Leaving Torshavn, Faroes Monday Sept. 10
Torshavn on a Sunday is very much like Toronto the Good used to be 50 years ago, nothing open except the odd restaurant and cafe and very few people to be seen. Captain Gijs had arranged for a minivan to take most of my crewmates on a drive around the island to see some of the local landmarks. I pulled something in my hip when we were raising sail and have been managing it with Advils and Tylenol but I didn’t feel up for a long day sitting in a van so decided to stay behind and write my blog and work on some pictures. As it turned out many of the places that the van visited were on Gijs’ sailing itinerary so we will end up visiting them by sea as well as by land and so I won’t have missed anything.w
Dinner and an early bed, fortunately not moving for a change. The following morning, Monday, we breakfasted and then cast off and headed back out to sea to visit another island whose port Klaksvik was our destination and one of the spots the van had visited the day previous. It was a very pleasant 4 hour sail, the day was fine and sunny, and we coasted along on a fairly flat sea until we reached the passage between two islands up which we needed to sail to get to Klaksvik which is situated about half way up the passage. These passages separate a number of long narrow islands, parallel to each other and the passages separating them are anywhere from a kilometre wide to about 5 kilometres wide. The islands are 50 or 60 kilometres long and appear to be folds and ridges in the volcanic rock of which the whole region is composed. Each passage is a tidal race with very strong currents and at the time that we navigated the passage to Klaksvik the tide was running against us. In order to make headway we needed to sail close to the shore, about 100 metres from the cliffs which border most of the perimeter of the islands but it was a struggle against the tide.
Once docked and after lunch we boarded a small ferry which took us further up the coast to a landing where we boarded a public bus to take us to small town where we wandered the foreshore and the local area before re-boarding bus and ferry to return to our ship for dinner.
I mention the ferry and bus for a reason. The Faroese nation is composed of a number of islands, 17 I believe, and the nation is bound and knit by a number of transportation and communications links that are designed to ensure that all its citizens have equal access to information and equal mobility. The country has invested heavily in cell technology so that every location, small as it may be, has phone and high speed internet. It has built roads wherever possible, no small task since there does not appear to be a flat spot on any of the very mountainous islands and in our short 30 minute bus ride in one part of one island we drove through 3 tunnels that have been bored through mountains to allow cars and public transit. Bridges have been built to link islands wherever feasible and when communities cannot be reached by road, bridge or ferry Faroese governments continue to provide heavily subsidized helicopter service as public transport for local citizens in remote areas whose cost for the locals to ride is equivalent to a pricy bus ride. A remarkable achievement for such a small nation.
Another quiet night on a stable bunk and once again on Tuesday morning we cast off to navigate the ship, I have been told by the crew that I have to stop calling it a boat, it is a ship, to Norddepil, a very small community on the same island as Klaksvik but on its opposite side. To reach it we had to sail up the passage and out to sea, round the point at the top of the island and sail down the passage on its other side to reach our new destination. We are here because it is the jumping off point, using the term loosely, to the highest sea cliffs in Europe, about 890 metres above sea level and the hike and ascent of which takes about 7 to 8 hours. Our two very good friends with whom we traveled to Bhutan last year would be in with a shout but given the state of my hip I thought I’d better take a pass. The three permanent crew members and seven of my crewmates joined them and they left after lunch so we don’t expect to see them much before 9 in the pitch black dark.
The passage here this morning was interesting. Another relatively easy sea, mixed rain and overcast with occasional bursts of sun. Another magic moment however occurred when the sun broke through after a rain shower. Off our stern was the complete arc of a brilliant rainbow which rose from the sea and arced over a green, mountainous headland and met the sea on its other side, a designer could not have done a better job of placing the rainbow in the correct orientation; magic! Unfortunately my lens was not wide enough to capture the whole of its arc, but enough to convey the idea.
Coming back down the passage towards Norddepil, a side passage separating another smaller island entered our main passage at a Y shaped confluence and two tidal races met in a turbulent stew of waters. When you are in a tidal race the water can seem oily in areas and in others there are very short, white-capped waves running in different directions. When these two tides met the area where they joined could be seen well ahead, the water was almost boiling and there were a number of large, white-capped standing waves some at right angles to others. We had to pass through this and once entered it took us about 20 minutes to travel about 200 or 300 metres. I marked a spot on shore and lined it up with a spot on the ship and for minutes at a time the ship did not move forward but kept station with the mark ashore. It was almost like the surfing waves that are created for amusement parks where you can surf a wave for as long as you want but never move from the spot where the standing wave is curling. With engines at full power we finally began to make a little headway and finally moved out of the whirlpool. Without tempting the gods, huge fun!