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Kirkwall, Orkney

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

24th August, 2014

The run up from Invergordon to the capital of the Orkneys was only 108 miles, so once clear of the Cromarty Firth one engine was shut down and we slowly cruised up the coast, crossing the Pentland Firth and picking up our pilot the following morning just before seven. There was another larger ship on the only berth so it meant having to anchor. Fortunately the winds were relatively light and the bay of Kirkwall sheltered from any swell, even so I opted to also use the stern anchor in order to keep the ship slightly off the wind and make a lee for working the tenders. It is rare to see a passenger ship with a stern anchor these days, so the young officers have little opportunity to experience the particular skills required to use one.

The day was about the best I have seen for a long time in this small group of islands exposed to the vagaries of the Atlantic weather, where punishing lows can come in and ruin several days on the trot.  After a relatively small shower first thing, the clouds scattered and the sun shone for much of our time at the anchorage. All the tours went off without a hitch, some going one way around the islands, the rest the other way I presume, but there is much to see.

Apart from St. Magnus cathedral in Kirkwall itself, tours went off to look at standing stones, the underground village at Skara Brae, Scapa Flow and the Italian chapel built by prisoners of war. I did take a quick ride ashore on a tender just to check out the landing; fortunately it was right in town, handy for those who just wanted to go for stroll, and also a focus of interest for those tourists and locals who didn’t have much else to do. They were leaning over the rails watching the folks coming ashore and boarding the tenders as though they were from some special place. Well, I guess they were.   

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