• Mark

What a day!

After more than two weeks in Tórshavn and a fantastic time catching up with old friends and making new, we realised that we had to take Altor out of the safe harbour in order to blow her cobwebs away (a green beard like growth around her waterline) and also to prove to ourselves that there is a world outside of Tórshavn.

If you live on a boat, generally, you have to make an effort to get off in order to socialise. This is not the case in The Faroe Islands. We did get off to socialise but many people also got on the boat to socialise too. Breakfasts, coffees, lunches and dinners onboard Altor, in cafes, in the homes of some of the lovely people that we met and on other people’s boats became the daily norm. We’re so grateful for the super friendly welcome we receive in this fine land and for the charming people that abound. What a blast of human warmth, friendliness and compassion we were delivered into on arrival in Tórshavn and we look forward to picking up where we left off on our return.

As well as blowing Altor’s cobwebs off, I had to blow my own off too. My cobwebs were those of eating and drinking far too much so after arriving at the conclusion that it was time to push off, we dropped the lines and asked Altor to deliver us to pastures new.

We left Tórshavn at 15.30 and our long sea voyage of 3nm to the Island of Nólsoy commenced. I had previously cast my eye in this harbour thanks to a sailing trip in a Wayfarer dinghy from Tórshavn with two lovely people that we met, Di and Havadur. We actually met Havadur last year over dinner on Mike Henderson’s boat (the author of the pilot book we use to navigate this wonderland) but this was the first time we had met his girlfriend, Di.

As soon as we sailed into the cute little harbour of Nólsoy on the Wayfarer, I decided that this was to be our first stop on Altor after Tórshavn.

After the short hop across we moored Altor on the small pontoon, walked ashore and wandered around the harbour before settling in for dinner. At about 8pm the sight of two Wayfarer's entering the harbour signalled the arrival of Di, Havadur and a few keen sailing passengers. It’s a lovely feeling being in the Faroe Islands and actually knowing people! As floating gypsies, this is quite a rare thing. After a walk around town and a beer at the harbour bar / cafe / someone’s front room, Di, Havadur and their passengers left and started their gentle evening sail back to Tórshavn.

When we woke up the next day I was confused in a 'Where am I?' kind of way. I get this a lot and it is simply a consequence of this boat life. The surrounding woodwork that meets my gaze is of course familiar but it takes a few seconds to remember exactly where we are parked!

Oh yes, Nólsoy!

‘Asha, I’m going to make breakfast and then we’re going for a hike’.

‘Roger’ was her reply.

‘No, we haven’t got time for that I’m afraid, we need to get going’, was mine.

I have said before that the Faroe Islands are an assault of the finest kind on all of your senses and the hike out of town towards the mountain was no exception. It was cloudy but dry and every kind of light here delivers a different perspective. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a dull grey day. A grey day will bring out the greens of the landscape and the wonderful colour of the houses in a pastelly, soothing and yet awe inspiring way and when the grey gives way to blue sky and sunshine the soothing pastel palette gives way to mind boggling turbo charged optic nerve mayhem! It’s the kind of unfathomable sight that makes you feel like slapping the side of your head to make sure that you are getting the correct reception, which, you are! Once you realise that what you are seeing is actually real, you are free to accept it. However, this is easier said than done. In the way that the progress bar freezes on those software updates over a poor wifi connection, I can find myself staring vaguely ahead incoherently mumbling something like ‘I just, I just, I just don’t know what to say’. This is a system error! Ok, so let’s try a force shutdown and then reboot.

On rebooting my brain says ‘You shut the computer down because of a problem. Do you want to reopen the previously opened programs’?

Whatever you do, do not select this option! It is simply too much for the archaic processor to handle. Instead, it’s best to open one eye and let the senses fill slowly before opening the other eye. Hopefully this will allow the program to continue although be aware that you may need to tolerate frequent software meltdowns because this is a place that is so mind bogglingly difficult to accept in it’s full 10k resolution!


As well as system errors, there are system overloads. These are more serious and result in involuntary shutdowns. System overloads can occur suddenly and with only the smallest of warnings. Mine usually start like this:

‘F*ck me! Where the f*ck are we? What the f*ck is this place and how am I ever going to get used to the total and utter assault on all of my senses? Mind fog descends and then……Shutdown.

After a four hour hike around Nólsoy (inclusive of a couple of system errors) we returned to Altor, had some lunch and then it was time for us to go. Every sailor knows that it is advantageous to time any journey so that you are carried by the tide rather than fighting against it but in truth, most of the time, this is optional. This is not so in the Faroe Islands. Ignoring the tide can lead to making no headway at all against a 6 or 8 knot tide or worse, going into a maelstrom of hell, high water, swirling angry current and steep sharp waves ready to give you a battering that you will never forget! With this in mind our departure from Nólsoy was timed to ride the gentle tide south and then join the main flow heading west towards our destination of Hestur.

Out of the harbour, engine off and sails up. Four miles later we rounded the corner, the wind went on the nose and increased from 11 knots to 30 knots! Normally this would mean a slow slog with the engine on but not on this day. Five knots of tide with us meant nine or ten knots over the ground despite the headwind. All was nice and smooth until we made our final approach to Hestur where two big stone walls jut out to provide protection to the harbour within. I’m not sure exactly why, maybe seabed topography or maybe the walls sticking out into the tidal stream, but the sea got very confused. Sure, it was wind against tide but they weren’t really waves, more like huge lumps of water standing up before belly flopping onto the bow of the boat with a weighty crash. The white caps all around, blue sky, incredible sunshine, stiff cold wind and a fairly violent boat motion sharpened our senses further. We rounded the harbour wall and steered in between the gap. We could see the water becoming calm in front of us and as soon as we were through the gap, the boiling maelstrom of water and 30 knots of wind were behind us and forgotten. Ahead of us lay a beautiful harbour with beautiful houses, a wonderful church, birdsong all around and, wow, the greenest of green mountainsides climbing into the sky directly in front of us. I gazed up trying once again to comprehend the scale of what stretch out and up in front of us. This almost unearthly greenest of green beyond the colourful houses at the foot of this incomprehensible rise of mountainside and the calm crystal clear blue water gave me an overwhelming sense of ‘F*ck me. Where the f*ck am I? What the f*ck is this place?

‘error 404, page not found: WLKIB&^$*VCDR&&654………******/////////:::::::::::::::::’

Shutdown!

’The computer shut down because of a problem. Do you want to reopen the previously opened programs’?

’NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! I just can’t take this…………’



The town and harbour of Nólsoy

What you looking at?

Kirkjubøur where we hiked to from Tórshavn. This time viewed from the sea on our way to Hestur.

The harbour at Hestur with its greenest of greens.

The small south harbour. Too shallow for us.

Again, the south harbour with Altor's mast visible beyond.

Looking across from the harbour entrance of Hestur to Streymoy

Looking south from the harbour at Hestur

Some pictures taken as we hiked south

We climbed and stopped here for lunch! They call this an Oasis lunch because you get a roll with it!


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