A Commute Less Ordinary

A Commute Less Ordinary

A question commonly asked by visitors to staff on St Michael's Mount is, "Do you live on the island?", and as the majority of us do not, the following question is usually, "Well, how do you get back and forth to work every day?". A fair question to ask. Many of us have a quick answer, which covers walking the causeway or boating across, but it is not always that simple. Our commute is not governed by a bus, a train or traffic, it is dictated by tide times.



So every day we know when the sea is ebbing and flowing, whether we will be strolling to the boat at Chapel Rock, one of our three landings, pacing over the causeway in time to beat the lapping water, or waiting on the slipway for our amphibious vehicle to reverse up and lower its stairs.



If you miss the boat, there is always the brave option of swimming, but as we are all very aware that the sea around us is not quite bath water temperature, it's a choice rarely taken by our retail team. This means that being able to read the tide when driving into Marazion becomes second nature. Though visitors may need to question the mainland guides as to which landing they will need to make their way to, after your first month of working, you quickly get the gist of it.



Although some of the braver members of the St Michael's Mount team have swam from the mount to the mainland, we have not yet built up the courage to do so. The sea is not at a tropical temperature, but in the summer, when the days are a little longer and the sun shines a little brighter, you will usually catch a few members of the retail team taking off their shoes after work and paddling across the causeway. A refreshing way to end the day!



As a tidal island, the elements take centre stage when it comes to reaching our place of work. During the early spring time, and late autumn, we sometimes have to deal with the dreaded 'Black Flag'. Due to strong winds, ground swells, or spring and neap tides, our ferry boats are not always able to make the crossing or land safely on the mainland. The decision rests in the hands of the head boatman or duty boatman. A black flag, with a white boarder is hoisted on the eastern quay of the harbour, signifying that the call has been made. This typically means that we do not open to the public.



When the sea is churning and the wind picks up, we are sometimes still able to open the island, when the causeway opens, for a restricted amount of time. As the tide ebbs, the team have to do their best to get across and open up the various outlets before the visitors arrive. This means that we are usually armed with wellies, bare feet and flip flops, and tend to storm ahead unaware of the sea at our knees!



The winter months bring a whole different method of transport to the equation. Though we can still walk the causeway when the tide is out, the amphibious vehicle, named the St Michael, comes into action. This vehicle was commissioned by the late Lord St Levan and is used to ferry the children on the island to school, take the islanders to the mainland to get their shopping, and transport visitors and staff in the off season twice a week. It spans out at 10 metres with a beam of 3.6 metres and can face most of Cornwall's winter weather.


St Michael Amphibious Vehicle in front of St Michael's Mount


So, though we can simply answer a commonly asked question with a sentence, the complexities of travelling to work all depend on the elements. Which, at the end of the day, makes our commute that little bit less ordinary!

Louise Batty

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