Sunday 2nd January 2011.
Today we headed West out of Porthcurno to the lighthouse lookout station on Gwennap Head which commands an almost 270 degree sweep out over the channel and Atlantic. Gulls, gannets, skuas and petrels swoop and call from the dizzying height and on a clear day the rising shape of the Sicily Isles shimmers on the horizon. At breakfast Chris told us how welcome visitors are to the volunteers who sit in the station watching these waters on six hour shifts so we thought it was worth a knock on the door.
We were warmly greeted by Robert who, having spent the fifties and sixties as one of the first trans Atlantic pilots on passenger planes was seeing out his retirement monitoring the progress of shipping as it passes in and out of British waters. Today he was particularly concerned with a French trawler that had come north and was cutting dangerously across some of the busier lanes.
The little lookout was a fascinating throwback. A radar swept a green a line of green light across a box TV screen, whilst a crackly radio transmitted the Falmouth coastguard's conversations with the vessels. Every movement was recorded in half hour intervals with a thin line marker pen on on a wipe clean map. Robert was very proud of his work and clearly felt the station had a huge role to play benevolently watching over the smaller fishing craft and providing an early warning system to stop smugglers from landing their cargoes on shore.
We made a donation for the upkeep of the station and then headed north via Sennen Cove for a pint at the Tinner's Arms in Zennor, a quick walk round an icy St.Ives and late evening curry back in Penzance.