Travel Ephemera #9: St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association

It became the first duty of the day: to check the blackboard, which is located beside the small, stone ticket hut on the end of the quay in St Mary’s harbour, to find out the times of which boats, serving which destinations, had been chalked up, preparatory to sail.

The boat names were evocative in themselves: Seahorse; Kingfisher; Osprey; Golden Spray; Sapphire.

Most operated to a relatively fixed schedule, altered only by tide and weather, sailing to the most popular islands in the Scilly archipelago––Tresco; St Martin’s; Bryher; St Agnes; sometimes Samson.  Among these regular daytrips, the boat trip to Bishop Rock had become something of the Holy Grail for me.  It was a longer journey, crossing more exposed water, something only contemplated on calm days, and so less frequent to run.

scilly boatmen ticket

Every morning for a week, ritualistically, I would study the chalk board of boats and times and, with an increasingly experienced and pessimistic eye, I would also survey the white waves crests beyond the harbour and the brooding cloud settled low on the horizon, while the Bishop Rock remained elusively out of reach.

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