Standing on the Sornfelli mountain plateau, close to the edge, clouds within reach, viewing direction northwestwards. The contours of Vágar on the left, winding Vestmannasund in the middle and, pinhead-sized, the village of Kvívík just behind the rutted mountain beauty Skælingsfjall (on the right). How to get here? Drive along Oyggjarvegur, the old mountain road on Streymoy, and follow the narrow serpentines up to the plateau. Truly a marvelous spot! Seasonal advice: Beware of icy conditions, slippery sections and falling rocks on Oyggjarvegur. The other side of the coin: Winter weather can also be great fun up here, like at the turn of the year, when people actually brought sleds and skis.
Science fiction setting. An aquanaut rising from another world, enveloped in odd-looking cloud formations, strange colors and surreal light. That day, commercial diver and photographer Ingi Sørensen is just about to return from another Tjørnuvík dive. Submerged? Ingi: „A magnificent and peaceful place composed of impressive drop-offs, vibrant kelp forests and intriguing marine life.“
Diving in the Faroe Islands: Water temperature between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius, powerful currents, strong winds and changes in weather all the time. Visibility is best in the wintertime – up to 30 meters. Unveiled: A hidden world full of sea cucumbers, starfish, sea urchins, horse mussels and shrimp.
Unspoiled seabed, stunning grottos. Ingi (1409 dives) knows many sites. And yet, he keeps coming back for more. Because there’s always something new to be discovered. The same applies to Tjørnuvík, the northernmost spot on Streymoy, sea stacks Risin og Kellingin within sight. By the way: 15 years ago, Ingi put on a diving suit for the very first time. Fish ballet, bubble fanfare and algae anniversary cake. My Faroe Islands says: Congratulations, Ingi! And thank you for introducing us to Tjørnuvík’s Small Sea Anemone and the Capricious Sea Lemmon. Great pictures. Great creatures.
Longing for another Faroese cold water dive straightaway? Take a look at Ingi’s underwater photos on Facebook
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.
Nine men, wearing suits, goggles and gloves. Nine Faroese on their way from Streymoy to Eysturoy. Means of transportation: physical strength. Only stopover: Flesjarnar, a group of skerries located between Hvítanes and Toftir. Distance: approximately 4,5 kilometers.
A weekend in July, receiving the message I have been waiting for. „Hi Anja, we are going to swim tomorrow. You are welcome to participate. Winking smiley icon.“ I have watched Eyðun Húsgarð doing the crawl in the North Atlantic before. He is a member of the swimming club of Tórshavn, Havnar Svimjifelag, he wants all Faroese kids to be able to swim properly, and he’s not cold easily.
In Hvítanes, a village on Streymoy’s east coast, northeast of Hoyvík and Tórshavn, Eyðun wears swimming gloves, climbing slippery rocks and sliding into the water, together with the other swimmers. He will take his gloves off later, getting hot. We watch events on board ship: Jóannes Eidesgaard accompanies the swimmers by boat, together with Anna Eidesgaard.
The Magnificent Nine. Nine men, nine swimmers in triathlon suits. Erlendur Simonsen, Eyðun Húsgarð, Sámal Olsen, Leivur Michelsen, Jon Hestoy, Eyðun Bærentsen, Jákup Enni, Erling Eidesgaard and Remi Lamhauge, on their way to Flesjarnar, at that very moment. Average water temperature: 13 degrees Celsius. Audience: gulls and a nosy seal.
About 50 minutes later. Shadow play against the light, close to the radar reflector and the light signal mast. The swimmers have reached Flesjarnar.
Short break, coming to a decision: almost all swimmers want to carry on. The idea of reaching the other side is too tempting. Fixing suits, goggles and gloves, plunging into water and doing the crawl, again.
Swimmers’ reward: finding a hidden island. A mirage? Nothing of the sort. Rather some kind of underwater rock or flooded skerry the swimmers gather around, „walking“ in water, waving. What a sight!
Another 40 minutes later, and we are happy to declare „mission accomplished“. In the harbor of Nes on Eysturoy, the swimmers go ashore. Hats off! A truly convincing performance.
Post scriptum: In case you’re wondering. On their way back to Streymoy, the swimmers actually took the boat. My guess: They didn't want their akvavit diluted with water.
No one to help. Nowhere to stop. Only the other side. Ocean rowing. One of the hardest sports in the world. Many say: the hardest of all. Pure torture rhythm. Two hours of rowing, two hours of sleeping. Row, sleep. Row, sleep. On and on. More people have been to space than have rowed the Atlantic Ocean. I’m just about to meet up with one of them. Livar Nysted (45). Faroese ocean rower and painter. Married to Svanna Sigmarsdóttir Nysted. Four daughters. Living in Hvannasund, a village on the island Viðoy.
Over there, on the other side of the sound, that’s his car, and his house. The sound. That’s where his uncle drowned. And Livar, himself, almost, too. Being out on a boat, together with his brother, his cousin and a friend. Livar’s mother Jóhanna stood by the window and watched. Watched the boys’ struggle for breath, after the floor of the speeding boat had been ripped apart. „We hit something“, Livar says. At the age of seven, he couldn’t swim. His cousin saved his life. His brother had to be resuscitated.
Livar and the ocean: Those two didn’t have an auspicious start. The same goes for Livar and rowing boats. I get to know all that while we are sitting in his atelier, walls covered with paintings. Livar actually wasn't even interested in rowing until he was 29 years old. Some colleagues asked him to join in. Livar rowed for the very first time, in Klaksvík – and was hooked right away. It beggars belief: A coincidence leads up to a perfect match. In the years to follow, Livar wins several Faroese championships. But the world of fiords and sounds is not enough.
A feeling arises from the subconscious, taking space, claiming its rights. This feeling: I can do more. Looking: out to the open sea. Longing: I have to be there. In 2009, Livar contacts ocean rower Leven Brown. They meet. They talk. They drink whiskey. Leven sends Livar to a boot camp in Scotland, run by former SAS soldiers. Livar passes all the physical and psychological tests. Ever since then, he has been part of Leven Brown’s winning team.
Jeans, T-shirt, upper arm tattoo, bright blue eyes. Weight: almost 220 pounds, Livar tells me. Phrase written down in my notebook: „No idea where he hides those 100 kilos. Proof: Muscles weigh more than body fat. Smiley icon.“ In the meantime, Livar, pouring coffee, confesses a dilemma: „Being home, I miss the ocean. Being on the ocean, I miss home.“
There is absolutely no use in explaining why Livar does what he does. He knows what he is driven by. He knows what he wants. And, unlike other people, he is actually doing it. Painting, wide range of colors, subjects and styles. As well: rowing across the oceans.
Five world records. 163 days out on the ocean. 3.5 million strokes. 20.000 kilometers. That’s Livar. North Atlantic. South Atlantic. Indian Ocean. „You are wet, cold, tired and hungry all the time. This might sound strange. But you learn to enjoy it. You feel miserable all along. But you push it aside.“
Row, sleep. Row, sleep. Row, sleep … eat? „We take freeze-dried foods along. Meat, rice, fish, chicken. And tons of candy bars.“ Communication? Satellite phone. „We can also write and receive emails.“ What about going to the toilet? Livar (grinning): „We use a plastic container and a bucket. And we try to make it as private as possible.“
In good weather, the rowers experience beautiful sunsets and watch fish, birds, turtles and dolphins passing by. Nevertheless, the torture rhythm keeps hammering bodies and souls. Fear. Exhaustion. Danger. The rowers wear life vests, being attached to the boat by safety lines. Out of the blue, a change in conditions. Increasing headwinds. It’s time to cast the parachute anchor. Storm? Get ready for the boat to capsize. The ballast tanks under deck have been filled up with water, strictly to rule? The boat will right itself – following the grave have-a-close-look-at-vicious-waves-part.
No one to help. Nowhere to stop. No panic button available. „I have seen many big and strong men who have not managed the emotional stress“, Livar says. This much is certain: „There is no time for babysitting out there.“ He is still smiling. But his atelier is also filled with rigor, boldness and self discipline – the skills of an ocean rower, always looking for adventures.
Livar’s next challenge will probably be a focused speed record attempt: „I have been asked to be the skipper aboard the ocean rowing boat Avalon. If everything works out, it will be a sub 30 day record attempt on the Trade Winds Route of the Atlantic Ocean in late January 2017. 8 man crew, from Canary Islands to Barbados.“
Two hours of rowing, two hours of sleeping. Row, sleep. Row, sleep. On and on, for all eternity? Don’t you ever fell like retiring, Livar? Head-shaking, frowning, one more smile. „I won’t quit until I am 70 or 71 years old. And I am going to be the oldest ocean rower in the world“, he predicts. Another world record for Livar – I sort of expected it.
Livar's records: 2002 - 2007. Winning several Faroese rowing championships
2010. North Atlantic. Boat: Artemis Investments. Along with captain Leven Brown and two other crew members. Route: New York - Isles of Scilly, UK. Two world records broken. 1. World record for longest distance rowed in 24h in an ocean rowing boat at 118 miles. 2. North Atlantic speed record: 43 days, 21 hours, 26 minutes and 48 seconds
2013. Indian Ocean. Boat: tRio. Together with Maxime Chaya and Stuart Kershaw. Route: Perth - Mauritius. Three world records for Livar. 1. First crew of three to cross the Indian Ocean. 2. Fastest rowing crew to row this distance (57 days, 15 hours and 49 minutes). 3. World record for having crossed two oceans in a rowing boat within the same year