It was 5 a.m. on Sunday, May 5, when S/V Muckle Flugga arrived in Yarmouth harbour in fog as thick as pea soup.
Gustav Brax and Anna Zackariasson from Goteborg, Sweden, were “seeing” Canada for the first time.
Last July, the couple left Sweden aboard their 12-metre steel ketch and sailed to Scotland and Ireland, then south across the Bay of Biscay along the Spanish and Portuguese coast to the Madeira and Canary Islands, the Cabo Verde islands, then across the Atlantic to Barbados. Onward and northward - from Puerto Rico to Florida and up the U.S. east coast
From Florida to Georgia, the temperature dropped from 28 to three degrees Celsius.
“That was a bit of a shock,” said Brax.
Zackariasson was wrapped in a newly-purchased, thick cardigan the first day of her visit to Yarmouth, where they stocked up with provisions for their journey to Newfoundland, Iceland, Faro Islands, Norway and then home by late September.
Although Brax is employed as a master mariner, his time off is also spent at sea.
Zackariasson works with children in a kindergarten on a small island just outside Goteborg. The couple have lived on board their boat for close to two decades.
This is the fourth Muckle Flugga the couple has owned, one they’ve called home for 13 years.
Brax says he bought it because it’s a strong boat, “very solid” and built to sail on the ocean. Although the vessel has a 100 HP Volvo penta engine, it’s only used from time-to-time, because they both “love to sail.”
Brax named all four of his sailboats over the years Muckle Flugga, after a lighthouse in the Shetland Islands that he saw on a chart when he was 12.
“Muckle Flugga… that sounds interesting. I want to go there,” he thought at the time.
The name is from the Old Norse name Mikla Flugey, meaning "large steep-sided island.”
Now, a sail to the island is an annual tradition for the owners of its namesake.
As might be expected, there have been a few white-knuckle moments, including the time they hit a whale at night in the middle of the Atlantic.
“We heard a noise. Boom! It was a big whale but we knew that we had a strong boat with a long keel. We were not so afraid for the boat, actually, but we were concerned about the whale. It was quite frightening when it happened,” said Brax.
Zackariasson says crossing the Atlantic is also where they experienced their most wonderful memories.
“We sailed it over Christmas and we had our Christmas in the middle of the ocean. It took us two weeks to cross but they were fantastic weeks.”
Will they still be sailing in their 80s?
“Well, this is a lifestyle. It’s not something we do once in a lifetime. We love to work also. But from time to time it’s good to take time off and do something completely different,” said Brax.
On Wednesday morning there was a good wind blowing from the right direction for the voyage up the coast.
Muckle Flugga spread her sheets and was gone.