15: Loch Inver to Stromness, 24th/25th July
Shipping forecast, 24th July, 12.10 Hebrides, Fair Isle: S or SE becoming variable 3 or 4; occasional rain; moderate or good, occasionally poor.
early than late) and spent the last hour or two wafting in light airs past the famous Old Man and high rugged cliffs of Hoy, dramatically wreathed in cloud and mist, before berthing in the marina in Stromness at 09.45 hours.
As elsewhere in the north of Scotland, there was plenty of room to spare. Not that many visiting yachts seem to come this far; those we saw that did were mostly dutchmen. In one place we were asked “Are you the people from the yacht?”
I’ve never been asked that before; made me feel like the hero of a romantic novelette - the man from the yacht, with firm lip and level gaze, and air of mystery to set female hearts aflutter! Well, perhaps not, but that’s the image that came to mind. Down south in our usual sailing grounds the people who are not off a yacht are the odd ones out, and if you haven’t found a berth by three o’clock they’ll probably all be full.
Stromness is an picturesque old town, its narrow streets paved with stone slabs, not tarmac, giving it a nineteenth century feel. We took a bus ride to Kirkwall, the capital, whilst there, but Stromness is much prettier. We had dinner ashore on our final night there in the Stromness hotel, an imposing edifice on the harbour front having about it an endearingly old fashioned style of gloomy grandeur.
We sailed from Loch Inver at 15.00 hours on the 24th July for overnight passage past Cape Wrath and along the north coast of Scotland to Stromness, a distance of about 95 miles. The key to this passage is to arrive at the Sound of Hoy, between the islands of Hoy and Mainland Orkney, during the flood tide as the stream runs at up to eight knots in the narrows. Preferably arrive during the last hour or two of the flood. Approaching with the tide ebbing into any significant degree of sea or swell from the west is to be avoided. We needed to time our arrival to around nine to ten on the morning of the 25th. As the southerly breeze freshened up and then and eased away so the engine was periodically employed, motor sailing so as to maintain the average speed required for this time of arrival. In the end we arrived in the approach a bit early (though better