07:58 saturday 12 february – steamship company office , hugh town quay , st mary’s
i sit here keeping out of the way of the frenetic ballet of forklifts on the quay outside . the gry came in yesterday afternoon with a full load . as i walked round to keith’s yard at porthmellon one of the steamship company directors commented to me that he’d never seen her so low in the water .
there are still stacks of flower boxes waiting on the quay to be loaded . i reckon she might be an hour later than the scheduled eight o’clock sailing time . no matter . i am content to sit and observe .
ian is phoning round the islands letting them know the lyonesse lady’s revised movements . there’s so much freight to despatch that she’ll have to take it in two runs .
the sky is grey and troubled but for the present the wind is not too severe . ian says it’ll rise over the next two hours .
everybody looks at me as if i’m mad when i tell them i’m going over on the gry . it has a reputation for being less than the most comfortable way to travel between here and penzance , particularly in rough weather . it has been known to take seven or eight hours in a heavy sea . but today there should be a following wind and swell , even if they are a little on the large side . people seem to regard it as some kind of ultimate sea-sickness endurance challenge . because she has a shallow drought and the wheelhouse is up forward the motion can be quite unpleasant . i’ve never succumbed in the past and rather hope to avoid it today .
ian’s just handed me the latest weather fax from the met office . southwest force 7 or gale force 8 with the strongest winds around the isles of scilly . sea state rough to very rough . hehe !
10:09 – gry maritha , a couple of miles out from scilly
i was eventually called at twenty past nine and hurried down the quay. i threw my bags onto the deck then grabbed the rail and heaved myself up . we slipped berth five minutes later . the sky has cleared . we are rolling about quite a bit .
10:19 in the last couple of minutes the ship’s motion has changed noticeably . we rise up and down each wave more steeply . the hull judders as we pitch into each one and there is a constant swish of spray breaking across the deck . my rucksack falls over in the cabin as i write .
10:26 i went out on deck and was confused to find the islands already out of sight to stern . then i poked my head over the rail , looked forward , and there they were . i blinked and checked again . but we were definitely heading * towards * the islands . no wonder i sensed a change of motion . i went down to the mess where the crew was variously sitting and lying with cups of tea . i enquired why we were going back . to drop me off , they teased , to answer some tricky questions for the police . but it turned out a fuel line had burst , spraying diesel all over the engine room .
this creates a slight problem for me . at two o’clock a van will be delivered to the quay at penzance for me to drive all my stuff up to my parents in gloucestershire . i need to be there to brandish my licence and sign some papers . i’ll phone and try to delay it .
12:05 we have just cast off from st mary’s quay for the second time today , having arrived three quarters of an hour ago . it felt earie to be returned like this having bade the islands farewell . the fuel line couldn’t be repaired and the decision has been made to proceed to penzance anyway . could be a slow journey .
13:58 no land in sight from the main deck , though there probably would be if i climbed up to the wheelhouse . we have passed out of signal range for my mobile phone . following a flurry of calls to the penzance harbour office , the steamship company office and the van rental company i am left with very little idea whether there will be a vehicle waiting for me , and whether its keys will be locked in an office somewhere .
there is nothing more i can do . the crew gave me some tea and a pack of biscuits . i shall settle down to some reading .
21:32 bodriggy street , hayle , cornwall
we docked at penzance at half past five , eight hours after the initial departure from st mary’s . by this time the uncertainty regarding the van had been augmented by the possibility that my belongings were not even aboard the gry . the crew could find no trace of my two palates and bicycle in the hold . my feeling of exasperation increased a couple more notches .
but some anxious communications with st mary’s drew assurance that they had been loaded into a big steel container on deck , though this would not be confirmed until we arrived in port .
the quay was crammed with articulated lorries waiting to collect shipments of flowers from the islands to deliver across the country . we drew in , lines were thrown , i leapt across with my rucksack , my powerbook , my camera , my saxophone . as the holds were being opened i scuttled up to the steamship company office , where i found a waiting van . but no keys in evidence . and nobody around . i returned to the quay to find the first of my palettes and my bicycle unloaded . encouraged by this i went back for another search of the parked van . the keys were tucked in the sun visor . i suddenly felt a lot lighter .
i drove down to the quay , tore the plastic wrap off my palettes and transferred everything into the van . three children emerged and started firing a stream of questions at me : where had i come from where was i going could they come with me what was in the boxes why were all the lorries on the quay what was it like to ride in a ship ?
i shouted my thanks to the master of the gry and made the twenty minute drive here , the home of my sister anna and her husband adam . i’ll continue up to my parents tomorrow afternoon . so what was the voyage like ? well the sea was big and ship rolled around a lot , but to be honest there was nothing very exciting about it and at no point did i feel even the tiniest bit queasy . almost a sense of anti-climax . but this was the right way for me to leave the islands .