Westfjords Special – an addition to our Iceland Schedule

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Velvet Lady in Lonafjord in the Hornstrandir national park

We had been sitting in Akureyri wondering why – although we have had lots of hits on the web page for Iceland Highlights 2 – we still do not seem to be able to ‘sell’ any places. It could be the cost or it could be that it is 10 days – or both.

Coincidentally we received a request from one gentleman to join the trip part way through as he cannot make the dates. Although this would usually be seen as impractical, as there are no other bookings we do like to be flexible and have altered our itinerary to include a shorter trip starting on the 12th August.. To be able to fit this in with our other commitments we have now sailed Velvet Lady from Akureyri to Isafjord ourselves and will run one last 6 night trip in the wilderness of the Westfjords. The cost will be £750 a reduction from the usual price of £975. We have also altered the timings slightly to finish sailing on the 6th day in time for the evening flight to Reykjavik (18th August) instead of spending a seventh night on board and departing from Velvet Lady at 10 am on the 19th August. Feeback from some of our guests suggests this might be helpful with international flight times.

For full details and an itinerary see Westfjords Special on our website.

Earlier this season we had a fantastic time in the Westfjords, the scenery was stunning, we had a good combination of sailing wind and we managed to spot two rarities, a white tailed eagle and an arctic fox. This new trip will give us the chance to visit the Hornstrandir national park and other favourite places for one last time before we leave to go back to England.

The trip, Westfjords Special is now available to book on line.

Kind Regards

Lin and Richard

On the Lookout!

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Amongst the voyage highlights for our northern Iceland trips our website says ‘lookout for whales’ and everyone arrived for this week full of anticipation of seeing whales and armed with new cameras.  You do not so much look out for whales as scour the horizon every minute looking for the tell tale blow that precedes the surfacing of the whale. Not easy to spot until you realise what you are looking at. Our luck was in this week once we understood what we were looking for with good sightings of whales on 3 out of our 6 days sailing.

We dedicated one whole day to patrolling Skalfandi Bay, a known feeding area, and reckoned to see a whale on the surface at least every 20 minutes for 4 hours.  Some of these surfacings were mere specks in the distance, others were quite close and the occasional one took us by surprise as we heard the whale before we saw it surface right alongside us.  Somehow it never seemed boring or repetitive, especially when towards the end of the day we found what appeared to be a mother and calf. 

Pete wins the photography prize for his enthusiasm and perseverance in taking over 500 photos.  Our whale identification book says that the white colouring on the tail of a humpback whale is like a fingerprint.  Pete will now be able to spend many hours in front of his computer ‘fingerprinting’ and ascertaining exactly how many different humpback whales we saw.  As well as the numerous humpback whales we also saw a different kind which we think was a Minke whale and a few dolphins. 

The week wasn’t all about whale watching.  We had a great mix of upwind and downwind sailing, covering 209 miles in the 6 days, and venturing up to the tiny island of Grimsey that straddles the Arctic Circle.  The weather was typically ‘arctic’ when we were there, but the sight of abundant colourful puffins soon made you forget about the wind whistling around your ears.  The Icelanders reckon if you don’t like the weather wait half an hour and it will change – this was very much the case this week and the ‘arctic weather’ didn’t last too long and was replaced by clear blue skies and sunshine for our whale watching.

Richard and I are now well into our second season in Iceland and used to the isolation and unspoilt scenery of the places we visit. We still have 24 hours daylight, with not much to give away the time except the deep red glow in the sky around midnight.

Akureyri is our base at the moment and although it is the second largest city in Iceland has a population of only 17,000.  On first look it seems a small quiet place, but then after a week visiting Olafsfjord (pop 881), Grimsey (pop 103), Husavik (pop 2253), and Dalvik (pop 1400) you change your mind. 

You notice that the cafes are bustling and even at midnight, despite the temperature, the outside tables are full.  We spent the last evening with our guests enjoying the late evening sunshine and sitting at an outside table watching the cars drive by.  Only the chiming of the church clock made us realise that it was time to be heading back to the boat and bed!

We now only have one more trip in Iceland before we depart for UK, and are looking forward to visiting some new isolated places on our route from Akureyri to Isafjord.

From the guest book this week

If anyone is unsure about adventure sailing, this lovely boat, Skipper and 1st Mate ensure your common interest is enjoyed at a pace that always makes you feel safe and secure.” 

“Pete and I had high hopes for a comprehensive sailing trip.  Lin and Richard delivered this and more.  The food is varied and plentiful; we were very comfortable and had a fantastic experience”

“A good mix of sailing and wildlife watching.  The day whale watching in Husavik was the highlight.  Lin and Richard are excellent hosts making us feel at home and the food was just what you needed!”
 

Richard’s Hot Pool

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We’ve just arrived at our second base in Iceland, Akureyri.  We have spent the last 10 days sailing here from Isafjord.  If we had come direct it would have been 180 nm but with weaving in and out of narrow fjords and exploring out of the way places we have logged 345 nm. 

Iceland is known for its geothermal activity and natural hot springs.  Many areas harness these and they are the source of the hot water for the houses and local swimming pools and hot pots.   Richard has spent hours pouring over guide books to see if there were any ‘natural hot pools’ on our route.

We thought we might have found one with the following description of Gjogur:  Legendary fishing centre at the mouth of Reykjarfjordur, now almost depopulated, but once renowned for its heroic open-boat shark fishermen.  15 – 18 boats at a time would brave the elements to catch shark for liver oil and its meat, what was cured.  North of the lighthouse are geothermal springs.

Hidden away at the end of a completely unrelated paragraph we nearly missed it, but there it was.  No matter how much we scoured the other guide books we could find no more mention of Gjogur or the springs.

It did not take us long to find Gjogur on the chart, and plan a visit into our itinerary.  The weather was kind to us for our visit to Reykjarfjordur, with slightly overcast skies and not a breath of wind.  We set off and motored from our anchorage in Trekyllisvik around the headland with the lighthouse and into Reykjarfjordur.  On the way Yvonne and I scoured the headland with binoculars looking for signs of steam rising, whilst Richard prepared a fantastic packed lunch for us to take on our search.

The anchorage at Gjogur is about a mile from the lighthouse, but the airport and runway are in the way so we had a bit of a detour.  We had no idea what we were looking for, and so tested every puddle or stream we came across – all disappointingly icy cold.  We searched the entire headland to the north of the lighthouse, but could find nothing!   We decided to start from the lighthouse and walk north, across the black stones and rock pools filled with sea water.  There amongst the rocks, we found a slightly elevated part and here the water seemed to feel warm.  Was it wishful thinking?  We continued on and found a pool of water with steam rising.  This must be it, but how disappointing, the thermal pool was being constantly cooled by sea water making it tepid and was full of multi coloured sea weed.  We certainly did not feel like stripping off and heading in.

Not to be deterred, Richard continued his scour of the area, and decided to climb higher up the rocks for a better vantage point.  From here he could see the steam, not from below him but actually from higher up!  There was a magnificent natural rock pool, which had been well dammed off with loose rocks, and retained the water to make a hot tub about two feet deep. 

Yvonne and I quickly scrambled up the rocks after Richard and found somewhere to change before joining him in the pool.  The water was luxuriously warm, unless you sat above the main heat source where it was scalding hot.  We enjoyed ourselves relaxing in the pool for about half an hour before turning pink.

This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  We continued from Gjogur to see the herring museum in Siglufjordur, the puffins on Grimsey Island, loads of whales in Skalfandi bay, the whale museum in Husavik, the abandoned island of Flatey and the nature reserve on Hrisey before sailing south down Eyjafjord to Akureyri. 

We will be doing this trip in reverse from the 9th to 19th August.  Iceland Highlights 2 on our website.  There is now a special offer on this trip of 33 per cent off making it £900 for 10 nights – why not join us and sample the hot pool for yourself.
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