Sea voyages

Thursday, October 28th
Having received a sudden invitation from Alistair Goodlad to go out in his boat, I rapidly altered my day's itinerary and drove off to Trondra. Having clambered aboard, sketch book and charcoal to the ready, I found myself hanging on to the side of a small boat as we hurtled out to sea. "It's only about Force 2", he remarked, as we banged down over the incoming waves before the boat launched itself at the next. Although Alastair was impressed at my ability to draw without looking down at my sketchbook, my attempts were curtailed by waves of nausea. But landing on the small island of Hildasay, and strolling around in the sun, watching seals and small birds (now can't remember their 'proper' names), helped to settle my stomach (or was it the large quantity of rum you poured into my coffee, Alistair). So I managed another couple of drawings before we embarked on the return journey - and I didn't feel sick at all! Thank you Alistair.
Janette sketching cumulo nimbus (photo Alistair Goodlad)

Friday October 29th
Gale warnings - Issued: 0933 UTC Fri 29 Oct
Southerly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 imminent, veering southwesterly later
Shipping Forecast - Issued: 1725 UTC Fri 29 Oct
Wind: Mainly southerly veering southwesterly 6 to gale 8, occasionally severe gale 9.
Sea State: Very rough or high.
Weather: Rain or squally showers.
Visibility: Moderate or poor

Friday morning, accompanied by the equally intrepid writer Laura Freidlander, now living in Scalloway, we drove north to Vidlin to take the ferry to Outer Skerries, casting an anxious eye at the weather. Arriving at the first landing pier to find no boat, Laura assured me that it would probably be going - if indeed it was going - from the other terminal further along the coast (how would I have known that this is what happens when the weather is a bit dodgy?). Sure enough there it was, and despite being told we might not get back that night since the weather was set to worsen, throwing caution to the wind, I drove to on board. Having, earlier in the week, abandoned my planned trip to Faire Isle due to dire warnings of bad weather and of getting stuck there, I wasn't going to miss this last opportunity to travel to an island. Watching the crew lashing down the cars, one had small nagging doubts, but ho-hey… and we took off out into the open sea, with one other fellow seasoned passenger, who in the course of the journey remarked, as we passed Easter Skerries with waves and spray breaking over their tops, that he'd never seen them like that before. And it was rough and fantastic, and for about an hour we ploughed on against the wind, with spray washing over the deck, and spin-thrift flying through the air, and I hung on and drew until a lump of water drenched my sketchbook.

Seeing the jagged rocks of the Skerries emerge and watching the ferry's navigation into the harbour is something else. From the small shop - that wouldna sell Laura a paper because 'there's only enough for the locals', to the telephone kiosk that probably hadn't worked for years, and the small stretch of road to drive up and down and back again all within a couple of minutes, and its sixty-seven or so population, Skerries is an intriguing place. Walking up a track behind one of the houses I immediately found a fantastic location to sit and paint massive waves rolling and thundering against black rocks, vast plumes of spray shooting into the air. Everything tasted of salt - my face was gritty with it, and my head was full of the sound of the wind and sea.

Heartfelt thanks to the hospitable Bertha Anderson, who inviting us in, provided soup and home-made bannocks that warmed me up after I'd spent several hours crouched on the rocks getting cold (not sure if the inhabitants of the Skerries could see me dancing to the sea in an attempt to get the circulation going). It was a wonderful and remarkable day, and I only wished we could have stayed longer. The fast wind-driven return journey was just as memorable; paying no heed to the instruction that passengers must remain in the salon, we spent the journey out on deck, being buffeted and drenched by waves breaking on the deck, as the ferry rolled and pitched and me trying to draw. I'd finally achieved my wild sea trip. 'You'll be back again' promised the skipper. Definitely!

Having spent two of the last three days traveling on the high sea when I now close my eyes all I can see is waves and I'm sure I'm still swaying, and definitely still smitten by the energy of the sea. I hope that I can put all this experience into the subsequent drawings and paintings I am planning to make.

Outside the wind is still beating against The Booth. Tomorrow night I leave - depending on the weather - so mebbe not.


  1. Wonderful photos and great paintings!

  2. Thank you - I'm now back in Somerset, and missing the sea and wind. But will be going back to Shetland in June next year with a car full of paintings and drawings for my show at the Bonhoga Gallery.


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