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Sailing with Siller Lass to Scotland 2006

 Scrabster - Stromnes

The force of the current as we crossed the Pentland  Firth was less than expected and we managed to reach Stromnes before being hindered by the currents coming into Hoy Sound from the Atlantic. 30nm.
There’s an excellent marina at Stromnes with a pontoon, toilets and washing machines. 
The sun shone while we did some sightseeing and had a deliciuos shellfood dinner at Hamnavoe restaurant.  The streets in Stromnes were made long before cars were invented, many of the names were of Scandinavian origin.


The main street, Stromnes                         Nordstjernens skip collects diesel - Kirkwall         

Kirkwall, 30 min. by bus from Stromnes has also a good marina though diesel cannot be bought on the quayside.  St. Magnus cathedral founded in 1137 ad was well worth a visit.  We hired a car to see this fertile island, including Scara Brae village dating back 5000 years that has been excavated  relatively recently, after part of it became visible after a tremendous storm in 1850. 


St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall                Scara Brae dwelling - 5000 years old

We made contact with other sailors – Swedes, British (Escapade, Squander), Norwegian and others. One Swedish boat sailed past the pontoon at great speed shouting – “Can you help us, we’ve no motor????”. Berthing under sail alone went fine, with some shore help. An exercise we all should practice!

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Stromnes - Lerwick                                  

Currents and tides are important in this part of the world. Routes have to be well planed in advance to avoid unpleasant experiences with currents which can be quite furious at times. We managed all this really well on our sail out into the Atlantic then north to Westray, the most northerly and westerly harbour in Orkney. We moored up alongside a fine pontoon in Pierowall harbour. The harbour master John Rendall came onboard in the evening to tell us about his job and help us plan the next leg. John was recommended to us by Mike’s friend Richard Fressons whom we met in Lossiemouth. We made a point of visiting all the harbour masters to get local information and we were always welcome.

Several boats had also come from Stromnes. Squander, Ituna with the two brave girls Samantha Steele and Margaret Campbell and Escapade with Tony and Susan Scott. The two girls aboard Ituna had got some rope around their propellor on the way, distressing to say the least. Mags, the Scottish girl, had donned her wet suit and dived down in high seas with a knife to cut the rope and free the propellor! All respect for Scottish girls!
    Noltland castle as in 1500

Pierowall, Westray had several fishing boats and a crab factory which we visited early in the morning before taking a walk up to Noltland Castle, one of the most  remarakble castles in Orkney, dating from Mary Queen of Scots period. Over the doorway we could read "When I see blood I will pass over you in yhe night."   We were impressed by the local houses and  gardens with so many flowers.  Later in the day we picked up our order – 3 lobsters and 3 dressed crabs – all for £22.  Three big live lobsters were a challenge for the cook ( is the pot big enough?) and a fantastic meal for three of us.  Harbour fee £10


  Lobster for dinner

 We decided on an early start next day, to Fair Isle. Good weather and a fine sail, 6,5 hours and 42 nm. We used the 20kvm jib and had two reefs in our mainsail.  Rough seas particularily near Fair Isle. The “race” increased our speed by 4 knots.  8 tonn Siller Lass bounced around like a cork. We saw both killer whales and seals on the way. We arrived at Fair Isles'  little north harbour in  pouring rain, tied up and went for a walk to investigate the island. After 3 km we came to the only shop, which had just closed for the day. Saw many, many sheep and lambs on the way – why don’t they sheer the sheep here?


N. harbour, Fair Isle                                                          Bonxies in flight

Fair Isle is well known for its birdlife observatory.   Jon Erik took the film camera and went for a walk “off pist”.  He was impressed by the dramatic scenery and the variety of birds but was soon scared off, after being attacked by Bonxies (Storjo, Skua).

I had hoped to see some of the knitting done on Fair Isle, remembering the jerseys we had as children, a luxury in wartime! The dreich weather shortened our stay however.   Maybe we’ll be tempted to visit the island some other time to see more of the bird life and meet local people. An early start again, dense fog with max 50 meters visibility. No wind, intense radar watch for five hours.  Timing the rounding of Sumburgh head perfect. No race or rooster as the locals call  it,  as we pass 5 nm outside the point. 


Fog lifting over Lerwick                                                           Lerwick harbour

All we’d seen that day were hundreds of birds of all sorts , but the fog cleared just as we entered Lerwick harbour after  45nm.  We checked in and were given good information from the Lerwick Port Authority.  The harbour fee here was only £5 per night.  The marina standard was similar to that in Stromnes.  Many countries were represented in the harbour – yachts from the  Faroes, Norway, Sweden, England, France and Danmark. The most remarkable was a tiny Polish boat sailed solo by a 75 year old Pole who was  Concertmaster of a Polish opera orchestra and professor of music at Stetin university.  He’d already been up in the main street playing his violin to earn a pound or two! 

   Kystvaktskipet Ålesund  

 The Norwegian Coastguard ship “Ålesund” was in Lerwick and Jon Erik and Norma are allowed aboard to interview the captain Endre Barande about the role of the Kystvakten in Norway.   Next day, Odd and Jon Erik visited the Shetland Coast Guard HQ to film and write an article for Norwegian Sailing magazines. HM Coastguard impressed us during the whole journey with their proficiency and excellent service which  combines communication, weather information and rescue coordination. The nearest comparison in Norway must be Redningssentralene in Stavanger and Bodø.  But they are not accessible for pleasure craft like us and they do not coordinate communication and weather reports like HM Coastguard.  There is definitely scope for improvement in Norway

Another small vessel attracted our attention – a 23ft. Norwegian motorboat.  It must have been pretty uncomfortable crossing the North Sea in that vessel – but the owner from Levanger told us he’d done this trip  5 times!

Lerwick - Skudeneshavn

We spent Sunday,2nd.July,  becoming acqainted with Lerwick and it’s history in fine sunny weather. There are Norwegian street names and traces of  Norwegian heritage everywhere, even in the language. We enjoyed the hospitality of the local sailing club with a jazz concert on the pier outside the clubhouse. 


Lerwick Boat Club                                                   Sumburgh Head lighthouse        
We hired a car for two days. Wonderful nature with flowers, shetland ponies and  birds everywhere. The sea was almost always in sight no matter where we drove.
 We regret now that we didn't sail to other harbours in the area. 

One of the thousands of puffins                                                     More of the birds at Sumburgh head

The lighthouse at the southermost point of Shetland. Sumburgh Head nature reserve is  known as the "City of Seabirds" and has more than 18.000 birds in a small area. What a noise!  Jon Erik made some excellent closeups of the birds -  puffins (lundefugl), bonxia (storjo, great skua), fulmar (havhest), gannets(havsule) and guillemots (havlire). 


Remains of a Viking longhouse                                     A broch in Lerwick 

The visit to Jarlshof next to Sumburgh Head with its excavations of dwellings some 5000 years old was perhaps even more impressive than Scara Brae on Orkney, as a large  Viking longhouse was uncovered there too. <o:p></o:p>

Scalloway with its Shetland bus museum was well worth a visit.  Scalloway was capital of Shetland in years gone bye.

We chose to drive to Yell and Unst, the two northermost islands  on Tuesday.  The roads were good and we had no problem driving apart from Jon Erik's effort to drive on the wrong side of the road after a publunch stop!  Pub lunches are good, but our main meal aboard Siller Lass with fillet of beef from Orkney was hard to beat.  One of the ferries over to Yell had this sign and motto copied from Magnus Lagabøte who reformed the Norwegian laws around 1260 ad. " The Land shall be built by Law"

Shetlands’ countryside is dominantly green but with no trees. Numerous sheep, wild flowers and birds. Peat is still used as fuel some places and we saw the troughs cut up and the peat set to dry. Some say that peat gives you heat thrice. Once when you sweat cutting it out and once again in the winter when you use it to heat your home, and finally as a supplement to global heating ! 

Several boats checked out at the Port Authority and filled diesel before leaving on Wednesday morning for Norway; Hututu from Tønsberg, Pirate from USA, Skrull from Sweden and Siller Lass.  Escapade sailed to other Shetland harbours and the Norwegian  Mirrie Dancer left for Orkney.  In Lerwick harbour we had enjoyed the company of the different crews, sharing experiences. We left the harbour in dense fog and we could follow Hututu on our radar for the first five-six hours. Our Raymarine Radar with chart overlay was a great help and we could give other sailing boats information about other vessels in the vicinity. The fog eventually cleared up after 12 hours. 
  One of the North Sea  oil riggs

The sea was calm and our Yanmar purred like a cat. We burned 3,5 liters of diesel per hour and our tank holds 340 liters.  The sunset on the North sea was fantastic with a clear sky and oil platforms all around.
Just before sunset we had shoal of delfins playing around Siller Lass, first on one side then right in front of the bow to the other side of the boat  and back again. Sometimes slapping  tails into the bow

The sail back to Skudeneshavn  was quite different from the sail over to Lossiemouth six weeks earlier. We had 2 hour watches, first as navigator then as skip,  and we managed some sleep on our free watch.  It took us 28,5 hours to  reach Skudesneshavn from Lerwick, 220nm.

It was a pleasure to have Odd Hestad, Jon Eriks best man and schoolmate from Edinburgh with us all the way from Kyle og Lochalsh and we were sorry to see him go next morning to take the bus directly to Oslo

That afternoon a Bavaria 37 single handed cruiser came into the harbour at too high speed. The skipper seemed so sure of himself, he jumped ashore to tie up, but forgot to take the motor out of gear resulting is an unfortunate contact with our pushpit. No big damage, but our skipper made a report in the log , signed by the unfortunate Bavarian owner in case of a later damage claim.

Siller Lass  North Sea expedition 2006  was now complete after 1237 nm so far and 40 days at sea.  We continued  “holiday sailing” with family and friendsand and returned to  home port August 1st. having sailed  1700nm in all
Our experiences were over all expectations. The weather was better than we had imagined, the nature,  culture and history inspiring and  the North Sea crossing isn't a limit any longer

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© Copyright 2004 Sailing with Siller Lass. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2004 Sailing with Siller Lass. All Rights Reserved.