Almost there!

Skipper’s note as of last night:

We are 150 miles NE of Salvador de Bahia, and should arrive there during the day tomorrow. The wind has dropped, and we are rolling about in the swell, so now keen to get to anchor or marina. Its very hot and sweaty! Looking forward to those long cold Brazilian drinks, and of course the pool at the Yacht Club! It will have taken us just over 17days and nights sailing from Capo Verde, which we think is very good – we were afraid of a week in the Doldrums!

Skipper´s Blog in the Atlantic between Cabo Verde Islands and Brazil (N2deg 46´, W 29deg 45´approx)

By yesterday evening, Saturday 24th November 2018, we had sailed 778 nautical miles from Mindelo, Cabo Verde. Apart from the first three wind-less days, we have had steady NE (Trade) winds and have been running before them, or on a broad reach, with two sails flying. Often we reach 6-8 knots, which is fine for us. The waves and swell have been at cross-purposes, though, making life on board difficult. A couple of nights ago we lost our entire dinner, which flew from the stove all over the cabin floor. It was a special rendering of Penne Arabbiata which I love, and which I thought was suitable also for our crew of mixed vegetarians and meat eaters.
There was nothing for it but to clear up (which the crew manfully did) and start again using a recipe for pasta with a tuna sauce. But the boat was far from stable!
All in all it was not the best day as we also lost the generator, and so the means of charging batteries other than solar, which is not enough and does not charge the engine batteries. However Kim and I managed to fix that yesterday morning, and we now have power again.
We hit the Doldrums later in the evening. Suddenly the wind was all over the place, with violent gusts, and the rain came down in sheets, accompanied by some thunder and lightning in the distance. There was water everywhere, and the boat became very stuffy with all hatches closed.

Sunday 25th Nov.
By this morning, we appeared to have passed through the stormy section, and had a good gentle reach in a mostly ENE wind all day, allowing us all to catch up on much-needed sleep. The sky began to clear, and on reaching Sunday evening we seem to have gone south of the Doldrums for the moment. Tonight we hope to have some stars to steer by. Tomorrow we should pass quite close to the strange mid-Atlantic rocks of St Peter and St Paul, on our heading to the island of Fernando de Noronha, where we hope to be allowed to spend a few days at anchor to recover from the crossing! The island is inhabited, Brazilian, and said to be expensive. It is a nature reserve, and beautiful, and some 300 nm from the nearest Brazilian mainland coast. It has stunning landscapes, beaches and clear blue waters, and fresh food! We expect to arrive there on Wednesday afternoon, 28th November, and stay for 2-3 days if permission is granted. Since we are now only just over 2 degrees north of the Equator, we will have to give some offerings to Neptune in the next couple of days, and it is of course very hot and humid!

Monday 26th Nov.
What a night. Good wind, straightforward waves, no rain, a bright moon, and stars to steer by. Pegasus, chasing Orion through the heavens, was my best guide and quite clear for Kim and me for the second watch of the night. This was the best time for stars as often in our experience. Bright, beautiful Venus rose on our port beam, and cast her own delicate glow across the water. Now in the morning we are roughly abeam St Peter and Paul rocks, which lie to our port hand but are not visible. We have about 350 miles left to sail, and if we can keep up an average of 6 knots, then we will reach Fernando de Noronha by 1330 on Wednesday. I think that, although we have certainly had a good crossing and still have plenty of food, water and fuel, we all look forward to being in a sheltered anchorage for a few days, and being able to have a glass of gin and tonic with ice, or wine, again after our self-imposed abstinence during ocean crossings.
Igor, our resident musician, regales us with songs and tunes on his guitar, and is happy as I write because he is singing!
We expect to cross the Equator tonight, and plan an event to appease Neptune, and keep him on our side.

500nm into the Atlantic crossing

A quick update from skip.. excellent progress being made!

It’s getting very hot and humid now as we are less than 10 degrees north of the equator. we are also more than 1/3 the way to our destination – we have sailed just under 500 nm from Cape Verde, and have 826 left to do to Fernando de Noronha. Better wind now, so up to 8 kts.

Skippers blog – heading for Fernando de Noronha – first days

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Slightly blurry pic of crew, leaving Mindelo, Cabo Verde

We have left Mindelo and Cabo Verde, and are heading just west of South towards our next hoped-for destination, Fernando de Noronha, part of the State of Pernambuco in Brazil. This Island is about 300 miles off the nearest point on the Brazilian coast. However, it is a convenient stop for us en route to Bahia, being just south of the Equator, and more or less on the Rhumb line route.
Unfortunately we have little wind at the moment – we are barely making 3 knots! We have tried the Parasailor, but the wind changed to south east, and was in our face for a while, so we reverted to Main and genoa. Skip (me) got bored, and went to bake a cake for Igors birthday on the 21st.
New crew member Adrian  Fulcher arrived safely yesterday, and despite it being a weekend, we managed to clear out of immigration and get our passports stamped. So all our papers are in order and we can  officially leave.
Since we are sailing so slowly, we put out the fishing line having seen some Tuna jumping out of the water nearby.

 

Lisbeth´s Blog from Gran Canaria to Cabo Verde Islands (Sao Vicente)

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Lisbeth at the helm, toward Cabo Verde, in high-ish seas. She was whistling or singing, mostly! Phot by John Bryden

 

We sailed from Gran Canaria Sunday October 28th, waiving goodbye to Tia and Marco, who were also visiting the island the same time as we were. The first couple of days the wind was not satisfying us, although we did managed to get the parasail up and sail with it for a couple of hours until we realized that it had been tore on the anchor, and had to take it down again to be fixed. However, we were lucky the coming days, the wind got stronger and we were blown forward with great enthusiasm. Then the waves got bigger and we had some turbulence with John trying to bake bread down below, twice the flour went on the floor and we also saw John flying through the air, which was a bit worrying, but he did manage in the end. He is now saying “We must simplify the cooking”. At night the flying fish flew on board, the piles grew bigger every day, and by the time John gather them together to throw off again we had nineteen flying fish lying around. One evening Kim and I also had one landing between our legs while eating dinner, and we thought we just might add it to our dinner, but were merciful enough to let it into the sea again so it could tell its friends what a terrible life the one on land was, all its flying fish friends lying around dead onboard. By the time we got to Sao Vicente, after six days, we were, I must admit, quite tired. John and Kim enjoyed a drink and we all went to bed, happy to for once get a whole night sleep.

 

Photos by Lisbeth Refsgaard. Kim at the helm; John and the Helm; small volcanic island at entrance to Mindelo harbour.

 

Coming from the Canary Islands, the life here in Mindelo and on the island of Sao Vicente is quite different. It is not nearly as touristy, which we enjoy as it gives the place a more authentic vibe, and it has its own twist of African and European mixed society. The music scene is great, we have seen the museum of the famous Cesária Èvora, where we mostly heard of the clothes she wore different places in the world, but having gone out in the evening listening to the live music we discovered the greatness and beauty of this music. Its rhythms, its softness, it has some kind of Brazilian touch to it, but in some songs you can also hear there’s sorrow in it.  I would definitely want to go back here to discover the music scene even further.

Yesterday we hired a car to go around the island. Monte Verde, the biggest mountain, was beautiful and green and the first place to see that they are farming the land, growing corn. We had lunch in a disappointing place, serving more American fast food than the local cachupa that we have tried earlier on, and we got to see beaches and volcanic areas. Other than this we have seen the local markets, which always is a pleasure and people here are in general very helpful and welcoming. I will be sad to leave this island, it is a name on the map not known by many people, but a place worth going to, and also to leave the boat, where I now have been for nearly two months. Despite the seasickness I have enjoyed a lot of the trip, the sailing, exploring new places and learning more about sailing and am wishing to come back with a lot of energy for Christmas and New Year.

 

Photos by Lisbeth Refsgaard: Farmer with Donkey in the national Park; view of national park with farming on the high slopes (maize etc); John and Kim near the top; John on North Beach; Kim on North beach.

 

 

 

 

Gran Canaria to Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde Island

On Wednesday 24 October, my daughter Tia and her partner Marco joined Lisbeth and I for a wee sail to Tsavarte, a small community and bay to the NW of Puerto Mogan. We had a nice swim and lunch together, and when we got back had a pizza in town. Kim Fasting from Denmark joined Svalen’s crew on Thursday, which means we are three to sail to Cabo Verde, about 880 nautical miles. On Thursday the engineers  I had arranged from Las Palmas did not come, and I could not reach them to find out why until very late in the day.  They said they could not come on Friday either. So on Friday I had to get the bus up to Las Palmas port, find the Volvo agents, and pick up spare parts, oil etc to do the job myself. Meanwhile, Tia and Marco gave the crew a very interesting tour in the interior of the island. Last minute crises are not helpful, and I give no points at all to the Volvo agents in Gran Canaria, although they were all personally very kind and helpful. 

Despite rather than because of the support services, we managed to  prepare for the voyage, and Tia and Marco came to see us off from Puerto Mogan after we filled the diesel and all available spare 20L drums on Sunday 28 October, casting off at 1030am.  There was hardly any wind until later in the afternoon, when the wind picked up to a NE’y \F5 or so. This continued into the next day,and Kim and I put up the Parasailor while Lisbeth controlled the sheets and guys, allowing us to sail at up to 6.2 kts. However, we took the parasailer off before dark, and continued under main and genoa. The wind stayed into the following day, but now accompanied by nasty cross-seas, which made sailing, sleeping and cooking very difficult. During the night we had a good moon and mostly good stars, noticing that Orion’s belt starts really low in the sky on the aft port side. We also noticed that the fridge and freezer were not functioning well – everything was beginning to warm up and melt. Bad news. The little water pump was still running and the compressors seem to work, but be very hot. I suspect that the gas has evaporated off again! The difficult seas overnight caused a couple of glass item breakages.
Nevertheless, we made terrific progress,  regularly hitting 6-7 knots, and even 9-10 at times. The slight wind shift allowsed us to sail with both genoa and main, and the wind was excellent. We now knew that we would reach Mindelo on November 3rd, and probably before darkness falls, which is highly desirable from Skips viewpoint. We regularly maintained 6 knots and often more, and fairly surfed down the large Altantic waves, which were also troubled by cross waves. But the boat stayed amazingly dry and took the seas easily. As we gt closer to Cabo Verde we found more and more flying fish landed on deck during the night and knocked themselves out, or became stranded. But we were disappointed to see no whales.
We did not see many ships, and only one sailing boat came into view during the voyage. It had no AIS showing so we could not identify it.
Lisbeth was  terrific on deck and at the wheel, taking good watches at night, and mostly sleeping in the cockpit when off duty. However, in spite of Scopoderm patches, she still felt sick down below and was upset that she could not contribute much to cooking, washing up, cleaning etc. So very reluctantly she has decided to fly to S America and join us again in Brazil rather than undertake the cross Atlantic voyage. We have put out a ‘crew wanted’ notice. We will certainly miss her cheerful company on the long trip. Ocean voyaging is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fortunately Kim and I seem to enjoy it and cope ok with the problems. But even so, I caused the crew much amusement in those heavy cross seas when, caught unawares, I was seen literally flying across the cabin a few times. Not very much fun, and often the food was spilt, creating dangerous conditions underfoot until cleared up (another hazardous operation.). As when the box of good organic flour flew out a couple of times when we had bread-making in mind!
Needless to say, the venturi effect came into play on arival in Cabo Verde as we went between the islands of Santo Antao and Sao Vicente, the wind picking up to near gale as we sailed in towards the harbour. It remained very windy overnight and the next day, the area of the harbour feeling like a wind tunnel. Several boats were unable to anchor.
We were too tired to cook, and so took advantage of the reasonably priced café restaurant (floating bar) in the marina itself, although Lisbeth and Kim were laughing at Skip who was falling asleep from time to time. We leaned about the local currency CV Escudios – about 110 to the Euro and  enjoyed a large beer. We returned and slept as long as we could –  it was Sunday next day, and no repairs could be done.

As always we have a list of repairs to be done:
1.      The Parasailor was ripped along its foot again because we were not sufficiently aware of the anchor when we put it up.
2.      The Jabsco pump in aft heads is blocked . It seems that the valve has inverted for some reason.
3.      The solar panel bracket, which is connected to the davits for the dinghy aft, needs to be raised about 1 metre in order for the wind vane self steering to work properly.
4.      We need to find someone who can fill a propane gas bottle!
5.      The fridge and freezer have both stopped working, and we need them both to survive! I suspect that the gas has boiled off again and needs topping up.

The CV Boat folks seem pretty efficient, but I worry about spare parts. For example there was no Jabsco service kit in their small shop at the marina. The parasail was repaired overnight by the Marina Captain, Jose Augusto.
First thing on Monday we cleared in via Immigration and police at the port offices between the ferry terminal and the clean sandy beach. No problems, and very helpful officials. However, they keep the ship’s papers until one clears out before leaving. They are not open at weekends; we and others need to watch this.

Skipper John Bryden, 5 November 2018

Lagos to Canary Islands

While in Lagos, and thanks to Canadian Paul Baker who skippers and helps with boats there, we were able to fix the U-bracket on the boom to which the main sheet block is attached. The replacement bracket was much strong, and made and fitted by Antonio Viegas, sailmaker. The large Sopromar was too busy to tackle the job while we were in Lagos. Paul also told us were to go to fill our assorted LPG bottles with propane, something we have been trying to do – and failing at – since arriving in the Shetland Islands! This mess of different prone gas bottles and fittings is a real headache for sailors (and no doubt campers too) who cross borders, and it has been made worse by stricter regulations. however, we hired a small care for about €30 are drove 60km or so to a propane filling station some 60km east of Lagos, where the owner had the necessary fittings to fill our Swedish and British Gas bottles, enough to get us to Brazil! WHAT A RELIEF!

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Photo: The reception pontoon south of the footbridge, Lagos, showing the canal through which one enters and leaves. The fuel is at the south end of the pontoon.

 

October 4th was Lisbeth´s birthday, and we had a birthday breakfast, and went out later to find some live music. Nothing notable, but we did meet a lot of cheerful Brits on a car rally to Gibraltar!

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Photo: Viviana, Alice, and V´s brother and his girlfriend arriving on Svalen.

Viviana, Alice and Marilia arrived late pm on Friday 5th, and loaded up their gear, which was a lot! So we finally set off for Lanzarote on the morning of October 6th, with a reasonable forecast. After a good sail in the morning, it got rather rough away from the coast due to cross waves-swell, and the new crew were all sick, including poor 5 year old Alice. We decided to sail back to the next port, Portamaio and take a decision if it was sensible for Alice to continue, or whether it risked putting her off sailing for life. In the end we decided that it was not sensible, and Viviana helped Lisbeth and I to look for an alternative crew to get us to Lanzarote. This we quickly found through a notice posted in Portamaio marina, and Alex and Sara joined the boat after the Brazilian crew disembarked. We then went to anchor behind the breakwater, and near to our friends from Cascais, Camilla, Pim, Anne and Paula on “Rajac”.

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Next morning we set off at about 0730. Alex and I set the spinnaker in light winds, and we made better speed. However, the wind strengthened later and we struggled to get the spinnaker back in its sock!

Spinnaker en route to Canaries

Photo: Nice colourful, large, Spinnaker set and drawing!

On the way to the Canary Islands we had mixed conditions, with some uncomfortable waves, and light winds, but also some fair winds and good waves. Happily Lisbeth was not sick on this leg, and was a tower of strength for the Skipper when the other crew were not so robust.

The Rhumb line distance from Portamaio to Lanzarote is about 552 nm, and we estimated our arrival in 4 days and 4 nights. In the event we arrived in the early morning of 12 October in Arricife, after the wind died and the engine would only run on minimal revs, giving is about 2 knots! So the crossing took nearly 5 days and nights, and we were all pretty exhausted at the end of it.

During the voyage we had dolphins playing alongside, and saw a pod of three small whales. We also had a squid land on the deck, presumably after being chased by a larger fish, and a visiting dove which rested rather shyly on deck for several hours.

In Arricife, it was a holiday on Friday and indeed a holiday weekend. Alex and Sara disembarked on Saturday, and we met Diego from Bilbao on a neighbouring Angus Primrose boat called Looping. Diego is a liveaboard musician and surfer, and he helped us fix the fuel problem ( air in the system – but why?), and came on board for a little wine and home made music, to which Lisbeth also contributed.

On Monday 15th October, Lisbeth and I cast off to sail to Puerto Mogan on the south coast of Grand Canary, a sail of 150nm direct, passing through the passage between Lanzarote and Fuertoventura (Estrecho de la Bocayana).  This seems to be the best direction from the point of view of wind and swell, but we did meet confused seas for a while once through the passage. Nevertheless, we had a fine day and night sail, with  lovely clear starry skies, and visiting dolphins inn the night. Soon we were able to see the city lights of Las Palmas off to starboard.

Photos: (a) Lisbeth at the helm (b) sunset

We arrived in the small and friendly harbour of Puerto Mogan at about midday on tuesday 16th after a great sail of 26 hours, the wind only dying for the last hour or so, in the wind shadow of the island. The two of us managed well, one sleeping or resting in the cockpit while the other was on watch. We had lunch and then a sleep. Later we celebrated by going out for a pizza together.

Next day (Wednesday) we had a nice swim at the small beach, and moved the boat at the request of the marina, and on Thursday John did the laundry in the local laundrette, while Lisbeth went off for a long weekend to visit a good friend in London via Ryanair. Tia (Bryden) and Marco also arrived for a ten day holiday in Grand Canary, and called.

On Friday 19th, Tia and Marco took me on a tour of the interior of the island, up many hairpin bends and close to the Military base and Observatory on Pico de las Nieves, which is about 2000m. I was amazed at the number of small towns and villages there are in the interior, which is where most of the locals seem to live, and where the farming goes on. This island had original inhabitants before being colonised by Spain in the 15th Century, after a long 90 year struggle. The locals lived in caves in the volcanic mountains, and were not people of the sea, it seems. Some still live in the caves. Tia and Marco took me out for a meal in Puerto Mogan later. The Canaries were granted autonomy from Spain in 1983, but remain a part of the EU.

Photos: (a), (b) and (d) mountains and hairpin bends in the mountainous interior of Gran Canaria. (e) Marco and Tia.

On Sunday, Tia and Marco and I went to see the caves at Barranco de Guayadeque,, net Agüimes, where there are still some cave dwellers, including one who collects honey from the wild bees in the mountains. Needless to say we bought some. After a walk through the village, with its small farms with sheep, goats, hens and turkeys, we went to the nearby town of Ingenia for lunch at Bar Cafeteria Nico, where we enjoyed excellent Rabbit, a local speciality. We later attempted to visit the local archeological site in Puerto Mogan, but failed, it being closed. I cooked Chicken, red lentils and green beans Indian-style for us to eat on board, and Tia brought a nice wine from Douro.

Photos: Cave dwellings, farm etc. Last photo of Nico´s Cafe in Ingenia.

Now we are beginning to prepare for Cabo Verde.  Lisbeth comes back tomorrow, Tuesday 23rd, and new crew member Kim Fastning from Denmark arrives on Thursday 25th. Weather permitting, we plan to sail on Sunday 28th. The engine will be serviced tomorrow, 23rd, and the fuel system will be carefully checked then.

Sines to Lagos, and waiting!

Lisbeth and I enjoyed the port of Sines, which was about 45nm from Cascais. Lisbeth took a gum thing against sea sickness and it worked for 75% of the voyage, but unfortunately wore out before we arrived. However, she was not physically sick, which is a good sign, and we arrived in good order. We were a bit late in leaving Cascais because we had to wait until mid-day for the repaired Parasailor to come back from North Sails. So we arrived in the small marina in Sines at 2300 hours, pretty tired and hungry. The marina office was open until midnight so Skip took the passports and filled in the paperwork which Lisbeth organised food on board.

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Photo: Lisbeth with the old town of Sines behind.

Actually Sines was very nice – not touristy, and with a nice old town with small shops, restaurants and bars. A highlight is a prominent castle, the birth place of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Indeed there is a fine statue of him below the castle.

Photos above from top left. 1. The beach with old town above, including the Castle. 2. Statue of Vasco da Game, 3. street view, old town, 4. Lisbeth with wooden xylophone, 5. Interior of the Castle, 6. Skipper at entrance the Castle.

 

On Sunday 30th, Lisbeth and I had a swim off the boat before going to the old town to explore. We visited the castle and walked around the neat small streets,  visiting a small art gallery, and finding a small restaurant with a €10 lunch (including beer and coffee) which we enjoyed. On the way back down to the beach front promenade we passed large xylophones and tubular bells and drums for people to play. Some were missing bits, like the hammers, but of course we tried them and thought this a great idea for public spaces. We also climbed the small hill east of the marina to see the view.

Monday 1st we cast off from Sines marina at 0720 and exited the harbour with the sun rise, heading more or less south towards Cape St Vincent, once the edge of the known world. There is a large commercial harbour here too, and we manoeuvred around an oil tanker being take in by four tugs. The wind was very light, so we were motoring and then motor sailing most of the way, although the wind picked up later with the acceleration zone around Cape St Vincent and from there into Lagos. The sail was about 74nm, of which about 19nm between Cape St Vincent and Lagos.

Photos: We saw quite a few dolphins between Sines and Cape St Vincent. Also shown is a photo of Lisbeth at the wheel.

Cape St Vincent was striking. Tudor quoted a line from Browning´s poem about the sea battle of Trafalgar (1805), fought in the seas to the west of Cadiz. Here Britain was fighting the combined fleets of Spain and France, and this was the battle when Nelson died. But also the battle that gave Britain control of the high seas for a hundred years and more (a future predicted by Napoleon, and that he was trying to ward off by a preventive strike in cooperation with Spain – the case of Trafalgar.) Here is the skippers photo of the Cape, which is striking.

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“Nobly, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-West died away;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish ‘mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest North-East distance, dawned Gibraltar grand and gray;
“Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?”—say,
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and pray,
While Jove’s planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.”  By Robert Browning
Shortly after we passed the Cape the sun went down, and was indeed blood-red. But on approaching the Cape the wind picked up from the NW, and that nice wind stayed with us until we reached Lagos. Unfortunately, the boom fitting holding the main sheet block parted, so we had to take the mainsail off and continue under Genoa alone at around 5kts. Half this leg was in the dark, and we were afraid of the long fishing nets stretching from near the shore. It also seemed to take for ever to cover the distance. Nevertheless, we entered into the canal leading to the harbour and marine safely at around 2000, and tied up at the marina reception at 2030, spending the night there.
Next morning we went through the usual paperwork at the office by the reception pontoon, and found our berth. A friendly Canadian, Paul Baker from Toronto, was working on a nearby boat, and imparted freely of his knowledge on how to fill our assorted gas bottles from Sweden and UK, and also how to repair the boom fitting. The first involved hiring a cheap car (€30) to drive to the village of Boliquieme, about 65km east of Lagos. This we did, finding the small LPG station with the fittings to fill all three of our gas bottles, at the cost of €22. That was great, but why are these guys with the correct fittings not everywhere? The second involved a welding job by Antonio Viegas, a sailmaker, and this was done the next day. A very nice welding and fitting job!
Wednesday we explored the old town, including St Anthony´s chapel – very ornate! In the evening we tried a couple of live music venues, but they were a great disappointment, and the town is very touristy – full of Brits!
Thursday October 4th we celebrated Lisbeth´s birthday by a swim and picnic lunch on the beach close to the Marina. Lisbeth also baked a chocolate squash cake. Our Brazilian friends and new crew arrived in Lisbon today, but unfortunately they did not reach us. There were traffic jams in Lisbon due to the bank holiday on Friday, so they spent the night en route. So we hope to leave on Friday, but this is no longer certain especially as there is a strong southerly swell, which makes crossing the bar at the entrance hard.

Lerwick to Grutness Voe, SE Shetland

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Sorry friends, this one seems to have remained a draft, and it is now seriously out of place!

 

The boats in the Bergen-Shetland race – they were starting back to Bergen this afternoon at 4pm. But we left for Grutness before them, and had a quiet sail down to this wonderful harbour, with birds, seals, and nobody else (except for a friend of Michael´s who had also been the Chief Jarl for Up Helly Å). This is our jumping off point for Fair Isle. It was a great afternoon to walk over to Jarlshof archeological site, where multiple layers of ages are there to see, more or less on top of one another. Iron Age, Bronze Age, viking age, feudal age, all represented here in excavated houses, foundry’s, wheel towers, brochs etc. And all presented very well indeed. This is one of the many jewels in Shetlands, and indeed Scotland´s, crown.