Everything must travel to the islands by boat, so all building supplies, furniture, shop stock and even animals such as the dairy cows arrive by boat. Parcel post over a certain weight also travels as freight on the boat rather than by air as the weight in the helicopter must be strictly monitored.
Freight must be booked in advance and dropped off to Penzance Quay where the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company arranges its passage to the islands. The freight boat, Gry Maritha, operates from Penzance to St.Mary's three times a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The sailing is approximately 4 hours, depending on weather conditions. If there are adverse weather forecasts in the winter months it is not unusual for the sailing to be postponed meaning islands are very savvy at keeping their cupboards well stocked! However you might find that the local shops run out of fresh items such as milk until the weather calms and the boat can sail again. Most items on board are strapped to wooden pallets for ease of manoeuvrability. The boat has chillers and freezers on board to preserve consumables. Once the boat arrives at St.Mary's it is unloaded by crane and fork lift trucks pick up the pallets. The team on St.Mary's quay organise the items according to which island they are addressed. St.Mary's freight is distributed by local haulage firms.
Off island freight is then transferred onto a smaller vessel, Lyonnesse Lady, and delivered to each off island usually the following day, so people's deliveries departing Penzance on a Monday will arrive at the off island on a Tuesday. For islanders, meeting the launch is common practise as their link to resources such as coal, food, furniture, machinery and other supplies. Almost like the alternative to your weekly supermarket shop on the mainland. Many people rely on home deliveries of groceries from mainland supermarkets such as Tesco's coming by boat. Although traffic on the islands is kept to a minimum, having your own vehicle on an off island is the only means of transporting your household essentials from the quay to your house. Some people do use a wheelbarrow for lighter items.
The cost of freight must of course be added to everything purchased from the mainland making the cost of living in Scilly higher than in other areas. All retail goods in shops and hotels have also been imported and are subject to freight charges, so you may find that goods are slightly more expensive than at home, understandable if you remember it has to make a journey of at least 28 miles. There are lots of local suppliers who sell their farm produce or homemade products in Scilly as well though.