Friday, 27 September 2013

We are now living in Shetland!!

A Shetland sunrise

For the past three years Rae and I have been living and working in the South Hams area of Devon.  I worked for Butler & Co, Traditional Wooden Boats in Dartmouth and Rae worked in the cafe at Avon Mill which is in Loddiswell.

Earlier this year an opportunity presented itself for me to apply for a funded, full-time, three year PhD which is being provided by the Centre for Nordic Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Aberdeen. The PhD is entitled the Shetland boat: its history; folklore and construction. The PhD is being funded by the Shetland Amenity Trust.

Happily I was shortlisted for interview. The interview was a three-way Skype, so in theory we should have been able to see and talk with each other.  Unfortunately, I had not updated my Skype account which meant that the interview was in effect a three way conference call.

The interview I thought went ok. Rae had been near by whilst I was being interviewed and she thought that I had done the best I could. During that afternoon we managed to convince ourselves that I would not be offered the place. We both agreed that not getting the PhD was ok as we enjoyed where we lived on the boat in Old Mill Creek and loved being in Devon.

That evening I checked my emails and was shocked and delighted to find that I had been offered the place on the PhD.  That evening Rae and I sat in a state of disbelief, we were actually going to live in Shetland!!

Neither Rae nor I had been to Shetland before and so we felt it a priority to visit which we did in May this year. The visit was brief, only three days, but we were made to feel welcome by everyone we met and by the end of the three days we both knew that we would like to live there. It was agreed by the University and the Shetland Amenity Trust that the PhD would begin on the 1st October. So this gave us plenty of time to sort ourselves out, find somewhere to live and actually move to Shetland.

Finding somewhere to live we thought was gong to be difficult as a lot of available accommodation is being snapped-up by the oil companies for their workers. During our stay we had identified that we wanted to be within 10 miles of Lerwick.

We were advised to place an advert on the Shetland community website called Shetlink. We signed-up with Shetlink placed the advert and low and behold within a week we had found somewhere to live. The property looked amazing and importantly we could afford the rent and bills. Happily the property was to become vacant in September which was ideal for us as this is when we wanted to move.

Packing-up our stuff and moving off Quadra, (a Vancouver 42 yacht which had been our home for 18 months) was exciting, tiring and yes at times, tense. Quadra has a lot of stowage space and so we kinda forget actually how much stuff we have.

The 6ft cubed container we own was completely jammed packed! Defiant our rowing boat which we planned to tow to Shetland became a very useful trailer and was filled with duvets, pillows, boots and the like. Zephon our Harrison Butler Z4 tonner which we are having low-loaded to Shetland with our container is also harbouring yet more of our stuff.

On Wednesday evening 18th September at about 20:30 the packing of our stuff and the cleaning of Quadra was complete. We said a brief farewell to our old home and headed to our friends Charlie and Mary who had very kindly offered to put us up for the night and provided us with a lovely evening meal and an amazing apple and blackberry crumble, delicious!

At this point I need to thank Charlie and Mary along with our friends Nicky and Peter who went well beyond the call of duty in helping us pack, in fact, come to think of it, maybe they were just very keen for us to leave?

So on the Thursday morning, Rae and I drove off and started the long trek to Shetland. I won't bore you with details of the journey except to say we stopped at Penrith in Cumbria on Thursday night. We stayed in a Travel Lodge and were pleasantly surprised. The journey on Friday was also very uneventful and actually enjoyable. We arrived at the ferry terminal in Aberdeen an hour early and we patiently waited to board the North Link ferry bound for Lerwick.
Ferry about to leave Aberdeen

Shortly after the  had left Aberdeen we met a lady called Corrine, who came over and asked if we were the couple towing the wooden boat. For a split second Rae and I were a bit concerned that she was about to say that something had happened to our boat. Happily Corrine just wanted to tell us that she and her husband thought our boat was lovely. Corrine and her husband Jim had overtaken us on the M6 near Penrith.
Farewell Aberdeen

Later that evening we spent a couple of hours with Corrine and Jim and Jim's brother Bob. They
own a shetland boat which had been restored by boat builder and mutual friend Gail Mcgarva. We whiled away a couple of hours talking about Shetland boats and Jim and Bob told stories of Walter Duncan the Shipwright from Hamnavoe they had known as boys.

Sleeping on the ferry was a bit of a disappointment. We had opted to use the recliner seats and not go for a cabin or pod thinking that it would be like a long haul flight where the lights in the cabin are dimmed to allow passengers to sleep. This is not what happened on the ferry. The lights remained on all night and so all we could do was dose. Also the seats were pretty uncomfortable! Still the lack of sleep did not faze us too much and as soon as dawn began to appear we were able to make out land, we were at last in sight of Shetland.

Coming into Lerwick
We went out onto the aft deck and watched as the dawn broke and we sailed past Bressay. Lerwick came into view and not long after the ferry was docked and we were in our car ready to disembark. The journey to our new home took no more than 25 minutes and pretty soon we were unpacking the car and moving into the gorgeous Croft.

We have been living here for almost a week and it already feels like home. The scenery is staggering and the bay near the croft is home to a colony of seals.
Our new home

Seals on the beach about 100 yards from our croft

Foula can be seen in the gap between the rocks on the horizon


  1. Hey, you two, it looks great! What an amazing location for your new home - just perfect. We thought of you on Saturday morning as you would have been approaching Lerwick. We remembered watching the ferry coming into the harbour when we were up there in Feb 2008, so could picture your arrival. So happy for you. What a great opportunity. Very envious!

  2. Oh goodness how I envy you both and wish you the very best of luck with your fantastic venture in Shetland. I returned this year after a lapse of 37 years when I was in the RAF stationed on Unst. I lived in a croft near Burrafirth and sailed an Albacore at Baltasound. I have a great affection for all things nautical, in particular the Shetland model, it was strange to visit the Boat Haven on Unst to see boats that I sailed against now on display, Mary and Laughing Water. The winter will be tough and dark, but the reward will be spring! I've done quite a lot of sailing but nothing has ever compared to Shetland. My partner Ginny and intending returning next year, maybe we will see you about at one or two regattas. The very best of luck...enjoy.

  3. Really enjoyed this .... lovely to hear of someone doing exactly what they want to do ��