Heading for Ireland - North Sea Crossing Once More!

22nd July - 9th August 

We keep saying it but it is so true the more we sail the more we know that sailing is about having the luxury to change plans. 

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As we headed out from Tuborg Copenhagen we knew the weather was conspiring against our plans to sail west to Arhus on Jutland before the run to Norway. We settled in for a night at Helsingor both for Sue and Peter to get established on the boat and also for old times sake - we headed for a local Vino Shop that we had last visited in 2013  to restock the boat with wine and as we did then, they kindly offered to deliver the wine later in the evening to the boat.

A highlight of our night in Helsingor was a visit from Lars and Heli who we had met in Svenborg, crossed paths with in Tubourg and now had them back onboard for an impromptu dinner. A great night was enjoyed by all. As their son Anders was in Bornheilm with his grandparent we ensured Lars and Helin left with a Katherine Cap to make sure Anders did not feel that he was forgotten on the occasion.

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Our original plan as we set out from Helsingor was to sail to the port of Arhus on the island of Jutland but weather was definitely against us with building seas and higher than forecast wind on the nose. So we opted to pull into Gilleleje as we had done with family just a few weeks before. A wise decision it turned out to be as Pete had a sore foot that turned dramatically fast into cellulitis that required immediate hospitalisation, drip and monitoring. So instead of sailing to Arhus Andrew and I hired a car and drove one day over 12 hours to and from to collect diving camera gear from Lars at Fotografit, an incredibly informed and professional dive camera gear specialist. Thankfully it was Andrews birthday so the collection of the camera gear which he will use and appreciate made the madness of the drive in wild wet windy conditions well worthwhile. To top off the stay in Gilleleje we caught up with Richard and Stine of Guernsey who just happened to have flown in to check out a holiday home in the fishing village. 

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Finally with Pete back onboard - with drugs - and weather agreeing we made a run for Norway and the harbour of Farsund. Arriving into Farsund some 30 hours later we were thankful for our knowledge of the harbour and entry from 2013 and secured a position alongside the western part of the harbour on a pontoon that still required us to launch from the boat to tie through timber slats. Despite what we consider a ridiculous method of tie up (not uncommon in Norway), the harbour itself is fantastic. Set in the beautiful backdrop of a town of the early 1900s (a fire destroyed the town in 1901) a short walking distance to shops and services including a very happy police officer who stamped our passports and a watch lady who delivered our courtesy bread daily. 

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We sat out in Farsund for five days waiting for the best possible opportunity to cross the North Sea - a juggle between wind speed, wind direction and swell height of the ocean. Generally if any of those options are extremely high then one could determine it may not be the best time to cross. Finally on Sunday morning after much analysis by Andrew at first light we, along with a lot of boats that had been held up in Fasund made the run. We had a mixture of wind speed and wave heights but were predominantly fighting it off our nose. As we crossed through the narrow section of water between the tip of Scotland and The Orkneys the seas stood up and water raced, not a place to be complacent. Then just as the finish line was in sight with some 50nm to go we rounded Cape Wrath (top western corner of Scotland) to the forecast of Gale 8 (34- 40knots) imminent, Gale 9 (41 - 47 Knots) later and possible Gale 10 (48 - 55knots thats getting close to a Category 1 Cyclone).  It was definitely a good time to arrive into the sanctuary of Stornaway Harbour, Outer Hebrides Scotland.  

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So began our next wait.  A two day intended stay has turned into a week. But that has not been bad. We took the opportunity of the lay over to hire a car and tour both Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris. Surprisingly we found the island which is not that big is very diversified in its landscape, from endless peat bog lowlands to rocky mountainous outcrops. One thing that both the north and south of the Island does hold in common is the greenery, water and the carving out of the landscape for Peat and the craft work. It is simply everywhere, on every bend no matter how remote the road.

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This is the land of Harris Tweed. To be classed as Harris Tweed the cloth must be "Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

For such a small island it is quiet amazing to see the products that are now produced from the Harris Tweed, everything from the traditional jacket and coat to hats, bags, iPad covers, booties you name it they make it by hand. A craft fair was being held in Stornaway on our last weekend in residence at the marina and we had to laugh when comment was made that it was such a bad summer but the knitting ladies were loving it as they could not keep up the demand for beanies, jumpers and gloves. Again out of adversity comes opportunity - someone has to gain from such bad weather. 

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The drive around the island over two days saw us dodging sheep, hugging narrow bitumen sweeping roads with select passing pull overs and searching not always successfully for the Point of Interest on the tourist map. One that definitely eluded us was the Mcleod Stone. That being said we did find the Calanais Stones - stood more than 4500 years ago, featuring a circle of 13 tall stones within which stands a monolith of 4.8meters tall. What we find remarkable is like the Orkneys you walk amongst these stones, there are no perimeter fences there really are no crowds. Though it took some doing we also found the Clach an Trushel Standing Stone that apparently was the tallest in the Outer Hebrides - it resided literally in someones side yard. 

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So Day 1 we drove to the most Northern Point being Isle of Ness where winds were blowing so fiercely you appreciated being on land and not at sea. 

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The second day saw us at the most southern point of Isle Of Harris enjoying lunch at historic Hotel Rodel then wandering up the hill to the Chuch of St Clement built in 1520 for the Chief of the Macleods of Harris. Here tombs within the church stood for previous Chief clans and within the grounds if your name did not start with a Mac - be it a Macpherson, Macleod, MacDonald, Mackay and the list goes on - you simply did not belong. 

We have walked the Lewis Castle grounds which unfortunately were under restoration in 2013 and are due to reopen in October. Wandered all the streets and checked out all the craft shops. Now tucked onboard alongside Bruce are Bella and Hamish - Scottish Bears - dressed in the Tartan of Isle of Lewis. If the Kennedy Tartan (Lee’s ancestry) had been available that would have been something special. We have found a local pub, tasted the local fish and chips and even ventured to enjoying Black Pudding. 

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Since our last stopover here in 2013 the marina has expanded and we now have a secure place on a floating pontoon. Luckily it happens to be right next to the pier where the fisherman pull up each night and we have been spoilt by fresh produce including scallops and prawns. We have also been entertained by the antics of the local seals who obviously have a unique relationship with the fisherman whom we think they see as “easy dinner supply”.

The wind continues to blow but we hold hope that come Monday it will be blowing in such a way that we can make our way south or is that west. St Kilda is still on our radar. 


Language Lesson - Did you know No Fly Tipping means no dumping of rubbish and loose chipping refers to loose gravel. Just a few of the things we have learn't as we have driven around Isle of Lewis. 

(For More Photos click here) 

© SV Katherine 2017      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Faro Portugal with Askari of Australia