An Icelandic Adventure
Date : 5th to 21st July 2005.
Occasion : A Summer holiday with a difference.
Location : To Iceland by boat, with Northern Light.
Boat details : Hjalmar Bjorge, an ex-Norwegian Fishery support vessel, now fitted for offshore cruising.
The Weather : Promises to be good !
Hjalmar Bjorge at Shiant Island.
We first used Northern Light when we took a trip to St Kilda three years ago. We had a great time on their boat "Chalice" and sailed to loads of Hebridean islands including a journey 50 miles out to St Kilda and back. A holiday difficult to beat.
So when Hannah and Mark wrote to say they had acquired a new boat and were planning a voyage to Iceland, via the Faroes, it was not a difficult decision to pack the bags and get ourselves on board once again .
The boat's name, by the way, is pronounced Halma George for simplicity.
The happy couple starting out by train from Penrith Station.
The route was via Glasgow and Gare Loch, Loch Lomond, then through the delightful hills to Tyndrum before dropping back down to the sea at Oban. A relaxing start to any journey.
Oban with McCaigs Tower, the classic landmark on the hill above the town.
The Hjalmar Bjorge berth right next to the station made the transfer easy, and we were soon on board and getting to know our fellow travellers. We were a group of ten, Jill from the States, Edith from Switzerland, and eight of us from UK. The boat would be crewed by Mark the skipper, Martin first mate, Heather the cook, and Kirsty who turned her hand to all those jobs and more.
No hanging about, we set sail for the Hebrides via the Sound of Mull, here passing Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, before turning north past the Isle of Skye. With a lot of sea miles to cover we spent the first night under way, relaxing in the main saloon, and sleeping in our cabins below deck.
Eleven hours and a good sleep later, we were at the Shiant Islands in the northern Minch, a little south of Stornaway on the Outer Hebrides. The crossing had been calm and this would be the the first island stop of the trip.
Approaching as quietly as possible for it was about five in the morning. With muffled anchor chains (only joking) we anchored in the bay in the centre of this island group. This side of the causeway was a twin masted sailing boat, the other side a large Coastguard vessel. After breakfast we took the opportunity to go ashore.
Gavin, Ann and Andy walking on old lazy beds as we crossed the island.
The Shiants had been home to a small island community early in the last century, and the white sided bothy had been renovated and used by the author Compton McKenzie for a while. It is now used for conservation and archaeological groups and presumably as a holiday cottage for the current owners.
Stunning views from the top of the island.
To the west we could see the hills of Harris and the Hebrides disappearing into the distance. To the South, Skye and the Minch the way we had travelled overnight.To the East the distant hills of Assynt and Southerland, and to the North . . . .
. . . . tucked safely beneath the high cliffs of the island, our waiting boat !
Leaving the Shiants, Kirsty prepares Scallop for lunch, dived for by Mark while we were ashore.
The afternoon was spent motoring up of the Sound of Harris. In the sunshine people lounged on the top deck, took up position on the bow, binoculars in hand, or generally relaxed reading a novel or catching up on the many guide books that would give clues to the days ahead.
The Minch gave us the first fleeting glimpses of porpoise, dolphin, and an unconfirmed sighting of our first Minke whale. Beyond the Minch was open sea.
North of the Butt of Lewis the land was left far behind. On the horizon was a small rocky island growing larger as time went by. This was Sula Sgeir which, combined with its neighbour North Rona, form the northern outposts of the British Isles.
No place to stay but haven for the birds.
The bird cliffs and lighthouse rose impressively out of an otherwise empty Atlantic Ocean.
The evening ran on into night as we crossed north. The sea was calm and the crossing good but during the night a low pressure system brought low cloud and stronger winds. The Faroese coast appeared out of the mist about 10 am and by midday we were safely moored at the harbour of Tvoroyri after a crossing of about 25 hours.
Tvoroyri, the ferry port on the southern island of Suduroy.
The first of many turf roofed houses we were to see in the Faroes.
This must have been one of the first houses built in the 1830's, and sits opposite the quay side.
Hjalmar Bjorge laying alongside (the pub) at Tvoroyri.
Full marks to the locals, we were greeted and helped as we drew alongside and were made to feel very welcome.
Time to get ashore.
Tvoroyri Church, unfortunately closed.
A private house with its own small water mill
We walked down the fjord and looked down on the town, which by this time was spreading out to a collection of small holdings. The old village of Frodba here had some fine sea cliffs and basalt columns that would excite even the calmest of geologists.
Next morning we were on the move again, heading up the coast past the small island of Litla Dimun, splendid in its sunshine and cloud cover, heading for the Faroese capital of Torshavn.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon IXUS 400 Digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed . . . with Camera, bird book, whale book, and a ships biscuit.
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