Thursday, 24 February 2011


Since August I've been commuting to work by ferry. It's a bit of a long journey as it calls at another island first before reaching my destination so it takes 2 1/2 hours. It's been rather choppy at the best of times .... (understatement!!)

The typical view from the ferry window - and that's when I can stand safely; often I (and the majority of the passengers) spend the trip lying down.

Once I got to travel by the "fast ferry". It sounded like it should be lots of fun, but as I'd been to the chiropractor's the day before it turned out to be an hour or so of gritting my teeth and wishing for it to be over with, rather than 'all the fun of the fair'.

The "comfortable" seats on the "fast ferry". Note the rails to hang onto for dear life...

Actually, I suspect that if I hadn't been in so much pain I would have enjoyed it. And it was certainly quicker than the usual ferry!

Currently the ferries are on the refit timetable so it takes even longer than before, as the ferry calls into 2 other islands first. For the past few weeks I've been able to fly home though, which has been great. It only takes around 10 minutes, and as a bonus I get some great views. I've even flown over my house (I got ridiculously excited about that!)

The plane is an 8 seater 'Islander'. It's a popular service - and the other passengers can be interesting!

Passenger on this week's flight.

 My 4 year old nephew was interested to see the "steps" which are "wheeled out" to let the passengers get in/out of the plane.

Coming in to land at Kirkwall.

I was supposed to be flying to work for 3 weeks this month, but it hasn't quite gone to plan. The first week I flew and it was great. The plane goes to North Ronaldsay first so I got a great view of all of Orkney's north isles. I was in such a good mood when I got to work, rather than being rather green and wobbly legged!

Looking down towards the school and pier on Eday.

However, the second week I was supposed to be on the flight out, I was ill and off work. Then this week, the last week of my flights out, I was on the plane and we taxied out to the runway, only to discover a problem with the starboard engine. So we taxied back again! An hour later (after the school starting time had had to be been delayed for the day) we were told that we would hopefully be airborne around 10.15am. Then as 10.15 came we were told that the plane would be departing shortly, but that weather conditions had changed and it was gusting too strongly to land safely so my leg of the flight was cancelled.... as was school for the pupils! Back to the ferry, and an extremely choppy journey..... I finally arrived at school at 2.15pm!

Back to the ferry out next week - and yes, this photo is typical of the crossings I've experienced.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Impossible Is Nothing

More memories from summer 2009 - Don and Ora's great film about the youth group from the Okanagan who came to Orkney and spent 2 weeks paddling with the Spirit Dancer canoe.

The Kwu Sukwna?qinx Canoe Family were a great bunch of folk and I feel very privileged to have the had the opportunity to spend the 2 weeks with them. I wasn't able to paddle much as I'd just had an operation on my wrist, but I was the official Spirit Dancer photographer for the month it was in Orkney and had a fantastic time!

Impossible is Nothing from Donald Jonasson on Vimeo.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Spirit of the People

Don's excellent "Spirit of the People" video giving a taste of Spirit Dancer's journey up the west coast of Scotland and to Orkney in summer 2009 is well worth a look. It does take a while to load though.

For those that don't know - Spirit Dancer is a 42 foot canadian canoe (i.e. very large!) She's been journeying around parts of the British coast and I've been lucky enough to spend a few weeks with her and her crew over the past 2 summers.

British Isles by Canoe, Glasgow to Orkney from Donald Jonasson on Vimeo.

This video brings back many, many happy memories.

And it's worth a laugh too... when my class watched it last year (as part of their Canada link) they pointed out that my bum featured at one point - I hadn't even noticed!  Great - you can always trust kids to point these things out to you.....

Friday, 18 February 2011

If only the weather was better....

I can just imagine what kind of a display of the merry dancers we'd be getting if the weather was better!!! It's too cloudy, and the moon is going to be far too bright, but we're still getting something....

It's quite frustrating to realise how amazing this would be if only the weather would co-operate.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Rosehearty Tower

From a distance along the coast, looking towards Roseheaty (near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire), you can see what looks like a lighthouse. However, it isn't a lighthouse - it's the Rosehearty Tower. I visited on a dull, grey, drizzly day...

I was a bit intrigued by the tower, and wondered if it had ever been a lighthouse, so looked it up when I got home. It was an observation tower for the former bombing range at Rosehearty. It was apparently operational as a RAF bombing range from the 1950s until 2000, when the buildings were sold off.

Apparently the tower has bomb-proof and bullet-proof windows and cost £750,000 to build. It was sold for a mere tenth of that and is now a private house, with, I'd imagine, a great view.

The real lighthouse in Rosehearty is a beacon on the end of the pier. I'm not sure whether it's operational or not.

The fishing boats were all ashore, presumably for shelter from the winter storms.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Storm surfers

It's been quite stormy lately in Orkney, which has made for some impressive seas around the coastline.

This is Yesnaby a few days after the strom. The waves are still pretty impressive and I can only imagine what they'd have been like a couple of days previously.

As we were out west for the afternoon, we headed along to the Bay of Skaill to see if there were any kite surfers out, and happily there were. While they were getting ready to take to the water, I spent some time watching the waves hitting the cliffs to the left of the bay - very impressive.

At times the waves nearer the shore were so big, I could barely see the cliffs!

Kite surfer ready for the off...

I did take rather a lot of photos, and couldn't decide which I liked best, so have uploaded a lot here (and believe it or not, this is actually only a small selection of the photos I took.) I'm pleased with how these turned out anyway, as it wasn't easy to hold the camera steady in the wind, especially with fingers which were gradually getting colder and colder. And then it started raining for a bit..... which did give us a lovely rainbow - complete with a 'crock of gold'.

At least I kept my feet dry ... unlike some!

Hopefully the kite surfers will be able to see these photos too.... I don't know who they are, but Orkney being Orkney, I know the mother of a friend of theirs, so can hopefully get a message to them.  Enjoy. :-)

All photos copyright.

Buchan Ness

I seem to have had a bit of a thing about lighthouses over the last few days, visiting the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh (of which more later) and staying at Rattray Head ligthhouse. I also visited Buchan Ness lighthouse.

It was established in 1827. The red bands were painted on in 1907, to allow mariners to distinguish it in daytime.

It was auotmated in 1988, with the foghorn being switched off in 2000.

The lighthouse buildings are now holiday cottages.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

An Aberdeenshire gloup

Having visited gloups in Orkney and Shetland, it seemed appropriate to visit the Aberdeenshire version - Bullers o Buchan. (A gloup occurs where the roof of a sea cave has collapsed.)  It was a damp, drizzly, grey day.

There's some old fisherman's cottages nearby. Apparently the fishing was only viable here due to the cove, where the boats could be beached. It wouldn't have been easy to haul all the gear up the steep path to the cottages though, and that's why the Bullers was eventually abandoned as a fishing station.

 From the cottage side looking towards the sea...

... and vice versa.

I think this would be a spectacular piece of coastline to visit (or explore by kayak) in summer, with all the nesting seabirds around.

You'd certainly need a good head for heights to walk around this gloup though!

HMS Diamond on a dull, grey day

I had heard on the radio that HMS Diamond was going to be in Aberdeen on Saturday, so before I went to check in for the ferry I went a drive out to the Torry Battery to get a view across to her. I have to say, I didn't exactly find her a nice looking ship...

She was built in the Clyde and is the Royal Navy's newest warship - amazingly the Government haven't yet decided to scrap her, unlike the RAF's Harriers... She is undergoing sea trials for almost a year, from last September until July (if I remember right). Apparently Aberdeen will be her home port, so she was open to the public on Saturday afternoon. I decided I didn't have time to queue and look round though, but it seemed that as I was in Aberdeen anyway I should at least make the effort to see her, which I did.

It turned out that the best view I got was actually as the ferry was leaving the harbour - through the window of the ferry, hence the weird reflections, I decided that having seen conditions at the harbour entrance earlier I needed to be sitting down by that point and not wandering about the deck - and that was also what the captain advised passengers.

Watching a tanker leave Aberdeen Harbour .... hmm, nice conditions, not looking forward to that part of the journey.... but it looks fairly calm outside the harbour ... or so I thought at the time.....

I was wrong! It wasn't calm at all outside the harbour! The first 2 hours of the ferry journey home was really not fun. Well, actually, none of the crossing was 'fun' but the first 2 hours were by far the worst, especially the crashing noises! Thank goodness for the crystallised ginger supply I had, and for my ipod which I used to try to drown out the sound of other people being seasick.... lovely. The journey took longer than usual too due to the sea conditions, over 7 hours instead of the usual 6 hours, but at least the ferry sailed and I got home safely - Sunday's boat was cancelled due to the weather.