Travelling: Faroes

The Faroes - Panorama

Yeah... and once you've been on the Shetlands, you want to sail more far away. More to the northwest, at about halfway Scotland and Iceland, there's another archipelago. You don't hear much about it so I asked Tom Moncreiff if he could tell more. Of course I like to study maps and the sailing directions. Sometimes you'll find a journal of a voyage there and sometimes there's a negative news when the annual slaughter of the whales start... Fortunately I didn't meet that and I don't want to meet that either. Tom has been there; be careful! the tidal currents are very strong; you can't sail against them.... And it becomes a hell, if strong winds blow in the opposite direction. Then there are high and steep cliffs and when there is a strong breeze blowing you'll meet heavy and violent squalls, racing down from the mountains. He saw the water in the straits flying around like snow in a blizzard! I think the islands not too far away from Shetland. Then I could extend my holidays to four weeks and I decided to go there...

Track across the North Sea In the meantime a crew member applied. I met him during the Amsterdam Boat Show (HISWA). He's a (little) brother of somebody I know already for some time. At that moment he's 17 years old, but very useful at sea, never afraid, nor seasick. He still is a crew member and for sailing races, Menno and Nico are fixed crew members.
We depart from Vollenhove, as that harbour was my home port in those times. Because the wind is northwest and we therefore like to start from a better position, we sail to Den Oever. From there we continue through the 'Marsdiep' and then through the 'Molengat' to the North Sea. We decide to sail to the Shetlands first. Of course, I can't pass the islands without visiting my friends there, that they wouldn't appreciate really. Besides that, it also will give us the opportunity to make our minds and to take some rest. The wind is northwest for a short time only and changes to southwest. Arriving at Lerwick we moor alongside a nice aluminum yacht with a length of 15 meters. It has a keel-centerboard. The owner is André de Jong. He has the same intention as we have; sailing to the Faroes and perhaps to Iceland, though he has no maps of Iceland with him. However, we do have them and as we feel we won't have time enough to sail there as well, he borrows them from us. In Tórshavn we get them back; he also ran out of time. A deep low with a gale of 45 knots wind is passing through and though we don't get the worse part of it a big swell is running into the harbour. When the thing is over the weather becomes nice again and we decide to depart on the Friday. André sails around Sumburgh Head; He doesn't like the Yell Sound with all the stacks. He doesn't trust the maps quite well. Besides that he likes a running course more than a windward one. We decide to pass through the Yell Sound as this shortens the trip somewhat and Quo Vadis is very good in sailing windward. Besides that, Sumburgh Head has its 'Sumburgh Röst', strong tidal currents may cause a difficult sea... Anyway, André departs at 8 am and we leave at noon, bound for the Yell Sound.

We sail along the eastern side of Mainland to the entrance of the Yell Sound. We pass a number of typical and inhabited islands. It's nice and calm with a fine sailing breeze, force 3 to 4. We don't meet any problem in the Yell Sound and at 7 pm we enter the open ocean and leave the Shetlands behind. The west coast looks very inhospitable, as you may see on the pictures. To the southwest, in the ocean, are some lost parts of the Shetlands; the Outer Stacks. (Lower picture) Not a real nice area to sail there when a strong gales blows. The ocean is calm but we still meet the remnants of the swell caused by the former gale this week. No problem for 'Quo Vadis', she even doesn't loose any speed. The Faroes are ahead and the course is not too much windward. It looks like the ocean is breathing when sleeping, so we don't wake her up; she might get angry!... The weather remains nice, but unfortunately the wind calms down. On the Sunday morning we enter the harbour of Tórshavn at 4:30 am. Of course, the bigger and fast boat of André is laying alongside the quay. It is a very different world here; if you enter the Netherlands at this time of the day on Sunday, it may happen that at that time the youth leaves the discos, because they close doors. But for the rest you may fire a gun without harming anybody as there is nobody. Here is looks like in the middle of the day, so many people are fishing and walking around. We are that silent as we can be, but nevertheless at a certain moment the fore hatch slides open suddenly and we look straight into Andrés' surprised face. He glances at us and says; 'It's you here?'... 'Of course', we reply; 'You knew that we should come!' The northwestern coast of Yell
Outer Stacks

The isles arise above the horizon; still 50 miles to go!
 At the horizon the islands - under their cloud sheet.
The pictures on this site form a collection composed from pictures made during two voyages to the Faroes. The story above is from the first time, the pictures next to this block are made the second time. The first time we came from the Shetlands, from the southeast. The second time we came from the Hebrides, from the south. Besides that, the first time we entered early in the morning with too less light to make proper pictures, while the second time we entered in the afternoon. The conditions of weather and sea were very different too. Here you'll find the story of the second time, when departed from the Hebrides.

We depart from Scalloway on the Sunday afternoon. It is overcast and rainy and a fresh wind blowing from the northwest. All is fine leeward from Scalloway and the isle of Lewis, but once we are around the northeastern cape of Lewis, the ocean welcomes us, with strong winds and a big swell. It's about force 6 and we have reefed the mainsail and put the jib on the forestay. We hardly can sail to the north and big clouds of salty spray sweeps over the boat. Not a real comfortable course! In the night we pass the lonely isle of North Rona an are happy to have it on our starboard side. The wind is backing and decreasing. As the wind is backing we can sail straight to the Faroes and life becomes more comfortable. The weather becomes clear and we have a nice sailing toward the isles. This also remains for the next day. On early Tuesday morning, at about 80 NM south from the Faroes we see a mass of clouds on the horizon, just on the spot where we suppose to find the Faroes. Different from other clouds, these don't change position. Sometimes bigger and then smaller, but on a fixed place. No doubt; the clouds come as the winds have to rise due to the high islands causing condensation. When we are at a distance of 50 miles from the isles, we see clearly the sun shining against the cliffs. Even the cloud above gets a white shining. This isle should be Suðuroy. We would have appreciated to pay a visit to that island, but as we like to join the annual party in Tórshavn on July 28, we don't have time and continue our trip. That date is a national holiday and the start of a new parliamentary year. We pass that island and then we see the two well known isles of Lítla- and Stóra Dímun (= Little- and Big Twin Mountain). The Dutch yacht designer Dick Koopmans met heavy weather condition here on his passage to Iceland. His boat was taken by the strong tidal current and combined with shrieking squalls, he had a very bad life for some hours. As the Faroese word 'demun' looks very similar to demon = devil, he renamed the isles to; 'Little- and Big Devil'. However we don't meet any squall, but we are taken by the current trying to draw us to the west through the strait between Suðuroy and Lítla Dímun. It's a wild sea there, similar to swell running into shallow water over the banks. Though there is not much wind the waves seem to be vertical with lots of white crests and that all with a tremendous noise. We start the engine and let it run with full power. All the sails are on and we sail downwind, with the fore peak of the boat rectangular to the course line... But we succeed to keep out of the breaking vertical wall of water. Once we reach Sandoy the problem is over. But the weather becomes bad. Many more clouds are coming and they become thicker. Besides that visibility becomes poor and very poor later and when we look backward to Lítla Dímun we see a big typical cloud hanging over it. It looks like the isle has got a cap. The first time we also saw this in early morning; then it became nice weather that day. Now it's getting foggy and after a while it becomes a thick fog. It starts raining as well and without seeing anything we enter the harbour of Tórshavn. Too late for the rowing races, but in time to join the party! Just one day too long in the Hebrides...
Now the isles can be seen clearly.
 We're approaching slowly.
 The isle of Suðuroy.
Lítla and Stóra Dímun
 Lítla and Stóra Dímun, yet in nice weather...
 Freighter, serving the islands.
The wild water near Lítla Dímun
 The wild water near Lítla Dímun.
Lítla Dímun with cap
 Lítla Dímun puts on its cap; no doubt about the nearing of a low!..

Map of the Faroes As you can see on both track maps, we also returned along different ways. The first time we are on the Faroes, we sail from Tórshavn to Klaksvik. From there we return in bad weather conditions and we get our part of the violence as described by Tom Moncreiff... The fishermen in Klaksvik say we shouldn't go out as at sea a wind with force 7 is blowing. But we just hàve to go! Time has gone and the boss already is calling us. They shake their heads; 'keep your eyes open and take care for the squalls!' If at sea a force 7 blows, the squalls will have force 12! Okay, we will be careful, besides that, the wind is easterly, if too heavy we always can return easily. As soon as we get free from the jetty the strong wind blows us away into the fjord. Klaksvik is a safe winter harbour and protected from all sides by high mountains. It is situated at the end of a cove, protected by the long isle of Kalsoy and Kunoy. The wind blows hard against Kunoy and is reflected over the water running against the wind from Klaksvik. It causes waves coming from Kunoy and running against waves from Klaks-vik... I never saw this before! When sailing in the open Leirvíksfjørdur a heavy squall races down the cliff. As we expected already something like that, we have no sail set and are running under engine. You have to observe the summits and look for a cloud that is not drifting away but hanging at the same place all the time. The water sweeps around like snow in a blizzard! Then he gets us and it feels like a giant takes the top of the mast and pushes you down. The boat heels far and the stanchions of the lifelines touch the water. And that with bare poles only! As soon as we have left the danger area we set sail; a reefed mainsail and the working jib. There's a lot of wind, is foggy and soon the isles are disappeared. But once away from the isles the wind decreases somewhat and we get a clear sky. But we have to sail close hauled and we just remain free from the Orkneys. Then the wind is backing and becomes strong again. We sail home in a direct track; departed from Klaksvik on the Saturday, we arrive at Vlieland on Thursday morning. The second time we sail around Muckle Flugga, the northern extremity on the Shetlands as due to a gale warning we don't like to enter the Yell Sound. From Lerwick we depart on the Monday, but we still arrive the Thursday, as we were blown down by strong winds...

Quo Vadis in Tórshavn Rest; the day after our arrival
They arrived at 2 o'clock am and didn't expect us to arrive that soon! He can't understand and starts calculating many times... 'Impossible, that boat is sailing too fast!' But no doubt; we are there! Also somewhat earlier than we expected.

Tórshavn is a rather big place and for a bigger part working in the fishery. Only a few yachts is visiting the islands and the quay is small. There is almost no difference in water level due to no rising of the tide; not more than about 20 cm. Much more comfortable than on the Shetlands with their 1.80 difference.

The boy in the cockpit is Heðin Christiansen. He simple visited us on board, quite common on the isles. But we had to help him as he broke his leg after cycling down a hill...
Tórshavn - harbour
Tórshavn - harbour

The Norwegian yacht 'Framstig', bound for Greenland.
Smak from the Faroes
A typical fishery vessel from the Faroes; the 'smak'.

Fishing boat Typical fishing boat from the Faroes Of course, as a ships lover the first thing you do is exploring all floating objects in and around the harbour. You can see clearly that the inhabitants are Vikings from their origin. These boats have all the linings and shape from the original 'Drakars'. The deck houses for the engine are miniature wheelhouses of large ships. Ut looks quire and strange. But it has a good shape. However, one is better than the other. The 'smak' is a typical Faroese fishing vessel of the ancient time. Also there's a stamp with its portrait. So, we called the smak; 'our postmark boat'. The fishing vessels are very big. They fish for the halibut at a depth of 900 meters! Most times two vessels fish together.
Typical fishing boat from the Faroes New built fishing boat

Old-fashioned danger Really not that new anymore; left behind after the second world war
Above: In all times guns were watching the approaches to Tórshavn. At the other side of the sound
             lays the isle of Nólsoy. This island offers some shelter to Tórshavn against the violence of the
             Atlantic Ocean.

Below: Birds' eye view of Tórshavn...
Tórshavn - Panorama

The old Tórshavn The old Tórshavn Viking ornaments
House with "Viking"-ornaments.
The oldest part of Tórshavn with
wooden houses and grassy roofs.

The Cultural Center in Tórshavn Sitting room
The Cultural Center in Tórshavn is a gift from
the Scandinavian countries. It was designed by
an Icelandic architect and built from materials,
common on the islands.
The entrance The stage Staircase

Inauguration The service in the church Trumpet- and organ player
On July 28 they have a national holiday on the Faroes; the inauguration of the new par-
liamentary year. Everybody has a day off and they start with a divine service, for that
we are invited too. The bigger part of the inhabitants are Lutherans. It's an attractive
event in an attractive church. After the service they go in a ceremonial dressing to the
parliamentary building for the Annual Speech. This is spoken in the open air before the
building, the oldest wooden building in Tórshavn. In the evening there is a big feast,
should read; drinking party. The islands are prohibited and alcoholic drinks are not avai-
lable, only for an event like this one there is beer with about 5 to 6 percent alcohol. It's
a strange view; everybody in the street is drunk, really drunk and helpless. They lean a-
gainst each other and the empty bottles they break in the street! No bad words, no fight!
Danish governor The referent Look! That important we are!..
We are invited at one of the officials
of Tórshavn. He's the 'landesapothe-
ker' and manages also the local tou-
rist information. He's curious about our
opinion and he laughs about our ama-
zement. It's a very nice evening and
already very late when we carefully
walk back to the boat through layers
of broken glass. The next morning
nothing is left anymore!...
They cleaned it all!

Local dressing
The speech at the parliamentary building Now and then we see a drunk guy hanging on dustbins and boxes, fully unconscious. I heard, that if you put a bottle of alco-holic drink on a table, they won't leave before that bottle is completely empty. On a mor-ning a youngster of about 26 y.o. comes on board asking if we have some beer or whine to drink for him. Menno is still in his berth, but I'm out already. I tell him, that we don't have any. I don't like to share our very limited stock with him, that we only carry with us to celebrate special events, if any. I tell him, that alcohol and sai-ling is a bad combination. He doesn't like the islands: 'Noth-ing to do in this mist but drink-ing and fucking'... Then he lea- ves. Disappointed. I suddenly hear laughing from out the port berth; 'So', Menno says; 'this was the first and the last one, all Tórshavn will know that we don't have anything for a drink!' And he was right! Nobody else came anymore.

Park with stream Park
Just like on the Shetlands; Tórshavn has a park with trees, that are rigged to prevent from blowing down. The thin, soaked bottom on the rocks, offers too less grip. Besides that there can blow lots of real wind!
'Rigged' tree

Toilet-wash? Left: Don't stop water; just let it run underneath your
         house. it also will wash away, those things, you
         want to get rid off...
Below: Typical country house on the Faroes.
Right:   House with 'Viking'-ornaments.

Country house
Tórshavn at midnight
 Tórshavn at midnight. This picture was taken on the 25th of July at 1 o'clock am! Sunrise at; 02:45, sunset at; 23:15 hr.

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Last updated on December 22, 2003 by: