I am still in Kirkwall
in pretty unsettled weather. In the very early hours ‘Rita’, a Nordship 32’ Norwegian flagged boat quietly came and rafted up to us. Nice young couple, very polite. They were trying to be quiet and were quiet but down below of course the slightest movement has one leaping out of bed.
They were very well fendered and I re hung my own that were there anyway. I think they said there names were Roger and Renata. They are fast asleep this morning.
I am thinking of sailing to Stronsay later.
A lovely and most adamant lady from Shetland corrected me this morning. She and her husband, John, have a very strong motor boat ‘Cyfish’, Lerwick. I made a mistake of saying The Shetlands. It’s not THE Shetlands. Absolutely NOOOOOT. It is Shetland or The Shetland Isles. ‘Shetland’ is preferred! Apparently I will cause huge offence up there. Might get hung drawn and quartered or something even worse. So got to get it right. She told me in the most charming manner though. Nice people. Her husband John said ‘See what I have to put up with’?
Kirkwall is a town in a foreign country. They are hardy folk up here. The winters must be unbelievable. There is very little daylight and the gales must be phenomenal. They are very healthy looking. A young lady with thick dark hair, fair skin and shining eyes told me that the seas were ‘wiiiiiiiiiiiild’ in the winter and could be in the summer too. Her eyes shone bright and she looked a tad wild herself for a moment as she repeated ‘wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiLd wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiLd. You need to be a survivor here.
There were boy racers in their ‘souped’ up cars round the harbour last night. So it’s not that different after all. Burning rubber at 2300 hours. NIIIIICE.
There is fantastic history here. I visited Maeshowe, a Neolithic burial chamber.
The Vikings invaded of course and broke in to the burial chamber in severe weather to seek shelter. Sensible if you ask me.
Scapa Flow is of course famous enough.
I have just said hello to the Norwegian neighbours who have now moved to a vacant spot just in front of us on the long visitors pontoon.
We are anchored off Whitehall Village, Stronsay and the engine was switched off at 2150.
It was a lovely sail of about 20NM from Kirkwall. It was a beautiful evening with flat seas between the islands and enough wind from the SE and E. The seas are so clean.
This was our first proper sail since sailing from the Farne Islands to Aberdeen (in strong winds and heavy seas) and before that Lowestoft.
I had a good chat with my Norwegian neighbours in the afternoon. They are a modest couple with quite a lot of sailing in Norway. Roger has crossed this part of the North Sea many times. He warned that it can get tricky. They have to be home on the 11th July and plan to end up in Lerwick, like me, before heading east for home and back to work. They are aware I am in these waters for the first time and have quietly advised me. They have also marked my card as to where to go as I travel south towards Sweden. Their sailing is just north of Stavanger so they know the coastline very well. Lovely and helpful.
‘Drunken Duck’ is waiting for an engine part, which will be fitted tomorrow in Kirkwall. They too hope to get here tomorrow night or the following day and hope to make Fair Isle and Shetland too.
There are four boats including us here tonight. One of the boats is our sailing school friend from Blyth. This time on a skippered charter although I did see him doing a little teaching in Kirkwall.
The opening in to the N Haven Harbour at Fair Isle is practically invisible looking in to the cliffs. It would be a daunting prospect in poor visibility and in any wind from a N to E direction.
In point of fact not possible at all. Nor would it be anything other that ship wreck caught inside. The ‘Good Shepherd lV’, the islands ferry and supply boat has to be hauled out in the harbour. I am told even in winter it somehow manages to make a weekly trip. Wow.
We got in here this afternoon at 1725 and are in a raft of three boats, the other two being Dutch. The boat next to us, ‘Cherokee’ has a charter. The boss and skipper John and mate Linda (both Dutch) are relaxed professional sailors. They can take up to 8 paying guests.
There are seven boats in this tiny shelter. Dutch, Norwegian, French and only one British boat …. US!
It was a terrific sail from Stonsay. Early on it was SW and we set a poled out genoa and a preventer on the main. There was just enough wind to keep us moving and then the wind backed southerly and we were away on a starboard tack in a lovely F4 on a beam reach most of the way.
Again, visibility was terrific. I could easily see Fair Isle 23 miles away and as the Island slowly got larger it became eventually a revelation.
The island is utterly stunning from the sea and we passed the S and SE side and Sheep Rock. I looked at the chart to check if it said Steep Rock but it was indeed Sheep and of course Fair Isle is famous for its wool.
Just before passing the island at its southern tip I could make out Shetland some 23 miles beyond.
I’ve been for a walk and not far enough so I will have to stay an extra day and walk the island. Birds are nesting! Threatened parents protecting their nests and young have already attacked my Dutch charter neighbours.
I feel privileged to be here. Our Orford SC President Richard Roberts told me to see Fair Isle, IF the weather was favourable. Thank you Richard for marking my card.
I am also indebted to Sally for happily holding the fort at home and allowing me the opportunity to spend this time with my ‘other’ lady ‘Talisker 1’.
The hard slog up the east coast is but a distant memory.
There was quite a lot of rain this morning and then over cast but this evening is gorgeous weather.
Late last night ‘Rita’ arrived with Roger and Renate.
I walked the length of the island today … about three miles. The shop and post office is at the southern end with lots of fresh produce and frankly a bit of absolutely everything you would need. I bought quite a lot of groceries and made sure that I sent some post cards with the Fair Isle postmark. To my great joy they were stamped there and then in front of me!
Then some local children walked in with some post and some money for a stamp. The lovely shop keeper, not surprisingly with an island population of 70, spoke to each by name as he took the money for the stamps and put the stamps on the envelopes. But what did the children want to do most? They wanted to put the island stamp on themselves which of course they did to very great excitement.
Friendly sheep dogs in an off duty moment wander up quietly to say hello. No barking … just to see who you are. Their masters are nowhere in sight. I dare say a call when there is work to be done and they return home or to some not too distant part of the island in a flash.
The island has its own ferry and supply boat the ‘Good Shepherd lV’. It comes in to North Harbour and goes against the quay but in bad weather they winch her out. A light 8 seater aircraft seems to land and take off a couple of times a day.
Jimmy Stout is the HM here. I went to pay him and he said just leave the fee in the honesty box on the quay and fill in the form. It is rare to meet someone who is so obviously content in his skin. A special man. Such was the difficulty in getting the money in I don’t think its been emptied in a while.
Talking to other boats a visit here is not uncommon!
The lovely couple from the shop delivered my groceries by van after they shut. Now there is service for you.
I have been told at 8pm sharp Puffins will land on the island ‘en masse’ and that it’s not to be missed.
With the departure of ‘Cherokee’ this morning for Lerwick to drop off their guests and pick up new ones we are now rafted to ‘Marvin’ with crew Maryka and Frank. Its not their boat having thought they had retired from sailing and bought a motor boat instead. But their friend and owner of ‘Marvin’ was sick and his boat was in the Med. Frank and Maryka went to the `Med and sailed it back to Holland. This summer their friend has their motor boat and is cruising the inland waterways of Europe and this proper cruising couple are sailing again. It’s their tenth visit to Fair Isle. Their plans were Iceland! But, like us, it has taken too long to get this far so not Iceland this year after all.
Frank and Maryka have sailed everywhere. Med, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Caribbean, the Atlantic including the Cape of Good Hope. Much time was spent in India aboard their boat. Again you have to prize the information out of these people and they talk as though it is nothing. Frank has said very little indeed. Fabulous people. Maryka said that she could only talk about her experience at sea with other serious sailors. They sailed with the Chandlers and their yacht ‘Lyn Rival’ and Maryka told me the Chandlers were the last people to seek or enjoy publicity. Maryka was quite interesting about Suez when I asked about taking on board Pilots for the canal.
I told Maryka about the ‘Puffins’. She and Frank are both joining me for the Puffin watch.
As I sit here the sun is shining and the water is crystal clear to the bottom.
I am sitting in the Bird Observatory. I have just been up to see the Puffins on the edge of the cliff above N and S Haven. I was able to get within a metre of them. They just ignore human beings completely. Maryka is obviously a very keen photographer and was worried her camera battery would run out as she sat quietly much nearer to the cliff edge than I dared. Frank quietly walked and observed and stood too close to the edge for a coward like me as other people arrived from the bird observatory with real cameras. I never thought I would be walking up and down hills looking at Puffins in Fair Isle. V lovely indeed.
It’s my brothers birthday.
It’s 6.30 in the morning and we are in Lerwick, Shetland. Yesterday we sailed here from Fair Isle.
I am rafted to ‘Skua’ a most impressive Dutch aluminium 41’ yacht that I first saw in Lowestoft with ‘Drunken Duck’ on the way up here. I had briefly seen them in Blyth and then again for one night on Fair Isle when I finally said hello to Cor Swenne. Last night I met Cor’s wife Henne. They gave me such a warm welcome when I came along side. They showed me their boat, fitted out by themselves, for themselves. To say it is built for off shore passage making is an understatement. It has a very beautiful interior too with a chart table and seat, which is practically Presidential. There is nowhere on the boat you could be thrown and births for guests do not exist. Well done them. And they have done thousands of NM including so many in these waters! They told me they had cruised Shetland last year for 7 weeks! They know our part of East Anglia too and I realised that our part of the world holds equal fears to these hardened, experienced and super competent yachtsmen and women.
Actually THEY don’t think they are that clever. The proper sailors I mean.
It seems Fair Isle is popular. Cor and Henne have also been several times.
Then marvellous Raymond and Ann arrived bringing with them ‘Drunken Duck’ and they rafted to our outside. When we sat together in ‘Talisker 1’s’ cockpit late in to the night, that is still daylight here at this time of year, we became the ‘Lowestoft Crowd’
Ann mentioned ‘The Riddle of the Sands’. I must get a copy.
I am lucky to be rubbing shoulders with these people.
When you explain to a non sailor or, lets face it, the week end sailor (the chap who has done thousands of miles in the same place, never venturing further than the extremity of the bay) that sailing is 80% endurance and if your lucky 20% lovely you get an odd look. When a climber talks about being perched upside down under an overhanging rock with nothing beneath him for 3,000 feet I just don’t get it either. Well I sort of do get it but don’t want to do it. Anyway, I must take a breath here after that explanation and just say bar one cock up, yesterday was a 20% day. It was a lovely sailing day and for the most part with wind just aft of the beam under beautiful blue skies.
I had woken to torrential rain, still rafted to ‘Marvin’ and delayed my departure from Fair Isle until after midday when finally the rain stopped and I slipped out of North Haven. It had been a privilege to be on Fair Isle.
It’s only 20 NM from Fair Isle to the S tip of Shetland. Then another 20 NM to Lerwick. In retrospect it would have been better to have been pushed to the East by the strong SE set current. As it was I was set NW by the current and had difficulty clearing the southern tip of Shetland to the east. I had not studied the tidal Atlas as carefully as I should have done and in poor weather that would have been a proper ‘cock up’.
Sailing up the E coast of Shetland was lovely and the entrance to Lerwick IS spectacular.
Albert Dock is quite full. Bar a motorboat with a British ensign we are again moored amongst boats that fly a majority of Norwegian and Dutch flags.
Due to a cruise liner arriving tomorrow we vacated Albert Dock and moved to a space in Small Dock. They are going to use the pontoon to disembark passengers in the liners tenders on to the pontoon we were all on. Skua, who needs fuel in the morning is staying put until then. We are now rafted to ‘Drunken Duck’.
I walked up to the boat club for a shower. The water is so clear here in the harbour.
I have had a look at our route to Norway. There does not seem to be much in the way of platforms and rigs between here and Bergen. I think I am going for Bergen. The south entrance is wide with loads of sea room if there is a sea running.
I will probably make for Hjellestad. It is about 14 NM from the wide fairway that starts between Marstein to the S and Tekslo to the N that leads in to Korsfjorden.
We are leaving for Norway tomorrow. Winds from the N about F5. Its going to be quite windy on the Norway side. The trip should take about 36 hours so departure will be about 1100 and we hope to be clearing the harbour at midday.
The last 60 NM miles winds are predicted to weaken as the Norwegian coast approaches. Fingers crossed I have got it right and the weather does what it says it will do.
I had a very nice chat with Ann and Raymond today. I have thoroughly enjoyed their company. Really lovely people. A French couple with a big Ovni that they keep on the river at Benodet gave me some Norwegian anchoring locations moving S from Bergen.
Ann invited me for breakfast. Really thoughtful and gives me one less thing to think about before departure.
Lots of support from Doc and James R. There are not many to share fears with because nobody really understands if they have not sailed far and in strange waters.