Stromness 21st June 2018

We actually crossed the Pentland Firth on Monday 14th May, six weeks ago!
We were blessed with perfect conditions for the crossing, which can be "challenging". A clear sunny day, and amazing views of the cliffs of the far north-east coast of Scotland, thanks to "local advice" from Malcolm, Harbour Master at Wick, who is famous in all the harbours of north east Scotland and beyond. Everywhere we stopped on route, the advice was that Malcolm would sort us out , unfortunately, when we arrived in Wick he wasn't on duty! On Saturday 12th when we arrived in Wick, the conditions were looking pretty good to cross the very next morning which was pretty cool as a local Orkney boat had been waiting a week for the right opportunity. Strangely, at about 6pm a dense fog rolled in, the fog was so thick as it passed under the town bridge I assumed there must be a fire, it was quite alarming. The fog hadn't lifted the next morning so we resigned ourselves to an extra night in Wick, a funny little town. When we ventured into the town after a lovely meal out in a quirky little French restaurant by the river, we happened across four groups of agitated Scots squaring up to each other threatening violence, extraordinary, like a Scottish sitcom. Just before we left on Monday morning, Chris popped into the marina office to pay for our extra night and....Malcolm was there. His advice, different from the pilot book, was to stay in close to the shore, and aim to pass Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point of mainland Britain, at 11.15 am.

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A beautiful sail up from Wick, arriving as planned at 11.15, and over we went. The bizarre thing was that the boat was pointing about 30 degrees east of where we were actually going, the tide, running at several knots has to be accounted for. We were aiming for the gap of about 2 miles between Swona, a tiny island and South Ronaldsay, A much bigger island connected to the mainland by the Churchill Barriers (constructed in the Second World War to keep German U-boats out). Two miles sounds like a big gap, but it didn't seem like it at the time!
Great planning and calculations by Chris, again, soon had us out of the strong currents and safely delivered into the calm of Scapa Flow, one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

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