Friday, 25 July 2014

Scrabster to Stromness, Orkney Islands, northernmost part of ourcircumnavigation

Well, we made it!

Yesterday we arrived in the Orkney Islands after an exceptional day's sailing. The Orkneys are the northernmost part of our circumnavigation of Britain and retain their own distinct character. Courtesy and charm being two of them. Yesterday, we had warm weather and were sailing in shorts for part of the day which we have not been able to do very often. We had  20 to 25 knots of wind sometimes close hauled at around 35 to 40 degrees off the bow, and sailed fast, often around 7 knots through the water, notwithstanding that the sea state was slight to moderate at times. We were extremely careful to get out tidal planning right and cross check it repeatedly as we crossed the Pentland Firth, and it went pretty much to plan. The tide was with us yesterday leaving Scrabster at 1400 and took us West then deposited us at the mouth of the Hoy Sound on schedule at 1745,  and we mostly covered the last part at around 8 knots SOG. Then into the Race and we were sucked in with water speed at around 7 knots, plus 4 knots (neaps plus 3 days) of tide. SOG was 11.2 knots, and we were careful to keep our speed down as much as possible given the tricky navigation. Then, a quick handbrake turn into the marina and we popped out from the Race and decelerated from 11 to 7 knots in about 30 seconds! Great fun!

You can watch a short video of sailing in the spectacular Orkneys by clicking here

Stromness lies in a lower lying part of one of the 74 mostly small Orkney Islands and seems only visited by the more adventurous, which is a pity. Fantastic high red stained cliffs, deep blue seas, birds, seals, ferries and trawlers all make an interesting and exciting approach...and that's without the added excitement of the Pentland Firth.

We are safely berthed in Stromness marina and had a very good meal yesterday in a completely full French restaurant where Vincent blagged his, then our, way in. Good man!

We are ahead of schedule, and have decided today to spend a day extra here in Orkney. Scapa Flow and a Neolithic village being an obvious draw.

We are seriously North at very nearly 59 degrees latitude, and on much the same latitude as Helsinki and Stockholm, and a world away from London. I am slightly shocked at how far we have come and realise that our passages from tomorrow onwards will all be South, but we still have a long way to go.
We have travelled 1355 miles and the chart below shows where we have so far been, with the red triangle at the top proving that we are actually here in the Orkneys, not in a pub somewhere in Salcombe. We have around 600 miles to go before our adventure ends.

Meanwhile, here are some photos from yesterday.

Vincent, eating his ration of fruit to prevent scurvy. More grand scenery in the background.

Les, looking masterful at the helm as he steers us into the Sound of Hoy, Mozart, Palestrina and Beethoven have all been playing today... and recordings of Radley choir hymns.

The Old Man of Hoy is one of the tallest rock stacks in the world at 450 feet high and was climbed about 40 years ago, live on BBC TV.

The striking scenery of the Orkney Approaches with the Old Man of Hoy and the ferry quite close as we sail by.

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