After surgery and radiotherapy, Darrell and Carmen Minards set themselves a goal to reach the Scilly Isles in 2022

They say ‘do something that scares you a little bit every day’, and while we weren’t looking for fear, we did seek new challenges. Late to the sailing life, we learned the ropes on dinghies and completed our Day Skipper courses before buying Kimara, our Beneteau 323. And with it, our perspectives began to shift.

Our first ‘passage’ to Yarmouth was abandoned after just three uncomfortable hours. We knew we could do better so the Isles of Scilly became our season’s objective. Definitely no certainty, as plenty of yard conversations with other skippers ensured our expectations remained tempered.

After a series of successful shake-down sails to the Solent, we began our first cruise. Having harbour-hopped as far as Cornwall’s Helford river, the weather wouldn’t settle, and after three weeks, we turned homeward. The Scillies remained a step too far.

Darrell at the helm during the crossing

Patiently waiting, we prayed for an Indian summer but our goal seemed to be blown further out of reach as the end of the season approached and the nights drew in. However, I love the adage ‘persistence beats resistance’ and I’m realising that it also applies to sailing as the weather and tides finally favoured us. Getting west as fast as possible by making miles under the moon was our daring plan.

Catching the turning tide as we rounded Anvil Point, we accelerated west, clearing Portland long before the sun faded as we settled in for Lyme Bay at night. Under a full moon, we passed untroubled by shipping or lobster pots and found ourselves anchored off Cawsand for breakfast. Harbour hopping followed to Fowey, Falmouth and finally Newlyn to gain ourselves a head start. We were worried that hordes would surely be racing from Falmouth to beat us!

Dolphins on the crossing from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly

After casting off in the darkness, with eyes on stalks searching out the minefield of pots, a breeze filled in and we could sail on a beam reach from the northerlies. Land’s End and Wolf Rock fell astern as a faint ripple on the horizon proclaimed our target was in sight. Dolphins escorted us as we cleared the Spanish Ledges cardinal guiding us toward Star Castle and Hugh Town where abundant moorings waited.

New Grimsby Sound is one of the more sheltered anchorages in the islands

Finally made it

It was just 1400, so we toured the Garrison, ate fish and chips on Porthcressa beach, before the lure of the pub called us to toast Kimara, bathed in the setting sun in the harbour. We’d made it.

The Hugh Town mooring didn’t provide the most restful night so we headed out to Bishop Rock before tacking back to New Grimsby Sound for three nights. The entrance was calm as we furled sails and glided into the gap between Hangman Island and Cromwell’s Castle before hooking another mooring. From here, we could explore the old forts, cliffs and beaches of Tresco and Bryher, enjoy the fisherman’s fresh-caught seafood before swimming and paddling in the crystal waters. We’d end each day watching the sun slowly setting behind Bryher. It was as idyllic and beautiful as we’d been told.

Leaving Dartmouth behind

On our final day, we stood among the tumbledown homesteads from previous generations and burial tombs from previous ages, looking down on Samson’s hillsides of bronzing bracken and the white beaches that mark this deserted island. We lingered in the autumn sunshine reflecting on our year’s journey.

The forecast predicted an imminent end to proceedings, and we weren’t going to push our luck in these relatively unprotected waters, so we headed homeward with a following breeze and tide. Emboldened by our night sails, we aimed to make Plymouth in one jump.

Freshly caught seafood in the Scilly Isles

Keeping south of Wolf Rock we cleared the Lizard in darkness, before cutting back in and aiming for Eddystone. With better than expected progress we would easily make it to Dartmouth by lunchtime for our longest passage yet, but there was to be a sting in the tail of this season.

We reckoned we could make it safely back to Poole in one final night sail but the forecasted days of Force 3-4 ramped up to Force 6 with lively seas. A rough night followed, as we furled, and then furled some more, taking our turns on the seaborne rollercoaster. Daylight seemed to take forever but arrive it finally did. Tired but more than a little elated, we watched the sunrise as we sailed back into Poole.

Kimara tied up at Yealm as the crew port-hopped westward

Cruising family

From feeling like imposters when we started out, we’d imagined the sailing community would be intimidating. The reality couldn’t be more different. The helpfulness of the whole community – whether Parkstone YC members or the unknown person on the pontoon, has been extraordinary.

Sailing takes you to new destinations, while helping you to forget the stresses of daily life (with boating’s unique set of trials!). But for us, sailing was also a journey of recovery after a winter of surgery and radiotherapy. Our goal to reach the Scillies healed us better than many other therapies could.

Places that seemed dauntingly far only 12 months before, now seemed within reach and the passage that took a season to achieve changed our perspectives for good.

You can watch Darrell and Carmen’s journey, A Scillies Objective on YouTube.

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