There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. A quote that can be variously attributed to Sir Ranulph Finnes, Alfred Wainwright, Roald Amundsen*, and my Granny Mac. That the worst the elements can throw at you can be repelled with a good waterproof layer on the outside and some warm, cosy underlayers. And it’s true, mostly, except when the weather actually is bad.
As we left Peel on the Isle of Man, skies were clear, the sun shining and the wind was just right to take us north. Meanwhile, out in the Atlantic Ocean a weather front was moving eastward towards the British Isles, strengthened what was left of Hurricane Bertha after the storm battered into the islands of the Caribbean. A wave of strong wind and heavy rain were forecast to sweep over the UK and Ireland, with several weather warnings issued across the country. Continue reading →
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.Continue reading →
Sometimes things just don’t go they way they’re planned. In my imagination, I see Draken bearing down toward Bressay lighthouse, flying before the wind, red sail glowing in the golden sunset, arriving in Shetland like the Viking ships of old. We make a tack to round South Ness and enter Bressay Sound. Approaching Lerwick we start to lower the sail and kai in the rå, drawing one end of the massive yard holding the top of the sail under the shrouds. As we come alongside the quay, we pack up the sail and coil sheets and lines, making ready to put up the foredeck tent. We step ashore in the simmer dim, the twilight of a northern summer.
The winners of the World Nomads Travel Scholarship competition were announced the other day; with three writers selected to take part in a writers workshop in Berlin, before each setting out on a 10-day roadtrip through part of Europe in August. Winning would have been an amazing opportunity, but I’m not too disappointed as I was one of 30 writers shortlisted from many that entered, and I’m rather proud of that achievement.
I’m looking forward to reading the other entries on the shortlist, especially the winners; Rachel Ecklund, Amanda Richardson and Jarryd Salem and keeping up with the winners journals over their trips. Hopefully I’ll glean some writing tips from them as they travel.
And the reason I’m not too disappointed about missing out on a European roadtrip is that I’ve made some plans for the summer too. I’m going to rejoin the crew of Draken Harald Hårfarge at the end of June, for a sailing voyage that will take us from Norway, across the North Sea to Shetland and Orkney, through the Hebrides and down the west coast of Scotland, to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and finally into Liverpool, before returning. So here’s to blue seas, fair winds and beautiful sunsets.
Any seasickness remedies you can recommend are much appreciated!
Last month I entered a competition hosted by WorldNomads.com, aiming to win a travel writing workshop with an expert. The prize includes a 10-day road trip through Europe, and a commission to write a journal of the trip and follow-up articles. Results are announced later today, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
The Weekly Photo challenge theme this week is Joy.
For me, the things that bring me joy are the things that really make me feel alive, that keep me connected to the natural world around me; often the experiences you only get by getting outdoors and leaving the city behind, finding a wild place and all that it offers.
Under the dome, The Eden Project
Draken at Dawn, Haugesund
These are some of the things that I’ve captured on instagram over this year that have made me feel joyful. If I have any resolutions for next year, it’s to get out and do more with my time, enjoy the little things, and make better connections with the people around me.
Have a happy Hogmanay, and I wish you all the best for 2014. May your year be filled with travels, adventures and joy.
This summer I spent several weeks as a crew member onboard Draken Harald Hårfagre, a Viking longship, that is the largest ever built in modern times. You can read more about my adventures starting here, but now meet the crew that were the dragon tamers.
Breakfast on board
Nis, Carsten and Espen
Gregors and Lars
Just hold this please…
Taking the tiller
Hmmm, what now?
Hiding from squalls in the head
Viking-style cookery class.
Testing safety equipment
Hendrik and his Hardangerfele
Vicky the Viking
Karl-Emil demonstrates knots
At the end of a long day
Gunnvar, Tore and Kjetil
Jöel learning Norwegian
Alexander and Alexander
The crew members were a diverse group of people, from professional sailors who’d spent a lifetime at sea to others that had only been on one sailing holiday before, from some of the most experienced Viking ship crew to dingy sailors, rowers and kayakers. We came from all corners of the world, Scandianavia and Scotland, Estonia and England, New Zealand and the USA, France and Canada, Malta and Spain (and I’ve probably missed someone out… sorry!), speaking several languages between us (and only a few able to say døde røde rådne røgede ørreder).
The theme of the weekly photo challenge is community.
This week’s Travel Theme suggested by Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack? is connections.
My photo is a rather literal interpretation, showing the connections of the styrbord vente (starboard shrouds) on Drakan Harald Hårfagre, part of the standard rigging that holds the mast in position. Reconstructions and replica ships like Drakan allow experimental archeologists the opportunity to rediscover the skills and knowledge of ancient seafarers and navigators, make predictions and test theories. They strengthen our connection to the past.
Making a tack or a gybe in Drakan is hard work for the crew involved, especially when we’re beating our way up a narrow fjord and changing direction every 10 minutes or so. The ship can’t run as close to the wind as a modern sailing ship, so we have to make tighter zigzags, taking much longer to cover the forward distance. Continue reading →
So previously I described the work involved in raising the sail and letting it fly. But unless you’re running completely downwind, much greater control of the sail is needed, by securing the bottom corner of the sail closest to the wind, the hals, and trimming its shape with a variety of ropes. It’s much easier to see how the process works in the smaller square-sailed boats. Continue reading →