After only a night on board, I am starting to feel like a caged animal. There is only so much that you can do on board a boat – eat, sleep and look out to sea. After breakfast in our cabin, we treated ourselves to coffee and cake in the lounge. The barman remembered us from the outward trip. ‘You’ll be needing a knife to cut the pastry in half, I guess?”. I find it hard to believe that we are the only people on this boat that share a large pastry, but maybe we are?
By late morning, the trip started to become exciting again – we were approaching the Faroes. They came in sight at about 11am, but we did not finally dock til gone three.
The islands slowly got closer and closer.
Within a mile or so of reaching the narrow channel between some of the islands, a dolphin leapt out of the water, as if to greet us. It circled the boat, before eventually disappearing off into the ocean. It felt as if it was welcoming us to the Faroes.
We stood on deck for two hours or so, watching the looming grey /green cliffs go past. Occasionally, we would see tiny little communities nestled on the shore of the fjords. So isolated, it is hard to understand how these people survive.
Eventually we docked at Torshavn, the capital. Like before, we had opted to book a trip out to see the island. Last time, our guide had been a charming lady who lived in Torshavn, with a gentle lilting voice and kindly disposition. This time we ended up with the Faroe’s version of Tom Jones – loud, brash, constantly laughing at his own jokes, and bursting into song. I preferred the lady!
The coach took us off across the island of Streymoy, where the capital is sited, and across the bridge onto the neighbouring island of Eysturoy. A 7km tunnel is currently being constructed between the islands, but for now, the only communication is a bridge at the narrowest point, across the range of mountains behind the capital and northwards. The scenery en route was stunning. Huge rugged mountains and deep fjords. The guide told us that the long fjord between the two islands had been a base for the British Navy in the North Atlantic in the 2nd World War. It made me wonder if perhaps my dad had ever been here, when he served on destroyers in the war as a WT Operator.
As before, we saw hundreds of sheep grazing the slopes. Unlike in Iceland, many of the Faroese sheep only seemed to have one lamb. In Iceland, every sheep had two – such that the rules of the road were that if a sheep wandered into the road, you waited for the other two to pass. With a population of 50,000 people, sheep outnumber the population by two to one. We passed many fish farms in the fjords, and then a fish processing plant. We were told that at it’s peak, the plant was processing between 1,000 and 2,000 tons of herring and mackerel per day, that was being caught off the Faroese waters. No surprise, therefore, to discover that 95% of the Faroese income comes from fishing.
We eventually came to a charming little fishing village in the far north eastern tip of Eysturoy called Gjogv. This quiet little village is set closed in by the mountains, and with the harbour set in a deep natural gorge in the rock. I read that in rough seas, the fishing boats are winched out of the harbour to prevent them from smashing into the rocky walls of the cleft. A simple white and green church stands at the foot of the village. It was here that the first consecration service was held in Faroese, marking a milestone in the acceptance of Faroese as the national language, rather than Danish. A sculpture of a mother and two children by the church commemorate all the fisherman lost at sea over the years. In 1870, half the male population of the village were lost at sea, when two eight men boats went down. At the quayside, Howard and I watched a fisherman washing and gutting his catch of the day – a good haul. Clearly the waters here are still teeming with fish, which explains why the Faroes opted not to join the EU, like it’s Danish rulers, for fear of losing their fishing rights.
On the way back to Torshavn, I realised why I loath coach trips so much. Passing one fjord, we saw a group of people hauling a rowing boat out onto the beach. At the next fjord, we saw two rowing boats out on the water. They looked virtually identical to our Scottish rowing skiffs, except they seemed to have six sets of oars, three each side, with the rowers sitting alongside each other. Howard and I were itching to stop and look, but the coach just went sailing past, the guide more interesting in telling one of his awful jokes. It also made us think of home – conscious that our brilliant Wormit rowers had bagged a haul of medals at the Broughty Regatta last weekend – a first for the club, and very well deserved.
By the time we arrived back at Torshavn, it was time to board the boat again. As we pulled into the dock, our guide burst into song again – Shirley Bassey’s ‘My Way’ – there are no words! Frustratingly, then boat then was late leaving, meaning that we could have spent another hour or so wandering around Torshavn. The delay was made more bearable by a group of Faroese who had just joined our boat. These eight men were a group of accordionists who play as a band, and they proceeded to entertain the passengers with a spontaneous concert of accordion ‘Oom-Pa’ music, both in the lounge, and then up on the deck. It just made us smile, as all the Danish speaking passengers joined in singing with the music. A lovely way to end the day.