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Fair Isle (Shetland), Faroe Island, Westman Island (Iceland) 10.-25.6.2001

10.6.2001 The Fair Isle, Shetland
We arrived to the tiny Fair Isle on Friday evening (8.6.) after fighting 290 miles against the hard wind. Tacking made the voyage 40 miles longer, that takes one from Helsinki to Tallinn. The gale force wind and huge waves were at time impossible to sail, so we let Kristiina to drift and went inside to have some sleep. Covered with salt and feeling a bit chilly we definetely longed for the peaceful harbour of the Fair Isle. But we had to shout to each other when we moored beside the French s/y Ulisse. There was a tremendous noise coming from the repair work at the slip dock. No alarm clock is needed, they start early every morning - even on Sunday. The other suprise was the harbour fee, 6.5 pounds, but you are allowed to stay as long as you want. No services available, though. For Hannu it is the fourth time on Fair Isle, the first dating 9 years back.

Fair Isle is a paradise for sheep and birds. And it looks quite nice for the 70 inhabitants, as well, with their pretty white stone houses. The sheep are grazing on the rugged walls of the hills, covered by crass and heather. You never get tired to watch the magnificent fulmars, closely related to the albatrosses, who are very skilful gliders. There are apprx. 43.000 nesting pairs of fulmars on the island. The opposite are the big and aggressive great skuas, who eat other birds and may attack on human being - maybe not for the feeding, but you never know... and don't want to stay long enough to clear it up. The puffins nest in burrows which are about one meter long and excavated by the birds themselves - hard job for a tiny bird. The clever ones use an old rabbit burrow. We saw yesterday only a few puffins on our walking tour, because they are fishing at the sea during the day time.

We have been very lucky with the weather these two days, it's unusual sunny and calm, still quite chilly, only 12-15 deg. C. We are desperately looking for a proper place for the sauna. We even have wood with us from Norway, because the Fair Isle is completely lacking forest and wood.

On Tuesday the 12th we are heading to the Faroe Islands.

17.6.2001 Torshavn, the Faroe Islands
The wind tried to avoid our progressing to the Faroe Islands by force 7 from NW - straight ahead. The first 12 hours we had a nice side wind, but that was all. The last 20 miles we went about some extra tacks to avoid the shore of the first islands because the tidal current is quite strong and demanding here. They tell stories about big ships having difficulties with the current. We studied the tide tables and did our best to calculate. Fortunately we came to a conclusion that it is safe to go straight in to Torshavn, where we arrived on Thursday afternoon, the 14th of June.

Skipper's watch. We had to hand steer almost the whole leg.

We moored beside an English yacht, because the guest harbour was full. There is namely only one berth for the guest boats. The Torshavn Yacht Club is maintaining some services: a shower, a toilet and a washing machine - all in a same tiny room. The first day was spent with all kind of washing: ourselves, the boat and the huge pile of dirty clothes. The constant rain showers took care of the salt on the boat and on our rain clothes. In general though, the weather is clear and sunny, which is more a rarity here. You also feel reaching the latitude 62 N; it's about 8 to 10 deg. Celsius during the day time.

On Friday evening we were invited to sail with the schooner Nordlyst with it's charter trip. We sailed to an island called Hestur, where we squeezed ourselves into two dinghies and drove in to a huge cave. Inside the cave we enjoyed a saxophone playing in a cathedralic acoustics. After the cultural moment, we drove along the shore staring the sky high bird cliffs.

On Saturday we took a trip to the Nordic House, where some finnish newspapers were available. In the evening we made another trip to the same house to see a traditional Faroese dance performance. The songs and tales are the main element of this dance. The movements help people to remember the words, and this way the Faroese have been able to preserve their oral tradition before it was written down. We didn't understand the language, however. The Faroese language is based on west norwegian dialects. There are 46.000 inhabitants on the 18 islands, and 16.500 inhabitants in the capital Torshavn.

We will spent the beginning of the week in Torshavn, shopping and preparing the boat for the next leg. After that we will visit the Fuglafjödur, a fjord on the island Esturoy.

Torshavn harbour in the Faroe Islands

20.6.2001 Torshavn, the Faroe Islands
We woke up by the noise of a bow thruster. Then we heard someone talking finnish. It was the Finnish motor yacht Ferdinand, arriving to Torshavn on it's way around the Iceland. After chatting with the crew, Rise, Make and Ville, we filled up with water and fuel, and sailed away from Torshavn to Fuglafjödur, a village of 1400 people, 20 miles from the capital. We spent a cosy evening with Carsten and Margit, who own one of the few sailing yachts in the Faroes. On Thursday, when the current was with us, we motored through the fjord to the open sea, and took the course 280 deg. to the Westman Islands 400 miles away.

22.6.2001, the Midsummer evening, 62°38 N 10°21 W
Kristiina is sailing smoothly by the light wind, making only 3-4 knots at the moment, but we enjoy the steady ride. We were able to bake a midsummer-pizza in the oven and have some red wine with it. Temperature outside +11 C.

25.6.2001, Westman Islands, Iceland
We had all the way, 400 miles, three days and nights, the wind with us! Amazing! The last 20 miles the wind was constantly rising, and when the 2. reefed main was too much, we sailed the last bit under a reefed jib. Still making 6 knots.
The entrance of the Heimaey harbour is dramatic, a narrow opening guarded by a skyhigh cliff wall. Beside the entrace lives the killer whale Keiko, the moviestar, who was brought to his birth waters from USA. It is (or was?) the meaning to release Keiko back to the open sea, but it is uncertain will he manage by himself and among the other killer whales. Keiko is feeded, and we saw him doing some tricks.

The history of Westman Islands is full of tragedies. During the settlement of Iceland, Irish slaves escaped to these islands after they had killed their owner. His foster brother followed the runaways and killed them. The islands were named after these Irish slaves, the "men from the west".
In the 1700th century it was the icelanders turn to be captured as slaves. In 1627, Algerian pirates attacked the Westman Islands, killing and torturing, and captured 240 people to be sold at the slave market in Algeria.
On January 23, 1973, a volcano erupted on Heimaey, and the inhabitants were evacuated to the main land. The eruption lasted for 5 months. The island had increased in size by 20 %, and a new mountain, the Eldfell, had formed. A large part of the town including 360 homes had been covered by lava and ash. It took two years to clean the ash and dig up the houses. The mountainsides are still, after 30 years, hot and steaming.

The Westman Islands consist of 18 separate islands and skerries, of which only the largest, Heimaey, is inhabited (4500 inh.). In 1963, a new island, Surtsey, was formed by a suboceanic eruption. It is a protected area, scientists having the only opportunity to visit it to study the plants and animals.

The slopes of Eldafell, a mountain formed in 1973 eruption, are still warm.

The sheltered harbour of Heimaey.
Brown area on the background formed in the 1973 eruption.

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