Antipole cruises

Westray to the Shetland Isles

On a Westray beachFriday was wet and windy to gale force so we stayed put in harbour, but got thoroughly wet visiting the village.  Saturday was a lovely sunny day but with insufficient wind for a long passage, so we waited another day.  We had a good lunch in the only hotel and a lovely walk to Noltland Castle and along the coast with amazing white sand and blue seas.

Having postponed our departure for good winds, we were rewarded with a fine day and ideal south easterly winds mostly of force 5 and we had a very fast and exhilarating 72nm sail to the Shetland Isles arriving in Scalloway harbour after a passage with an average speed of 6.9 knots.
IMG_1813The feel of the place here is quite different again.  It is distinctly nordic – many of the houses are timber-clad and painted in bright colours as in Scandinavia, rather than the greys of Orkney.  But then the islands were under Norse rule until 1469, when they were mortgaged to Scotland by the king of Norway as surety against a dowry when his daughter Margaret married James III of Scotland.  The mortgage was never redeemed and the islands became Scottish. Back in time the only real trade was with Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.  The British were not really interested in the isles – at least until oil and gas was discovered.  The strong ties with Norway were re-enforced during World War II when the ‘Shetland Bus’ boats shuttled agents, arms and radios to occupied Norway.  Even today we have seen only one other British yacht here – most are Norwegian with some Danish and Dutch.
Da Hjalt - the Sheltand Flag

Da Hjalt – the Sheltand Flag

There is a strong want of independence here – not just from Whitehall but from Scotland. The Scottish Nationalists are not popular. The economic case for an independent Scotland rests heavily on the revenue from Shetland’s remaining oil and gas. Shetlanders feel this should benefit Shetland rather than being used to subsidise the rest of Scotland.  The Sheltand flag is the only one flown.  It has allusions to Scotland with its colours but features the upright offset cross that occurs in all the Nordic flags.  Old traditions last long – the island of Foula in the west is still using the Julian calendar abandoned by the rest of Britain in 1753, so they celebrate Christmas on January 6th and New Year on 13th January.

Stefan was paid off in Scalloway. He took the bus to Lerwick, the night ferry to Aberdeen and the train south.  After all these vast open skies, he was wondering how it would feel down in the London Circle Line!
IMG_1843We are enjoying the long light evenings at this latitude (over 60°N).  The sun does not set until 10:30pm and it is not darkish until midnight and it is light again from 2:00am.  So we have had to get used to going to bed while it is still light.  However, the winters do not bear thinking about – they say it scarcely gets light and the sun sets at 3:00pm!  This photo was taken at 11:00pm while we enjoyed a walk overlooking the dozens of islands off Scalloway with incredible views
On Tuesday we set sail up the west coast from Scalloway but very light airs led to us putting in to Vaila Sound, where we found a nice anchorage, after which a breeze sprang up – but it was too late for us to make the tide through Papa Stour Sound.
So on Wednesday we had extra distance to make up. There was a good F4-5 breeze but on our nose and we had a contrary tide through the morning too.  Nevertheless we had an excellent fast sail right up the west coast of Mainland and round the Point of Fethaland, which we noted was our furthest point north on this cruise (60º 38.86’N). Henceforth we are on our way south again.
Burra VoeFrom here we entered Yell Sound – a vast stretch of water that separates Mainland from Yell.  We anchored in Burra Voe for the night. The photo shows a typical habitation hereabout – quite bleak, with maybe a shop if you are fortunate.  On Thursday we had a fast sail under just the genoa down the length of Yell Sound with a bumpy exit through overfalls  where he water rushing out of the sound hits that flooding up the coast, and then a run all the way to Lerwick.

Lerwick is the capital and only town in all Shetland, apart from the small Scalloway.  Everything is here if it is anywhere.  The town has a long quaint winding paved street with alleyways off, not unlike Stromness.


The port has grown enormously and is bursting.  There are four large floating accommodation blocks, as well as a couple of redeployed cruise liners all providing accommodation for oil/gas workers.  They spend a week or ten days working offshore and then, having been paid well, return to Lerwick for rest and relaxation.  This has been a huge economic benefit to the town but is not without its drawbacks.  We went to the boat club expecting a quiet drink with fellow sailors to discover it was one of the night spots for those ‘on the town’.  But this is nothing new.  Back in the 19C during the boom years of herring fishing concern was expressed at extreme overcrowding in the town and the iniquitous debauchery.

More news in due course.

Ynskje & Tony

One thought on “Westray to the Shetland Isles

  1. Alison Naisby.

    Great to hear your news again. I’learning things about that part of Scotland I never knew, thank you.
    Much love to you you both from both of us. Alison XX

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