Antipole cruises

Fair Isle and Shetland

We had an easy 40nm sail from Stronsay to Fair Isle in rather light but fair winds.

Fair Isle is situated mid-way between the Orkney and Shetland islands and must be one of the remotest places in the UK to live.  The photo shows Antipole anchored in the harbour.

The population of about 50 are mainly crofters dependent on sheep farming.  The grass-topped rock top-left is completely inaccessible by normal means. But, up until 1977, sheep were hauled up on ropes from boats below so they could graze there.

Fair Isle was once known for its unique knitting patterns, probably of Norse origin.  Tony remembers as a child having a Fair Isle top.  Today there are a handful of knitters maintaining the craft but commercial production has moved elsewhere.

The community has its own ferry, The Good Shepard IV which runs three times per week to Grutness on Shetland Mainland. Residents meet the ferry to collect their goods. We saw it arrive bringing back the island’s wheelie bins that have to be sent to Mainland for emptying.

The island is home to the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which is known world-wide for its work ringing migrating birds.  Unfortunately, the observatory buildings burnt down in 2019.  They are presently being reconstructed, which involves bringing in contractor’s offices etc. on a cargo ship that calls occasionally.  While we were here, the cab of a lorry arrived but the rest will, presumably, follow when the cargo ship calls again.  Meanwhile, the driver has time on his hands.

We were on Fair Isle for three nights.  The first day was wet and miserable and only Dan ventured onto the hills.  The second day was gloriously sunny, Dan swam for about a minute (cold!) and we walked to the south of the island and back.

Thereafter, we had a spiffing sail for the 43nm to Lerwick.

Lerwick is the capital of the Shetland Isles and a charming town. The main street runs parallel to the harbour, is attractively paved and lined with interesting shops, including the excellent Dowry café, which we frequented for coffee and lunches.

It looks like we will be here for a week as there are storms rolling in from the Atlantic and we need the right wind not just here but also over in Norway, where the mountains tend to force the wind into strengths we do not fancy. We are more timid than the Shetland Bus crews of WW2.

As well as exploring the town, we took the opportunity to catch up on various tasks.

There were multiple trips to the supermarkets for restocking.

Ynskje availed herself of the laundry facilities in the Shetland Boat Club so we have clean bedding and fresh clothes.

While waiting for the machines to do their thing, the dart board in the bar occupied the time. Ynskje turned out to be a dab hand at bull’s eyes.

Servicing of the winches on Antipole was overdue, so Dan and Tony took a whole day stripping down all six, cleaning the parts in degreasing fluid, regreasing and reassembling. They are now running much more smoothly.

As members of the Cruising Association, we fly the CA club pennant and it was not long before fellow members and Lerwick residents Lynda and Gerald introduced themselves.

We were invited to their interesting house on the hill and spent a very pleasant evening talking boats and sailing in Norway, amongst other things.

The next day, while Dan hiked over the islands of Bressay and Noss, Lynda & Gerald took Tony and Ysnkje on a tour of some of the amazing views on Mainland and to an art gallery funded by the Shetland Arts Council.

On Friday evening, they came on board Antipole for drinks and nibbles.

The weather led us to stay much longer in Lerwick than we might have done. However, we really enjoyed our stay and got to know it below the surface. Tomorrow the weather is forecast to ease and many yachts are preparing to leave – us included.

Tony, Ynskje & Dan

3 thoughts on “Fair Isle and Shetland

  1. liz pill

    How interesting it all is. I remember Fair isle sweaters too.
    I wish you a safe passage which will be better with good functioning winches.
    Well done Ynskje with the darts -Brill!

  2. Sue and Barry

    Lovely to hear from you.
    Great Photos….never knew you were a great darts player Ina!
    Happy Sailing,
    Sue and Barry

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