The Scillonians

PUBLISHED: 15:29 14 May 2014

The Isles of Scilly Simon Burke / South West Aerial Photography

The Isles of Scilly Simon Burke / South West Aerial Photography

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The Isles of Scilly columnists continue to share their insights into living on the subtropical tip of Britain

Isles of dogs

Words by Juliet May, Seaways Farm Holiday Homes

The Isles of Scilly are wonderful holiday destinations for dog owners – people have been bringing their favourite pets here for years but it seems to be getting more popular now, with lots of accommodation providers welcoming dog lovers.

We have always accepted dogs in our holiday cottages at Seaways and it’s nearly always been a joy to see dogs and owners enjoying their romps and excitement. Every so often, however, a mishap may occur - I remember on one occasion discovering the dark, hairy family dog had obviously been sleeping in the suddenly dark and hairy double bed for the holiday! In another situation a beautiful, large, sleek, black flat coated retriever arrived with his owners and settled into a cottage. As I went to welcome the couple my (equally beautiful but not quite so sleek) springer cross rushed past me and sank his teeth into Mr Sleek’s flank, leaving two clear puncture marks. Everyone was then springing and cross. ‘Oh no’, the owners yelped, ‘he’s entering best of breed in Cruft’s next month….’ Suffice to say vet bills were covered and grovelling apologies made but after a couple of days I realised thr dog and owners hadn’t left the cottage.

The tail-end of the story was that my naughty Skerry had to leave St Mary’s for St Martin’s on a little holiday himself before they emerged again. That was a long time ago, and Skerry is now nipping the heels of black dogs (always his bête noir) in that great dogs’ home in the sky.

We have a very active Vet Support Group on the islands, adding vital cash to the practice, which was struggling to remain viable. Fundraising has resulted in a dedicated house and surgery being built for the incumbent vet, with various ongoing events to buy equipment. We have a dog show every summer. which gains in popularity each year, featuring obedience and agility tests; even a dog/owner lookalike competition.

Creature Comforts is run by a couple who provide holiday necessities for dogs – cages, beanbags, towels and bowls. They deliver the gear for the length of the holiday and only ask for a donation to the support group in return. It’s an excellent service and much appreciated by dog lovers, obviously saving them bringing a huge amount of equipment on the plane or Scillonian. From May to the end of September dogs are not allowed on the main family beaches (Porthcressa, Porthmellon and Old Town) and Tresco ask for leads only - but that leaves them plenty of running room on the rest of the islands.

Out for a sail

Words by David Mawer, Scilly Wildlife Trust

A quick glance out at the white-flecked sparkling sea from the upstairs window at the back of our cottage is all it takes – there’s no stopping me now, I am going sailing. I feel a happy flutter of excitement as if I am about to do something new, for the first time. I love the way that no matter how much I sail, when the allure of the sea draws me out to it again I still get this feeling – and conditions look perfect today.

Barely ten minutes after looking from the window and seeing my boat Moon Dance tugging impatiently at her mooring I am rowing across the harbour to her, with passing thoughts to weekend sailors who have to plan time off work, pack gear into their cars and drive for hours on crowded motorways to marinas and muddy creeks for a few hours sailing, with the prospect of a long drive home at the end of it. I don’t envy the fine looking yachts I pass either; they seem bigger and plusher each year. They seem restricted by their draft, intimidated by Scilly’s rock-strewn waters and shallow channels.

Covers off, mainsail up, slip the mooring leaving my dinghy waiting faithfully for my return, I power the boat up feel her heel, grip the water transferring forces into lift and forward motion, science and magic combined. Clear of the moorings and the quay-head comings and goings of inter-island boats I get the jib up, sheet it home, sit up on the side deck and absorb the familiarity and simple pleasure.

The first spray flies, I was right to leave my family behind this time, I will need to put another reef in before I meet the wind against tide in St. Mary’s Sound where the waves are curled into steep breakers. Harness clipped on, one hand for me and one for the ship, the reduced sail soon has her balanced again, ready to take heavier water over her decks as she claws up against the wind, the tide giving us a helping hand out to sea.

A renowned round-the-world sailor and inspirational author of sell-up and sail books wrote that he was glad he only visited Scilly after first travelling the rest of the world, as the sailing here is so good he may well not have gotten any further.

From sheltered harbour to open Atlantic in well under an hour, into well formed breaking seas my 22-foot mini yacht would not normally wish to encounter for fun, knowing that I can quickly turn and surf ‘downhill’ again, in through the narrow rocky channels, certain of my safe position, provided I identify and align the right two ‘marks’ correctly. Castle Bryher in the cleft of the Great Smiths, and I am out of the hissing frenzy of breaking waves and tucked up and sheltered under the pink thrift-topped cliffs of Annet, with puffins on the water alongside me, stood at the entrances to their burrows, and flying with rapid wing beats low over the sea across my bow. A seal pops his dog-like head out of the sea and looks straight at me.

Less wind and more time and I would have kept on out to sea until the islands had shrunk back over the horizon into low, featureless grey humps, out with the shearwaters and gannets, and if lucky a fin would catch my eye: sunfish, basking shark, porpoise or dolphin, often just the briefest encounter, always special, treasured moments. I wonder how many more I miss seeing, by not looking at the right place at the right time. The sea can seem alive and in motion with its waves and undulating swells, yet barren with no life anywhere in sight, making the snort of a mammal clearing its blow hole; unexpected and somehow incongruous. Windy conditions seem to bring seabirds to life and make the sea a busy crowded airway, full of action and activity.

Within the islands the perspective is forever changing, islands and rocks sliding in and out of view, in front and behind each other, familiar and reassuring, reinforcing and consolidating themselves into a mental map, different at different states of tide, accessible or barring the way.

The wind eases and I glide back across St Mary’s Roads and pick up my mooring. One of my cows moos at me as I row to the beach; I find it hard to believe that she can really recognise me at this distance. I hear my sons playing at the water’s edge and see my wife waiting there with the dinghy’s trolley – no motorway drive home for me.

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