Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Day trip to the Isles of Scilly (well, one of them) on the Scillonian III ferry from Penzance

by @JoBrodie,

Part One: Overnight sleeper Paddington to Penzance, and back again
Part Two: (this post) 
Part Three: On the Isles of Scilly (for one day only) - day trip to Scilly part three

Travelling from Penzance to Isles of Scilly on Scillonian III - 24 June 2016
Oooh Scilly - more pictures from this trip here

Yesterday I arrived rather early in the morning in Penzance having taken the overnight sleeper train from Paddington, which was lovely (see part one of this post series, linked above). Penzance's harbour / pier for the ferry trip to the Isles of Scilly is a ten minute walk from the station and very well sign-posted - I didn't get lost once which is (for me) remarkable.

I'd booked my ferry tickets online and you don't need to print anything out but you do need a photo ID and your surname. You'll also have a 6 letter code but I didn't really need that either. I used my passport on the journey out and tried out the photocard that accompanies my 1-3 zone travelcard railcard on the return journey - both worked fine. No-one checked the weight of my bag which was supposed to be less than 5kg (it probably was).

There are a couple of cafes on the way if you need snacks before boarding and you can see the boat itself pretty early on into the walk (and from outside the station) so it's helpful to know what it looks like.

The large-ish white boat on the left is the Scillonian III. Picture credit: Me!

Travelling from Penzance to Isles of Scilly on Scillonian III - 24 June 2016
What the Scillonian III looks like close-up

Keep walking as far as The Dolphin pub then turn left - basically follow everyone else making this journey. Once you've checked in you're given what looks like a poker chip as your boarding token, which you then hand to the person onshore who waves you onto the boat.

Travelling from Penzance to Isles of Scilly on Scillonian III - 24 June 2016
Boarding chip

Bring something waterproof
It's summer, the weather's nice, you might want to sit outside. But it's also been raining and so the wooden chairs are wet. I had a sort of cagoule thing with me (lightweight) so I sat on that and stayed dry. The sun came out shortly after we set sail and dried things off quite nicely, and then the winds picked up a bit so it was simulatneously baking hot and freezing cold. I regret not bringing sunglasses and the day later I also regret not bringing sun cream (I look like a red panda).

Deck sense
The Scillonian III has four decks where you can sit (the top has outside bits) and a couple of cafes [cash only], loos are in the basement. You board onto one of the middle decks so head to the stairwell and look at the map to find out where you are.

Travelling from Penzance to Isles of Scilly on Scillonian III - 24 June 2016
Deck plan

If you're staying on one of the islands in Scilly you can take one of the coloured baggage tags and plonk your checked baggage into one of the little freight containers which are then winched onto the ship (some neat work with a forklift truck too, which was terrifying to watch so close to the pier). At the other end you can collect your bag yourself or for £1.40 per bag it'll be delivered to your island / hotel.

Buying tickets for trips to other islands
You used to be able to buy tickets for boats to other islands on-board the Scillonian but this is no longer the case and you buy them from the boats themselves - they can do you a deal on return fares and I think, in the case of Tresco (where I planned to go) can give you an all-in-one ticket for the boat journey and entry to the Abbey Gardens botanical garden.

You'll need cash / Cafe
There are no card facilities on-board, I'm not sure if that's because there's no signal when at sea or some other reason, but bring cash. They also have loads of guidebooks and maps if you've not managed to sort that out.

On a choppy visit you might feel queasy. Our journey got a bit choppier about halfway through and I did feel a tiny bit queasy but nothing too bad. There are paper sick bags everywhere and the cafe sells barley sugars (any boiled sweet seems to help with sea sickness, I suspect it's a nice placebo distraction more than anything really but I did feel better) as well as tea and sandwiches.

There are also recommendations that sitting in the lower decks can help but I like to be able to see the horizon even if it's moving. I also found sitting in the middle (from a front-to-back perspective) of the boat to be the most helpful - presumably it's a bit like a pivot point. Looking behind me I could see the horizon leaping in and out of view as the back of the boat pitched up and down, that didn't help much, but looking out to the side it looked a lot calmer - though the boat moves in all sorts of directions not just in the front / back direction. It was a fairly calm crossing (even calmer on the way back) so I was very lucky.

I doubt my regular trips on the Thames Clippers ferries will have prepared me for travelling on the Atlantic Ocean* though. *Technically the Western English Channel.

Reclining seats
Some of the seats have a little gear stick on the right hand side which lets you move the backrest back a little bit, I managed to sleep very comfortably on the journey back to Penzance. 

Wifi / 3G
There's none once you're out at sea, 3G fine while near Penzance. I had no internet signal at all while in Scilly but phone was okay.  

Disembarking and getting local boats
All very straightforward, there are free loos at St Mary's harbour and within a ten minute walk there's a Co-op and plenty of other shops (incluing outdoor ones and lots of tourist shops).

There are loads of smaller boats ready to take you to other islands and all sorts of other day trip events. I took one look at the pier for the boat to Tresco and thought better of it - it reminded me of trying to get into a small boat in Venice. Never again. I need handrails and tethered walkways.

Fortunately I'd paid attention to the excitements of St Mary's, our arrival island, and knew that there was a little airport inland which I'd enjoy visiting. I got over the brief disappointment of missing a chance to see Tresco's beautiful gardens and headed off to explore the airport... 

Part Three: On the Isles of Scilly (for one day only) - day trip to Scilly part three
Part One: Overnight sleeper Paddington to Penzance, and back again

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