Back on the Mainland

This is night 33/2108 staying in my caravan. I'm now back on the mainland and staying overnight at the Brora C&MC Site at Dalchalm, near Brora Village. For the night for my van, me, and the mutts (free) was a reasonable £13.

Got up around 0600 to foggy and breezy weather. Took the dogs for a wander around the park opposite, then returned for some breakfast. It is a 'pack up' day, so I started to pack away the various clutter in the van. I'd taken down the TV aerial etc. last night, so it was just a case of putting heavier stuff in the car and emptying tanks, and the toilet chemicals.

I had planned to leave around 1000 to be in plenty of time for the ferry, so took the dogs around the 'Peedie Sea' and into Kirkwall for the last time. I wanted to see the 'Big Tree' which is the current 'Tree of the Year' in the annual Woodland Trust award.

Impressive tree, and not that big.

It's a 200yr old Sycamore which has had a bit of a hairdo recently, courtesy of winning the prize!

Like everything else on Orkney, it's old, but not very big.

Headed south around 0945, wasting a bit of time by giving the dogs a walk on a beach between the Churchill Barriers, arriving at the port about 1030. Interesting watching the Pentalina (the ferry) arrive and unloaded by the deck crew. They have a small arctic which they unload and reload HGV trailers, then it's the same crew who check you in, load you up, work the windlasses and winches, and operate the doors. Quite impressive multi tasking.

This is the 'spare' or 'relief' vessel at the moment. Not sure I would fancy tackling the Pentland Firth in it, looks very narrow and a bit front heavy! Apparently, Pentland Ferries have another, larger, catamaran in build at the moment. It's a busy route.

Thankfully, I was loaded up forward first (as opposed to having to reverse the ramp), and tucked under the structure ready for the off.

The weather was a bit dull, bit light winds and a slight sea state. I was looking forward to a nice crossing.

The initial part of the journey was fine as we sailed through Scapa Flow. The boat rocks fore and aft a little, but it's actually quite pleasant. As we passed away from South Ronaldsay it started to get foggy. There was quite a swell developing as we passed the Isle of Swona. Between Swona and Stroma, the tide race was very exciting!

The water was literally 'boiling' like it was being lifted from underneath. It suddenly went glassy smooth intersperced with eddy's and whirlpools. The boat literally 'lunged' sideways at some point, and it was a good job I was near a handrail. It's a short crossing, but in a storm, in these tidal conditions, it must be a nightmare.

All in all, we were over in around 50mins and the exciting bit really only concerned me for about 15mins.

Arrived at Gills Bay and drove south to Brora in heavy rain. As the reached Brora, it brightened and now is a lovely afternoon. Took the dogs down the beach.

It's like we've never left the place!


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