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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Fair Weather for Fair Isle?
Sunday, June 25, 2006

Alun and I are in North Ronaldsay, the northernmost Orkney island for the second year running. We've had a great trip kayaking up to here, and have met lots of lovely people. We're having a "rest" day today before attempting to kayak the approx 28 nautical miles to Fair Isle tomorrow. This will be a challenging journey because there are quite strong tides which run perpendicular to the direction that we want to travel in, and there is a notorius tidal race on the south end of Fair Isle once we arrive. Thankfully (unlike last year when we were here) we have a favourable weather forecast, with a high pressure hovering over us for the next few days.

We paddled across the Pentland Firth on Tuesday in about a force 4-5 South-Easterly. It was a bit choppy but there wasn't any swell so it was mostly just windwaves and nothing too big. We were a bit slow packing everything into our kayaks and we left Harrow, near John-O-Groats about an hour after we had intended which meant the tides were getting stronger all the time. We knew there would be a strong current running to the SE when we reached the south coast of South Ronaldsay, trying to take us out to sea. We allowed for this and approached the island from upstream, but the current was stronger than we'd thought and we still had to paddle very hard at the end to make a big eddy on the south end of South Ronaldsay. The tides are incredible around here.

We had hoped to make it up to North Ronaldsay fairly quickly because our mission for this trip is to get to Shetland rather than to explore, but the wind had other ideas and we made slow progress for the first 3 days - in fact we didn't get off South Ronaldsay! We did meet some friendly locals though, and have eaten incredibly well! We happened to camp by a hatchery for arctic char, and were given some undersize ones to cook up and eat. I've never had that type of fish before, which is pink like salmon but not so rich. It was truely delicious. That evening we went to a nearby house to ask for water and spent the evening chatting to the owner about local life, shipwrecks and vikings! He gave us some eggs from his hens which marked the start of our 'porridge-avoidance'. We've so far been given eggs from 3 different people's hens and have been enjoying breakfast delights such as 'fried eggs on rye bread' and poached eggs on burritos! YUM YUM!! Tomorrow, who knows what we'll invent!

After our slow start, we had a monster day from Newark Bay on South Ronaldsay all the way up to Eday island, via the small island of Copinsay for lunch. 35 miles in about 7 hours, with quite a lot of tidal assistance in the afternoon. We still only just made it before the tide turned against us, and had a bit of a ferry glide at the last minute. We arrived at Eday at the same time as the ferry and shouted up to the people on the pier to ask where the pub was! A man replied that there wasn't a pub on Eday, but his wife had a tea room and could cook us dinner, and he'd drive us there and back from whereever we camped. We had a lovely evening with Pete and Chris on the north of the island, and Chris cooked us a mouthwatering bellyfull of delicious food.

Yesterday afternoon we caught the tidal conveyor belt from Eday up the north side of Sanday, and reached over 10 knots at one point. We skirted around the side of a meaty looking tidal race in 'Lashy Sound', enjoying the speed of the water without crashing through the biggest waves. We stopped for a late lunch on a headland and waited for the tide to turn in our favour once more, for the final leg to North Ronaldsay - 25 miles in total ( 19 nautical miles). Last night I was almost asleep in the tent when Alun came back from a water collecting mission and dragged me out of bed to go and meet yet more lovely local people. martin Grey had greeted Alun in his waterproofs and empty waterbottles with 'you must be one of the mad kayakers'. Apparently everyone who is planning to kayak to Fair Isle comes to his house for water, as it's the nearest one to the north of the island! He hosted Sean Morley on his birthday last year and just a few days ago, hosted a guy called Patrick who is paddling solo to all the furthest islands in Scotland. Pattick made it to Fair Isle last Wednesday and is probably in Shetland by now?

The weather is pretty good today for crossing to Fair Isle, a slight northerly wind, but since we have a good longterm forecast, we're resting. Alun is right this minute watching England play Ecuador on the big screen in the bird observatory! I better finish writing and go and see who's winning!!



Anonymous ckayaker said...

Sounds like you're having some fun instead of just doing 'kayaking work' for a change. I love the way you're workng the tides. I did the same yesterday getting out and around Bonaventure Island in the Gaspé, Canada to see the gannets. One tide down the coast and out, and then the other to ferry me back home. A 30 km joy ride. Don't you love the sea!

5:23 am  

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