Friday, 20 July 2018

and then there was one...........part 1

We interrupted our move north along the West coast of Ireland to take shelter from a stiff blow from the west, opting to hide in Smerwick which we have used several times in the past...We shared the anchorage with Robin and Rat and, it has to be said, we had the better time of it as a nasty little swell crept in and made life a little uncomfortable for us but we watched Rat roll gunwale to gunwale and could only marvel at his tenacity. He left a little before us once the blow had gone through and we found him happily anchored in Inishmore, our next stop. A remarkable sailor.

We left Little Killary for The Outer Hebrides enjoying a reasonable, if a tad lumpy, passage to Vatersay arriving in time to take shelter from a hard westerly with gusts hitting 40k+. One of our favourite anchorages; it isn't tiny and hemmed in, escape is easy should you need to and depths are good. A white sandy beach adds to the quality of the view and, of course, holding is excellent. We moved on after a day using the time to tighten up the mizzen shrouds which had loosened on the trip over. We pottered through the small islands that guard the bay and turned north. The westerly wind meant we had flat seas and we began knocking off the miles....wind speed rarely exceeded 15k but boat speed settled into 7k and frequently sat at 8k for minutes at a time. It was a memorable day; true the sun didn't shine much and the vis was mediocre but the view of the Hebs as we rattled north was wonderful. At one point we were possibly going to end up in Stornoway but as the wind eased we settled on anchoring in Tob Limorvay as it's close to our northern track, arriving in Stornoway early the following morning. The marina there is busy and we rafted onto another boat for the weekend before catching up with old friends, making new ones and stocking up on booze and diesel...

We headed out on Monday June 25th for the Faeroe's with favourable if light winds forecast. And so it proved however as the first day headed toward evening the vis improved and off to starb'd could be seen an island and we opted to see if Rona could offer some shelter for the night. It could. In westerlies it would be fine but our luck meant it backed to south and east once we were anchored putting us mostly on a lee shore. However it was light and no swell present so we stayed. Rona and the other island have huge bird colonies, a light on each and sheep. Years ago islanders from Lewis would row out to Rona to attend to sheep or whatever they do. As it's 41nm each way it says much for how hardy folks were then. Sheep are still grazed on the hills arriving by a more mechanised means.

The Faeroe's loomed out of the fog after a mixed passage of sailing, drifting and motoring and we tied up to the fishing wharf in Vagur where we were soon cleared in by the local customs guy and visited the following morning by the HM. All very friendly and easy going – the impression, for us, is how similar these island communities are and so different too of course. But we always seem to draw comparisons with the Newfoundland outposts; nothing grand or fancy about the housing but colourful, functional and attractive and fitting in with the surroundings. A small library had 'net access and we had a couple of easy days alongside. A social visit to a 54' boat also headed to Iceland and Greenland gained us some new friends and we headed out the following morning. The HM felt we had enough time to make the tidal cut off but we didn't and anchored in a small bay up the next fjord.

Big tides are not my favourite challenge: great when you get the timing right but a nightmare waiting to happen. 

Well this time I got it right, despite thinking we should change course then reversing the decision and we rattled through the gap between Lille Dimun and Suderoy, through the rips and out before making our way north to Midvaag. All under engine as the wind was absent. Unlike the fog.
Midvaag on Vaagar is a large bay that has had a long breakwater added (as have so many of the harbours in these islands) making it very secure. We anchored, rowed ashore, bought diesel and tried to sort out the sim card we'd got for the phone without success. But a local car hire company gave us use of their internet to pick up weather so things were good. The weather remained foggy. On northwards after a false start via the Vestmanna Sund. We'd hoped we'd see the Trolls Finger but the ever present fog ensured that wasn't going to happen. Of course as we turned into the fjord the fog cleared, the sun sort of arrived and we motored up to the northern exit. Our timing was lucky rather than planned but we were through and motoring along the NW coast which is spectacular. Seriously broody and intimidating; we were, perhaps, 50 metres off shore and the cliffs erupted from the sea in a vertical wall ending several hundred metres or more above our heads. Birds were everywhere and once we'd left the tourist boats behind we were alone with the bird life and the views. An amazing place to see. As we approached the the next fjord we were able to see the protruding land was actually separated by a chasm across which numerous wire ropes were slung. On the island grazed sheep and we decided the wires were how the sheep were transferred from one side to the other. Into the bay we slid, not ideal but attractive with a tiny hamlet at the head. The following day Torshavn Radio announced a SW gale was due and we rang to ask when. “Imminent” was the reply and they asked for our location and destination. They suggested we stay put rather than head off for Iceland as we would experience 3 metre seas on the passage. We complied but as the gale didn't actually arrive until 24 hours later rather than the 6 hours stated we felt a bit miffed. Little did we know how fortuitous that decision was to be.

The time at anchor was rolly, as the seas, as they did at Smerwick, tended to hit a headland and deflect into the bay. True the holding was good but, in an effort to damp down the roll, we hoisted the double reefed mizzen to make life a little more comfortable, disappointed that despite our best efforts the mast continued to rock in the swells. Since we've had Hannah it has been something we have learned to put up with. Deck stepped and supported by four heavy, well spaced shrouds, tensioned with lanyards and deadeyes it has done great service over the years and the rocking to and fro is a feature we have learned to live with...

We left the Faeroe's for the east coast of Iceland on Friday July 6. We'd opted to go from east to west simply because the winds dictated that our first landfall would only be achieved without too much heartbreaking windward work; Reykjavik was out of the question. The passage of sub 300nm was a probable 3 dayer if winds were average. The log shows the trip to be lumpy, squally with some sun but also fog. On the second night we motored for some hours before drifting in a lumpy, swell driven sea – not the most comfortable as sleep was impossible but some sort of rest gained from cramming together on the sea berth and we dozed for a few hours.

About 6am on Sunday July 8 we were startled and alarmed by the very loud noise of something hitting the boat. Twice. We leapt from the berth and rushed to the companionway and lying across the aft deck, undulating in the swell was the mizzen mast, all 28' of it, pivoting on the fairlead with the last 2 metres underwater, radome and vhf aerial included whilst the heel of the mast was trying to batter the lip of the doghouse roof and tear it off. We had a problem.