At about midnight. Back in the harbor of Funningsfjørður, coming in from a successful fishing trip. Engine switched off, boat silently sliding towards the berth. Hauntingly beautiful. Water surface as smooth as a mirror. Clouds, mountains, light posts, peaked roofs and boat hulls, all being reflected in the fjord. A brief moment of magic, carefully wrapped in navy blue night sky and elegantly curved lines.
Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective. For instance: leisure fishing. Boat, gear, weather, time of day, currents – all perfect. The only thing that’s missing: fishhooks presenting reasonable-sized fish. Cod, haddock, common dab: No need to talk about the few beauties that ended up in our freezers, pans and ovens a few days ago. Our catch: Hardly worth mentioning, by local standards. And yet, we had a great time.
Remember? Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to save the situation. Like: Why concentrate on trivia (size and quantity of fish caught) when something way more interesting is happening? Restless seabirds surrounding our boat, names havhestur and likka, a flock of greedy, noisy and quarrelsome northern fulmars and lesser black-backed gulls, eager for fish remains and some good advanced seabird training. It took some time, but in the end it worked. Picture above: That's what the act is supposed to look like. All seabirds in the right place, center stage hog about to perform a textbook nose dive. In all honesty. With show birds like this, who needs bigger fish?
A walk in Lamba, lost in thought. On New Year’s Eve 1707, the Danish ship Norske Løve sank close to the village, after having been blown off course on its way to India. Just a few steps from here, the Norske Løve was driven onto Eysturoy's rocky shore and relentlessly dashed to pieces. Most of the crew and treasures were rescued and brought ashore, whereas the ship was additionally buried by a landslide; lying under both earth and water down to the present day.
Yet, the ship’s bell was recovered and given to Tórshavn Cathedral. One of the votive ships in the church is a model of the Norske Løve – said to have been built by one of the sailors rescued on New Year's Eve 1707 close to Lamba.
Tórshavn Cathedral. Votive ships and beautiful church. My Faroe Islands' video: https://vimeo.com/239323751
Greenland. A stormy night in January 1968, close to Nuuk. Wind-whipped waves, minus 20 degrees Celsius. Five German fishermen in a tender, trying to row from one trawler to another. A hopeless endeavor. „They ended up drifting along the Nuuk fjord, so we took them in“, Sonny Johannesen tells me.
That night, the Faroese skipper shot the black and white photograph in question: The five Germans happily having coffee in the mess of the Faroese trawler Brandur Sigmundarson. An encounter Sonny has kept in mind, for all these years. „I’d really love to talk to these German fishermen again, but I don’t know their names. The only clue I have is this picture.“
Tonight, Sonny intends to head for Greenland again, with a crew of 24, out at sea for black halibut. 1994, he joined the Enniberg as skipper. Stern trawler. Flag: Faroe Islands. Gross tonnage: 2578. Length overall and breadth: 70.01m × 13.83m. Build year: 1990.
Before the Enniberg leaves the harbor of Tórshavn, Sonny gives me a tour. Deck, mess, staffroom, kitchen, supplies, locker room, fillet machines, freezer, bridge. Sonny has established his treadmill directly behind the captain’s chair: „I need to get some exercise once in a while.“ In his cabin, on one of the walls: a framed verse from the Bible. Romans 11:36 – For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Sonny's favorite fishing ground: The Barents Sea. Average working time on the Enniberg: 12 hours a day. 6 hours on, 6 hours off. And so on and so forth. Sonny’s family: Saltwater running through veins, in a metaphorical sense. Father, grandfather, uncles: all fishermen, many of them successful skippers as well.
Hard to believe, but true: Sonny used to get seasick at the time when he started being a fisherman. On a regular basis, as a matter of fact. „No one in the whole wide world has ever been more seasick than me“, Sonny laughs. „My father already started to think of me as a carpenter. But I kept putting out to sea. That’s what I wanted to do, nothing else. At some point, I didn’t get seasick anymore. I still have no idea why.“
Stories told on the trawler Enniberg, bringing back memories, creating images of the beauty and the danger of the seas, just like the one from 1968 about five Germans drifting along the Nuuk fjord, a huge and intricate water system packed with islands and inlets.
„They spoke little English“, Sonny remembers. „Most of the time, our operator Arne was talking to them, he knew some German. Because of the storm, they had to stay on board overnight. Next morning, they got back to their trawler.“ Ready for another round of hard work: Fishing in the far north.
Sails set, 7 knots, on our way from the Faroe Islands to Iceland. Standing in the cockpit with a smile on my face, rechecking the chart that’s shown on a display. No kidding. „Rosengarten“, it says. German for rose garden. What a name for a piece of the North Atlantic. Later, I’ll find out that – as early as in 1908 – the area has been famous for brave men and huge quantities of rosefish. Rose garden. Poetic and double-barreled. Just like in that song.
„You better look before you leap, still waters run deep /And there won’t always be someone there to pull you out / And you know what I'm talkin' about / I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden / Along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain some time …“
In terms of our trip, weather’s gentle. Bright sunshine when we put out to sea from the port of Tórshavn, pleasant stopover in Fuglafjørður, continuing our travels the next morning, heading northbound, slowly leaving the smashing silhouette of the Faroe Islands behind, until such time as all land has disappeared and blue is the color that rules.
Above: The harbor of Tórshavn. Below: Heading for Fuglafjørður, stopover and on the way
Above: Mike Henderson, the skilled sailor on board, owner and skipper of the vessel Pangey, a Moody 42 Center Cockpit Ketch. Below: Rosengarten chart, approaching the misty coast of Iceland and sunshine in Djúpivogur in the morning
It takes us 45 hours and 255 miles to do the crossing. Port of arrival: Djúpivogur in Iceland's south east. Somehow: still having the hidden rose garden of the North Atlantic on my mind. Going ashore, no roses within sight. But a vast number of lupines instead, as I drive along the coast towards Reykjavík the other day, in order to catch a plane back to the Faroe Islands. Mike continues his journey. Just checked out Marine Traffic. Pangey arrived in Eskifjörður by now. Bon voyage!
In the middle of getting ready for a sailing adventure. Moody 42 Center Cockpit Ketch. My friend Mike Henderson, sailing genius, is taking me along, with his beautiful sailboat Pangey. Tomorrow, I get on board, Wednesday we do a little sailing around the Faroe Islands, and on Thursday, we start the crossing. Route: Faroe Islands to Iceland, approximately two and a half days.
Following this, the two of us will be sailing along Iceland’s west or east coast, dependent on the weather. Some offline mode and without-planning-time ahead. Fabulous. We will take things as they come. Most likely, I’ll be putting my next blog post online when I’m back. Stay tuned and take care!
From Wednesday on: In case you want to follow our travel route, check out our position on Marine Traffic.
Summertime, and the livin' is easy; Fish are jumpin' and the colors are bright. Faroe Islands, characteristics of place such as fog and rain: let’s drop that for a moment. This time, everything’s about blue skies, lush green cliffs and smooth passages. Approaching 5 of the smaller islands in picture-perfect weather. Stóra Dímun, Nólsoy, Skúvoy, Svínoy and Mykines. 5 Faroese sceneries and their distinctive features.
STÓRA DÍMUN. The two pictures above. Population: 10. Access by helicopter or sea only. Sailing with your boat to the island’s natural harbor means that you have to climb up an almost vertical 150 meter-sea cliff afterwards, using a rough path of ladders, grassy slopes and ropes. Terrific. Image: Increase the size and i.a. check out the houses on the right.
NÓLSOY. One island, one village, 218 inhabitants. The ferry ride from the capital Tórshavn only takes 20 minutes. Still, arriving on Nólsoy feels like entering a whole other world. Visit Pakkhúsið hjá Petersen – Petersen’s Warehouse in the picturesque village, walk up to the lighthouse and watch the ferry artfully backing into its "parking space".
SKÚVOY. Population: 32. That’s what you see when you get out of the helicopter. I myself wouldn’t call too many places on earth remote. Skúvoy sure is. Spectacular place not only for bird lovers. Sailing to the island in a small boat can be bumpy in bad weather. Note: The picture shows good weather. Still good weather, in terms of the Faroe Islands.
SVÍNOY. Population: 29. Experience what ferries are made for around the Faroes. Transportation of people and goods. Quite small landing stage, though. The boat trip starts in Hvannasund and also connects Svínoy and Fugloy. Big waves, dark clouds? Forget about the ferry. Book a helicopter ride (if available) or simply wait for a change in weather.
MYKINES. Population: 14. Puffin island. Again, ferry and helicopter, both possible. On this particular boat ride, I i.a. met a group of Faroese workmates from a governmental department, joyfully taking a joint trip to Mykines. Picture: Don't miss the beer can on the right (marvelous Faroese brand Okkara). Red can means Okkara Classic. Excellent choice.