Shetland Mainland - part 3: Fretting in the fog

Our late arrival the previous night at the old fishing station on the point of Fethaland had not precluded the possibility of another day's paddling though a shorter day seemed in order - indeed we had planned the next stage at around 1am, before turning in.
Yet as Brian stood by the tent door, shoulders hunched in the cold wind, I stared out bleary eyed on the wild scene before me and felt the situation warranted a change in plan. Gone were the blue skies, replaced with leaden clouds which gave a clear signal of the increasingly poor weather to come. The coastguard's gale warning was superfluous - we were already decided and remained at the point for the day.
It was far from wasted - as well as allowing our first blisters to heal, it presented an opportunity to examine the ruins all around and watch for the orcas that had been seen in the area in the last week. And so, although standing still on the cliff tops felt strangely like falling at terminal velocity, from sheltered ledges on the cliff edges we watched, and waited, for the whales.
Perhaps the weather was not to their liking either, for we saw no sign of anything greater in size than a gannet, though these dived all around while the fulmars soared, surfing the updrafts, stealing the show quite completely.
The winds strengthened steadily all day until by late evening we were taking a battering. The rain fell with the intensity of an alpine storm and beyond its white noise, only the roar of approaching gusts could be heard. I slept intermittently, waking as the most severe gusts rattled the tent, half dreaming, half conscious, I shouted in retaliation as the wind grabbed the tent shaking it violently three times in quick succession, before waking fully to support the poles arched above.
By 5am the gale had passed, and in the grey light of dawn I found Tim had been less lucky - at some point the wind had ripped out the pegs of his guy lines and snapped a pole - it would not be the last.
But by mid morning the winds appeared to have dropped to a manageable level, hovering around F5 with the odd gust and although the clag was down, it seemed worth making what miles we could. Above, Brian heads out from the shelter of the bay where a thick swell from the north east was rolling into Yell Sound
The north going tide and head wind made for slow progress - Chris above, rounding Lanyar Taing.
For the next 5km we plugged steadily into the wind, beginning our crossing towards Yell, from North Holm of Burravoe. Here the clag lifted and with the wind now more on the beam, we crossed rapidly towards Muckle Holm.
The sun shone briefly as we passed the impressive break off the southern end of the island...
...to shelter in Ox Geo. This narrow passage leads to a shingle beach - the return had to be timed with some care.
Another crossing and the wind blustered and harried on the beam as we gradually pulled closer to Yell, after which we turned south once more, heading for the narrows, the tide now in our favour.
This was a necessity - the streams here run at 7 knots though more than twice that has been recorded amongst the islands - and we bounced through the chop, our speed doubling as the tide swept us past the Ness of Sound and then Uynarey, towards the Bay of Ulsta.
We camped, having covered only 25km, but feeling pleased to have reached another point of strategic importance for from here, we were well placed to make the long push down to Bressay. After collecting water from a friendly local, Peter - a Dutch teacher who had relocated and was now resident on Yell - we walked back along the moor. Curlews called as Yell Sound turned to liquid silver beneath softening skies and finally the winds died, leaving only the sound of the tide rushing north once more.

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