What a difference a week can make. Two weeks ago, Draken Harald Hårfargre was tied up to the quayside in Lerwick, sail and sheets piled on the foredeck, the yard lashed along the starboard rail, after we lost our mast crossing the North Sea. The crew were camped out in tents on the edge of the high school playing field, just opposite the Coastguard station. And after initial relief at our safe arrival subsided, it was replaced with an empty uncertainty, as we waited to find out what would happen to the expedition.
Would the ship return to Haugesund, where the mast could be repaired? It would mean crossing the open sea again, subjecting sufferers to another three days of seasickness. But only a small crew would be needed while the ship motored; the skipper and mate, a cook, a helmsman and a lookout, plus a few others to work a 24-hour watch. And would there be a guarantee that after repairs the ship would sail again this season?
Would the volunteers have to return home if that was the case? Or could we stay a little longer in Shetland, perhaps travel a bit, to Orkney and Scotland?
Or could we continue on our way, under motor? Without a sail, the nature of our trip would be very different. Would people still be interested in the ship, and our voyage, if we were just, well, a motor boat? Was there still a purpose to our expedition?
One week later, and we were tied up to another quayside, this time in Port Ellen in Islay, at the southwestern end of the Hebridean archipelago. A blues band we found hanging out in a distillery were setting up under the canvas on the foredeck to play an impromptu gig for us. We’d cruised with dolphins in the Moray Firth; traversed the Caledonian Canal, stopping for a swim in Loch Ness; and island-hopped down the West Coast of Scotland. And we’d worked on the ship, improving features and procedures, learning and sharing skills, and bonding as a crew. The nature of the trip was very different, but our adventure continues.