The viking trail

During the first leg, towards Fair Isle from the low, sandy coast of Holland, the wind and sea had been kind to us, allowing plenty of time to get our sea-legs. Upon arrival at this island halfway between the Shetland and Orkney islands, we found that shelter in the little harbor had improved a lot since a new breakwater was built some years ago. Only a strong wind from north and northeast turns this place into a dangerous spot.

For the Vikings, as for us, Shetland was the first stepping stone on their exploration voyages of the North Atlantic. From Fair Isle to Scalloway, on Shetland’s west coast, it is only a daysail in a strong breeze. Here we waited almost a week for a gap in the row of depressions coming from the Atlantic. Lots of time to taste the locally smoked haddock, Finnan Haddie, which, when boiled in milk, is a delicacy.

It was still blowing from the north but the forecast promised diminishing winds when we got underway for the 200 miles to the Faeroe Islands. It turned out to be a fast but uncomfortable run. Due to the westerly gales that passed the area, the sea was very confused, especially as the wind came from the north, blowing against the old swell.

In the early hours of June 8 we tied up in the little harbor of Vagur on Suderoy, the southernmost island of the Faeroe group. Life on the Faeroes has certainly changed since our last visit in 1988. Then, all the harbors were bustling with activities, the fishing at its summit. Like many places these days, overfishing caused a decline of the economic situation. The 17 islands of the Faeroes have a high degree of local autonomy, but Denmark still provides defense and foreign affairs. The names of most of the islands have some resemblance with their appearance or their geographical position: like Sandoy with its sandy beach; Hestur and Koltur: the Horse and the Colt; and the easternmost island, called Eysteroy. All islands have steep cliffs at their western side and slope down towards the east. Although tidal differences are moderate, the tidal streams can be severe, especially at narrow sounds and around headlands.

By Ocean Navigator