White Tailed Eagle and Arctic Fox

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White tailed eagles and Arctic fox are rarities amongst the spectacular wildlife that it is possible to see in Iceland.  We were lucky enough to see both on the same day last week.  We had been at anchor in Hesteyrifjord in 50 knots of wind, waiting for it to die down as the forecast promised.  Mid afternoon with the wind averaging only 20 knots we decided to go for a short sail to the next fjord.  As we poked our heads out the shelter of the fjord we were met with further blasts of wind of 50 knots, and decided to head back to the shelter of our anchorage.  It must have been really windy the day before with icy wind blasting off the glacier!

As we turned and headed downwind, I saw Richard gazing curiously at the back stay, wondering what he was looking at I turned to see a fabulous white tailed eagle, hovering above the dinghy, just looking at us.  I think he was sizing up how tasty the aeriels would be.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get hold of the cameras soon enough.  We continued on to our anchorage which was in the Hornstrandir national park, and as we lay the anchor saw the most amazing fox, with a huge bushy tail walking along the waters edge.  No cameras again. 

There were however many opportunities during the week for the cameras to come out as we sailed in an out of the fjords of the westfjords.  The scenery was made even more spectacular than usual as in a flat calm we could see whole mountains reflected in the water.  This time although the cameras were out it was hard to do justice to the scale of the beauty.  We had a great time, and although we only had one guest this did not take away from the enjoyment of the trip.  Mary enjoyed ‘gulping in the fresh air’ and felt like we were in a lake at the top of the world!

We had a visit from the coastguard.  A fast rib was launched from the coastguard cutter and we were boarded (with permission) by two of the local coastguards.  They were interested in who we are and what we were doing, and also enjoyed a fine sail as we were reaching along at 7 knots.  They were telling us that they want to encourage all visiting yachts to take part in their ‘yacht monitoring scheme’.  As we were already part of this, they didn’t have much explaining to do, and instead told us stories about the two polar bears that had recently been found along the coast in Skagifjord.  The ice cap is now more than 50 miles away and they were investigating where they had come from and how they had come ashore.  When we get there in two weeks time we will have to keep our eye out!

Sunny Weather in Iceland

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Velvet Lady in the sunshine in Iceland 

It is now 2 weeks since we arrived in Iceland and in that time it has rained for 1 day and been cloudy on a second.  The rest of the time it has been bright and sunny, with blue skies and crisp dry mountain air, wonderful.  We are having to remember to slap on the sunscreen and sunglasses.

Last year the weather was better than we could have imagined and the Icelanders said that they had had their best summer for years, this was due to large areas of high pressure over the island, forcing the depressions south over UK

Long range forecasters here in Iceland, and the locals themselves are expecting much the same kind of weather this year.  I was speaking this morning to Siggy, the skipper of the Icelandic sailing boat Aurora, who said, this summer is going to be great again, we are going to have bright sunshine and UK is going to have horrid weather just like last year!  For those of us sailing in Iceland lets hope he is right.  He certainly is for the next week as the barometer remains high.

Interested in following the forecast – there is a great website that I use at the Icelandic Met Office which gives a forecast for the next 5 days

Still spaces available to join us in the sunshine in Iceland this summer

Sailing Schedule 2009

I have just finished uploading our early 2009 sailing schedule – January to April.  This follows much the same pattern as last year, but added is a new ‘Canary Island Dash’, visit all 8 of the islands in 14 days.

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Also New for 2009 – cruise the spectacular fjords of Norway, and visit the Lofoten Islands situated within the Arctic Circle

The spectacular fjords and islands of northern Norway are our destination for the summer of 2009.  Here the islands rise majestically from the sea to a height of 1000 metres, and white sandy beaches line the waters edge.  These stunning mountains are interspersed with many narrow fjords and home to isolated and serene anchorages.  Fishing is the industry here as this is the worlds richest cod ground, and  there are many picturesque small fishing villages to visit nestled at the bottom of the steep mountains.

The flora and fauna in the area are unforgettable, and we hope to see sperm whales, puffins and sea eagles in their natural habitat.  We should even have a chance of catching our own dinner!

I have sailed this area previously in 1999 and 2002 running adventure holidays on a challenge yacht.  There are many special places that I am looking forward to ‘revisiting’ and plenty of new places to visit in Velvet Lady, who is not as limited in both draft and size that a challenge boat was.  This photo was taken during 2002 from the top of the hill in the picturesque fishing town of Reine.  A steep and exhiliarating climb which led to a breathtaking view.  Our boat is the one on the jetty in the picture.

Our base will be Bodo, 500 miles north of Oslo and just north of the Arctic Circle, and our cruising ground will be the islands and fjords of the Vestfjorden including the ‘sailors dream’ the Lofoten islands.

As with all our destinations, this area of Norway still remains unspoilt and off the beaten tourist track.  Getting there is easy if not direct – fly from UK to Oslo on a variety of carriers, and then take an internal flight from Oslo to Bodo  (www.sasbraathens.no , www.norwegian.no).  The airport in Bodo is a mere 20 mins walk from the marina, or 5 mins in a taxi.  As with all our destinations we will be adding  a full travel information and kit list page to our website.

Dates and detailed itineraries will be on the website shortly.  To make sure you receive this information as soon as it is available please e mail us at voyages@velvetadventuresailing.com and let us know of your interest.  You can also sign up for our newsletter at any time, or leave a comment on this blog

Outline Schedule

May 2009 – Plymouth to Oban – 7 days – £650
May/June 2009 – Oban to Bodo via Faeroe islands – 15 days – £995
June/July 2009 – Experience the wonder of the Norwegian coast and islands in the midnight sun – 7 days for £750
August 2009 – Bodo to Oban via Shetland islands  15 days – £995
August 2009 – A week exploring the outer Hebrides – £650
August 2009 – Oban to Plymouth – £650

Fair Winds to Iceland

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7 days from Falmouth to the Westmann Islands in Iceland!  Lots of gybing but not a single tack!

We left Falmouth early on Sunday prepared for the 1300 mile sail to Iceland.  The weather forecast was for winds in the east, which would give us a good start around the Lizard, Lands end and North through the Irish Sea.  Unbelievably the east wind held, and we continued to reach north past the Isle of Man towards the Mull of Kintyre.  We arrived here with perfect timing to catch the tide, and glide past the majestic headland at 10 knots.  On a long passage like this it is pot luck where you have the tide with you and where against you, the wind and tide gods were smiling on us this trip.

The wind stayed in the east as we left Barra behind and 4 days later made landfall at Heimay, a small Volcanic island off the South Coast of Iceland.  Our fast passage time meant we had plenty of time left to explore ashore.

Our 5 days cruising along the coastline are best described in the words of our guests

‘I’ve seen the Vestmannaejar, dolphins, whales, a thunderous waterfall and astounding fjords’ 
‘the ports we visited were a fantastic experience in themselves and the scenery was out of this world’
‘I don’t know what I expected of Iceland, but this is serene’

We arrived in Lonafjord for our last night at anchor, and Sakis got busy with the fishing line.  There were hoots of delight as he caught the first fish, and by midnight we had 20 decent sized brill.  Not only did Sakis catch the fish, he spent a good deal of time cleaning and gutting it, then cooking it too!

Our welcome to Isafjord was fantastic, with good wishes from many of the people we had met last year.  It is good to be back and as spectacular as ever.

We are now here until mid August, and very much looking forward to exploring our favourite places again and discovering some new ones.  Disappointingly bookings are less that we would like.  Our short time in UK reminded us that things are tight at the moment and the holiday industry seems to have been hit hard along with many others. 

We would rather have more bums on seats than sail half empty and to help your pockets and our cashflow we are offering a 2 for 1 Special on all our sailing trips that start and finish in Iceland if booked before the end of June.  Booking is easy on our website, and when booking your 2 berths enter 2for1 in the discount box get the reduced price.

For more information read my blogs from last year to get a feel for what sailing in Iceland is like and see some of the many pictures that we took of spectacular scenery, wonderful wildlife and secluded fjords