Friday, April 24, 2015

Shetland Islands

First things first:  Some photos from Shetland

     What I saw of The Shetland Islands seemed prosperous (many are employed in either petroleum/gas or fishing), very clean (not sure whether that is a cultural thing or the frequent gales blowing all the trash from the windswept islands), and a bit bleak (the landscape, that is.There are no trees, and the grass was rather straw-colored.). The locals I met were very friendly (drivers waving as they drive by) and generous. I had more than one drink bought for me, and if I already had a full beer, they were happy to buy me a whiskey to go with it. I was also given a delicious lobster by a friendly fisherman on Whalsay.
     I only visited three places (I confess it was a bit chilly on Twister and that that swayed my decision to head back to Bergen and the shore-power-powered fan heater rather than explore more of Shetland.): Lerwick on the island of Mainland, Symbister on Whalsay, and Out Skerries. Shetland was settled by Norwegians back in the day, so norse words abound in the names - Lerwick = Leirvik = clay bay or muddy bay, Whalsay = hvaløy = whale island, Skerries = skjær = reefs/rocks. The Out Skerries is a group of small islands with a population of 55 by one residents estimate. Unlike the other places, Out Skerries appeared to be in decline/decay. Fishing is the only industry, they are somewhat isolated, and the population is possibly below critical mass. A ferry which comes a few times a week but is often prevented from entering the somewhat treacherous harbor by the weather. Whalsay is home to many of the Shetlands big fishing trawlers. In Lerwick, I met perhaps as many people not from Shetland as locals. The oil terminal at Sullom Voe employs some, and the construction of a new gas terminal has brought a new batch of workers. Many of these are housed on a hideous zebra-colored barge from The Netherlands and a cruise ship.

      On the return passage, I was able to transit through both the UK and Norwegian sector of oil rigs
in daylight (On the passage to Lerwick, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the AIS alarm alerting me to a ship on a collision course with me. It was one of the rescue boats that hangs around the rigs, apparently trying to divert me from getting any closer to one of the UK rigs. A bit stressfull in rough weather and at night. Couldn't be bothered to talk to me on the VHF radio either, bastards). In fact, the whole homeward passage was pleasant with rather tradewind-like conditions (excepting the temperature). Took me a bit under two days. Twister held up well, and I quickly became reaccustomed to life at sea. 

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