Luckliy we woke to hear the 7am forecast issued by Shetland CG. The low that was approaching had gathered momentum and was due to hit later in the day bringing gale force winds. We were able to motor (there was no wind) to Kirkwall covering the 20 miles in no time with the tide under us. The back eddies on the contour lines sped us along at a great rate! We reached Kirkwall ahead of the weather and tied up alongside safe and sound as the rain started. It is a lovely city, with a cathedral and many attractive narrow streets and all facilities. On checking the forecast at 1900, we recorded gales and severe storms in all the sea areas around us with the outlook for the next 24 hours being similarly bad.
On our way back to the boat in the pouring rain via Lidl we bumped into Mike who had also decided to come alongside in the marina. We made an arrangement to head out to the sailing club after supper which was full of the local football team who had won a big trophy match. The town was heaving with people as the County Show had been on that day (in the rain) and also met up with a fellow sailor, Peter from Newcastle, who was waiting for his crew to arrive to take the boat back south. A couple of pints followed by a whisky on board Onegin, we fell into bed around 1am with the wind howling and rain pelting.
7am departure for Orkney, forecast showing heavy weather approaching later in the week so we were keen to travel the 40 miles to the next destination and hope to get to Wick the following day. SE 20kn decreasing to 15. We were zipping along and got SOG of 10kn! Tide affect was definitely helping us speed along. We headed for Stronsay which on first sight was a very bleak and unappealing harbour where we had second thoughts and looked at continuing on to Kirkwall but for the tide and the fact we saw our friend Mike sailing in behind us, we would have. In the end we tied up alongside a very unfriendly looking pier but were approached by a couple of men who had been out sailing earlier that day, the older gentleman lives on the island and his son was visiting from southern England. His boat was a 14’ open traditional wooden boat in great condition. Mike, Geoff & I set off to find the shop and pub- success with the shop but the pub was closed with the promise of opening later on. We decided to go back to our respective boats, catch up on sleep and perhaps go to the pub later. Whilst I was snoozing, Geoff found out that the pub served great food so we went for a slap up meal of Orkney sirloin & fish & chips respectively. It was a delicious meal. Mike joined us for a pint afterwards. The locals were super friendly and chatty and our initial impression was changed immediately. Interestingly, there was only one person with a Scottish accent. The rest were regional accents from elsewhere in the UK. We were told that the Orkadians were like this, coming from all over.
Next destination for us was going to be Wick, the forecast looked like the bad weather wasn’t going to hit for a few days and the coastguard forecast reflected this. We bid farewell to Mike who had a different plan and fell into bed.
The forecast suggested we should get going again as we have quite a few miles to cover to get to mainland Scotland. Our intention had been to go straight to Kirkwall, Orkney but decided to break the journey up and cover the miles in two separate sections stopping in North Haven, Fair Isle. The wind was WSW 25-30kn. We said farewell to Tim who was catching a ferry to Aberdeen the following day so stayed in a B&B in Lerwick. Departed 1100 arrived North Haven 1900.
There were two other yachts in the harbour one American, the other Dutch. The Dutch couple took our lines and we had a good chat with them. Shortly after our arrival the ferry came in and the place came alive. Cars came to meet the ferry and collect the deliveries that were held in a massive container that was crane lifted off the ferry. There were supplies for the local store and post for the local population of 70 people. As most of them dispersed a group of men seemed to be gathering in a nearby hut, within an hour we reckon that the whole male population of the island was gathered in this hut chatting and drinking beer. It was an odd phenomena but we didn’t feel we could intrude so were left not knowing why this happens. Is it a Friday regular gathering in the equivalent of the pub? As we didn’t explore anymore of the island we couldn’t find out.
Our social engagement was on board the Dutch boat along with Mike the American who is a single handed sailor (Sea Hawk). Jop and his partner have sailed in Fair Isle and Orkney many years so were able to tell us of some interesting spots. We were very happy to have stopped off as it was a glorious sunny evening and the island looked stunning. Sighted two seals in the bay multiple sheep and multiple birds.
We had decided to hire a car and tour the island. The drive down to the southern most point of mainland Shetland showed us the tree less landscape. Sumburgh Point lighthouse was our destination where there is a nature reserve. This was our first close up of puffins, Geoff and I were literally jumping up and down with excitement!! You will see from our photos how close we were able to get. The lighthouse also had an old radar base which was used to identify the Luftwaffe heading towards the WWII naval base at Scapa Flow and save the fleet. After such a great start to the day we drove a mile down the road: back across the airfield. The railway crossing signal is a familiar one but I have never had a traffic signal that tells me to stop when the lights are red because a plane is landing!!
Jarslhof was the next stop, an amazing archaeological find on the site of the lairds house . This had been visible for years but the balance was unearthed during a sand storm in the 1880s. The dig has unearthed some 4000 years of history and is astonishingly well presented. We all were super impressed and came away reeling with information and marveling at how much knowledge had been gained about the way of life and building techniques.
We had been told of another pub that had free music, this had a very different feel to it. A younger crowd and the music was different. A couple of fiddles, an accordion, electric guitar and piano. The accordion seemed to overwhelm the rest of the instruments.
2am arrival in Lerwick. 46 hours. Shetland Coast guard were very welcoming and helpful.
The day brought glorious sunshine which meant we could dry out the soggy bits of the boat and warm our bodies. Having had seven on board I decided the two overflowing Ikea bags of laundry could go to a service wash and tracked down the local laundry in Lerwick, luckily I phoned as they didn’t have any water so couldn’t help. Plan B was to go to the yacht club and use the two machines they have. This should have been straightforward expect after loading them and plugging a couple of £s in each machine nothing was working, luckily I heard footsteps upstairs (it is a volunteer club so no-one is around) and a very helpful boiler repair man said the machines were temperamental and he called Anneliese who lives two minutes away. By the time she arrived the machines were working (brute force and thumping did the trick). I was very apologetic as she had to come over and wasn’t needed, she then made my day. “Oh don’t worry, why don’t you pop over when those two loads have finished as you’ve got at least three more to do and hang them on my washing line, I’m going out so I’ll leave my peg basket out for you” and proceeded to draw a map showing me how to get to her house.
I couldn’t believe it! I took the washing and hung it up and in a couple of hours it was dry. The rest went round the drier!!
In between laundry loads we explored the town, the Shetland Museum is fabulous. Very comprehensive and well presented. Highly recommended. On our travels round town we found out there was a Fiddling Frenzy throughout the week with concerts but free music in one of the local pubs.
As a birthday treat we went out for supper, in the local waterfront hotel which is in a time warp. We had an excellent meal though and wandered on to the pub for fiddle music. It was fantastic, three fiddles, two guitars, a banjo and a mandolin. Lots of fun.
4.45am departure. Slight rain and light wind to start with. Wing on wing to start with, then code zero. Motoring for approx 10 hours. Wind filled in and we had 25kn SSE as forecast enabling us to reach on a course through oil rigs
Deliberations about when to cross to Shetlands. Motored out to Runde in no wind and spent night.
Boat prep for trip to Shetlands and Crew flew home. Sorry to say goodbye.
Excellent beat up to Alesund in approx 20kn-25kn. Cloud cover and prospect of rain. Tied up alongside another couple of boats in the centre of town. Early birthday celebrations for Bel, balloons and cake which was fun. Followed by delcious chicken supper by James.
A slow start to the day and the rain cleared so we could head up to the nearest peak ; a mere 700 m through the trees to a great lookout. Rainbow across the fjord. Back to boat and onward to an anchorage about 15 miles away where we had decided to BBQ on the shore if we could. Idyllic spot , burgers & sausages, salad and smores. It was a great way to spend the last night at anchorage. No-one around except for us and a great BBQ.
An early morning start at around 9am to climb Romsdal peak to 981m, weather was clear on the hike to the top then as promised the rain came in. The trail has an incredible lookout point which is a platform extended out from the rocks – not for the faint hearted. I found the best way out was walking backwards before turning around to look at the stunning view.
Amazing hike, 2 hours up and about 1.5 hours down in the pouring rain. It is a well travelled trail with steps in places and clear markings but granite in the rain is precarious as is the route down through the trees to fjord level, aching legs at the end. We decided to rest for a few hours and then set of with the wind on the nose back out of the fjord, 20 miles to Vestnes.
Off the pier at 9.30 and another day of no wind. Perfect fishing conditions and ideal contour lines to linger over with the fishing rod. Geoff, Bel & Tim all up and at it and fish biting within minutes, the excitement got everyone up on deck and out of their sleepy haze: James & Sean were dispatching fish in their sleep and did an amazing job. Everyone caught something so we had plenty to do and more than enough supper.
The aim was to head into the Romsdal fjord towards Andesnes and we had great wind for this blowing right down the fjord around 8-10kn enabling us to fly the spinnaker the whole way in. It was a 25 mile sail in fabulous conditions and every turn we had to make into the fjord we managed to keep the wind behind us. Our spinnaker hasn’t had so much fun in a long time. Having read an article in PBO that stated it was impossible for the cruising sailor to keep the spinnaker flying through a jibe we decided to practice this manouvre over and over again to prove them wrong. We have the pictures to prove it!!
9am Flat calm.
After some consideration we amended the plan for the day, we were going to Grip which is a small group of islands north of Smola where there is a 16th century stave church. Instead we have chosen to go the distance around Hustavika: a notoriously bad spot if there is any kind of weather. The journey out from Hitra was a Winnie the Pooh style of navigation (for those who haven’t travelled in Sweden with us , we found ourselves in a number of tight spots where the nav marks were very close together and we felt we may get stuck and in the marinas there are many bow to moorings for boats that are much less beamy than Onegin).
As the sun shone and the seas were calm the conditions proved ideal. Tim spotted what looked like an orca: it was certainly black and white but a distance away so a little hard to identify. We also saw another niessa (sp?). The glassy seas offer some fantstaic opportunities for watching wildlife.
On deck Charli, James, Georgie & Sean took an exercise session. They were getting a bit stir crazy and managed to burn off some energy and heat themselves up in the blazing sun. Having tested the water temperature in 180m depth we decided that we’d head inshore to a spot close by enabling them to swim. This was a great success as we stopped the boat in about 15m and they were able to do circuits of diving in and climbing out for a while. This definitely took the edge off and everyone settled back down. The wind had filled in a little from the west so the code zero and main were hoisted and we made about 5.5kn in the light breeze for a couple of hours before the wind died again.
Destination was Bjornsund, 55miles from Hitra. On our journey north in May the mainland was shrouded in cloud as it was raining. Today was ideal to see what we had missed. You can see the Romsdal mountain range and further south the Sunnmore alps. We arrived at 8.30pm and tied up alongside the pier that we had tied up on in May with Rolf. The island is stunning, the houses had summer occupants and the gardens looked lovely. After supper we took our disposable BBQ to the rocks and made smores (toasted marsh mallow, chocolate & digestives in place of graham crackers), thanks to Charli’s great planning. She had it all organized from Rorvik and all we needed was the perfect spot to light a BBQ. Delicious!! It was a calm night and perfect end to a long but fun day.
Sunshine first thing, left the captain snoozing as he had been on anchor watch through the night . James went ashore to untie stern line, wind had shifted to the east so we were not is such a fine position. Then Sean & James pulled up the anchor and we motored away all safe. Lots of kelp on the anchor as it came up. Destination Hitra, some 15 – 20 miles, not enough wind for sails although we did try for the first hour. Then wind filled in and we could launch spinnaker again and the sun came out (it had disappeared for a while). Sean went up the mast, James followed. Before the main was up, then Charli went up. All took great pictures. A fab sail up to 7kn. Planning the route was a challenge, as there are many skerries around Hitra and Froya. Spinnaker dropped, main up we motored sailed through the islands to Kvenvaer on Hitra. Now tied up along side and preparing spag bol before going to the party at the pub with the local band!!! Geoff has continued with the repair of the wheel leather which is a slow process but very satisfying. Lots of book reading and relaxing by all.
The pub party didn’t happen in the end as they were charging NOK200/head to see the band who were playing in a tent that was visible from outside and definitely audible from the boat, we ended up having our own party on board with harmonicas and the eukele all being played along to the band.