Orkney - Shetland
27 May 2013
So, there we were, trying to catch up a day or two lost to gales and happily en route from Inverness to Kirkwall in Orkney when one of our many alarms went off. Given there was no fire on the cooker, no one had fallen overboard and the bilge was dry, it could only mean one thing, the engine had overheated.
We haven't heard that alarm for 5 years so it took a few minutes to identify. Having done so, our plans went out the window and, as we were just passing Wick, we turned in to sort things out.
After imagining the worst (such are my powers of Diesel engine troubleshooting) the problem turned out to be a holed hose feeding the hot water tank although it still took all day to find and fix the problem. Finally fixed, we headed out at 6pm for Orkney and Kirkwall.
This route crosses the Pentland Firth, the UK's fastest running tidal zone. Following the pilot book advice we set a plot leaving the Skerries 6 miles to the west and with Mike and Diane in charge we headed below for a snooze. An hour or two later Mike and Diane called me up a bit bemused as to why there was a line a breakers to our left in the middle of nowhere.
These standing waves were about a metre plus, maybe four or five feet in old money ranked perhaps 5 or 6 deep. The only choice was take them head on, which we did. A fair bit of bows leaping in the air and crashing ensued. Anne barely woke.
Thereafter, uneventfully we arrived in Kirkwall, Orkney Mainland at 04:00. A few hours kip and we were up for some tourist action but as it was Sunday there were no buses and as the folk festival was in town, no car hire.
However, I had previously been in touch with Mike Cooper the Orkney Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer and Mike very generously lent us his car for the day. (Imagine a complete stranger turning up at home and you say "hi, here are my car keys. See you later! (Different culture in the islands and the cruising community).
After some touring we untied and headed off into the night once again to make for Lerwick. The forecast was for a 5-6 which later got amended to gale force. We therefore kept the pressure on, carrying us much sail as we could and actually had a stunning nights sail at 8-9 knots the whole 95 miles. As we are now at 60 degrees north there is really no dark overnight, at least when the sky is clear. The last two nights we've had a full moon, the midnight twilight and at dawn, at 4am, all three.
Anyway, 1,936 miles and 9 weeks later we finally made it to Lerwick.