After 4 days of waiting, our weather window arrived. The forecast for wave heights wasn't too bad, and the wind was forecast to be southerly backing easterly during the day. As the forecast for tomorrow was for a strong easterly wind we decided that we'd try to go to Stromness directly. To arrive at slack tide in the Sound of Hoy meant we had to leave at 7am, and average over 6 knots during the day.
Largely, all went to plan. Rounding Cape Wrath was another key milestone for us, and although the conditions were relatively benign we weren't at all ashamed to have waited until they were as it did feel very remote. We did have to use the motor for most of the day as there was either not enough wind, or it was too much from the east for us to keep to our track and timetable. That's often the thing about UK sailing - if you set a timetable to find the right tide, then you'll often have to motor-sail to ensure you keep to it.
As we got closer to the Orkneys we saw a pod of dolphins - although not as close to us and not the normal ones so we weren't sure what they were. From the blurred photographs I took, they were White-beaked dolphins.
The wind strengthened as we approached Hoy, but had a fabulous view of the huge cliffs on the west coast - which actually dwarf the more famous Old Man. Then we were into Hoy Sound and found plenty of space in Stromness Marina.
Wednesday 6th & Thursday 7th
Land based, we've hired a car to see the sights and do the shopping. A shame in some respects as our original plan had been to sail up to Westray and the northern islands, but a practical way of making the most of our time here and avoiding the uncertainties of the weather. We need to be heading south soon.
With the car, we've been able to cover a lot of ground and views of the relatively flat, rolling farming countryside, and of the principle sites have visited: - the Italian Chapel, the beautifully decorated prisoner of war nissan hut. I am quite surprised that its fully open to the public and has remained in such excellent condition. - Stones of Brodgar - Skara Brae, the amazingly well preserved stone age village, and Skaill House, the 17th century house of the Laird who discovered it. The house is left as it was in the 1950s so not too unfamiliar. - St Magnus cathedral in Kirwall.
We're now (Friday morning) off to visit Highland Park distillery. In Kirkwall here is also Scapa flow distillery (owned by Pernod Ricard) but that isn't open to the public. As Highland Park's visits seem to be fairly fully booked at this time of year you can't help but think Pernod are missing a trick in not opening. Its not just the visit and on-site purchases but the long term interest and loyalty from the visitors that they are missing out on.