A remote, attractive anchorage away from the crowds, for Mark Fishwick Watermill Cove is also a useful bolthole when St Mary’s Harbour gets uncomfortable

Watermill Cove, Isles of Scilly

Anchorages Watermill Cove Scilly

Mark Fishwick

The Isles of Scilly, 30 miles south-west of Land’s End, are a stunning fusion of wild beauty and natural drama, crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. But such delights come at a price! Lacking a harbour with all weather refuge, Scilly is also a challenging cruising ground where a constant eye on the weather and a clear understanding of the options for potential shelter is essential.

On the largest island, St Mary’s, Hugh Town is the main centre of activity and although the 38 hefty visitors moorings in the harbour are more than adequate for most weather, fresh southwesterlies soon bring in swell, and strong winds from the west and north-west render it very uncomfortable. But long before then, given sufficient tide over Crow Bar, I’ll have made a quick hop to the north coast and welcome respite in Watermill Cove.

Anchorages Watermill Cove Scilly

Not to be used for navigation

Beyond Bar Point, head up towards Hats south cardinal buoy, keeping well clear of the low promontory of Innisidgen, which has a distinctive conical rocky outcrop at its northern end. The prominent pine trees on the fern-covered hillside are just west of Watermill Cove, and below them rocky Block House Point nudges seawards. Don’t cut the corner into the cove, though, as the drying reef off Block House extends northeastwards further than you might imagine. Keep at least a cable offshore until the head of the cove is well open, you’ll soon spot the sandy beach except at high water springs when it covers. To the north, the sheer profile of Carn Wethers headland on the easternmost end of St Martin’s, just open to the east of the conical island of Great Ganinick, provides a handy back bearing of 027°T which takes you safely into the anchorage. With the outer point of Innisidgen just open of the rocky islet off Block House Point, you should find 3m to 5m depth at LAT.

Approaching from the east, keep well to seaward to avoid the rocks off Toll’s Island until you’re on the Carn Wethers back bearing, but beware the outlying rock just awash at chart datum on the Admiralty chart, to the east of the anchorage.

Mostly sand, stones and weed, the holding is reasonable, although here, as always, I set two anchors in a Bahamian moor – more effort, but much less angst! Avoid the eastern part of the bay, which is shallow almost as far as the small boat moorings off the old gig house and small slipway. At low tide, take a look at the ingenious access channel created between the large boulders.

The coastal footpath to the west meanders past the impressive Innisidgen Bronze Age burial cairns to the dunes and beach at Bar Point; eastwards there’s a fine beach at Pelistry Bay, but avoid swimming when the sandy spit to Tolls Island is covered – there are dangerous rip currents.

Hugh Town is a pleasant 45-minute walk from Watermill, past Telegraph Tower and Porth Loo. Returning laden with provisions, the Buzza Community Bus will deliver you part of the way. Alternatively, take a taxi.