After playing canal boat on the Caledonian it was time to make our final preparations for the arctic. Gathering three months worth of sustenance is no easy task. It felt like finals week, and we definitely hadn't been studying all semester. Planning is also synonymous with list-making, a dreaded activity for left handers like Zetty and me. The first evening we attempted meal planning ended in us drinking cider and watching Netflix...
Somehow we managed to get everything done; Lou stocked up on replacement parts, Zetty coordinated grocery store runs, and Ruth and I did our best to distract the mini monkeys with park days and museum visits.
A great benefit of living on board is the chance to meet people I otherwise might not have. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know Zetty's cousin, Ruth, during her time with us. Her sailing knowledge was extremely helpful as she patiently reminded my clumsy hands how to make the knots I learned ages ago and have since forgotten. She also became my guide to Scottish culture! Living aboard with Zetty and her relatives I've slowly gained an awareness for all things British. For example, I've learned that if you ask for pants you most certainly not get pants in the UK. Ruth and I were in a store when I told the sales associate I needed fleece pants. Behind me, she practically shouted, "Trousers! Fleece trousers!". Turns out, pants are what we in the U.S. call underwear. I've even gained an understanding of terms like "dodgy" and "straightaway" as well as the difference between biscuits and scones. Also to never phrase "fish and chips" as "chips and fish" because apparently they are NOT interchangeable. Zetty says that by the time I leave I'll be half British!
After our final days on the mainland we cast off for the Orkneys. We said our goodbyes to Ruth, and hellos to Chris and Ian. We were greeted in Stromness by sunshine and calm seas. Little did we know that this would be the smoothest passage of the trip for a long time. Originally we had planned to only stay in Orkney for a couple days before heading to the Faroes. However, we found ourselves stuck in Stromness for the next week, plagued by rough seas and heavy wind. Every time we thought a good weather window was coming the forecast would change and we'd have to wait another day. We took the extra time to explore all the best parts of the island and revisit the places we enjoyed.
Undoubtedly, the best parts of any adventure turn out to be the quirky or random things that occur while you're traveling, those unexpected moments that make each trip unique.
For us, it was whelks. One afternoon in the Harbor, Ian walked over to visit with some local fishermen one pontoon over. They ended up giving him a bag of fresh caught whelks. The group agreed that we must try them. That night we taught ourselves via google how to chef up the creepy looking creatures. Laughing hysterically, we tried to figure out just exactly which was the edible part. Luckily, a nearby captain explained to us what portion you could actually eat. The next day, Ian went back to tell the fisherman about our experience and only then did he tell us that no one in the Orkneys actually eats whelks, they just harvest them, chop them up and send them to Korea where they are in high demand! I suppose a red flag should have gone up when they gave them away for free.
Another day, Ian, Chris and I decided to venture to Kirkwall, a harbour on the other side of Orkney. I had to pay a quick visit to the dentist and the guys were on the hunt for a distillery. After getting the good word from the doctor that I needn't have my wisdom tooth removed as I feared (phew!) I met up with the guys and we made our way to Highland Park. Completely soaked from the inevitable rain we seemed to get caught in every time we left the boat, we sipped whiskey and learned about the process of making it. We also managed to make friend with a little lamb on the walk home. Like I said, it's the random things that make the experience.
Finally, we saw a short and favorable weather window that would allow us to get to the Faroes. It was time for round two on the North Sea.