Shetland Part 2

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Mon 17 Jun 2013 09:21



Shetland Part 2


We planned our passage around Muckle Flugga meticulously, double checking tide times, tidal flows and wind forecast to ensure that we didn’t meet any treacherous seas going round the most northerly point of the British Isles.

We awoke to find that the mist had cleared, the rain had stopped and the wind was blowing force 4 from  the South, as predicted. We slipped our moorings at 8.30 in order to reach the corner of Unst no earlier than 9.30, when the tide would change in our favour. As is the way of things, the tide decided to do exactly what it wanted, and remained firmly against us for the whole of our passage.

Luckily the sea was calm, and we had a comfortable passage round Muckle Flugga. The skies were dark and brooding, but as we rounded the lighthouse, a glint of sun shone through the clouds, giving us a perfect view of the island. We were surrounded by birds, mainly gannets, and as we rounded the lighthouse, another point of rock came into view, completely white with nesting gannets, and a spume of white above the rock, which turned out to be hundreds of circling gannets.






The light house is a magnificent feat of engineering, built by Robert Louis Stephenson’s father, Thomas Stephenson. An earlier light house was washed away in its first season, so this lighthouse is built of brick, with walls 3 ½ feet thick, and has stood the test of time. There are photographs in the Unst Heritage Centre of the lighthouse keepers being winched onto the rock in a sling from the attending boat – it looks extremely precarious and there must have been many times when the lighthouse crew were stranded because of bad weather.


Our plan was to sail down Sullom Voe and tuck into Ollaberry Bay in order to sit out the strong westerly wind that was due the next day. We arrived at the anchorage, and it looked perfect, but unfortunately we simply couldn’t get the anchor to hold. Twice we tried, and both times we dragged and the anchor came up completely covered with a large ball of Kelp. We moved North to another recommended anchorage, but it turned out to be rather exposed to the West. A huge trawler was tied on to the only jetty, leaving no space for us, so we moved back South to another anchorage that looked perfect, tucked away down a long ‘Voe’.  As we motored down the Voe, we admired the wildness of the place – again, we were completely on our own.




As we reached the end of the voe, to where the channel opened out into a perfect anchorage, we were a little dismayed to find ourselves with a perfect view of the Sullom Voe oil terminal, complete with gas flares.




(Both these pictures taken the following day when the sun finally came out).


The wind was picking up by now and the whole anchoring process had taken about an hour and a half longer than expected, so we thankfully dropped our anchor in Gluss Bay, onto a good sandy bottom and were relieved that the anchor held firmly, first go.



The wind picked up to force 7 overnight and blew for the whole of the following day. There was no way we were going to risk taking the dinghy ashore, particularly with its uncertain engine, so we stayed on board for the next 24 hours, just chilling.