Jonty Pearce continues his cruise north of Ullapool and the Summer Isles in Scotland

At the end of my last blog I left us sheltering in Orkney’s Pierowall Harbour after passaging up from Ullapool past Cape Wrath.

My intention was to follow quickly on with this next episode, but, as Robbie Burns wrote in his poem To a mouse, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

My return from Shetland home was swiftly followed by my annual steam engine driving jaunt at the nearby Welland Steam Fair, immediately after which our family’s’ second most important person suffered an perforation of a chronic corneal ulcer.

This required an emergency visit to the Leominster Eye Vet for said 18-year old cat to undergo a successful corneal grafting.

The necessary associated aftercare then meant cancellation of our planned cruise to The Isles of Scilly aboard Aurial.

Unsurprisingly, my mind has been on other things, so this blog has been delayed. However, let me now take you back to the Orkneys.

Once the gale that had driven us in to Westray had passed, 2 July saw us slipping our lines just after dawn for a 75-mile passage to Scalloway.

Despite the recent high winds the sea state was slight, but for much of the day fitful winds meant motorsailing until, as forecast, the breeze picked up as Shetland drew near; we ended up with a cracking reach into Scalloway.

The following day was spent exploring, vittling, and feeding the washing machine at Scalloway Boating Club.

Scalloway’s Castle and Museum both scored highly, and the stories of the ‘Shetland Bus’ were particularly awe-inspiring.

Paul increased the crew aboard his 27’ Albin Vega Mollymawk; Seumas and Greg had sailed with him from Kinlochbervie but he now recruited Greg’s father Julian to utilise every spare bunk and niche aboard his small yacht.

On leaving Scalloway our track zig-zagged across and around the Shetland archipelago.

From Papa Stour we crossed to West Burra Firth to drop off crew needing to return home; thence, with strong winds forecast, we sailed round Uyea and The Point of Fethaland into Yell Sound to shelter in Colla Firth.

Our next anchorage was West Lunna Voe, home to the Shetland Bus before a need for tighter secrecy and repair facilities forced its move to Scalloway. Greg and Jeremy left us here and Paul’s wife Katie took over sole crewing duties aboard Mollymawk.

We continued to Fetlar via Yell’s Burra Voe.

Continues below…

Rounding Cape Wrath, Scotland in fog

Jonty Pearce: Round the bend

Rounding the fearsome Cape Wrath in Scotland proves something of an anti-climax for Jonty Pearce as he cruises north of…

Having anchored in The Wick of Tresta, a long walk on Fetlar produced only one certain sighting (by Paul) of the island’s ornithological superstar, the dainty red-necked phalarope, but we enjoyed stretching our legs in the glorious scenery.

We sailed on north through Bluemull Sound to anchor in Lunda Wick on the east side of the sound’s northern entrance; this gave a perfect stepping stone to time the tides and weather for our west to east passage above Muckle Flugga and its outlier, the appropriately named Out Stack.

Having already sailed this northern coast anticlockwise, I was looking forwards to this trip going clockwise.

The gannets entertained us as we neared the iconic lighthouse and its gannetry; the tide was slack but an easterly wind meant a series of tacks once we had turned the corner of this most northerly point of the British Isles.

The next, and possibly more important, tidal gate was the rough water of Skaw Rost off Shetland’s northeasterly point; we gave it a very wide berth but even at neaps Sandpiper bounced about.

We watched Mollymawk’s mast performing pirouettes as her 27’ was tossed around as Paul opted to cut the corner; Shetland’s roosts and tides are not to be underrated.

Katie, not the world’s strongest sailor, was relieved to tie up to Balta Harbour’s pier.

Our final few nights were spent in the delightful Out Skerries, conveniently alongside the pier.

Deriving its name from the Norse for East Skerries (as opposed to Ve or West Skerries), this group of islands is Shetland’s most easterly outpost.

With only 37 permanent residents at the time of our visit it hosts a small community but enjoys all the necessities for island life; we topped up on essential supplies and enjoyed exploring ashore before passing out through the fearsome South Mouth for a passage to Lerwick.

My time was up, and I had to catch the Northlink Ferry to Aberdeen and thence the train home.

I left Sandpiper and Mollymawk to continue their journey to Fair Isle, Orkney, and thence through the Caledonian Canal to complete their circumnavigation of Northern Scotland.

I’d had a great trip – rounding Cape Wrath and then Muckle Flugga were notable moments – and my thanks go to Allistair and Pippa as well as to Commodore Paul.