Absolutely Shocking!

Scoresby Sund Expedition 2022

Day 26. 6th July 2022

Position: Moored Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Wind: Not a drop now. Visibility: Fog. Sea condition: Calm

Well Emily Dickinson might describe the first league from land as divine intoxication, but I can think of a few other words to describe our awful journey.

Our impromptu leaving party

Jannicke arrived on Saturday evening a bit later than planned and we strolled up to say goodbye to Charlotte and Dan who were enjoying a beer with Greg and his partner. The beer morphed into a very enjoyable curry night.  It’s not good seeking advice from the Ullapool crowd because even if it was blowing a full gale they’ll say: “It’ll be fine”, but they are a really tough bunch up there.

The weather was most definitely iffy. I had a chat with John who sent me some screen shots of various premium weather forecasting sites. He has so many weather apps that one can normally find a forecast to suit the occasion. The dilemma was that the wind was due to be strong but on Sunday there was at least a chance that the westerly wind might have a bit of south in it. Now Ullapool is a long way up a Scottish loch and in a bay, so the concept of getting out of there into a strong westerly appalled me, but a strong south westerly was tempting.

At the other end was the Faroes and I would rather arrive in those fiercely tidal waters in calm weather. It looked like the weather could get bad later in the week. So, I came to the conclusion that we might as well have a bash at it on Sunday, we could always turn around and come back.

Sunday afternoon was theoretically the best time to go but we were ready in the morning so rather than over-thinking the situation and chickening out, we dropped the line to the buoy and headed out to sea.

Just as we thought the wind was slightly west of south, so we hoisted the main sail with 2 reefs and used it together with the engine to bash into the waves which grew progressively bigger as we passed each headland. With just one short tack, we arrived at Priest Island where the way was clear to cut the engine, hoist the pre-reefed Yankee and head north. We shot off at 6.5 knots riding the waves which were building to 2.5 metre high. Now, going on a sleigh ride is potentially great fun but my normal approach to planning a long passage is to set off in the calm. This allows you to get your sea legs and establish a routine. Believe me lighting a paraffin cooker in a F6 is a nauseous affair but as neither of us were feeling hungry it was a pointless operation.

We had expected the weather to moderate over night but sadly it didn’t. All that happened was the wind came more forward of the beam, so the motion of the boat got quite extreme with waves crashing over every few minutes.

Sumara has always been a dry boat down below but not this year. A single drip found its way in and eventually soaked both our sleeping bags. Luckily, I had a bivvy bag stowed away so we stuffed a blanket into it and made do. Surprisingly Jannicke took it all in her stride and remained in good spirits despite enduring all this misfortune.

The chart table area suffered a soaking too, so the logbook became a soggy mess and the charts were hard to mark. Then the double USB charger packed up so we couldn’t charge anything. I now remember why there is a roll of plastic with Velcro on it at the back of the table!

Gradually our thick wool pullovers became wet around the sleeves and the necks but as we never took them off, they remained warm. Getting into our oilskins at the three hourly watch change was a grim and sticky affair but one that can’t be avoided. With nether of us having gained our full sea-legs everything was a struggle, and it seemed to go on and on relentlessly.

Most of the voyage was sailed with three reefs in the mainsail, plus a reefed Yankee and a deeply reefed staysail. We couldn’t progress with less sail because the waves were around 3 metres high and we need the power to get over them.

Eventually on Tuesday at 08:00 the wind calmed to F4-5 and the sun came out giving us some warmth and comfort for about three hours. Thankfully then the wind backed, and we were able to make the course with slightly eased sheets.

Our chart table showing the Faroes tide book with the terrifying red flames!

At 22:32GMT on 5th July we caught a glimpse of Lille Dimun through the mist. The sea calmed and an hour later we needed to start the engine. We motor sailed in rain and fog with a massive black cloud on the horizon. Being neep tides, we risked sailing through one of the danger areas marked with threatening red flames in the tidal book “Streymkort fyri Foroyar” but felt no adverse effect.

After a fairly grim 68.5 hours we moored in Torshavn Harbour. We had logged 285 nm at an average speed of 4.16. Now we sit and await customs clearance before hitting the town to celebrate. It certainly wasn’t divine intoxication; it was absolutely shocking!

8 responses to “Absolutely Shocking!”

  1. Oh my gosh Alasdair that does indeed sound shocking. You paint a very grim picture and I can totally see it all before me. John has always had several weather apps meaning we could always set off on at least one favourable forecast., even when local harbour masters told us not, but that’s a story for another day.

    Enjoy the celebrations and tell Janneke it’s her Viking blood that makes her so great, hats off to you both

    1. Thanks Selma. The sun has come out, the washing is drying, and we have just opened our first beer! So it’s not all bad.

  2. Flippin’ ‘eck!
    Well done Alasdair & Jannicke what a ride… hope you can celebrate in style asap.
    Jo & Co

    1. Don’t worry, we shall celebrate so long as I can stay awake!

  3. Great effort both of you! Sounds horribly familiar. You’re well on your way now and the weathers vile here, so you made the right call!

    1. Thanks Tim, The sun is out and its a warm balmy evening up here! Did you win the skiffe Championships?

      1. Ullapool came joint 5th overall and Meg got a gold, silver and bronze, so pretty good.
        Glad the sun’s out. Good luck with the next leg!

        1. Hi Tim, That sounds like an amazing result assuming there were more than five entrants! And Megan sweeping the board – well we knew she would! Send my love to all in Ullapool. I’m going to try to sail off towards Iceland next week but the weather isn’t looking brilliant, not like our Jan Mayen trip.

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