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It is very early on a summer morning. My Drascombe longboat Lucille is on a mooring off New Grimsby. There is the sickle sweep of the bay, the granite quay, the smoke of a Rayburn drifting northeast on the breeze.

A curlew is yodelling, no doubt catching the worm. Haul out the mizzen and pull some jib off the roller. There are yachts anchored up there in the channel, anchor lights still primrose-yellow against the paling sky. Pull the mooring pennant off the cleat. Back the jib till the nose pays off, drop the pennant, sheet in. Lucille starts close-reaching down-channel under jib and mizzen. As Plumb Island slides by, up goes the tan mainsail on its honey-coloured wooden spar. The wake starts a small, efficient chuckle, and the lee rail drops. Away we go on the flat water, dipping to the puffs that come tumbling in between Samson and Bryher.

The tide is ebbing. It would be embarrassing to go aground on the shallows of Tresco Flats. We tack once, then again to keep well over to the Bryher side. There is nobody in the lunchtime anchorage behind Puffin Island, because it is hardly even breakfast time, and anyway we are not looking for anchored boats, but for the beacons on Little Rag Ledge and the Hulman. Bear away and let out some mainsheet. We are blazing along in the flat water with the wind blowing into my right ear. Little Rag Ledge shoots by to starboard. Shove the tiller over to leave the Hulman to port and miss the Chinks off the tail of Carn Near. Paper Ledge swirls by. And off we go towards the crocodile-snout of the Mare, and beyond it Tobaccoman’s Ledge at the southeastern most corner of Tresco.

The first ferries are arriving at Carn Near. Lucille is emitting the small hum that means she is in perfect tune. The shoals and ledges are glassy in the falling tide under the sun. Squint southward to pick up the mark, the TV mast on St Mary’s over the iron-blobbed stalk of the Crow Beacon. When the two come into line, shove the tiller downhill and harden up. We are round the corner now, and the wind is muffled by the agapanthus-blue dunes behind Pentle Bay. Diamond Ledge glides by, trailing Auntie Gwen’s hair. Hold the mark over the stern. Tresco’s eastern beaches unreel, the sand sugar-white under the marram and pines, the water clear as vodka straight out of the freezer and not much warmer, turning with depth Nile green through turquoise to Quink blue. The breeze smells of heather. The coffee in the thermos smells of coffee, and about time too.

All this should be relaxing. Instead, it is oddly suspenseful. There is a reason for this. Somewhere just past the Blockhouse, bang in the middle of the channel, I can never remember where, is Tide Rock. So I have the helm lashed and I am up on the foredeck hanging my head over the nose like an idiot, and Lucille is shearing through the green silky water at some five knots, and I am getting distracted by the extreme beauty of the little turquoise curl her stem peels out of the sea; when from the deeps there leaps a pale thing, streaming weed like witch-hair, and Lucille sails right over the top of it: Tide Rock. Missed it by six inches.

On goes Lucille, a self-contained universe sliding by the distant shouts of children crabbing on Old Grimsby quay, and the sails of the morning classes in front of the slipway by the Ruin. Normally, we would stop for civilized drinks and pizza, and a chance to chew the fat with whoever is around. But it is still too early for civilised behaviour, and anyway, civilisation is never more than the blink of an eye away on Scilly.

Old Grimsby vanishes behind a headland, and the wilderness takes over again. The bottom of the sea drops away. The world is going up and down again, and the wind is blowing hard and steady, and I am sitting on the top rail watching the swell rolling white on Men-a-Vaur and curling down the Golden Ball bar, pulling in some mainsheet, bringing the nose onto a long blue valley of sea in whose bed the grim Kettle is boiling. Skirt the Kettle, closing the ears to its melancholy roar, looking for the deep water under Shipman’s Head. And down the channel we go, past the yachts, past the quay. Get rid of the main. Roll up the jib. Lucille rounds up, the mizzen holding her head to wind. Boathook for the mooring pennant. She falls back and lies quiet.

Sailing School

Opened in 1999 the Ravensporth Sailing Base at Old Grimsby has gone from strength to strength and literally shed to shed, as the site has changed over the years from the old boatsheds to its current reincarnation across the slip from the Ruin Beach Café.

We offer taster sessions to full RYA courses in sailing, windsurfing & power boating. As people’s holiday time is so precious and everyone’s needs are different we are happy to arrange a custom package of tuition that best suits.

We have a large fleet of dinghies, day boats and windsurf equipment for hire to suit nearly all abilities as well as easy to use, stable sit-on top kayaks available for hire which need no previous experience and are a great way to get a float.

We are an RYA recognised teaching establishment and we are also the only activity provider in the islands licensed by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority AALA.

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