Kirkwall 1.6. - 11.6.

  • Posted on: 23 June 2014
  • By: Eve

The distance of our Sunday sail from Peterhead to Orkney was 105 miles. Our plan was either to stop at the anchorage in front of the Shapinsay island or go directly to Kirkwall.

We cast off the lines at five in the morning for taking the advantage of the tidal current from south. The current was favourable all day long and finally we gained 10 free miles, thus the final sailing distance was 95 miles. During the leg the gennaker was up for 66 miles. The day passed leisurely. the Sun was shining and the sea was quiet around us.

When we turned to the strait between Shapinsay and Orkney Mainland we encountered a counter-current. For the last few hours we pushed against the two knot current. Finally we turned to the bay in front of the Balfour castle and put the hook down in the summer night filled by the delicate smell of the countryside.

In the morning we weighed the anchor and moved to the harbour of Kirkwall which is only three miles from Shapinsay. The bottom at the Shapinsay had a good holding with sand bottom. Our anchor winch is located on the foredeck thus all kind of a dirt that comes up with the anchor chain gets spread out all over the deck. On our previous boat it was always a hard work to clean the foredeck after anchoring and thus we wanted to have a sea water pump outlet for Suwena also on a foredeck. Now we have a routine that Andrus handles the winch and I flush the chain with the sea water.
Kirkwall harbour
After arriving in Kirkwall and shutting down the engine, Andrus noticed to his surprise that the bilge pump is running continuously. I run around the boat trying to listen where the water was entering the boat. After opening the engine room hatch Andrus found the offender quickly. The hose to the sea water pump was broken and water was showering into the engine room. We quickly closed the seacock to stop the water entering to Suwena. The whole engine room was covered by salt water and we had an additional repair in front of us. We were just about to leave the boat and fortunately Andrus really noticed the continious bilge pump action. Otherwise we would have been the next few hours in the internet cafe. Who knows how much water there would have been inside Suwena and there was also a real danger of sinking the boat as well.

We got stuck in Kirkwall for a longer time than we had planned because we were waiting the Selden spare parts from Sweden and they arrived only after waiting for a week and a half. That also meant that we had a plenty of time to fix the sea water pump hose and do some sightseeing as well.

Actually after examining the broken hose Andrus also found out that the sea water pump had broken as well. The pressure switch was broken and the pump was pumping continuously with full power. We can only speculate which of them was the initial cause for the whole incident. Earlier in spring we had just bought a spare water pump and now we had a use for it, as both of our fresh water and salt water pumps are the same make and model. I guess now we have to look for a well equipped chandlery in upcoming marinas and get a new spare pump again.
Suwena's broken water pump
For drinking water we use a tank water filtered through Seagull active carbon filter. We are using the fresh water both for household use and flushing the toilets as well. If the water pump would break in the middle of the sea voyage it would be difficult without drinking water and working toilets. Of course we can turn the valve in one of the toilets to flush with the sea water (it still needs a working sea water pump) but we hope it is not needed. The fresh water toilets stay much more odourless compared to sea water toilets and there should be less calcium deposits in the hoses as well.

Kirkwall is the main town of Orkney. It is a small town with a walking street in the middle. There are several cafés, restaurants and shops around the streets of the centre. Now that we stayed here for the longer time we also made a visit to the local hairdresser and once again the crew's heads are in order for a month or so.
Cathedral of Kirkwall
Cute fishing ship in Kirkwall
To our surprise the Vodafone and O2 wireless broadbands do not work in Orkney. The GPRS connection was slower than a snail and it was impossible to download anything. Even more surprising was that there were still places in Western Europe where even the cellphone did not work. In most buildings the signal did not reach inside the buildings at all. Fortunately in most of the restaurants, cafés and hotels there were a free WiFi so the menus from them became very familiar to us.

We also rented a car for a couple of days to drive around the Orkney Mainland and nearby smaller islands. It is unbelievable on how many historical places there are for exploring. More about Orkney's 5000 year old human settlements will be in another blog story.
Sheep in Orkney
Farming in South Ronaldsay island of Orkney
Village in South Ronaldsay island of Orkney
Andrus was amazed by the amount of renewable energy that is used on Orkney since almost all farms had their own wind power generator milling on a yard. We found out from the local newspaper that there are so many windmills that smaller ones are no longer accepted to be connected to the national grid because it is overloaded with electricity production.
Windmills at the farm in Orkney
There are protected Scapa Flow bay on the southern end of the Orkney archipelago that is very popular sailing destination. During the second world war the dikes were built by Churchill between the eastern islands to prevent German submarines from entering the bay. During the war Scapa Flow was the main base of British navy. Now that we had a rental car we also drove by the Churchill Barriers to the other islands.
Churchill barriers in Orkney
Visiting the small island of Birsay was an experience of its own. Birsay is located at the north-west corner of the Orkney Mainland. The island is only accessible by walking during the low water when a concrete causeway is revealed. We werewaiting on the pathway for about half an hour before the water retreated completely. There is a decent size bird colony on the island and birders looking for puffins followed us to the island. This evening we did not see any puffins but we admired a singing oystercatchers. It was a beautiful and peaceful island full of nature.
Causeway to island of Birsay during the low water
Oystercatcher in the island of Birsay at the ruins of viking settelement
The quest to find the northernmost palm tree also continued. On our way back from the southern islands Andrus spotted a palm tree in the front yard of the residential house. A quick U-turn and we have a proof that palms do grow at the latitude of 59 degrees north.
Palm in Kirkwall, 59 degrees north
The weather changes here really quickly. It was extraordinary that when we were in South Ronaldsay and there was full sunshine but after returning to Mainland there was a fog again. We also heard that the fog has been there for the whole duration of our island tour. It is just as Andrus said that "The weather forecast here cannot be trusted at all, except that if there is no gale warnings on VHF then probably there will be no storm in six hours".

When the Selden parts finally arrived on the 11TH we could continued to the other islands of Orkney.