We had hoped to make it to Stromness, but with strong winds
and stronger tides it wasn't guaranteed. But we were in luck - the tides
we running well and forecast winds NW looked favourable, both for sailing down
the West coast of Orkney and providing reasonable tidal races. We were
off the dock and sailing up Papa Sound (the first tidal gate) by 7.30 and after
a few bumps were clear in the Atlantic. A fair bit of swell as it had
been blowing 20 kts plus for 2 days - but Swallow handles this beautifully.
We managed to sail most of the way - with some engine
support when the wind went variable and died for a hour or so - and great
coastal views all the way. For a group of Islands with a reputation for
being flat, Orkney boasts some very impressive cliffs - including in St John's
Head on North Hoy, the highest vertical cliff in Britain. We could see
the Old Man of Hoy a little to the South, looking like a small tower - whilst
450 feet high itself - it was dwarfed by St John's Head - as was the (very
large) ferry coming into Stromness.
Hoy and big ferry
Hoy Sound was our second tidal gate. We are bang on
neaps, so the tidal streams are at their weakest, and we timed our arrival to
miss the strongest flows - but we still had 4kts of tide with us as we came
screaming round the corner. The wind that had been absent for an hour or
so, decided to reappear with a vengeance, backing to SE and giving us 15-20 kts
of wind directly against our 4 kts of tide. Fortunately, the sea was
still running from the NW and whilst the passage was bumpier than the forecast
implied, it was all very controlled.
Stromness is a small town but a major port and has a good
feel to it. There is a new and very good set of floating pontoons, tucked
out of the SE wind/sea behind the fishing pier and another very friendly
welcome. Tomorrow the weather will be a little wild - so we are well tucked
in, sprayhood extension (a marvellous thing) rigged and very comfortable.
Last of the crab for dinner, first with some left over puy lentils and then
with tagliatelle, chilli, cherry tomatoes and thyme - delicious!