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A watch at the mast July 20th-21st

We start by rowing for 4 hours from Kirkwall. We start about 3 p.m. with every other oar manned and everyone is present. We change over every ½ hour. At 7.30 p.m. we set sail west out into the Atlantic Ocean. Having come free of the islands we change the direction more to south-west along the islands of Orkney down towards the north-west corner of Scotland, Cape Wrath. A light wind from north-north-west. The watch starts with starboard, who have the first watch until 20 hours, after which the port watch takes over, our skipper decides.

Am on the starboard watch from 24 to 4; the middle watch. There are often discussions as to whether this is the worst or the best watch. The sun has now dropped behind the horizon but the sky is still red from north-west to north. It is dark on the ship and difficult to find things. It is necessary to be careful when shining the torch in order not to dazzle the others. The night box is found, where we have goodies for the night: biscuits, raisins, chocolate, nuts and Logan bread. Mugs and instant coffee are also found and hot water. One’s hands can now get some warmth around the warm mug. It is damned cold in these regions. The cold sea and moist air play their part in making me freeze right to the marrow. The temperature is 4-5 degrees. The wind is light, 4-5m per second so the sail flapped from time to time. The waves roll lazily in under the ship. Times passes at snail’s pace. At 1 a.m. is the very darkest. A flock of dolphins which passes the ship stand out like dark silhouettes against the slightly lighter water. Fantastically beautiful. And the sky in the north and north-east becomes lighter and the most splendid cloud formations appear on the horizon to the north.

The gentle heaving motion of the waves have on several occasions made my eyelids droop and then I would wake up with a start, – it would not do for me to fall asleep on a watch! I think the others feel the same way. We take out the night box again and a handful of raisins and a hot cup of tea work wonders. Scotland is now in sight on the horizon. There is a shout of “Change the watch” from the raised deck. It is 4 a.m. It is quite light. The sun will be rising in about half an hour. It will doubtless be beautiful but that experience will have to wait until the next watch. I change places with my “sleeping-buddy” and he gives me his warm blanket. I pull it up over my head – and it is dark again. The warmth will not really come, however. I turn and twist around but can’t sleep very much. Breakfast is ready when the watch changes at 8. It’s wonderful with the hot porridge. The wind is now a little stronger and we can clearly see the coast of Scotland rising up. Gentle hills lying as silhouettes behind each other in over land. The rugged cliffs along the coast, some of them of basalt and 4,000 million years old, break the waves that rise up in foaming cascades. It is a fantastic sight. Just after the watch changes at 12 noon a 6-7 metre-long lesser rorqual rises up from the sea to port. It was the look-out in the forepart of the ship who first drew our attention to it. Three times it broke the surface of the sea and then disappeared astern. It is a very special experience to see these great marine animals. About 3 p.m. we round the north-western corner of Scotland, Cape Wrath, and set course south-south-west. An astonishing sight to sail close past the cliffs with the lighthouse standing about 100 metres over the sea and the waves breaking against the headland. The two-hours plat-watches change here between 16 and 20. The dinner today is goulash soup ,which is carried round the ship in the three food-containers, wonderful to get something hot! We to starboard take over the watch at 20 hours, still with a stable, moderate wind from north-east. At 22 hours we row, after a couple of tacks, in to the high wharf at Lochinver. A large seal welcomes us in the dock. Folk have gathered together on the pier and as soon as we have thrown the hawser in to land, people come to help. Our luggage will be driven up to the assembly hall, where we have been given permission to spend the night, so we do not need to put up tents at this late hour. The ship is made tidy, the sail packed together with the yard, the cordage is coiled up and the ship’s tent made ready for the anchor watch, who will take over responsibility for the ship until tomorrow morning early. It is the tack room that has this task. The pub is still open for a thirsty throat and that is how our watch closes.


Created by Claus Laage-Thomsen