Steamship Group prepares to carry 360 tonnes of freight to islands for gig weekend

Final preparations are underway for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s busiest weekend of the year, with the company shipping record amounts of freight to the islands for the World Pilot Gig Championships (April 29 to May 1).

As well as transporting thousands of passengers to the islands for gig weekend, up to 5,000 items of luggage will be handled by Scillonian III, almost four times as much as on a normal weekend.

Freight vessel Gry Maritha will carry 361 tonnes of freight in the week leading up to the championships, the equivalent weight of three commercial Boeing 757s.

The cargo includes 4,000 toilet rolls, 20 tonnes of beer, and more than two tonnes of bacon and sausages.

Transporting the extra freight, 137 gigs and thousands of passengers the 47 nautical miles to St Mary’s is a huge logistical operation, and one which the company has got down to a fine art. The first gigs were carried to the islands six weeks ago, and it’s been a steady stream ever since.

Debbie Hunt, from the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, has managed the operation every year. She said: “Essential supplies have to be transported to the islands throughout the year, and gig weekend is just on a larger scale.

“It takes months of careful planning on our part, but we’ve been doing it for so long it’s like second nature.”

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has supported the World Pilot Gig Championships since its inception 27 years ago, and has transported more than 1,000 gigs to and from the islands over the years.

The company can take two or three gigs on Scillonian III and eight on the Gry Maritha so between mid March and the Championships there have been gigs on every sailing.

The World Pilot Gig Championships began in 1990 with just a handful of Cornish teams taking part, but the event has grown to become an internationally recognised highlight of the rowing calendar, with more than 100 teams competing each year.

This year’s championships, organised by a dedicated committee of volunteers, will take place on the Isles of Scilly from Friday 29 April to Monday 1 May.

In addition to transporting the gigs, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company supports the event by offering special travel rates to competitors and provides four extra sailings over the weekend of the competition.

More information on travel for the gig weekend can be found at or by calling the Isles of Scilly Travel Centre on 0845 710 5555.