Sunday, 30 July 2017

FAIR ISLE. 30th July

Add caption
Setting off from Sumbergh Head Shetland Island early in the morning we made a bee line for Fair Isle, 35nm to the south west, hoping to get a berth in the tiny harbour. It was a good sail in fair weather and our early arrival saw us rafted to the Swedish yacht “Bliss”, a lovely Oyster 56  belonging to Joachim and Cecilia. There were only 2 yachts alongside and another arrived later in the afternoon. There is room for several more rafted either to yachts or the Good Shepherd, the ferry. There is also anchorage room inside the small bay.

Fair Isle is renowned as a bird watchers paradise with over 300 species of birds having been sighted there. A big building housing information and accommodation has been built near the harbour. There is only one ferry from Shetland twice a week so visitors not on private yachts are quartered in the bird watching facility. The Island is precipitous at the edges. Massive cliffs plunge into the North Sea and are battered by huge winter storms uninterrupted all the way across the north Atlantic.
Rugged coastline with amazing lichen.

Seabirds in huge numbers flock here to nest and raise young in the ledges and burrows on the cliffs. Puffins were the main object of our interest and they are abundant. Funny little birds with beaks which look like they have been poking about in paint pots they are fishers and sit on the water in large groups diving to catch food for their young, sequestered away in burrows at the cliff tops. They are easy to spot, although much smaller than I had thought. They make hard work of the flying business with short rapid strokes and sometimes ungainly landings at the nest side. Nevertheless we did enjoy watching them although I was frustrated by the lack of a Leica!

Bliss leaving behind us.

The weather was glorious and we spent the whole afternoon and evening strolling and enjoying the birdlife as it soared over the dramatic coastline. Later we had sundowners with the crew off Bliss, exchanging information and contacts. They plan to circumnavigate starting next year so we hope to meet again.

As much as we’d have liked to stay longer, the weather window was just too good to ignore so off we set again in company with “Bliss”, this time towards Orkney Islands some 60nm south west. We opted to anchor at Otterswick Bay in the north of Sanday island and Bliss carried on.  Continuing south west the following day to Stromness in lovely calm weather we were able to approach the rugged cliffs of the West mainland quite closely observing seals and lots of sea caves. Stromness has a good harbour with marina facilities and with inclement weather forecast we chose to avail ourselves of the convenience.

Next we will explore the Orkney islands