…a completely different experience. For two people, having lived a life on land with forests, rivers and mountains, the sea is almost an infinite challenge. It is a different world of its own! So we discovered when our landlord invited us out for a few hours of fishing in this ocean we are living next to.
It was a nice evening and, in comparison to our experiences with inland rivers and lakes, there was a gentle wind blowing. We took ourselves down to Papil’s collective pier and loaded ourselves and equipment in, what I would say, a traditional Shetland style wooded boat. Clinker-built and having a one-cylinder diesel inboard motor. It was very beautiful.
We started out towards the sea. West Burra Isle is an island on the western side of Shetland. Papil is one of the more southerly villages on this island and one must follow a long ocean inlet south to reach the sea. The sea bottom is sandy near and around Papil, but soon becomes deeper with evidence of kelp growth.
When we started, the venture was as typical as a boat ride on Lule River on a half-windy day. I was allowed to steer our small boat as our landlord, John, took on the task of preparing the fishing gear. Short stout rods with big reels and a line strong enough to pull up a small tank. Lead weights at the end and with several plain bare hooks.
As I pointed our craft in the direction of a large southerly island, I became keenly aware of another small boat in the distance. This boat could first be seen, then suddenly sink and disappear, only to rise and be seen again. What could this be?
The sea is large! Tremendously large when in a small boat. We were now out into the swelling of the ocean. For me, these were big swells. They lifted us up and then let us roll down to meet another oncoming swell. Just like the other boat I saw. And here I realized how very very small and powerless people are and how gigantic and powerful the ocean could become. I thought for myself, if I steered wrong and the little boat capsized, What would we do then? John, being a Shetlander, sat calmly and worked with the tackle.
Well over across the waters to an island, Havra Island it was called, we started fishing. The technique was similar to ice-fishing but the water depth was 20-30 meters. Maybe more? And as we fished, we had grey seals pop-up out from the surface giving us company. John kept a skilled eye on how close to the rocks we would drift and steered us away when too close.
The first to get a fish was Brita. A small pollock. How fun, and definitely not the same as the frozen pollock at Konsum Jokkmokk! Then, after cruising near the island cliffs and into a small jetty, where there was an ocean cave, we tried fishing off the shores of Houss, another island peninsula on East Burra. Here, we all were catching pollock and we soon acquired a dinner per couple.
As we headed back to Papil and its pier, we ate some light food that Lisa prepared and John cleaned the fish. The gulls were happy as they flew near us picking up the scraps thrown from the boat.
The ocean…the sea is totally different than what we have experienced before. We would like to thank our landlords for this first…but not last…experience.
PS- I will try to better explain how I mean with the ocean later. Just now, I don’t have the words for its greatness.