Lerwick, Shetland 60:09.272N 001:08.547W

Frans & Sarah Toonen
Thu 4 Jun 2015 23:30
Friday 5th June 2015. SW 4-5 Wednesday night then no wind at all on Thursday afternoon then SE 2-3 after we left Fair Isle. Sunny on Thursday afternoon then rain but not the forecast deluge. 26 hours, 130.1nm, 4.7 engine hours. Minimum outside temperature 7.5°C, Water temp 8°C.

The Pentland Firth between NE Scotland and Orkney can reach 8.5kts on Springs so has to be shown the greatest respect.  After our research we discussed our plan with the Harbour Master at Wick and concluded we had to leave at 11pm Wednesday, push against the last of the ebb for 3 hours towards the Pentland Skerries, keep at least 3 miles off the Skerries and then head north-east with 6+ hours of favourable tide on the flood. That’s the plan. 

With a SW wind on the stern we made slow progress across the Firth with roly poly motion side to side which is the most uncomfortable point of sail. There is not enough wind in the sail to counteract the wave action and always a risk of crash gybe with the boom as the wind direction on the stern changes with each roll so it is not at all relaxing. We had nearly 8 hours of adverse tide and don’t understand why the pattern does not match the tidal diagrams. This is the same experience we had across the Firth 2 years ago. 

Darkness hardly came and the moon was lovely. The sun rose at 40 degrees on the compass which is 50 degrees short of East (which would give 12 hours between sunrise and sunset). The sun rising at 40 degrees in fact meant it didn’t get dark at all, especially with the clear skies. The further north we go and working up to 21st June the longer the day will become. Thursday was sunny which made the slow progress bearable and the suntan cream came out and the vests off for a few hours in the shelter of the cockpit when the wind abated, amazing temperature difference between the coldest 7.5°C. When the wave height reduced we were able to use the cruising chute then had to resort to the engine as we neared Fair Isle in total calm, we also needed to run the engine to charge the batteries. 

Puffins around the boat and the lack of mast heads visible in North Harbour (crack in the rocks and mini beach hardly befitting such a grand title) drew us into Fair Isle so we popped in for an hour at anchor to have a cuppa and watch the birdies. The cliffs were teaming with our all our favourites… in space of 1 hour: courting Fulmars, Puffins, Male Eider, Artic Terns, Artic Skua, Black Gullemots, Guilimots, Razorbills and 1 lonely seal… delightful!  The calm airs drew the midges who managed to bite Sarah even in such a short stop. 

The SE wind set in during the evening and as we sighted Sumburgh Head we saw on the plotter that there were 2 yachts behind us doing 9kts! Those engines must be hot we thought - cheating to have a sail boat and gun the engine. It was our 2 Norwegian neighbours from Inverness/Wick and they charged into Lerwick an hour ahead of us. We found out they left Wick 9 hours after us but they motored all the way. They are headed home to Alesund in Norway so no doubt they’ll motor there as well. There are 5 men on the 2 boats and they said their partners were planning to fly to Scotland to join them but saw the weather and went on a hot holiday instead leaving the menfolk to it - smart girls. 

The pontoon was full when we arrived but luckily there was a 50’ yacht here we could raft too. We could see it’s owner inside but he didn’t come out as we ran around his deck mooring on in the middle of the night. We are the only British boat here. Several Norwegians on their way home (don’t blame them), one Swedish and one Dutch (excluding our skipper). We had spotted a boat sailing around outside the harbour at midnight in the rain - weird we thought - then today we saw a boat had arrived even later than us and it was Dutch. Frans says they probably wanted to wait until well after midnight so they wouldn’t be charged mooring for Thursday! Gusting to F8 expected Friday afternoon and Saturday so all the sailors will stay here for a few days. We plan to hire a car again and visit more of the Shetlands during our storm bound days. 

This season is so different to our last four summers. It is so cold and damp. We don’t need a cockpit table as sitting outside is out of the question. Our Webasto diesel heater is a joy. We even sailed with it on last night so Sarah could stand on the companionway stairs warm up and Frans could defrost his hands in front of the outlet. When the air temperature reaches double figures we celebrate……remember the high 30’s we moaned about in the Gota canal last year. 

Tea break on Fair Isle - photo makes it look big

Short of photos today so here’s an out of focus puffin