There has been a strange atmosphere around the island for a while. Folk heard of it, and then, giant placards with the very same symbol began to be hoisted in strategically selected places around the shores inside the island’s only town.
By last Friday, it became clear that we were only days away from an extraordinary event; even if all seem to be appearing as normal. Visiting sailors, moored at Victoria Pier sharing stories and advice, folk enjoying a cornet of ice-cream or delving inside a book on a bench along the Esplanade… The bustling so familiar to our eyes and hearts remained as Lerwick-style as ever.
But then, as we are now two days from this year’s great event (as far as Lerwick is concerned!), we need to think about changing habits and, although we are accustomed to welcoming the world during summer (as well as during the rest of the year for that matter!) with thousands of visiting sailors and adventurers, the capital metamorphoses itself into a succulent honeypot where bees come and taste its many nectars!
Venice of The North
Not quite Venezia or even Stockholm as far as size is concerned, however,
“the bay of mud”, Lerwick, as so romantically christened by our Viking ancestors, was built along that very very sheltered stretch of water, Bressay Sound. That very long stretch of North Sea that is about to welcome some ancient maritime tradition: tall ships, square meters of sails, kilometers of ropes, as floating pontoons have been added here and there… The boys from the harbour have been busy like bees ensuring all ships will be able to moor in the right places (a bit like a jigsaw), whilst The Tall Ships Races Lerwick Headquarters, under the management of Fiona Dally, aided by Louise Cluness, have been orchestrating the entire project. Lerwick is a fabulous venue for such a maritime event.
To give an idea, last Friday was clad with two visiting liners – Europa, from Germany (a.m.) and Gann, from Norway (p.m.) – in addition to our mooring regulars from Europe and America. Visitors are welcome with that very gentle notion of island gentleness, as it is so felt on this latitude – but also with traditional music, either live from the Pier or recorded and then broadcasted from Brian’s High Level Music shop on da Street.
Sometimes, the Lerwick Port Authority will gently ask craft owners to move around a bit during a same day to ensure everybody has a place to tie their ropes around those much after sought bollards… But it’s okay and everyone understands such necessity.
I notice that little detail, as I was meandering along the old waterbreak in order to capture a wooden marvel from Aalesund, Framstig. This Norwegian floating gem comes every summer to our shores and her beauty carved in wood and rivets (Viking-style) automatically caught my eye. After complementing her skipper in my best norsk, I stopped time and imortalised her through my lens. Within minutes, my heart was transported back into my all-time favourite novel (so ardently written by R.L Stevenson!) and then, at some point, that friendly Norwegian asked my assistance to untie her from that bollard. I quickly obliged and waved, as she was to sail away, only to realise she had found a new bollard near Alexandra Wharf! Ha-ha, I smiled. This is not the first time…
And I wonder what would happen when 56 tall ships will find themselves inside the Bressay Sound and crews landing among an already bustling harbour packed with tourists and folk alike! This promises some cases of déjà-vu in 1999 and before that, long before that, as herring fishing attracted thousands of folk alongside wharves and around bays!
This week could be crowned as pleasure mayhem, though I must not forget to add it has already begun in Scalloway (15-18 July) and continues in the islands of Yell (16-19 July), Unst (12-19 July) & Whalsay (16-19 July) before Lerwick (21-24 July) and Fair Isle (today & tomorrow)!
I have always loved our maritime heritage and am looking forward
to mingle among those glorious festivities ida toon!
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