Bare Poles Down the Sundini

Bare Pole Biding Time

June 2011

Sumara set off yesterday down the narrow gap between Streymoy and Eysturoy. We had calculated that the mean tide would be at 20:37 GMT. The narrows from Torshavn to near the bridge have no tidal rise at all but just after the bridge the rise and fall is 2 m. At high water the stream runs at up to 12 knots towards the south and at low water it flows north. It is crucial to hit near slack water even at neaps. We departed from Torshavn about an hour earlier than we should have just because we were ready and eager to go. The wind was about force 3 south easterly, just about perfect. We aimed to sail slowly to arrive on time. After only about half an hour the wind increased and we were sailing at 6 knots with a reef. At this speed we would need to stop somewhere to bide time. Then the wind really got up. I went to put in a second reef but we decided to drop the main entirely and run under Yankee alone. We were still making 6 knots and now the idea of stopping on a jetty would be dangerous because of the lee shore. Then the wind increased again, maybe the funnelling effect of the narrows and I went forward to reef the staysail ready for a hoist and to drop the Yankee. John was doing a really splendid job on the helm and made an excellent suggestion of running under bare poles. We dropped all sails, and Sumara gybed across the narrows slowly at 1.5 to 2 knots. She felt safe and secure and we were able to control our arrival time at the narrow and very dangerous bridge. Eventually the wind eased slightly and we decided to hoist the Yankee and go for it. We were about one hour early but slack often occurs 50 minutes early.
There is a small harbour just short of where the current starts to run on the starboard side so it would be possible to lay alongside a fishing boat if necessary. (Not marked on my charts).

Now we were sailing at 5-6 knots under yankee approaching the bridge which has 17 m air draft and 25 m width. We were picking up a slight contrary current which built to 2 knots against but Sumara was happily making 4 knots SOG. It is best to take the channel with a slight contrary tide so that you can control the boat rather than being swept through. At the bridge the wind fluked but quickly caught the sails again. Had the stream against us been stronger and the wind lighter it could have easily been possible for the tide to catch the bow of Sumara and sweep her onto the bridge piles but we were through and clear. We now needed to find the leading marks, a set of binoculars to hand at this stage would have helped. The white triangles with a red stripe are situated just to the right of a large white building. The second leading marks are easier to pick up on the grassy bank to the starboard and the safe water buoy is very clear. It is probably not really necessary for shoal draft boats to follow these lines but it’s best to do it by the book, not that it is in the book!

Here is a little video of the trip.

Once clear of the narrows we made quick progress along the last 5 miles to Eidi, a large easy to enter harbour with a long pontoon on the protected south side. The Eberspacher heater soon dried us out and we were eating a hearty meal before midnight. The wind howled all night so my batteries are once again fully charged.
I’m not sure if Thembi will set off in this wind but we have a bit of time to spare so there’s no mad rush. We couldn’t say goodbye to Thembi before we left because they were crewing on Nordlys on a fishing trip. I bet they had fun, Captain Birgir Enni is a wonderful generous Faroese character. Sarah, John and I will spend the day climbing the Faroes highest hill at 887 m.

The Approach to the Sundini Bridge

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