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Home \ Sailing \ South West UK \ Sailing from The Isles of Scilly to Falmouth – We get Dolphins!

Sailing from The Isles of Scilly to Falmouth – We get Dolphins!

After nine nights in the Scilly Isles there was a bit of a weather front coming in. Mindful of the fact that there is no single ‘safe anchorage’ in the archipelago, and we didn’t want to get stuck there, we made the decision to make our run back to the mainland.

On our journey down we had sailed from Penzance but this time we would push on through to Falmouth. As such this meant ensuring we got our timings right for rounding The Lizard. On this return sail we would also be passing south of Wolf Rock Lighthouse, approximately 18 nautical miles east of St Mary’s and about half way between the Scilly Isles and Lizard Point.

Our Passage Plan

High water in the Scilly Isles 05.45 – 5.5m
High water in Falmouth 18.43 – 5.3m

The tide was due to turn favourable at The Lizard at approximately 4.00pm, therefore we would be against tide on the crossing over from the islands before ideally carrying the tide around The Lizard and up into Falmouth. Estimated tidal stream of 0.6 knots at 16.15, 1.3 knots at 17.15 and 2.1 knots by 18.15.

Weather was a predicted 14-15 knots from the north at 7.00am, 12-14 knots from the north 10.00 till 13.00, 15-17 knots from the north 16.00 till 19.00. Partially cloudy.

We set our waypoints as follows:
WP1: 49˚54.00N 6˚16.00W
WP2: 49˚54.00N 6˚00.00W
WP3: 49˚54.00N 5˚40.00W – Runnel Stone
WP4: 49˚54.00N 5˚17.00W – Lizard
WP5: 49˚55.00N 5˚12.00W
WP6: 50˚03.00N 5˚01.00W
WP7: 50˚05.00N 5˚02.00W

Our Actual Passage

At 5.30am on a beautiful, sunny morning we slipped our mooring in St Mary’s Harbour before raising our main and motoring out around the island of St Mary’s. By 6.30am, with the wind at approximately 14 knots coming from the north-west, we stuck a reef in the main, unfurled our head sail and turned off the engine. Immediately after doing so we were approached by 3 or 4 dolphins who quickly swam under the boat and off into the distance. Feeling rather ecstatic at out first ever glimpse of dolphins, but also a little disappointed that they didn’t stay too long, we settled into our sail.

The wind picked up to around 17 knots, with gusts of up to 20 knots, accompanied by a bit of Atlantic swell. We were on a heading of approximately 93˚T in position 49˚53.768N 6˚06.935W when a pod of dolphins appeared again, but this time they stayed with us for approximately 20 minutes, playing and jumping at the bow. Needless to say this was an incredible experience for us, and we were rather excited by it, as you can hear on the below video!…🤣

VIDEO: Sailing with Dolphins

Despite being against the tide we were making good going, initially our speed over ground was averaging 5.5 knots however this dropped to around 4 knots when the wind speed dropped to around 10/12 knots and veered to the north. Our log book entries were as follows:

9.25: 49˚53.594N 5˚51.361W – COG 91˚T – SOG 5.6 knots
11.45: 49˚54.390W 5˚32.884W – COG 83˚T – SOG 3.9 knots
13.45: 49˚55.061N 5˚21.454W – COG 87˚T – SOG 3.9 knots

But by 15.00 we were ahead of schedule. Still against the tide we were now in position 49˚54.698N 5˚14.079W, south of The Lizard. The wind was coming from the north at around 12 knots and we were averaging around 5 knots.

However as we rounded The Lizard the wind was starting to increase again and fluctuating between north and north-east, pretty much coming from the direction in which we wanted to go! Wanting to continue sailing we carried on heading east and at 16.10 we were in position 49˚56.415N 5˚06.161W, with a 17 knot north-easterly wind.

However just half an hour later conditions deteriorated. The wind had increased to around 22 knots and we were enduring a case of wind against tide, resulting in short, steep waves. We made the decision to turn the engine on, furl away the head sail and reef once again.

Punching against a big swell with waves breaking over the bow, the last few hours of our crossing from the Scilly Isles to Falmouth were rather uncomfortable, to say the least! By 18.00 we were only at 50˚01.614N 5˚02.250W. Clipped on, and a little wet from the drizzle and spray, we were feeling a little deflated, cold and tired. Head to wind in a constant 20 knots with gusts at around 25 knots, and a big swell, Falmouth seemed a long, way away.

But we pushed on, after all we had little choice! Cutting in towards the coast after The Manacles, we were able to turn off the engine and sail once again. But this didn’t last for long! A couple of tacks later we made the decision to turn the engine on once again and head straight up into Falmouth rather than continue tacking our way up. It had been a long day, the sea state was very uncomfortable and we were tired and hungry. To be honest we just wanted to get in!

Screenshot showing our Navionics passage plan v’s our actual sailing route, Scilly Isles to Falmouth

Finally, at shortly after 8.00pm and after a journey of 67.9 nautical miles, we picked up a mooring buoy in Falmouth. After a busy time exploring the Scilly Isles and a rather challenging end to our sail back from the Scillies we were in need of some down time and where better than the tranquility of a river. So after a good nights sleep it was time to go up The Fal!


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