On 8 November 2023, SNS member and keen sailor Bill Faerestrand gave a talk, illustrated with photos and videos, titled Scandinavian Scotland Today in which he described sailing adventures with his wife Floss on their Moody 422 centre cockpit yacht Masthead Sloop named Ace of Rhu in Scottish, Manx and Northern Irish waters.
The areas where he sailed had been ruled by his Viking predecessors and would have been very familiar to them. He opened with a map which showed the Kingdom of Mann and The Isles at the end of the 11th Century, which showed the Noror of Shetland and Norway, the Soror of the Hebrides, southern Kintyre peninsula, Arran, Bute and the Isle of Man, as well as other kingdoms On Viking navigation, Bill explained that Vikings essentially used ‘Navigation by sense’. He explained how skills would have been passed down from generation to generation and that they were essentially as are used in the Coastal Navigation as practised today.
Bill described some of the navigational aids and equipment that Ace of Rhu has in the cockpit, including autopilot, and chart plotter which displays on the screen chart of waters sailed in, with depth, tide and bearing sailed, as well as the VHF radio handset. He stressed the importance of tidal streams which could be determined for each area by relating them to Greenock or Dover.
Bill and Floss set off on their voyage on 16 June from Rothesay Dock at Clydebank, motoring first down the River Clyde, calling in first at Millport on Great Cumbrae, where they visited the Cathedral of the Isles, before crossing to the fishing village of Carradale on the east side of the Kintyre peninsula from where they sailed down to Campbeltown near the foot of the peninsula, berthing at the marina. Ace of Rhu then crossed to Stranraer and thence to Belfast in Northern Ireland, berthing at the Harbour Marina which is very central in the city. Often Bill and Floss would explore the adjacent countryside or neighbourhood at their various ports of call and visit the local pubs. Bill showed scenes of Belfast, including a glass mural depicting scenes from the Game of Thrones series, which was filmed in Northern Ireland.
The next stop was at Peel Harbour on the Isle of Man, which has strong Viking connection and where, in Ramsay, can be seen a statue of 2 Norse Kings of Mann playing chess and the town of Laxey which comes from Old Norse ’Laxa’ for salmon river. In the Mannen Museum in Peel they saw Odin’s Raven, a 2/3 scale replica of the Gokstad Viking ship which was sailed to Peel from Trondheim in 1979 by Norwegian and Manx sailors.
Other stops in Northern Ireland included Ardglass, Bangor and Glenarm Marina, from where they had a ferry trip to Rathlin Island. Then northwards to the Inner Hebrides visiting Islay, Colonsay and Mull, of which lies Iona whose Abbey was founded by St. Columba in the year 563 and was attacked four times by Vikings between 795 and 825, with a massacre of 68 monks during the raid of 608, and onto Oban. Bill and Floss’ summer base was Crinan Harbour. They sailed to Jura and Gigha, going on to round the Mull of Kintyre into the Firth of Clyde area, going north to Tarbert Loch Fyne and thence through the Kyles of Bute to Rothesay, where Viking artefacts can be seen in the Museum and being escorted for a period between Wemyss Bay and Greenock near the end of their voyage by a school of dolphins, before passing up the River Clyde and completing their voyage back at Rothesay Dock, Clydebank.