Monday, 12 September 2016

Going to Lundy

I did it this morning - I phoned the Landmark Trust and booked a day trip to Lundy and back, specifically the 10.00am sailing from Ilfracombe on Tuesday 27th September. The voyage takes two hours each way. You get four hours on the island.

This is last year's brochure:

The arrangements for 2016 are the same.

I have been to Lundy before, but it was twenty years ago on 10th July 1996. It won't be an exactly similar experience because:
(a) It was then mid-summer, but it'll be early autumn this time;
(b) In 1996 I went with M---, but this time I'm going on my own;
(c) There is now a proper jetty for the Oldenburg at Lundy.

Having nobody with me means that I can do as I please. Last time, after a swift picnic, we made a trek to the north end of the island our absolute priority. So we didn't explore the village, examine the church, nor see what the island's pub, the Marisco Tavern, had to offer. Nor did we pay any attention to the south and west coasts of the island, despite reports of seals galore. To be fair, a dense fog enveloped the west side of the island soon after our arrival, and the seals would have been invisible.

On this occasion I will give these unseen things all my time, and I don't expect to go north of the Quarter Wall, which cuts the southernmost quarter of the island off from the remainder to the north.

The new jetty (actually built in 2000) means that no longer will the Oldenburg have to anchor offshore and get the passengers to the Landing Beach in small batches. They used a gig-sized motor boat for that job. On a calm day it was fine, unless you were in any way unsteady on your feet. On rough days the Captain might decide that only cargo could disembark straight away, and all passengers would have to wait for calmer weather to arrive. It might happen that no landing would be possible at all. Here are my 1996 pictures of that motor boat for passengers:

You came back on board the same way. Scrambling in and out of the motorboat was one of the excitements of the trip, but the new jetty has made it unnecessary. Something must have been lost from the overall sense of 'adventure' - the ship/motorboat transfer could be pretty scary - but disembarking will now be a simple walk along a gangway, and a lot more convenient. Indeed, actually setting foot on the island will now be guaranteed. Which is just as well: even with a senior concession, I paid a right royal £33 this morning for my day trip - not peanuts - and I want to enjoy this particular drink to the dregs.

It'll be a long day, with certain preparations to make the evening before. No handbags here! It must be a rucksack, with sufficient clothing to ward off getting wet and chilled. And although the island shop and tavern can provide food and refreshments, it would be wise to carry a yummy and sustaining packed lunch.

I will need to leave the farm at Great Torrington at 8.00am to ensure that I'm parked in an all-day spot at Ilfracombe, and can be ready to board the ship, MS Oldenburg, by 9.15am. I'll be on Lundy from noon until 4.00pm. I won't get back to Ilfracombe until 6.00pm, and not back to the caravan until 7.00pm, by which time it will be almost sunset. This may be the day that I get a takeaway fish and chips! I expect to be rather tired by early evening. But if the weather is kind, it should be an unforgettable day out. Well, it will be literally unforgettable in any case, of course, because I shall be taking pictures throughout.

The Oldenburg will probably be loading cargo as I get on board. There is a hold forward, and a member of the crew will be operating a small crane, to stash boxes down inside, as here in 1996...

...and when I took this shot when passing by in 2013, nothing had changed:

In 1996, it was possible to have a jolly good nose around with one's camera, prior to weighing anchor, getting shots of the bridge interior for instance:

And no fuss was made when I asked to shoot the Captain and his officer:

This time, it might not be so easy to get the same shots. Tighter security regulations might have made such free-and-east access a thing of the past! I will however try. They can only say no.

Although the passenger facilities on the ship have had a makeover since 1996, I don't expect any luxury during the voyage. They won't have been able to increase the number of seats, nor radically change the toilet arrangements. Most people travel on deck, which is OK if it's sunny, not so good if clammy fog descends, or drizzle sets in!

If the weather is inclement, and we all want to huddle in the warm saloon, safe from the wind and rain, I just hope that the 'women and children first' rule will still prevail, enforced if need be by ship's officers armed with pistols. Let the men take their chance on deck, I say. After all, they are supposed to be stout fellows - brave, lion-hearted and manly - and above all, gentlemen. Surely they will do the right thing, even if they perish? We shall see.

Wallowing in great comfort during the passage isn't really the point, though. It's getting to a real island, far out in the Bristol Channel. It's an amazing to do. Back in 1996, we had extra entertainment in the form of an RAF Rescue Helicopter, which hovered for several minutes just off the port side. It must have been a training exercise.

There was a school party on board, and the kids were thrilled!

But for adults the thrill is seeing Lundy close up. On a clear day, Lundy is always in view, but at first it's a long, low shadow on the western horizon, and small. And then suddenly it's a lot closer, and watching it transform from a distant shadow to a real place, all rocky, with detail to see, is magical. Everyone pushes forward to see.

There are actually two landing beaches - one deals with passengers, and the other with goods, brought down on trailers drawn by tractors. There's no 'transport' except a Land Rover, and passengers usually make their way on foot up to the village, along a gravel road carved into the cliff in places. That was in 1996: I doubt if it'll be any different in 2016. I can't wait to see!


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  2. How well I remember my last visit to Lundy. As we sailed back to Ilfracombe, someone remarked that all the aircraft, with their tell-tail vapour trails, (and there were lots of them) were travelling in the same direction - towards Britain. It was September 11th 2001.

    I wish you an enjoyable and much less eventful day.



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