Tuesday, 25 July 2017


Blissful weather saw the end to our Norway adventure and that meant Mokster days were over. Schengen visa was finished and it was time to move again. We now had to go to a non Schengen country. Great Britain and Ireland are the only countries for thousands of miles so that was the only option for escape. 
It is not widely understood that almost all of Western Europe is lumped into one “country” for the purpose of visas. Non Schengen visitors like Aussies Kiwis and Americans can only spend 90 days in any 180 day period in the whole Schengen Zone. This effectively means that every 3 months one must leave for 3 months before re entry. As a result we have been on a sleigh ride these past 3 months to see as much as possible in the shortest possible time. Such a pity. 
Arriving in Lerwick

So out we headed into the North Sea for the passage of 190 nautical miles to Shetland islands,  navigating around oil wells and fishing boats, in sometimes limited visibility. The wind was almost zero. So it was one great big rolling motoring trip. 

Conveniently our arrival in Lerwick was in daylight and a berth was found rafted alongside “Leona”, a Swedish Nauticat 41 with Leo and Lena aboard.  We had a cyber introduction by “Tuuletar” and were looking forward to meeting them. 
Together we hired a car for an island tour the next day which not only reduced the cost but also offered the opportunity of some company. 
We had a fabulous day exploring the main islands spectacular west coast and seclluded bay. We did see puffins but not so close. One of the many disadvantages of such rushed travelling is the lack of time in which to get acquainted with other sailors so this was a real highlight. 
Shetland islands comprise roughly 16 inhabited islands set about 100nm north of Scotland. The resident population of 23 thousand is outnumbered by sheep, ponies and puffins. The little Shetland Pony is a hardy native of these islands. One of the islands, Foula, has apparently 50 ponies to every resident. There is evidence of human occupation since the Mesolithic period. Originally part of Norway they apparently became part of Scotland in leu of a dowry when a Norwegian maid married a Scottish king.

Leaving Lerwick behind we sailed south to Sumburgh Head and anchored in a small bay beside the Airport, just a short walk away from Jarlshof, a  Neolithic site dating back to 2500BC, before The Great  Pyramid or Stonehenge. 

Archaeologists have established that there were a number of successive  occupations here over thousands of years. Each built over the older sites, which when finally abandoned, was rapidly covered with sand and became an unrecognisable mound. Uncovered by storms in 1890 when a fierce storm tore the turf and tussock from the sand hills on the coast, partially revealing the stone dwellings. It was then excavated,  and the remains of the settlements are spread out across the picturesque Sumburgh Head. Fertile arable land, fresh water and plentiful supply of flat stones for building presented the original neolithic seafarers a perfect location to settle. There's a smithy for working bronze from around 800BC, underground storages, souterrains, used to store food, and a Broch. This was a double walled tower at least 3 stories high which was surrounded buy fortifications, all built from the local stone and enclosing several smaller houses. A medieval farm was established in the 1200s by Viking decedents. Several wheelhouses survive on the site and one well preserved wheelhouse containing beds hearth and saddle quern for grinding grains is open to visitors. 
Scara Brae
In the late 9th Century Viking settlement saw the construction of several longhouses consisting of farmhouse, bathhouse, smithy servants quarters and separate byre, or animal barn. This settlement survived three centuries as a farm. Buildings evolved and devolved on the site but the main house was in continuous use during the period. It remains a mystery why the area was subsequently abandoned.
The latest settlement on the site was a house built by the Earl Patrick Stewart. Black Patie. By the end of the 1600s this building too was a ruin and the owners moved to a new home nearby.  The Scotish Government  owns and administers the area now. 
There is a good taped tour supplied with the ticket and we were enthralled for several hours as we explored the history of the site.
Anchorage at Sumburgh Head

Sumbergh Head anchorage proved a good comfortable overnight stop. The scenery is pretty with a paddock full of Shetland Ponies and a couple of interesting farm houses ashore. David had a go at fishing after our exploration ashore with somewhat dubious results. He managed to snare a good half bucketful of decent looking smaller fish and proceeded to prepare them for dinner. Barbecued and buttered they went from respectable looking fare to mush!. We don't know what they were but we do know what they look like and we wont be keeping any of them again!!
Next destination Fair Isle.