VAGAR, FAROE ISLANDS — Today, the CDQ (Cessna Discomfort Quotient) went up several notches on my backside scale. It was our first day wearing the immersion suits as we left Wick, Scotland, on our first leg across the North Atlantic.
We look like bearded Gumbies in our big, red-rubber suits designed to allow us to survive in cold water. We take our shoes off and pull the suits on over our clothes. We leave the top half draped over the back of our seats for quick donning. There's no way Arthur or I could fly the plane with fat rubber mittens on.
We rearrange stuff in the plane to have the survival gear close at hand, should we have to make a water landing. The weather along our route is often sketchy.
Andrew Bruce, head of Far North Aviation in Wick (he supplies many transatlantic pilots with suits, rafts, and other gear), warns us about this. "The Faroes have about three sunny days a year," says this longtime pilot and flight instructor in his Scottish burr, "and I'm exaggerating only slightly."
Either he's exaggerating more than slightly or we've hit one of those few days, because the weather all the way is spectacular - sunny, no clouds, decent winds.
We pass the Orkney Islands just off the coast of Scotland, then fly out of sight of land for an hour or so before we start seeing the Faroes. They're an archipelago of 18 islands about halfway between Scotland and Iceland.
The Faroes belong to Denmark, but they were settled and still are inhabited by those of Norse descent. The population is about 45,000 - about half as many people as there are sheep. Fishing is the most important source of income here.
We land at Vgar VFR - using visual flight rules - because the weather is so good. Just as well. The approach to the runway is up a fjord, with hills close by on the left - really close by. We hang around at the airport until a bus takes us by road and ferry boat to the larger town of Torshavn, where we spend the night at a guest house.
The hilly, rocky, grassy Faroes are almost devoid of trees. They could look stark, except all the buildings (and most of the boats) are painted bright primary colors. Many older buildings, we notice, have sod roofs that are quite grassy.
The colors become more and more brilliant as the sun begins to set. This takes quite a while. By 10:30 at night it's still light outside.
We support the local economy by having a seafood dinner, then turn in while it's still pretty light out. This phenomenon will continue as we head farther north.
Tomorrow, back into the Gumby suits and on to Iceland.
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