We managed to find a short weather window of about a day and a half in order to make it to the Faroes. We were all a little on edge heading out to sea as it seemed that every time we tried to leave we experienced what's called wind against tide. This is when the wind and the tides are going in opposite directions, creating short, choppy and inconsistent waves. To put it in simple terms it makes below deck feel like the inside of a washing machine. We joked that the bars in Stromness should start serving a "wind against tide" shot, sure to upset the hardiest drinker.
I haven't personally had any trouble with seasickness yet but the choppy seas still wear you out. Even the simplest movements like getting from your bunk to the galley are monumental tasks. The amount of effort it takes just to keep your body in a comfortable upright position is enough to make you tired. I've found that within the first couple hours I have to give in to the motion and take a nap. It's almost like a giant cradle. Or if the seas are rough it's like a frustrated adult violently trying to rock their colicky baby to sleep.
On our way to the Faroes, the wind speed gradually increased over the first twenty four hours andby the early morning of the second day things really started to pick up. When we reached the southernmost island, Sudoroy, we were seeing gusts up to thirty and forty knots, the wind gage read almost fifty knots a few times. The Faroes are a barren, mountainous set of islands but on our approach we only started to see a hint of land through the fog within the last couple miles. When we finally reached the mouth of the harbour I felt this strange sense of happiness. This was a place I had always wanted to visit and I was finally there.
Originally, we decided to try a small anchorage not far into the fjord. We pulled in, dodging a small fish farm and attempted to drop anchor. In front of us the land quickly went from rocky shoreline to grassy pasture and then shot up in a dramatic rise above the water. The peaks were socked in with fog and pencil thin waterfalls ran down their rocky faces. We tried to drop anchor three times without any luck, it just wouldn't catch. Small wind cyclones ripped across the water and we headed for the harbour. Upon reaching town we realized there weren't really any places to tie up. The crusing almanac had shown pontoons and a small marina but as far as we could tell an industrial fish factory dock was our only option.The harbor master told us there was a wall we could tie up to but getting to that spot was a challenge in and of itself. With little options we decided to try for the leeward dock. We got close enough to let Ian off to catch a stern line and then made a loop before circling back in. However, right as we were about to pull alongside the wall another massive gust came up. Without the centerboard down Arctic Monkey started picking up speed and flying on a parallel straight for the wall. Within seconds her hull came smacking into the giant tires and concrete slabs.
Even if we had wanted to move the boat elsewhere, the wind was so strong we had no choice but to wait until the storm passed before moving Arctic Monkey. We were stuck on the wall with giants waves relentlessly smacking into our hull. It was so nasty that it almost felt like being at sea! The boat was heeling enough that the port side bunks even had to use their lee cloths at night.
Luckily, we were still able to exit the boat and explore the island. After making sure the lines and bumpers were secure we ventured off to town in search of showers, wifi and a pub (prioritized in that order, I swear). Almost immediately a car stopped to ask if we were on the boat that just came in and if we needed anything. We had been there for maybe an hour and people already knew our boat. That was something I found especially entertaining in the Faroes, if we were in smaller towns people would literally drive their car down through the harbour, stop and blatantly check out our boat. This wasn't necessarily unusual. When we were in marinas it was common for people to come by and ask about the boat, who makes it, where its going, but something about the way the locals in small towns came up to look at us as if we were a foreign species was hilarious to me. However, I noticed it wasn't just our boat; one evening a massive carrier ship, named Ruby, came into the fjord and all along the road cars full of locals lined up to watch. It was at that point that I realized just how remote Suduroy was.
We quickly realized that the only place in Tyvorori (sort of pronounced like trovovovoshay - it helps if you pretend you have marbles in your mouth) that was open was a little pub near the harbor. The bartender, Gwennie, came to know us and constantly cracked jokes about us getting stuck there for weeks due to weather. She told us about the island and it's inhabitants. Twice she came over to our table unexpectedly and poured us Faroese schnapps to try. The locals were incredibly friendly.
Not just in Tyvorori, but everywhere we went. On Friday morning we finally got our chance to continue north to Tórshavn, the capitol city. Unbeknownst to us we arrived on the day of their annual culturalfestival. The marina was buzzing with activity and for the first time on the trip I realized how much I missed that constant energy from lots of people being around.
Tórshavn was home base for the next few days while we waited again for another weather window. We got to know the neighboring boats and socialized with other captains. This is something I love about cruising, other sailors are so friendly and willing to share knowledge. It seemed that we had a different guest onboard almost every day for morning coffee. We developed an especially strong relationship with, Birgir, the captain of a tall ship.
When we had arrived in Tórshavn we jumped off the boat in search of the harbor master. A man setting up a nearby tent said to our crew, "Hey, can you help me set this up? I will give you some fish soup." From then on we were total besties with Nordlysid, the bright blue schooner that dominated the Tórshavn marina. Birgir and his son Hávarður Enni were our guides to the town, constantly giving us recommendations or inviting us to join them for a meal or day excursion. The second day Hávarður came over and told us that they had prepared some whale meat and wanted to know if we would like to come try. I have a policy that when traveling I have to at least try every food that's offered to me (to my loyal two readers aka my mom and dad, please don't abuse that knowledge) so, of course I said yes. Whaling turned out to be another interesting topic we learned about while in the Faroes. Everyone wanted to know what we thought about "Sea Shepherd". The Faroese have a deep tradition of eating whale meat. The islands, situated halfway between Norway and Iceland , are a harsh and barren landscape. The north side, boasts some of the most spectacular sea cliffs in the world. It almost looks like an Arctic version of Hawaii. As you can imagine, these people, like other nordic countries, have to get real creative in order to survive. Which meant that they harvested whales once a year to provide every Faroese citizen with a portion of whale meat to last a considerable amount of time. You can still register online to get your portion. Sea Shepherd is an organization that runs a campaign against the whale harvest. While talking about the group the locals we met specifically talked about the founder, "Paul Walker". The first time I learned about the controversy may or may not had been after a couple beers and therefore I misinterpreted the information to mean some sort of movie was being made about the whale harvest (oops). Upon further research investigation I discovered that the founders real name was actually Paul Watson, not Walker like the late actor. So it seems that there may be more than a little miscommunication between the organization and the Faroese citizens!
Birgir also asked if I would be willing to take some photos of his boat one day when we accompanied him and some divers out to collect sea urchins. I went out in a dinghy with the divers and tried my best to capture images of his massive schooner. He also let us use fishing poles to catch fresh cod and fillet our own dinners. After the urchin excursion we of course had to do a little taste test. Apparently, it's an acquired taste but my overall impression was "salty jello".
Our stay in Torshavn also coincided with the Faroese soccer teams' second win ever against Greece. This in conjunction with the festival meant the Faroese partied like rockstars all night and well into Sunday afternoon. One tipsy local we met even got teary eyed just talking about the win; basically how I imagine myself behaving if the Gophers ever manage beat the Badgers at TCF bank stadium in my lifetime, just sayin. This same local was a wealth of knowledge and explained to us over a Föroya Bjór (the Islands' local brew) all about the Faroese culture. While I am a total Faroese wannabe I did find some parts of his information peculiar. When asked how many of the children onboard Arctic Monkey were mine I kind of laughed and explained none were, and that I'm only twenty-five! To which the locals laughed and emphasized the word only. Apparently, in the Faroes it's unusual to not have kids by the time you are twenty or twenty-one. They think of it as something to "get out of the way" when you're in college and still young. While I do sort of see the logic there I think I'll keep my childless status for now. After that conversation I started to notice the quantity of young parents pushing their fancy prams and casually leaving their kids outside cafes in that famous way that Scandinavian people do. It really is THAT safe.
The last stop was Klaksvík, the fishing capitol of the Faroes. While I loved the social scene in Torshavn, the vistas of the northern islands put the capitol city to shame. The sail to Klaksvík along with our time there was more of what I had expected. The only downfall was that a more rugged marina meant saying goodbye to nice amenities like showers and laundry. With only one day left I knew I could not not climb at least one of the towering peaks that lined the fjords. So, with our camera gear in tow, Ian and I decided to go for a three hour jaunt turned four and a half hour trek.
With tired, wobbly legs we set out looking for showers as neither of us wanted to do a three day passage to Iceland without bathing. Unfortunately, the hotel where the harbor master recommended was full so we couldn't pay for showers there. Ian had wandered into a nearby pub to ask around and ended up with a friendly invite from the bartender to just use the apartment upstairs. Before I could give it too much thought I followed the bartender through the back and up to his apartment where he offered to get a fresh towel and showed me the extremely nice shower I could use (I can hear my dad now "haven't you seen taken?!).
Now, this may seem weird but I've been showering in public bathrooms for the past two and a half months so it wasn't really that out of the norm for me. The other morning i walked up to the facilities and an older man was standing outside the shower rooms. In a thick German accent he said "Good timing! A moment ago I vas just standing here in my undverpants!" and this did not strike me as unusual in the least bit.
To be fair some cruel soul had designed the bathrooms so that the showers were inside with each toilet. The rooms lacked clothing hooks and air vents. Therefore, it was like trying to dry off in a steam room while simultaneously playing “don't touch the ground" with your now damp pile of cloths every time you showered. So, yeah, I can totally understand why the older gentleman got dressed in the common area.
While Ian took his turn showering I grabbed a beer and chatted with some of the people at the bar. We adult monkeys had depleted our stock of boxed wine the night prior so I asked if there was a liquor store nearby. Apparently, buying alcohol in the Faroes is even harder than it is in Utah and they told me there wasn't one in town. After hearing our situation the bartender slipped us a six pack on our way out. The people really were THAT nice. Upon reflecting on my experience there I realized that although I was drawn to the Faroes for the scenery it ended up being the people that really established a place in my heart for those remote islands caught out in the mist of the North Atlantic.