Page 1

rain later, good painting the Shipping Forecast

Peter Collyer

HRH The Duke of Kent, KG

As President of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, I always find the Shipping Forecast a highly evocative programme. Those short, terse statements about wind strength and visibility immediately conjure up images of streaming waves, gale force winds, impenetrable fog or freezing rain; images that are very much associated with the lifeboat service. Despite being well aware that lifeboats are built and equipped to withstand the most ferocious weather, I, like most people, still experience a shiver of dread and my thoughts go to the lifeboat crews when I hear forecasts of extreme weather conditions. Knowing that those volunteer crews will always launch to go to the aid of those in distress, whatever the weather, makes me continually admire their dedication and self-sacrifice. This exceptional book, so beautifully illustrated, will support the work of the lifeboats both by highlighting the conditions that they may experience, and in a practical way through financial donations.

HRH The Duke of Kent President The Royal National Lifeboat Institution

For Joy, Laurie and Jill I dedicate this work to my heroes, the crews of the RNLI lifeboats.

C ontents P reface 8

H umber 56

S hannon 108

T he S hipping F orecast on the R adio 12

T hames 60

R ockall 112

D over 64

M alin 116

V iking 16

W ight 68

H ebrides 120

N orth U tsire 20

P ortland 72

B ailey 124

S outh U tsire 24

P lymouth 76

F air I sle 128

F orties 28

B iscay 80

F aeroes 132

C romarty 32

T rafalgar 84

SE I celand 136

F orth 36

F itz R oy 88

T yne 40

S ole 92

D ogger 44

L undy 96

F isher 48

F astnet 100

G erman B ight 52

I rish S ea 104


G lossary 140 RNLI 143 A cknowledgements 144

P reface W

hat is it about the Shipping Forecast that has enabled it to work its way into our national psyche? That it is needed is clear enough. Its essential and precisely delivered information is a service for those in peril on the sea. For most of us who rarely venture beyond the shoreline however it is, in theory, something we can live without, but we seem unable to. For many of us it is a kind of service, an arcane meteorological mantra, reminding us that we are an island community. For both groups, whether travelling on the ocean waves or the airwaves, it is about security. Dogger, Fisher, German Bight might be someone’s route for the next day or so, but for millions of us tuckedup safely at home in Radioland Castle it speaks volumes about what it is to be British; the drawbridge is up and here’s the weather for the moat: Dover, Fair Isle, Albion, Avalon… For whatever reason, it is there in our consciousness, weaving its mysterious spell. Some people name their pets after the sea areas. Some will talk back to it, ‘Thundery showers good? I don’t think so’. Many of a certain generation break into song at the mention of occasional rain, and follow it with ‘chilli con carne, sparkling champagne’, à la Nat King Cole from Let There Be Love. For many its comfort is in its continuity, a nostalgic link with a more innocent past, Sunday roast followed by peaches and cream, with Two Way Family Favourites on the radiogram. I started listening in the Fifties at the age of two or three, in those pre-children’s television days, waiting by

the wireless just before two o’clock for Listen with Mother, ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin’. I cannot remember anything of what followed, but Heligoland, Dowsing and Ronaldsway lodged themselves somewhere in the back of my mind, where they remained dormant for thirty-five years. In the meantime I had been through school and art college. In the former I developed an interest in and a rudimentary understanding of meteorology and geology, and at the latter I learned how to harness an innate ability to draw. The two came together when I later discovered watercolour, for me the perfect medium for expressing my thoughts and experiences of the landscape. While sitting at my studio desk one day, the Shipping Forecast came on the radio. Not an unusual event, BBC Radio 4 is a permanent fixture and back then I heard the forecast twice most days. For some reason, on this particular day, I began to wonder what Fisher, Sole and Fair Isle actually looked like. What was out there? In a blinding flash I realised that I was just the person to go out there and find out for us all! It seemed such an obvious thing to do, I could not understand why it had not been done before. I soon learned that being inspired by the Shipping Forecast is not unique. Three of our most notable living poets, Seamus Heaney (Glanmore Sonnets – VII), Sean Street (Shipping Forecast Donegal) and Carol Ann Duffy (Prayer) have been moved by what Street refers to as ‘the cold poetry of information’. Some see the forecast itself as ‘found poetry’. Charlotte Green, the former Radio 4


p r e fac e


newsreader and continuity announcer, who for me was the most inspiring reader of the Shipping Forecast, said it was the nearest she got to reading poetry on air. Given its poetic qualities it is not surprising that musicians and composers have also turned to the forecasts for inspiration; as a knowing reference in a song; sampled directly off the radio around which is built a piece of pop music or, in the case of composer Cecelia MacDowell, setting it to music for a commission from the Festival Choir of one of our most nautical of cities, Portsmouth. During my research I have often found the forecast referred to as a litany. I have never thought of it in that way. A litany suggests to me a fixed response to every name. The fascination for me lies partly in the ever-changing information being broadcast. We tend to think that the broadcasts themselves are reliably unchanging but this is not so. I heard Ronald Fletcher

in an archive recording from 1950 and was surprised at how different it was, not least the reverse order of the sea areas: ‘Shannon, Irish Sea, Fastnet, Lundy, Sole. Fresh or strong south to south-west winds, occasional rain or drizzle, visibility becoming moderate or poor with some fog patches. Plymouth, Portland, Wight, Dover, Thames, Humber, Heligoland, Dogger...’ It has not been a constant unchanging event. Since its inception there have been many modifications. Sea areas have been divided to allow for more accurate forecasts as technology has improved. Indeed, the second edition of the original hardback version of this book had to incorporate a change to the name of sea area Finisterre. In February 2002, following extensive international discussions, it became FitzRoy. Although the information given is just as speculative as for any other weather forecast, its format and language sets it apart, giving it a magical quality. Qualifying words


p r e fac e

like wind, weather and visibility, which would otherwise be endlessly repeated, are omitted, leaving their data as isolated words, which then become juxtaposed with other similarly detached words forming new phrases with enigmatic or puzzling meanings. Words and phrases used as vague terms in everyday speech suddenly become precise limiters of information; rising, now rising, moderate, steadily, rather quickly. The BBC Radio 4 broadcast is unique but no longer essential. For instance most ships of any consequence are fitted with NAVTEX which prints the forecast automatically, and the RNLI lifeboat stations and indeed anyone with sea-going craft are likely to look it up on the internet when they need it rather than wait for one of the radio broadcasts. So do the advances which have helped those who cannot leave port without it mean its eventual loss for those who cannot stay at home without it? According to the Met Office, when the BBC merely moved the late night broadcast back by 15 minutes ‘people went ballistic.’ The Shipping Forecast puts us in touch with a world which for many is a mystery. A daily tour of our surrounding seas; evocative names, enigmatic information. It has its own cadence delivered with a gentle gravity, precise yet poetic. Where else could something as mesmeric as ‘4 occasionally 5 in Forth at first’ be the difference between life and death for some, and for others the inspiration for poetry, prose and song, and an essential companion on Desert Island Discs? Covering the 2,150 miles from Eskifjordur in Iceland to Larache in Morocco, and the 865 miles between Rockall and the mouth of the River Elbe, the Shipping Forecast informs and determines the movements of those afloat. Whether they be in one of Britain’s one million pleasure craft, 6,000 fishing vessels, or one of the 400 cargo ships arriving daily at British ports, it is the essential factor guiding their safety and comfort. My travels for this book began in the mid 1990s with a day trip to Lundy from Ilfracombe and ended with a

return Icelandair flight from Heathrow to Keflavik (two trips to Iceland and I still haven’t been there 24 hours in total yet). I covered 16,000 miles, and the journeys undertaken, the people met and the scenes witnessed still live with me as fresh and as vivid as if it all happened yesterday. Even after all that, I still find it mesmerising, like the sea itself. There were many memorable moments, not all of which I have been able to fit comfortably into the text, nor have I always been able to fully convey the scope of each journey. Some of these travels became enjoyable if somewhat unconventional family holidays and on others I travelled alone; not so bad during the day, but the loneliness hit me in the evenings when sometimes I found myself in a dreary coastal town that had seen better days. The longest trip was an eleven day orgy of ferries which began one July Saturday with my alarm going off at 3am for a train journey from Chippenham to Newcastle, to catch a late afternoon ferry to Bergen, arriving there early Sunday afternoon. The journey continued Tuesday lunchtime, with a ferry to Iceland via the Faeroe Islands. Four hours ashore in the Faeroes Wednesday morning/ afternoon and four hours ashore Thursday morning in Iceland, where I was straight back on the same ferry heading for Esbjerg in Denmark, arriving late Saturday afternoon, and leaving Monday evening on another ferry bound for Harwich, arriving Tuesday lunchtime. Then, a train home, with a change of stations in London. After all that time on deck, looking out at expansive seas or extraordinary fjord landscapes, the London Underground seemed like a vision of hell. Somewhere in the North Sea I thought I had successfully explained to an Icelander the charm of the Shipping Forecast. After taking down the forecast for Fisher I handed him my radio earpiece. Some minutes later he was still listening and looking puzzled. He said he was hearing something which sounded like sport but couldn’t be sure. It was Test Match Special, with Henry Blofeld

 10 

p r e fac e

describing yet another pigeon flying past the commentary box. ‘Ah! That’s our cricket commentary. You might find the Shipping Forecast difficult to understand, but that’s impossible.’ These travels instilled in me a longing for islands and I am still haunted by thoughts of the north and its austere beauty. As work on the first edition was drawing to a close an edition of BBC1’s The Weather Show was dedicated to it. This was seen by Daily Telegraph writer Peter Birkett, whose full-page article ‘The man who paints the shipping forecast’ was seen by the Secretary of Newhaven lifeboat, who offered to take me out on one of their training exercises, and also by someone at BBC2 who was making a programme about the strange world (as they portrayed it) of the Radio 4 listener. Their film crew also came out with me on that exercise. That programme Close Up: Radio Heads was a stab in the back for Radio 4 and caused a stir at the BBC. A piece in the Sunday Times read ‘An artist inspired by the Shipping Forecast is shown being seasick on the way to Greenwich Light Vessel Automatic; the lifeboat crew may find this rather amusing, but what does it say about Radio 4 listeners?’ Indeed. Eventually the power of the Shipping Forecast took me to the holy of holies, Broadcasting House itself, where one Wednesday morning in September 1998 I found myself sitting at a table with several other guests to take part in an edition of Midweek with Libby Purves. By an extraordinary coincidence the beginning of the live programme was delayed by (yes!) a gale warning. Everyone looked at me as if it was some clever stunt I had organised to give extra prominence to the book I was there to talk about, but Libby told us off air that it would be unprofessional to make any comment on it, so the event went unmarked, until now. Even though it is not so widely broadcast now, the forecast’s cultural impact continues. This on a late night

comedy programme: ‘And now the Skipping Forecast; Salt, Mustard, Vinegar, Pepper’. When the Sunday morning news programme Broadcasting House commented on the launch of the English language version of Al Jazeera, they had Charlotte Green reading the Shipping Forecast in Arabic. Two weeks later, in an item about a government report on the future of transport she read out a brilliant spoof Traffic Forecast: ‘Portland to Plymouth southwesterly taking 7 or 8, occasionally 9 hours. Pain. Bail out southwesterly M5 at junction 6, decreasing speed after a while. A complete shower. Not even moderate let alone good…’ It even had a place at the Olympic Games, as part of the ‘This is London’ element of the 2008 Beijing closing ceremony, where a mantra-like North Utsire, South Utsire, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea was heard by one billion people around the world. The reader, BBC continuity announcer Zeb Soanes, thought it was ‘just so bizarre…’, almost a billion people did too, no doubt. And there it was again in the oh so British opening ceremony for London 2012, at the end of the preamble, after the Red Arrows and just before anything really spectacular occurred in the stadium, being accompanied by a youth orchestra playing Elgar’s Nimrod. Only a week or so after the Olympics someone had the Shipping Forecast as his specialist subject on Mastermind. He did well, getting 13 points, but I got 14! My failure was not knowing the name of the man who wrote Sailing By, hardly hard-core Shipping Forecast material in my opinion, but I am pleased to say I knew the correct answers to the two questions he passed on. And finally, even as I prepare the text for this new edition, Volvo are running a TV advertisement which shows how their involvement with yacht racing has influenced the quality of their cars. As the commentary ends we are left looking at their latest vehicle with a snatch of the Shipping Forecast playing in the background, and the last three words we hear are ‘… Rain Later, Good’. Sköl Volvo!

 11 

T he S hipping F orecast on the R adio I

n 1868 the first head of the Met Office, Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, established a network of observatories around the British Isles for reporting on the weather. One of these was on Valentia Island off the south-west coast of Ireland. If you are one of the Shipping Forecast’s many insomniac listeners you will be familiar with weather reports from Valentia. Through the reports from these various stations it was eventually established that most stormy weather approaches from that direction and the first warnings always came from Valentia. A forecast specifically for shipping was first issued to the press in 1879. When broadcasts for shipping began in 1911 they were from the GPO in Morse code and took the form of gale warnings for the western approaches. In 1921 this became a twice daily weather message called Weather Shipping broadcast from the Air Ministry. The first sea area map appeared when the forecasts were extended in 1924 to cover the seas all round Britain. The seas were divided into three large areas; Eastern, Southern and Western, each of which was sub-divided into districts, which related more closely to some of the current sea areas. Tay covered what is now Cromarty and Forth, Severn was present-day Lundy and Fastnet. Malin and Irish Sea were Clyde and Mersey, and Portland, Plymouth and Sole were Channel.

In October 1925 the BBC translated the Morse code broadcasts into spoken English and the first transmissions of something resembling the present day Shipping Forecast began to come out of our wireless sets at home. In 1932 a Northern area was added to the map consisting of three districts; Orkney, Shetland and Faeroes. At this time virtually the whole of the North Sea was just Forties and Dogger. Broadcasts were suspended for the duration of the Second World War. In 1949, when shipping had returned to normal, the map was given a new format, omitting the four large regional areas and extending further to the west in more detail. This map has survived to the present day with a few modifications, notably the addition of North and South Utsire in 1984 and the change of name from Finisterre to FitzRoy in 2002. When radio programmes were interrupted to bring the news of the death of King George VI in 1952, the announcement ended with ‘The BBC is now closing down for the rest of the day, except for the advertised news bulletins and summaries, shipping forecasts and gale warnings’. The forecast has always been broadcast on the BBC’s Long Wave frequency as that can be picked up at sea all round the British Isles. The BBC has used that frequency

 12 


Norwegian Sea











SHANNON Atlantic Ocean




North Sea










SPAIN PORTUGAL Mediterranean Sea

 13 














the shipping forecast on the radio

The Butt of Lewis

for The National Programme, The Light Programme (later Radio 2) and now Radio 4, but whichever channel it is the Shipping Forecast has always been there. Those of us who listen to Radio 4 on FM or DAB no longer hear the 12.01 and 17.54 broadcasts as they are now consigned to the Long Wave frequency only. They are minus the weather reports from coastal stations, which used to be part of every broadcast and included yet more far-flung points with wonderfully evocative names; Ronaldsway, The Butt of Lewis, Malin Head, Galloper, Bell Rock, Sandettie Light Vessel… where mainly lighthouses, light vessels and Coastguard stations were to be found. As the latter began to be thinned out and Trinity House converted their lights to unmanned operation, other locations such as airfields by the coast or on islands had to be found to provide up-to-the-minute weather

observations. This also provided the impetus for the Met Office to begin the development of an automatic weather station, which could be placed almost anywhere there were gaps in their observing station network. Each automatic station measures wind speed and direction, air pressure, humidity, visibility, air temperature and, at those placed on buoys and light vessels, sea temperature, wave height and period. Visibility is determined by measuring the scatter of light that returns from a light source, an indication of the density and type of atmospheric moisture. Wave information is measured by a heave sensor, a weight suspended on fine wires that sways with the motion of the sea. The rate of acceleration of the weight is converted into an indication of the swell. The wind speed and direction, because of constant fluctuations, is

 14 

the shipping forecast on the radio

determined by taking a mean of the readings over a ten minute period. Every hour on the hour the data in digital form is transmitted 22,000 miles into space to Meteosat, a geostationary weather satellite belonging to Eumetsat, a conglomerate of European meteorological services. Meteosat sends the data to their headquarters in Darmstadt, from where it passes down the telephone lines to the Met Office in Exeter. It is here the Shipping Forecast is compiled. The prepared forecast, with a maximum of 370 words, is then sent by both fax and email from the Met Office to Broadcasting House, and is in the form of a script beginning with the words ‘And now the Shipping Forecast…’. The BBC’s continuity announcer has three minutes in which to read it out at dictation speed. If gale warnings have been issued for any sea areas these are named first. There follows the general synopsis, an overview of the weather between Iceland and Spain, stating where the main weather systems are and what they are doing, and then the forecasts for the individual sea areas and finally, in the late night and early morning broadcasts, the weather reports from the coastal stations and a forecast for inshore waters. Only the 48 minutes past midnight broadcast begins with the well-known tune Sailing By (which, by the way, was written by Ronald Binge). The introduction now states that it is ‘issued on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’, which has always been the case, but this has only more recently been included. On 1st November 2006 the mention of fog was moved from the visibility section, where it had been the word describing visibility below 1,000 metres, to the expected weather section. Also on that day the Met Office added Sea State to the forecast (see Glossary), placing it after wind speed and before expected weather. The BBC leaves it out of their broadcasts, but does include it on their Shipping Forecast page of the weather website, along with a high seas forecast, which shows a map of the sea

areas to the north and west of the ones we are familiar with from the radio. ••• Not broadcast where and when most people would hear it? Choosing to leave out some of the information? It seems to me the BBC no longer takes its role in disseminating the forecast seriously. Do they plan to drop it completely I wonder? In response to that question the presentation editor at Radio 4 says: “It was felt that, although we should continue to honour our obligation by broadcasting the forecast on a frequency that could be heard across the UK and for some distance out at sea, for some listeners it was a ‘roadblock’ between programmes. Hence the decision to move it to LW only at these times … There are three minutes allowed for the forecast. To also do the coastal stations we would need a further two minutes, which … we felt was time better allocated to programmes … Radio 4 has a particularly tightly knit schedule and to release that extra time for the Sea States would be excessively disruptive for the general audience … We continue to take our duty to broadcast the shipping forecasts extremely seriously … We are aware that many sailors still rely on the broadcast. As long as it plays a vital role we expect it will remain in the schedule, and we will continue to consult with maritime safety organisations on the changing needs of sailors.” But what happens I wonder when the Long Wave transmitter is turned off because the technology is now obsolete, where does the Shipping Forecast go then? Is that the end of it on the radio? To these questions a spokesman from BBC Audience Services says, “I’m afraid we are not in a position to confirm what will happen to the Shipping Forecast, this is simply because we don’t expect the LW transmitter to be turned off for many, many years and no decisions have been made yet.” So, there you have it. Cue Sailing By, for now at least.

 15 

V iking K

ing Canute is best reViking has not always been membered for sitting on part of the Shipping Forecast. the shore and failing to stop the When broadcasts began in incoming tide. In any struggle 1911 they took the form of gale between man and the sea it warnings for ships in the western tends, as then, to be the sea approaches only. It first entered Bergen ● which wins. We do our best, the list as a separate area in Lerwick N.UTSIRE however; tune to BBC Radio 1956. Many changes took place ● VIKING Shetland 4 on Long Wave (198 kHz) at over the years until the present Islands 05.20, 12.01, 17.54 or 00.48 area called Viking was outlined FAIR ISLE ● Stavanger hours and you will find the in order to give a more detailed Shipping Forecast. Daily it forecast for the increased S. UTSIRE CROMARTY provides information to enable shipping off Norway created by ● Fraserburgh FORTIES us to challenge the sea as we go the oil and gas industry. The FISHER about our work or travels. eastern parts of Viking and FORTH It begins its mesmerising Forties were redrawn in 1984 tour of the sea areas around adding North and South Utsire. our shores with Viking. How My journey through the TYNE DOGGER appropriate that it should start with the name of a Shipping Forecast has been a bit like this, crissculture whose power came from their prowess at crossing the seas, redrawing lines and working to sea. Almost a thousand years after Canute II united offer something definitive and useful about the the crowns of England, Norway and Denmark in a HUMBER places. North Sea empire, the Viking influence is still part From the port of Lerwick in the Shetland ENGLAND of our everyday lives. Islands you can join the Smyril Line ferry which THAMES


Deal Dover ●●



 16 



Viking Southerly 3 or 4. Occasional drizzle. Moderate with fog patches.


plies the North Atlantic between Bergen, Shetland, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland and Denmark; the Viking trail. I came the way of the Vikings and travelled from Bergen, where I had visited the museums in search of those first millennium forbears. Looking out from the deck of the ferry as we sailed into sea area Viking, with sea area Norwegian Basin somewhere over the horizon to the north and the North Sea to the south, I imagined that it could have been just the same scene a thousand years ago: the unchanging sea and sky with an invasion fleet of longships off to the Hebrides, or Leifur Eriksson on his long voyage to find Vinland. The illusion was brief, however. Into view came the modern age, in a form as dramatic and symbolic as it could possibly be: oil rigs; monstrous, awesome. I knew we would encounter them, but was staggered by the number out there. Quite simply, I had not imagined what a stunning sight they would be. Surprisingly, my artistic eye was not offended. Yes, they had a sinister look, but as modern functional industrial buildings they were impressive. And what a location! It seems to me the Vikings have suffered from just as bad a press. It is fair to say they were not angelic, I guess they did not write home to mother every week with news of their exploits, or while away the dark winter months crocheting. There must be some truth in the early accounts of their arrival on our shores, but these were written by

 18 


Northumbrian monks, who may have had a slightly jaundiced view of their behaviour. Viking: ‘Southerly 3 or 4. Occasional drizzle. Moderate with fog patches,’ said the Shipping Forecast. For much of the journey it was nothing like that. I was experiencing good visibility and thankfully there was no drizzle. So, like the monks of old, should I give only my version? Doubtless the forecasters knew their business. I had my own business to attend to, that of recording the scene in sketches and a painting. What would I leave for posterity from Viking? Those who gave this sea area their name may not have created an enduring civilisation, there were no grand buildings or many great works of literature, probably because they had no need for them. But they left beautiful art and craftwork and a great spirit of adventure. These were, perhaps, all distilled into the one object that symbolised their achievements; the magnificent Viking longship. Here were seagoing vessels of great power and mobility. The Vikings travelled great distances trading with established cultures across Europe, discov-

ering and settling in previously uninhabited lands across the North Atlantic, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, and eventually even establishing a pre-Columbian settlement in Newfoundland on the North American continent. The most significant aspect of Viking culture was their ability to assimilate into the societies they conquered, making tangible evidence of their existence hard to find. Improved forms of trade, farming, administration and justice have been their most enduring legacy, together with a language which still litters ours, even in the Shipping Forecast names for instance; Lundy and Ronaldsway. In the Bergen Maritime Museum I learned of the Viking origin of a term from our nautical language. Longships were steered by a man standing at the stern, operating a paddle-like device which pivoted on the outside of the hull. This device was always attached to the right side of the hull and was known as the steerboard, hence starboard. Again and again during my journeys around the Shipping Forecast I was to pick up such interesting snippets of information.

 19 

N orth U tsire H


● Rockall



augesund in Norway is an national flag. On a warm and ordinary workaday sort of sunny Sunday morning in July town set in a green but rocky children played in the gardens, landscape, pleasant but unpeople were hanging washing out remarkable. Built, so the legend to dry, gardening, and answering says, on a bed of herring bones, the call of the church bells, Bergen ● it is still home to a large herring which rang out clearly across NORWAY fleet. Now it is reaping the the town. N. UTSIRE VIKING ● Haugesund benefit of its proximity to the It all seemed very natural, Norwegian North Sea oil and gas apart from the fact that I ● Stavanger HEBRIDES fields. witnessed all this at remarkably ToHarris call it unremarkable is, close quarters from the deck of S. UTSIRE on reflection, a little unfair. A a 20,000-tonne car ferry. As it FORTIES former resident emigrated to carefully picked its way through FISHER America and a statue on the the narrow channels which DENMARK quayside commemorates the separate the myriad offshore MALIN thirtieth anniversary of the islands and skerries, it dwarfed death of his daughter, Marilyn everything around like a vast, N. Monroe. Such sunny exotica in the bleak northern white office block. IRELAND Achill Is. surroundings suggests that all is possible; from South west of Haugesund, and further offshore ● Clare Is. Haugesund to Hollywood is not so far. than any other, is the small isolated island of IRELAND HUMBER The roads leading into the town are lined Utsira, which gives its name to the two sea areas with neat detached wooden villas, mostly painted that meet a little to the south along the 59°N ENGLAND red, white, or red and white, many flying the parallel. The whole of the North Utsire coastline is FASTNET

LONDON ● Southampton Portsmouth ● Lymington ● ● Isle of Wight WIGHT PORTLAND





 20 

North Utsire Westerly or southwesterly 3 or 4, increasing 5 in north later. Rain later. Good becoming moderate, occasionally poor.

north utsire

characterised by these islands, which are the visible manifestation of a rock shelf, the strandflate, lying just below sea level. In good weather there is nothing better than sitting on the deck of the Newcastle to Bergen ferry watching these rocky outcrops with their isolated communities drift by. The only negative aspect of this journey is that it keeps at a distance the most wonderful feature of this coastline, the one aspect of landscape which springs into everyone’s minds at the mention of Norway, the fjords. These great glacial gashes gouged out of the landscape can rise shear out of the water a breathtaking 1,000 m. The water itself can be up to 1,250 m deep, ten times that of the surrounding North Sea. Around Bergen and to the north the mainland can be enjoyed at closer quarters. The northern boundary of the sea area ends near the mouth of one of the most spectacular fjords, Sognefjord, the longest and deepest of them all, stretching inland 112 miles. Although many of the journeys along this coast are undertaken on the water, it is surprisingly easy to enjoy this area by road. I can offer no recorded statistics, but a comparison between European countries based on the number of major bridges in relation to vehicle numbers would, I am sure, have Norway out in front by a long way. Whichever way one chooses to travel, all routes seem to lead eventually to Bergen. Sited on a peninsula and surrounded by mountains and fjords, which cut it off from its

hinterland, Bergen is dependant on the sea. The most important historical factor in its development and still in evidence today was its position as one of the four major overseas trading ports for the Hanseatic League, with strong links to ports on the east coasts of Scotland and England. The

 22 

north utsire

steeply gabled timber-built offices of the Hanseatic merchants still line the north side of the harbour. Sea trade is still the major influence and the bustling open-air fish market on the quayside right at the heart of the city is a constant reminder of its nautical roots. Bergen is a most enjoyable city; easy going, picturesque, cultured, and thankfully, after more than a day aboard a ferry and in need of some exercise, manageable on foot. The setting is spectacular. From almost anywhere in the centre one can look up between the large modern blocks and glimpse the suburbs clambering over the wooded hillsides. The hillsides can be hard work but most rewarding. Immediately to the north and east of the harbour is the old town, a series of steep cobbled streets and alleyways lined with pretty clapboard houses that zigzag their way into the sky. It is easy to get lost, but who cares? It is peaceful and the views are great. Inevitably, there has to be a down side: Bergen’s Achilles heel is what has brought me here, the weather. There is a local joke which is not terribly funny but very effective at making the point. As it has been raining ever since she arrived in Bergen, a tourist stops a young boy in the street

and asks if it ever stops raining here. ‘I don’t know,’ he replies, ‘I’m only thirteen.’ Apparently it rains here 290 days a year. This point is reinforced at my pension where I am offered a brolly from a selection better than most brolly shops can muster, ‘just in case.’ Usually, when somewhere new, I like to wander the streets hoping to find the real place, taking in the atmosphere, simply enjoying being somewhere different; a little puzzled by those who want to spend their time looking round the municipal museums and art galleries or shopping. Eventually, however, the inevitable happened. Not that wishy washy drizzle we often get at home, but stair rods, and spray that makes your feet disappear. So on this occasion I made an exception. The collection of work by the Norwegian Edvard Munch is extensive, but minus a version of his most famous image, The Scream – the one where the woman is clasping her hands to her head as she remembers she has left home without her false teeth in. Still looking for shelter I visited the Maritime Museum, the Fisheries Museum, the Hanseatic Museum, even the Leprosy Museum. And still outside, with the biggest collection of them all, was the strangely unpublicised Open Air Rain Museum.

 23 

Published by Adlard Coles Nautical an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP Copyright © Thomas Reed Publications 1998, 2002 First edition published by Thomas Reed Publications 1998 Reprinted 1999, 2000 Second edition 2002 Reissued by Adlard Coles Nautical 2005 Reprinted 2006 First paperback edition 2013 Print ISBN 978-1-4081-7857-7 ePub ISBN 978-1-4081-5900-2 ePDF ISBN 978-1-4081-5901-9 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the prior permission in writing of the publishers. The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. This book is produced using paper that is made from wood grown in managed, sustainable forests. It is natural, renewable and recyclable. The logging and manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. Edited by John Lloyd Design and page layout by Eric Drewery Printed and bound in China by C&C Offset Printing Co The Shipping Forecasts are Crown copyright. Extracts are reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 75p from the sale of this product will be paid in support of the RNLI. Payments are made to RNLI (Sales) Limited which pays all its taxable profits to the RNLI, a charity registered in England Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland. RNLI name and logo are trademarks of RNLI and used by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC under licence from RNLI (Sales) Limited.


Rain later, good  

Read a few sample pages from the award-winning story of Peter Collyer's unique journey around the shipping forecast areas.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you