Living On The BoatOcean Passages

Inverness to the Orkney Islands

Light & Variable

As soon as the winds were favorable, we planned to head from Inverness to the Orkney Islands. After waiting a few days for a weather window, the best we could find in the forecast was a light and variable wind, forcing us to motor up the coast. So we said farewell to The Caledonian Canal and pointed the bow north. Our goal was to get to the Orkney Islands, as a jump off for Norway, stopping in Cromarty, Wick and Deer Sound before arriving in Kirkwall.

Old Man of Wick

We spent a night in Cromarty and then headed to Wick. Wick is a small town on the northeast coast of Scotland. It was once was a major trading post in the 1800s. With the herring industry gone, the town has some fishing industry left, but mostly it is a stop on the way up to John O’Groats. This area also was once part of Norway, with remnants of a castle now referred to as “The Old Man of Wick” as a testament to Earl Harrald.


We left Wick and headed out across the Pentland Firth to The Orkney Islands. The Pentland Firth is a strong current that is a result of the tidal shifts between mainland Scotland and the Orkney Islands. The tide rushes out to the east and in to the west, crossing into the north sea as it goes. When we were at the Pentland Firth, the current was strong and there were waves around us, even at slack tide and without wind. This would be a dangerous area in bad weather.

Sound of Seals

Our first stop in the Orkney Islands was Deer Sound. As soon as we dropped the anchor, Brennan noticed something moving on shore. It turned out we were surrounded by hundreds of harbour seals who we hoped would escape the wrath of nearby Orcas.

Waiting on Weather

From there we headed to Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney. A weather system was moving through and we were happy to spend time in a protected harbour where the winds still blew over 45 knots. A few days in Kirkwall and it was time to cross the North Sea. Of course, we did a provisioning run, readied Terrapin and plotted our course. Next stop – Stavanger, Norway.

Cromarty Scotland – where oil rigs go to die. Terrapin at anchor mid-photo.
Brennan asleep on watch (ha!)
Sleepy sleepy Brennan
Overlooking the cliffs in Wick
Selfie time at Old Man of Wick Castle
Only in Scotland – flowers in front of the remnants of a 12th century castle.
What it used to look like
Compass Stone
Flying the drone
Beach at Deer Sound with hundreds of harbour seals.
Pretty pastures next to a beach
A harbour seal keeping an eye on our dinghy
Kala and Baxter watching the harbour seal watching us
The original door at the Cathedral in Kirkwall