Orkney Summer 2014

The harbor in Stromness on a calm day.

The harbor in Stromness on a calm day.


We write this blog out of order, posted after our report on Norway.  With some time now, we catch up on reporting this season’s travels.

We did not come back home across the Atlantic this summer, as planned, but instead spent another year in Europe. We were tempted to try to hustle across, but it really wouldn’t have been prudent. There were some significant projects and logistics to tackle, not the least of which were to install a heating system, fix a leak in one of the stainless steel tanks, and to decide whether to sail with the kids or instead ship them ahead.

Paul headed back to Orkney by himself in the early summer to tackle the heater and some other boat projects.  He was joined a few days in by our friend Steve Kern, who helped Paul with the heater installation.  Sima and the kids rejoined two weeks later, after the dust had begun to settle on the projects.

We had spent the winter in Marblehead, near Boston, and on our return to Scotland and Orkney, were reminded how much we like it here.

We listened to BBC Scotland in the morning and to get the traffic report, where the entire country is covered in a minute.  “Avoid the A1 into Edinburgh!  And there is also some slowness on the A90 into Aberdeen. But Glasgow is looking good all around this morning. That’s it!  Oh wait!  We’re just getting a report of a deer getting hit on the A835 over to Ullapool, so expect to spend an additional five minutes there, though it’ll be a little bit less than that if you don’t want to stop for a piece of venison!”

If genetic diversity is your thing, then Orkney may not be the place for you.  Even counting for the invasions by the British and Scandinavians, you’d be hard pressed to find many “locals” whose DNA hasn’t spent the last couple of millennia within a 300 mile radius of this place.  When you talk dark-skinned here, it means someone with a sunburn, but fat chance of that happening in Orkney.

The Scottish language can be a challenge to parse, sometimes, but Orkney is one step further removed, with a special blend of English and “Orkney Norn,” partly gifted from the vikings and kept alive by proximity to the Norwegians over the years.  “Toon” for town, “Nu” for now, “mind” for remember, “ken” for know, and “sh” for Th, are some examples.  As in “Do you not mind that we’re to go to toon Shorsday to meet that nu fellow that you dinna ken?”

“What like?” It means “What’s it like,” or, more exactly, “How are you?” And thus our friend Trevor stuck us with this joke the other day, while working on Leander.

Trevor: “Hey, did you fix the light?”

Paul:  “What light?!”

Trevor:  “Oh, not bad. Yourself?!”

We needed to adjust again, too, to the constant light.  The sun doesn’t disappear from the sky until after 11 p.m. and is back by 2:30 a.m., returning from a brief respite just the other side of the horizon. The stars aren’t allowed to show themselves, even.  Alexander would wake up at 3 a.m. when one of us would go to use the head.  Seeing the main cabin bathed in sunlight, he’d try to charge out to start a new day.  “No, really, mom!  It’s daytime!  The sun is up!”

“GO. BACK. TO. SLEEP. ALEXANDER” Sima would mutter through gritted teeth, as Aylin began to rouse to see what all the fuss was about.  Sima, with one hand over Aylin’s eyes and the other on Alexander’s collar, would ease the door closed again with her foot, and, hopefully, night and sleep would return.

It was a good month that we spent there.  We went over to the Ferry Inn night after night to watch the U.S. and other teams try their luck during the World Cup, coming out at 11 p.m. to an easy twilight.  We also got our fair share of local soccer, watching our Trevor at play for the local Stromness side.

Here are some more photos to tell more of the story.


We moved off the boat last fall, found a home to rent, unpacked our furniture and other belongings, and moved in, only to repeat the entire process in the spring. It was a lot of work, as is seen in this shot of our place in Marblehead during our move-out.


And then we pulled the boat apart upon our return! We needed to empty a score of lockers to install the heater and repair the leaking water tank.


But there was help!!!  Steve Kern arrived to lend a hand. He did great work and was a blast to have around.  Steve is doing some isometrics with the flag halyard here while Paul works atop the mast.


The heater was a challenge to install.  Storage space is at a premium on Leander, and so we sought to install the unit and its six-inch diameter ducts in the least obtrusive way possible. We needed to be patient with ourselves, because the best route developed organically as we channeled the ducting from locker to locker.  We put the heater itself in an aft locker (shown here), ran the ducting to two outlets on the port side, plumbed a feed into the diesel tank, installed the control unit at the nav station, and ran the necessary electrical between heater, pump, and control unit.


Steve was of enormous help, packing his giant frame into tight spots in order to drill the holes needed to lead the ducting. Here he is shown in the work room. (It’s not entirely clear,however, what message he is intending to convey with his choice of t-shirts.)


Paul and the family had been separated for several weeks, with Sima and the kids going home to see her family in Turkey. Paul and Alexander had a lot to catch up on.

The happy family reunited at the Kirkwall airport.

The happy family reunited at Kirkwall airport.

The heater is finished!  Alexander warms his hands before a vent.

The heater is finished! Alexander warms his hands before the newly-installed vent. In Orkney, it comes in handy even in July!

Steve and Aylin getting acquainted.

Steve and Aylin getting acquainted.

The family sleeping comfortably in a WARM boat.

The family sleeping comfortably in a WARM boat.


We DID think Orkney was cold, but perhaps it was only relative. Boston warms to 80 and 90 in July and August, while Orcadians consider a day in the 70s to be “ach – a bit o a scorcher!” More typically, the weather settles in the 50s and 60s. As a result, when the weather did reach the upper 60s, we thought it was quite warm too! But this adaption took a bit of time, and upon first arriving back this summer, we wore multiple layers while the locals paraded about in sandals and summer dresses. This Orcadian lass, clad only in a sleeveless shift and sandals, doesn’t quite know what to make of Alexander in sporting winter boots, jeans, and three layers atop, finished off with a hooded sweatshirt and winter jacket.


The Queen’s Baton Relay! Boy, didn’t this speak volumes about the relationship between England and Scotland. The Commonwealth Games were being hosted by Glasgow this year, and there was a lot of fanfare leading up to the Olympic-like games. One part of the buildup was the “Queen’s Baton Relay.” Much like the itinerant Olympic torch that is carted around prior to the Olympic Games, the baton made a multi-month tour, seeming to call upon every city, town, village, and farm in Scotland. The baton contained — gasp! — a message to the athletes from the Queen herself! Lucky local worthies, like the fine young athlete pictured parading through Stromness, were privileged to actually lay their hands on the royal stick. Union Jacks flew conspicuously during the visit. Was it just a coincidence that this all took place in Scotland on the eve of the referendum on union?


The arts are everywhere in Orkney. Here, some itinerant story tellers (“Bookonabike!”) act out a tale about a small nut that grows and stretches into a giant tree.

DSC07922Aylin and a little friend.


We watched a lot of “football.”  We became good friends with Trevor Mcconnichie during our stay. He had helped us on some boat projects last year.  He is a stalwart on the Stromness football club, and we saw him bang home a few goals during the games that we watched. Here he is, with a bandaged thigh, running down a ball during an away game at Kirkwall.


Trevor at play under a flattened Orkney sky.

DSC08096Aylin wanders onto the pitch post-game, but didn’t contest this header.


Especially when the sun wasn’t out, Orkney, in July, could be cold! Alexander, bundled up, having at it with the soccer ball. Notice the form already, as he uses his whole body to give it a boot!


We stayed in Orkney long enough to take in our second annual “Stromness Shopping Week,” a seven-day town-wide celebration. It provided Sima and Alexander a chance to watch a performance of the Rendall Pipe Band.

The Kirkwall Pipe Band marches during Shopping Week.

The Kirkwall Pipe Band marches during Shopping Week’s closing ceremony.


Stromness, the second biggest town in Orkney, has a close relationship with Scalloway, the second biggest town in Shetland. A sizable Scalloway contingent comes to Stromness during shopping week, and there is a football game between the two towns. Costumed Scalloway “vikings” also march in the Shopping Week Parade, including these young girls.


Stromness has its share of beauties too!  The Shopping Week parade is great fun, with a number of well-done floats trying to out-do one another in outlandishness. Often playing on some inside joke, the floats typically evoke guffaws from the crowd, as did this model of Brazilian feminity.


One float celebrated the 60th anniversary of D-Day, with yelling soldiers charging from one float to another, a parachutist hanging from an enormous fork lift, and a miniature tank that rolled down the main street.




Here is some more of Trevor’s family, with Ava seated on Andy’s lap, to the left and Lesley next to Sima, visiting us on our last day in Stromness.

Alexander making a point with Trevor.

Alexander making a point with Trevor.


And finally off to sea! We left Stromness for Westray, in the north of Orkney, in early August. We Back on the open ocean, the crew took a little while to adjust to the pitching boat. Alexander sleeps it off, as Sima and Aylin work to get their sea legs back.


We became good friends with Laura and Gerry Taylor during our stay in Orkney. Gerry joined us for the trip from Stromness to Westray. Sailing for the first time in a while with the two kids, it was great to have him along.


Moving north along the Orcadian coast.


Leander tied up at the pier in the Harbor in Pierowall, Westray, Orkney.


We got out and saw Westray upon arrival. Alexander with his new scooter. Aylin still apouch. Sima says hello to a friendly horse, as Gerry looks on.


Robertsons are everywhere in Orkney, including written on the side this old tractor-trailer, being used for storage at a Westray farm.


Alexander and Aylin at play upon the walls of a ruined castle in Peirowall, Westray.


Inside Noltland Castle, on Westray.

Aylin and Alexander at play in Pierowall, Westray, Orkney.

Chasing dandelions on an expansive lawn.


We found THE world’s bumpiest putting green in Westray. If you can develop your skills here, you can play anywhere!

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