Category Archives: Faroe Islands

An old man’s guide to civilisation

The dawn of my thirty-second year on this planet falls upon me as I sit upon the deck in the port or Torshavn in the Faroe Islands. Around me are clusters of turf-roofed buildings clinging in a rambling sprawl upon the hill. Between the wooden building stained with the dark brown of age are tiny winding passages that occasionally deliver a rambling pedestrian into a small grove of gnarled trees, sometimes offer a convenient short-cut, but more often end up leading the wanderer around in circles before depositing him somewhere rather behind where he started. Yet when an amble through town leads you to high ground, this tumbling warren of humanity is finally revealed as a rather small town set amidst a scenery of green hills dotted with the occasional white or black sheep. After spending the summer in the wilderness there is a peacefulness and order to this, the smallest capitol of the world that makes me feel as if we have finally come home out of the wilds.

That’s not to say that our journey is over! In a few days we will be heading further south towards the Isle of Lewis and Scotland. However, for now we are both enjoying the trappings of civilisation that have been rather scarce of late. Simple things like a hot shower in the morning and a washing machine to clean our clothes take on a new significance to us these days, and the fact that we are moored a mere ten meters away from a fancy café serving croissants and lattes makes us feel rather spoilt …. Well it is my birthday after all!

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Faroe Islands

When we initially arrived in Iceland in the beginning of September, we planned about a week in this beautiful country, because we felt the icy breath of winter at our back and we needed to move south quickly. However, our engine had other plans, and Iceland held us in a firm grip for over a month as we tinkered with various misbehaving mechanical monsters. Consequently we had to abandon our plans to sail to Newfoundland from here – by the time we were remotely mobile the autumn gales were roaring with their full might across the south of Greenland … Suddenly the European route looked a lot better! Thus we have now been pressing east in the hope that we could escape winter again, which by now had clearly overtaken us (with snow on the deck in the morning being a clear sign). After we fixed our last engine hiccups in Neskaupstađur we finally left Iceland in our wake and made for the Faroe Islands. We hoped to cover the nearly 300 nautical miles (about 550 km) in about 2.5 days, but the icy winds pushed us faster than expected, and we got here within 48 hours.

But what a journey it has been! The winds were from the perfect angle, straight from the North, so heading South-East we could sail the whole stretch on a reach (basically the wind pushes from the side, which allows for almost maximal speed). However, the waves were of course also coming from the side, constantly deterring our ship from its course. Steering was extremely hard work, which was not really facilitated by the heavy rain, driving sleet, and the occasional big swell. I’ve never given the stories about “freak waves” much thought, but being suddenly smashed by a huge breaker in the middle of the pitch black night, and being left standing knee deep in gurgling, ice cold sea water while various loose items make a break for freedom over the side and other items (such as the log book!) end up a soggy mess swilling around your feet makes you wonder … no harm done, but the experience certainly left me feeling a bit tense!

The second night we found ourselves almost in sight of land. It was another extremely dark night so we had the radar on, just to be on the safe side … thus the radar display provided an occasional distraction from the display of stars overhead. Suddenly however, there was this big, seemingly solid object on the screen, where according to our map no land or anything that size should be. Slightly bewildered we tried to steer out of the mysterious objects way as the looming shape seemed to inch closer and closer. I have to admit that my mind did turn to little green men stalking us in a craft that pulsed in various forms as it pursued their prey … in this instance us. Finally they overtook us, yet rather than a flurry of laser death-rays we were instead merely drenched in the downpour of a solid wall of heavy rain accompanied by roaring winds. Leaving us soaking wet once again. Oh well, not that our clothes ever really dried during this trip …

Finally, just with the first light of the morning, we reached steep cliffs at the north of the Faroe Islands. Notoriously known for their dangerous currents, we were a bit anxious as we hit the narrow fjord between the islands, hoping our newly repaired engine would endure the challenge. There were indeed roaring tidal streams, all with maelstroms and swirls and gurgles, but our engine behaved at its best and we made it safely to the town of Vestmanna. Now we are happily sitting in the first real “pub” we have encountered on the trip, sipping a local beer and planning how to further escape the clutched of the approaching winter.

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