Getting to Scilly for Christmas has again been a 'nailbitter' for many this year. For some days before Christmas, there was no flying between Lands End and St Mary’s, due to poor visibility. There was a humid westerly wind which turned clear air into fog as it rose up over Land’s End – and sometimes over St Mary’s. Hundreds of residents and visitors wanting to return to the islands for Christmas with their families became more and more anxious at the thought of spending Christmas on their own in an hotel in Penzance.
Thankfully, a combination of Tresco Boats and St Mary’s Boats (inter-island services) organised high speed jet boat services to Penzance and back (~80 mile round trip)– two hours each way – and managed to get most if not all passengers to their Scilly destinations before Christmas Eve. The crews of these 12 seater fast boats deserve a massive ‘thank-you’ for their exhausting hard work; the seas were not that calm once the boats were in open sea and some passengers had to sit outside for the whole of the two hour trip – but at least they got there!
Three days with no flying due to weather is not uncommon; jet boats are an alternative if there are enough passengers to justify the trip and if the sea is reasonably calm, but the uncertainty and worry for passengers does take its toll. It is difficult to describe the level of stress and anxiety induced by such disruption, particularly with a knock-on effect on Christmas festivities, carol services and reunions. For some, the discomfort of winter travel is off-putting, but days of uncertainty and waiting make it intolerable. Nobody can help the weather but the responsibility for lack of contingency plans for winter ‘no flying’ days is the responsibility of the management of the IOSSG. Relying on inter-island boat operators to put a plan together to move stranded passengers between the mainland and the islands is just an abandonment of the ISSOG’s duty to its customers.
In FRIST’s view the only solution is a combination of the new helicopter service and a winter ferry service. The IOSSG should think again about its still ongoing legal action against planning permission for Penzance Heliport, and listen to the over 9,000 people who signed a petition earlier this year urging the Company to drop its opposition and think of its customers and the future of the Island Community.