The Northlink ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland is a very civilised way to travel. We returned to the terminal, transferred our big suitcase to the trolley, then boarded, found our cabin and relaxed until dinner time, when we dined in the restaurant. We were woken early next morning by the announcement that we were approaching Lerwick, but there was no hurry to vacate the cabin, and we could breakfast in leisure before we left the ferry.
We were due out of Lerwick to Fair Isle on the Good Shepherd in the afternoon, but Ann told us that once the Good Shepherd arrived, we could put our luggage on board. The four of us headed for Hays Wharf, where the Good Shepherd docks - which just happens to be outside the Shetland Museum
It was a damp and chilly morning, and the museum took pity on us, first letting us in to wait in the reception area, and stack our luggage in a corner out of the way, then tipping us off that the galleries were open and we could look round. We hadn't necessarily intended to spend the morning at the museum, but it is a wonderful museum, and we found enough to detain us and keep us entertained with only the shortest excursion to town until lunch time.
Somehow we all ended up in the museum cafe, and somehow we ran into more of our party there. We told Ann how kind the museum staff had been to us, and that the lady who let us in had lived on Fair Isle for several years. It's typical of the island, I now realise, that this was not just a stray interesting fact, but something to be pounced on and worried until the marrow had been extracted from it in the form of an identification: "Oh, I know, she'll be..."
Eventually - after warnings all round to take seasickness pills - it was time to board the Good Shepherd.
I had expected a modern ferry, like those that link Shetland Mainland to the North Isles: but the Good Shepherd's first purpose is to carry cargo. Anything that is imported to Fair Isle must either be flown in, or travel on the Good Shepherd (we shared our passage with a boat). If it's too big to fit on the Good Shepherd, you have a problem - and this is why the renovation of the Bird Observatory has been delayed. My initial reaction was to blame the builders, but on this occasion, it seems, that's not fair. The new building
is a modular construction, the modules are too large to come in on the Shepherd, and plans to float them in on special rafts weren't put into action early enough to benefit from the summer weather. The island gossip (Fair Isle is a great place for gossip) says that the modules were built in Orkney by a firm who thought that this meant they knew all there was to be known about islands, and learned otherwise.
So passengers are not the raison d'être of the Fair Isle ferry service. The crew treated us with gentle solicitude, as if we were a particularly sensitive cargo, and settled us in the cabin or on deck, as we chose. It was a lively crossing: the boat rolled impressively, especially once we had cleared Sumburgh Head and were on the open sea. The windows veered from showing nothing but sky to showing notng but sea, and back. You read descriptions of storms with mountainous waves towering above the ship - this was nothing like that. Rounded billows barely disturbed the surface of the sea. But the boat reacted energetically enough, and the voyage lasted for four and a half hours (I hadn't quite taken on how much longer it took as a result of sailing from Lerwick rather than the usual Grutness at he southern tip of Shetland).
We were glad to arrive, and grateful Deryk, the warden from the Bird Observatory, who gave durham_rambler
and me a lift down to our accomodation at the South Light (and then went home and blogged about it
). We didn't stay up to watch the election results: I'm not sure we'd have had the stamina for it, even if it had been an option, but in fact the electricity at the South Light goes off at 11.30 (the generator stops for the night) so we went to bed with a clear conscience.