilly.co.uk

Our Favourite Quotes About the Isles of Scilly

“I went for the Easter break  to find not only heat but also empty beaches — and, on the right side of peak season, there were enough people to keep the islands alive but too few to make a crowd…  How else can you make summer longer? While the rest of the country was being smothered by clouds, the Isles of Scilly, sticking out as they do on the very southwestern tip of England, were sitting under improbably clear skies…After several British breaks that ended in rain, I felt as if I too had been fished out and saved from despair. The shipwreck archipelago will rescue you — and that’s the best contradiction of all”     Kathleen Wyatt – The Times

“With the biggest town the size of a village and place names such as Grandfather Hugh’s Point, the whole place can seem like something from a storybook”    Mail Online, Amanda Riley Jones

“It reminds me of all the good things, not only about England, but the world on which we live. My family never feel safer than there.”  The Mail, quoting Jude Law

“In the Scilly Isles, myth and reality seem to blend in a cocktail of romantic escape”  The Guardian, Richard Waters

 “There are fresh delights around every corner: a deserted cove; a windy headland; a hedgerow speckled with wild flowers; a necklace of other islands shimmering in the distance”   The Telegraph, Max Davidson

 “The sea has that translucent end-of-the-day glow as it lazily folds back and forth across the sand. I perch on a rock, close my eyes and revel in the sense of having stopped, of having reached the end of my journey. The end, as it feels when I open my eyes, of the world”   The Observer, Annabelle Thorpe

 Tim Smit of the Eden Project: “I adore Tresco; it makes me feel I have returned to my childhood”

Michael Morpurgo, in The Telegraph:  “We found a nice little b & b on the Isle of Bryher, and had the most marvellous holiday. There was something for everyone – the beach for the kids, the island’s abundant flowers for my wife, and a little deserted isle I found nearby where I could get some peace and quiet and do a bit of writing.  That was 28 years ago and my wife and I have been going back every summer, and in particular to the little isle of Bryher, which has become a home from home. I’ve written several books there over the years, among them Why the Whales Came, which was turned into a film.  As you approach the Scillies they look a little like dumplings in the ocean – they’re very low-lying – but the seas around them are a shade of blue like nowhere else in the British Isles.  Holidaying there is all about messing about in boats, messing about on the beach, and now, at my age, sitting with a glass of wine on the beach and enjoying the view. It also boasts wonderful wildlife: dolphins porpoises, birds. The funny thing is you can walk around Bryher in an hour but we never tire of this lovely little spot – and if you do want to venture farther afield there are the other islands.”

The Sun is Shining and the Gardens and Fields are Blooming!

It’s a beautiful warm sunny day here on the Isles of Scilly.  With three wonderful ways to get here (helicopter, airplane, passenger ferry) Easter break could be truly amazing for any visitor.  What will myself and my two little boys be up to?… playing on the beach (they love Porthmellon as the sand is the finest vanilla coloured sand, the rock pools are amazing, and there are many treasures to be beachcombed) … having a pub lunch on an Off-Island (all the Off-Islands have pubs that are open now, with amazing views and ganstronomic treats – fit for grown-ups and little ones) … horse-riding (they started at aged 4 and love being able to trek the fields of Holy Vale … visiting the museum (with a full rigged gig inside!) … spending an afternoon in the atmospheric ruined castles of King Charles, and Cromwell on Tresco enjoy superb views down Tresco Channel and over to Golden Ball ledge then on to the Eastern Isles …  exploring the sub-tropical paradise that is Tresco Abbey Garden … shop for some fishy trinkets at some of the art galleries or maybe try a chocolate, stained glass, or beach souvenirs craft class… playing pirates at the playpark atop the Garrison … and of course, doing an egg hunt!

Find out more at www.simplyscilly.co.uk