WHALSAY FISHING FLEET
As I approached the ferry terminal after my rather stressful morning I could see the ferry coming in so rushed to be there in time. I needn't have bothered. Apparently on Saturday only one ferry runs to Whalsay, so although it got in at about quarter past one, instead of reloading and setting straight off as every other ferry I have come across, it stayed there till two before setting off.
I had been warned to book ahead for the Whalsey Ferry as the island is a very thriving one, but with only one car in front of me in the unbooked lane and nothing in the booked lane I felt folk had been exaggerating somewhat. Of course I was nearly an hour early so about ten minutes before the ferry was due to leave the queue of cars, and now a bus all in the booked lane had me convinced there would be no room for us, but I think the ferry men take it as a matter of personal pride to get Thebus on, and he was, though jammed in amongst lots of other cars, and over we went, though in a fine grey rain.
Out of interest I wonder what is that ferry boats do now? - They don't steam across the bay, obviously the days of steam are long over, as are the days of sail. Do they churn across? I suppose technically they diesel across, but it doesn’t seem to have much of a ring.
The harbour at Whalsey seemed full of boats and cars, and with the queue of traffic from the ferry boat all behind me and eager to get home I had not chance of making a decision of what to do. I had intended to park up somewhere in the terminal, but this one was far busier than the others I had come across barring Lerwick of course.
I followed the road ahead, and before I knew it I was on the way to Skaw, but that was fine, it was at the top end of the island, and I had intended to drive up there, plus there was a golf course at the end, so I was pretty certain there would be room to turn Thebus round. It's the most northerly Golf Course in the UK, and though there is a course in Unst, which is further north I was told by a Whalseylian that the Unst once was not official so didn't count, and by the look on his face he didn't think much of it as a golf course either. For any golf fans I know nothing of the sport, only once having been taken to a Pitch and Putt where it took me so long to go round that the keeper, or whatever they are called had to come and ask us to go home as he needed to close, and we were still nowhere near the end.
In front of us when we parked were some anxious looking sheep and a tough looking old ram. The sheep were looking anxious as they assumed a vehicle parked meant food and where was it. They listened intently to any motor vehicle approaching and finally their hay nets arrived. In Shetland there seems no point in putting hay down as it would be in the next field before you were a couple of steps away. Thier owner said the old ram was 'a devil' and regularly got the back of his dad's knees when he wasn’t looking.
Though the day was still grey and overcast you could see that the view on a clear day would be fabulous, and hoping that it might clear before morning I decided to stay up for the night, then take a different route back and look round the harbour when hopefully it would be quieter. This was not a good decision. As usual I checked with the locals that I would not be in anyone's way. I was not parked at the Golf Club, but at a council viewpoint carpark just next too it. They all thought I would be fine, and as there was no internet signal (what a surprise) I took the opportunity to ask what the wind forecast was for the night – thirty-six mph, well, we have done that before, so we settled down for the night
All I can say is I think last night when I was congratulating myself for being tucked in to a safe harbour we had the thirty six mile winds, and when we were up on the top of the 'Scenic Viewpoint' we got the 67 mph winds forecast for the previous evening. The carpark was large so I tried re-positioning Thebus so we didn’t get buffeted so much, and after they had all gone home from the golf course tried to get a bit of shelter from the club house, but because of the wind direction I think we ended up sheltering the club house so I went back to the carpark which was at least flatter.
Phoebe got very upset and wouldn’t go in her bed at all to the extent I tried it out for myself to see what the problem was, even though it took me about ten minutes to get back out as my knees just aren't strong enough to get me back up from the floor and I have to be careful of my wonky arm. But I did see what her problem was. There is some sort of draught coming in there, so I found the cushion I used to sit on in my first terrified driving days, and stuffed that in there which did some good, but didn’t completely fill it, so with my Alpaca cardigan in next to it she seemed satisfied and got back in, I will have to look for a better solution or find what is causing the draught. It may be that which makes her want to get out of her bed when we are driving along.
We were shaken and rattled around all night long and the wind gets into the rolled up awnings unless Thebus is directly into the wind and they make a hideous rattling wail. Phoebe looked at me as if to ask why on earth we were in such a place. And I felt I agreed with her. I half considered trying to make it back down to the harbour, which is where I had originally intented to spend the night, but the strong winds really catch Thebus and it can be quite difficult to keep him on a straight course, and in the dark on narrow roads with lots of cattle grids etc I thought we might just as well stay and take the buffetting than get stuck somewhere on the way back down.
As soon as it was light enough next morning to hopefully see at least a little of the scenery we set off back to the harbour, though taking a different way back to see a some more of the island. It is quite interesting in that the big fishing fleet in the harbour means that Whalsay gives some idea of what the whole of Shetland must have been like in its heyday. I only saw a few dererlict houses and those were down by the seashore on the moors a long way off the road. Everything else was in excellent condition, and if not then a new house had been built in the garden. The pace was busier, as one would expect with more properties occupied, and as well I would imagine the population is younger and has more of the busyness and rush that I have been so enjoying missing.
We went over the high moors where there were masses of peat workings, and lots of Planti-crubs. I have variously heard they were for growing kale plants in and that they were used for growing young plants, but wondered why they should be situated in such lonesome high spots, often miles from any houses. Speaking to a native born lady she explained that the young kale plants were best grown in poor soil, so yes they were for kale, and yes they were for young plants. I had already worked out that Planti=plants and Crub = crib or cradle, so I was on the right lines. They were overwintered in these stone circles covered over with fishing nets weighted down with stones, then were moved to the croft gardens to be grown on for winter kale, or as it is called here Shetland Cabbage. Now I have got my eye in I see these Planti-crubs everywhere.
Down then towards the harbour crowded with boats of all sizes and mostly working boats, and some of them very hardworking. Apparently the boats are generally owned by consortia and they all own the boat, work as crew and share in any profits. Some of fishing boats are enormous, and so sleek and splendid I thought they must be pleasure cruisers till I saw the working tackle. I really enjoyed walking round and seeing them all. It was still a rather miserable day, the wind nearly strong enough to blow me over as I walked up the boom between the smaller fishing boats, so I had to be extra careful. All the while you could hear the wind shrilly whistling through the rigging of a masted sailing ship, it must be dreadfully noisy sailing one of these when out at sea. I always imagined a sail boat would be a silent journey apart from a little creaking, but if the whistling whine this one kept up was anything to go by, then obviously not.
I didn't have the best of weather for my trip over to Whalsay which is sometimes known as The Bonnie Isle, and I really don't think I saw it at its best through the wind and rain of the mid March days I spent there, perhaps if I am in Shetland in the summer I will call again, when I should be able to appreciate its far reaching views and wild flowers, but what I did see of it I enjoyed.
Remembering the difficulty of getting Thebus onto the ferry on the way over, and having no signal for either of the phones, before I looked round the harbour I took the precaution of asking the ferry men to book me in for the next journey back to the Mainland which they were happy to do – in the event there were only about four cars and Thebus when we did finally board. The ferry men asked all about Thebus, so he is obviously causing quite bit of interest.
Having got thoroughly cold taking the photos and chatting to the ferry men I went back and had a good fried breakfast and warm up while waiting for the next ferry – thats the great thing about having your home with you :-)
If you want to find out more about the history of Whalsay this is a fascinating little article
Old Shetland Ram
I thought he was keeping his head tucked in as it was so cold and windy,
But as he looked like that whatever he was doing I think it must have been because
he had spent his life butting so many things that his neck was shortened.
Planti-Crubs on Moors
Whalsay Harbour from hill above
Big Trawlers across the harbour
Two Masted Sailing Yacht (?)
Sorry I know nothing about the sea or sailing vessels so I hope that's what it is
Anyway the Wichita Lineman would have certainly heard the singin' in the wire on this one
Above - Two huge trawlers, and below anothe one, so luxurious looking I thought it was a cruise ship
Another Two Big Trawlers, not quite so sleek this time
The Smaller Boats of the Harbour
Again all mostly working fishing boats
It has been said that Orcadians are Farmers with fishing boats, and that Shetlanders are Fishermen with farms. It certainly looks that way on Whalsay