Two young Norwegian adventurers have successfully completed a passage from Floro to Lerwick in a 17ft open wooden rowing boat almost identical to a Shetland fourareen.
The seven-day experience undertaken by 27-year-old Erik Schouw-Hansen and Henrik Yksnoy, 25, was anything but plain sailing as they had to contend with strong winds, high waves and real fear.
Erik, a consultant from Bergen, said: “It was all about adventure. Not too many people have done this before.”
Their 200-mile voyage started when the weather was good and with a good forecast, said Henrik, a student from Volda on Norway’s west coast. The pair rowed together for the first two days, then they took it in turns to row six-hour shifts. He said: “The first four days there was an east wind. On the fourth day it got rougher and we went into survival suits.”
The fifth day was even worse – the wind swung round to the north and pushed them back south, away from Lerwick, and it seemed they might even be pushed past the southern tip of Shetland. That was when the fear set in. Erik said: “When the wind turned we were going by waves of six metres. There was no steering.” The conditions meant they could not row against the waves, but thankfully the weather moderated slightly at the end of the day, and when they were almost opposite Mousa they could resume rowing.
Henrik said: “It was hard. You can’t be prepared. You don’t feel like eating and we had one meal a day each on average, not enough for rowing.” And they were sore: “It hurts to sit.”
Sleeping was a problem too – they made a nest out of water bottles and bags of clothes, with 30 centimetres headroom under a tarpaulin. “It was very uncomfortable.”
Erik said they would definitely not be rowing back, and were looking for help to transport their boat back to Norway.
Were they being irresponsible? “It’s hard to say if we were responsible,” said Erik. “It was a bit of a challenge, the adventure we were looking for. The mental part was the hardest.”
Henrik said they had a culture of adventure in Norway, and were equipped with a liferaft, survival suits and were in constant touch with the coastguard.
They both said they were exhausted, but delighted to have reached Lerwick.
A fellow Norwegian on the next boat said the trip proved that the Vikings could have come to Shetland in small boats.