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Blue Clipper sits at Brokey Yacht Club in Reykjavik, in the shadow of the Harpa Concert Hall, one of Icelands’ most distinctive landmarks. Her sails are stowed, her cabins are made up, all ready for her new crew to arrive. Our last voyage, up from Ullapool to Reykjavik was an epic 2 week sail of exploration and discovery. We are looking forward to sharing our new favourite places with our next crew, as well as finding more gems in this land of Fire and Ice.
2pm arrives, and with it our voyage crew, ready to start their Icelandic Adventure. We bond together over jokes and a delicious dinner. Jonas, our Bosun explains that tomorrow will be a ‘Roll and Go’, a nautical expression meaning roll out of bed, cast off the lines, set the sails, and go! All before breakfast!
So at 0600 all hand were on deck, early though it was, in the bright daylight of the northern latitudes. Off-signing deckhand Pau was there to cast off the dock lines, and wave us goodbye as we set off on our journey. The first leg was over 100nm across the wide mouth of Faxafloi Bay, to get us to the top of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We broke watches for the journey across, with everyone getting a chance to take the helm, trim the sails, and look out across the deep green swell to spot fishing boats (and hopefully Whales!)
At first we had a nice SSW’ly breeze to push us northwards, and through the day it fell and backed to the SSE as we neared the western end of the Peninsula. A Coast Guard helicopter dropped by to say hello, and take some pictures of us underway.
As we rounded the Snaefellsjokull Glacier at the tip of the land, we hoped that the visibility would clear up so that we could see through to the snowy mountain tops, but instead, as we strained our eyes landward, we spotted whale spouts!
Whales! The cry went up inside the salon, and people came out armed with their cameras to catch a glimpse of the fins and back of the cetaceans as they swam on past. There were 2 distinct groups, probably humpbacks, hanging out between us and the shore.
0500 in the morning found us anchored off of Grundarfjordur, in the shadow of the magnificent Kirkjokull, one of Icelands most memorable sights. It was awe inspiring sailing in towards this giant peak, shaped like a wizards hat, as the grey light faded, and seeing the rugged snowy peaks of the peninsula in the background as we approached the anchorage.
The helm order was to steer towards the huge waterfall until we reached the right soundings to drop the anchor! Everybody was very impressed at our new find, looking at a chart you can’t really tell what the landscape will be like, but we felt sure we had chosen the right place to come.
We took Blue Clipper alongside after breakfast, so that everybody had the chance to go ashore, and to explore this beautiful location, finding the famous lookout spot up an inlet, where the view of Kirkjokull over the small tiered waterfalls is one of the most photographed images of Iceland.
Some people went later in the day to the other, larger waterfalls on the other side of town, whilst others found a cosy café to while away the time writing postcards or diaries, whilst drinking hot chocolate.
At dinner time we departing the charming town of Grundarfjordur, with promises to the harbourmaster to return again, and turned our bow towards Olafsvik, a small fishing village further to the west. Olafsvik harbour was very busy with fishing boats, the lifeblood of the village, but they found a space for us to tie alongside a very large fishing vessel. The crew were in great spirits as they took turns throwing across the heaving lines to the waiting linesmen aboard “Orval”, our neighbour boat for the night.
Olafsvik was another cute village with an impressive waterfall being the main feature, cascading down behind the town. The harbourmaster made a few phone calls to ensure the local bar would stay open for us in the evening, and most went ashore to enjoy the Icelandic hospitality! The lovely barmaids stayed up for us until we were ready to go back to our big blue Schooner home.
But when we got back, there was an adventure to get back onto the ship! Some quick thinking by the crew, and quick manoeuvring by our fearless leader, Captain Chris Rose, has us snugged up alongside “Orval” again, and everyone over the gangway and back to the salon.
After lunch the next day, tasty seafood chowder and fresh bread prepared by our Superchef Esme, we set out from Olafsvik for another long passage. We had 30kts of wind, and a very exciting departure from “Orval”, where the harbourmaster and Co had come to cast us off. When we got out we set the Staysail, and ran with that, doing over 7 kts, until we got into the lee of the Peninsula.
On the way we passed some very bumpy looking fishing boats, pitching and riding up onto the waves, they were heading into the weather, and getting some major air before crashing down again into the troughs. Our crew were happy that we were going with the weather, and having our sails for stability, we had a much more comfortable ride.
In the Lee of the Snaefellsjokull Glacier we set our Mainsail with a reef in it, half a mile from the stunning lava fields, and the headed south along the shore. Some crew swear that they spotted the Trolls that had been turned to rock, as in one of the Icelandic legends.
Later on we set the Schooner Sail and the Jib, and set course to the SE, heading for our favourite anchorage in Hvalfjordur. We had such a great sail, at one point hitting 10 kts under sail, which was cause for a celebratory dance. Breaking the 10 knot barrier! Our speed just continued to rise after that, until we hit 11.8 knots, what a buzz for the crew on deck, sailing along at that speed with the wind in our hair and sea spray on our faces.
In the early hours of the morning we were again tacking up Hvalfjord, one tack taking us in close to a cosy little village, the next back towards a lovely little waterfall, and again back towards the towering snow-capped mountain until it was time to take in the sails and drop anchor in Hvammsvik.
The colourful scarecrows on the tiny islands made a charming foreground to the panoramic landscape. On the beach the steaming hotpot inviting us to come and take a dip. Our last day of this voyage a favourite for many, as we were in the real, secluded Iceland.
The evening found us making our way back to Reykjavik, alongside again in Brokey Yacht Club, where we sat down to supper and talked of our many fond experiences. Delicious Scottish Whisky was shared around by some of our great voyage crew, and we even managed to persuade the ships carpenter, the multi-talented Gavin, to play us a percussion solo on the whisky-box bongos!
We really are lucky to have our chance to explore Iceland and its many wonders, what a fabulous cruising ground, and a well-kept secret to sailors. If you really want a unique and special experience on board, High Latitude sailing is the way to go!