Friday evening there was a celebratory dinner with all the expedition members, both those just arrived on Celeste and those taking her back the morning. I retired as early as possible and collapsed into bed. I awoke at some point in the middle of the night with no idea where I was. The bed was swaying, but I was obviously not still on the boat. I met Martin at breakfast next morning and he said he’d found himself clinging to the wall in order to get to the toilet during the night, not trusting the floor to stay still, so I wasn’t the only one having problems with sea legs syndrome.
Now, what with all this talk of no sleep and longing for a stationary bed, you might think I’d have a leisurable morning? Bah. There was a whole island to discover (and anyway, with 8 hours of sleep I felt much, much better). The day before I’d asked Martin how far it was to Scapa, whether one could walk there? “No, it’s too far” was the answer. But we’d seen Scapa Bay from the Highland Park rooftops, so I didn’t trust that answer, and Google was on my side, so after a hearty breakfast I set out.
The weather was perfect for a ramble, and there was plenty to see along the way. It was also quite pleasurable to be able to really step out after spending the week on a boat that, no matter how big, didn’t really allow for walking much. It took me a little under an hour to reach Scapa Bay.
The easiest viewpoint from which to see Scapa, and take pictures, is from the bay, or even the water (though I had no boat, so I couldn’t verify that). Once there I obviously had to walk around to see what it looked like from the entrance side, but that had little to offer (as expected). I seem to have heard a rumour that there are plans afoot for a visitor centre at Scapa, so perhaps I will have more luck when I next make it to Orkney. (I can’t remember WHERE I heard the rumour, so don’t jump for joy just yet.)
Well, I had a plane to catch anyway, so I headed back to Kirkwall, choosing a different route, packed my bag and joined a couple of the others in a taxi to the airport.
In Aberdeen I found that there was a Kaffe Fasset exhibition on at the art museum, much joy. I stopped by Casc Bar and Brewdog (I will write specifically about them later), and on Sunday I flew back home. Thursday, almost a week after landfall at Kirkwall, I finally felt the fog of sleep deficiency lift. I think perhaps I should rethink this idea of becoming a sailor.
Some more pictures from my trek over to Scapa Bay:
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”4″ gal_title=”Kirkwall til Scapa Bay og tilbake igjen”]
It’s not every day I come across news that signals the startup of a new Norwegian distillery. But in an article covering new leases and renewals in the Bryn and Helsfyr area of Oslo I came across the following sentence:
I samme bygg skal Oslo Håndverksdestilleri AS bygge et nytt destilleri på 424 kvm fra januar 2015.
Translated: In the same building Oslo Craft Distillery (trademark has been registered in the EU) will build a new distillery covering 424 square meters starting January 2015.
The man behind it is Marius Vestnes founder of Cask Norway and Cask Sweden (importers of alcoholic beverages in Norway and Sweden), a man well known for good taste in alcoholic goods.
Not much more is know at the time of writing, but we will come back with news when they emerge.
After our visit to Highland Park we were loaded on to a coach and transported to Yesnaby, which is on the west coast of Orkney Mainland, south of Skara Brae. The area is first and foremost known for its spectacular cliffs in old red sandstone, and this was what we had come to see. Even with the short time available the organisers obviously wanted us to get a taste of what Orkney has to offer, and other than the whisky, nature is Orkney’s main tourist attraction. I guess you could consider the PR successful, since several of us came to the conclusion that we’d need to come back to Orkney and do a bit of hiking, for example along the Yesnaby Coastal Path. Well, see for yourselves:
We were shuttled to the distillery by the Highland Park minibus. Once there we were first treated to a short film showcasing the history of the distillery (I hazard a guess that this is part of the standard tour as well). We were then split into two groups, Martin showing one around, Patricia the other.
The tour started in the maltings, naturally. 15000 tonnes of barley are malted at the distillery each year, which is around 20% of the barley they use overall. The barley variety is Concerto, and it is all “imported”, that is from mainland Scotland, which adds to the expenses, obviously.
When the malt is carried from the malt floor to the kiln it has around 40% water content. It is then dried with peat for 22 hours, and then hot air until done. While the malt has 35-50 ppm after kilning, there is only about 2 ppm in the newmake.
Highland Park have 12 washbacks, some Oregon Pine, some Douglas Fir and some Siberian Larch. The wash is left to ferment for a minimum of 56 hours, and the resulting alchohol strength is 7-8% ABV. The wash is fruity, sweet, nutty and smokey.
2 wash stills produce a low wine of 25% ABV, 60% of the volume is lost in the process. “Smells like mushroom soup in the stillhouse”, according to Patricia. We had to take her words for it, because we were not allowed into the stillhouse (they were working in there, you know), we had to content ourselves with standing at the door looking in.
Ah, well. They cut from head to heart at 75% and again at 63%, which gives around 4500 liters of newmake from 30,000 liters of wash.
To make up for not getting into the stillhouse, we got to climb onto the roof and admire the view.
We also got to see the inside of the kiln, the floor where the malt is dried. And we got a peek into the kiln they had lit for our benefit (so we could see the fire and practice adding peat). It was empty, but the smell was rather lovely.
Then it was time to climb back down to the ground to enter the hallowed halls of the warehouses.
The tour was naturally concluded with a tasting, led by Martin. He had selected two Viking-related bottlings; Leif Eriksson and Drakkar, followed by Dark Origins, the raison d’etre for the trip, and then we were treated to Highland Park 21 years old. Follow the links for tasting notes for the others, I’ve published notes for Dark Origins before, but on this occasion I noted sherry, burnt rubber, singed popcorn and orange peel on the nose, singed casks, dried fruits and vanilla on the palate. And I still like it.
Contented (and exhausted, we had only arrived the same morning after all) we ended our tour with a visit to the distillery shop.
We were welcomed by a boat carrying a filmcrew in the approach to Kirkwall and showed off some of our newly aquired skills, like furling the sails and climbing on to the boom. Some of this footage can be seen in the video I linked to earlier in The Dark Expedition – Preamble.
Once we were tied up to the quay Martin and Karl made two bottles of HP 18 and enough glasses to og around appear, and we toasted ourselves. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that a dram was more deserved, or tasted better.
Then it was time to say farewell to Celeste and check into the hotel, where most of us hit the showers. We had arranged to meet for lunsj, and I spent a few minutes prior to that booking flights home via Aberdeen and a hotel in Aberdeen since the flights didn’t really correspond (not that I mind an overnight stay in Aberdeen).
Lunch was had at Skipper’s, an excellent plate of Fish & Chips for my part. After lunch we had a stroll around Kirkwall town centre before meeting the Highland Park minibus for shuttling to the disitillery.
Finally the time had come to see Highland Park. The distillery deserves its own entry, so: To be continued.
On board Celeste, with the Orkneys in sight, 22 August 2014
During the watch before ours (between six and nine pm Thursday, that is) the wind picked up sufficiently, so we could turn off the engine and hoist the sails. According to Åsa they had managed 10 knots, with the number 2 jib and the mainsail.
We held 7-8 knots for a long time (nine to midnigh watch), but we were headed straight into an area of clouds and once in it the wind went slightly mad and our speed varied between 3 and 7 knots. At some point it stayed at 3 for a long time, so we started the engine, but then the wind naturally picked up again, so we resigned ourselves to trying to make the most of it.
When we came off watch at midnight, the speed had settled at a steady 7-8 knots, so we were doing ok as far as concerns the schedule. I was nowhere ready to get out of my bunk when I was awakened at twenty to six (yet again it had taken me hours to fall asleep), but once on deck I could see it was a promising morning.
Suddenly, five or more dolphins were playing around the bow and I saw a puffin in flight (gotta love puffins! And dolphins!).
And before half an hour had passed we sighted land!
And suddenly sailing was again the best thing ever (but I’m still looking forward to sleeping in a normal bed).
On board Celeste, some place north-east of Scotland, south-east of Orkney, 21 August 2014.
The prognosis was for very little wind until we passed Lindesnes and then quite a lot of it because of a low pressure area over Skagerrak. We had passed one front on our way up from Gothenburg, but to reach the Orkneys we had to pass through the other side (Ill. 1 – amateurishly done by me).
We were expected to hit the rough weather around midnight and that it would last for approximately 24 hours, with more wind and significantly taller waves than we’d had in Kattegat. But towards the end of our watch from 3 to 6 pm (Tuesday the 19th) the wind picked up and the waves turned choppy. Shortly after (I was just headed for bed, since we were going on watch again at midnight) Karin went round checking with each of us that we were ok with continuing – the forecast at this point was “rough for 48 hours”.
I said ok, as long as I don’t have to take the helm (I’d been at the helm earlier, while it was calm, but did not particularly want that responsibility in rougher conditions). A part of me wanted to say “I want my mummy, let me off at the nearest islet!”, but I’d signed up to sail, after all, and I assumed that the crew knew what they were about and what Celeste was capable of and weren’t about to risk the boat or their own lives. I suspect a couple of my shipmates also had an internal discussion, but everyone said to og ahead, so we continued on our course straight into the storm. I didn’t really sleep, what with the commotion and all, and when I clambered up on deck at midnight, both Bengt, Jens and Karin were there, taking turns at the helm. The rest of us wedged ourselves in the most comfortable positions we could. I think I must have nodded off now and again, for suddenly the watch was over and I could creep back to the bunk. Perhaps I should have stayed on deck, because now I found sleep escaped me, my back and hips were far from happy (the bunks were rather hard) and Celeste would crest the choppy waves and then land in the trough with a bang, with everything, including us, being thrown foreward.
Above deck there was action enough. At some point it was discovered that the IPIRB which was supposed to hang aft ready for use was missing. IPIRB stands for Individual Position Indicating Rescue Beacon and is activated when thrown (or lost) into the sea. The point is that it sends a distress signal if the boat is actually in trouble, but at the receiving end it’s obviously impossible to tell an accidentally lost IPIRB from a real distress signal. Attempts had been made to reach us via radio, but there had not been any response (since everyone who had any knowledge of the radio were busy on deck). I overheard Karin’s somewhat frantic call to someone on land that, no, we were fine, the boat was fine, we had just lost the transmitter. At that point a rescue operation was already in progress, a boat had left shore and a helicopter had been requested. To everyone’s relief, no doubt, the rescue operation could be called off and we continued our sailing into the wind, which showed no sign of lessening.
After our nine-to-twelve-watch on Wednesday the only real options were to stay on deck or lie on a bunk, so I did a bit of both. Celeste was leaning and bucking about too much for anything else.
By the time we came on watch again at six the wind had dropped and the waves, though still rather tall, were less choppy.
Our night watch, 3 to 6 am Thursday morning, was quite calm. The wind was still from the west, giving us a speed of between 5 to 7 knots and variously cloudy and clear, so we could se the stars (there are a lot of them when you’re in the middle of the sea, with little to no light pollution around). The waves that regularly submerged the rails were teeming with phosphorescence. Karin was at the helm for most of the watch, but asked if I could take over so she could have a break, and in these conditions I was fine with it, so I spelled her for a while.
Just before we went off watch we took the reef out of the mainsail with the help of Bengt’s watch who were on after us.
I went to bed and actually slept this time, from six to about eleven, and when I got up we had gone about and also started the engine again, because even with the reef out of the mainsail we were only doing 2 to 4 knots, and we’ve got a date in Kirkwall on Friday.
All of Thursday passed on a steady course towards Kirkwall with the engine going off and on depending on the strength of the wind. At some point we tried setting the gennaker (similar to a spinnaker, but uses the same mast as the jib), but by the time it was up the wind had dropped, so there was nothing to do but take it down again.
It’s now just gone half past six in the evening, and about an hour ago we hauled down the mainsail as it was not being filled (and then it slows the boat) and we’re running on engine at about 6 knots. I’m on watch again at nine and I don’t think I can be bothered to try to sleep before that. We’re heading for a calm night, but expecting more wind in the morning. It would be nice to arrive in Kirkwall with the sails up, bare masts look rather sad.
There is no chance of making landfall Thursday at this point, but we’re hoping to make the planned tour of Highland Park at two pm Friday. It helps that that is GMT while we’re still on CET, but it might still be a close call.
I can’t even begin to describe how nice it will be to sleep in a bed that is stationary and horisontal again.