Looking after Velvet Lady

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Just like a house or a car Velvet Lady needs lots of preventative maintenance.  In addition like any other woman she likes to be pampered with new things and look good.  Keeping her up to scratch and looking good is very important to us as she is our home and our livelihood. When we write our sailing programmes we take all that into account.  We allow 3 days between trips to keep on top of small maintenance and cleaning, and also build in regular ‘refit schedules’.  Fortunately we are both pretty handy on the maintenance front and whenever we have unexpected ‘gaps’ in our programme due to no bookings we continue with jobs.

Although sailing is our main passion, for a break Richards never more happy than when he’s varnishing, and I love getting all greasy and dirty stripping and servicing winches.  A good job too, because there are plenty of both on Velvet Lady.

This last week Richard has been varnishing and working below and I have been busy on the deck with winches, blocks, ropes etc.  Once the varnish is wet and there is nowhere to move, Richard has been making use of the dockside for jobs like servicing the outboard. The evenings we spend in the internet café filling up virtual shopping baskets with goodies for Velvet Lady’s future upkeep.

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We enjoy our May and September visits to Plymouth, as this gives us the opportunity to collect our ‘shopping’. Sometime it feels just like Christmas.  As well as our internet shopping this September we also have a new sail waiting for us.  Velvet Lady is programmed to come out of the water in Lanzarote in December and so our shopping list also includes antifouling, paint rollers, paper overalls, deck paint, polish, anodes etc. 

Velvet Lady’s wish list is never ending and we have an ongoing plan to keep updating her equipment.  We spend many happy hours pouring over catalogues and coming up with ideas – and planning them into the budget.

We think Velvet Lady is now in even better condition than when she came out of her major refit last year in March as we have continued to improve her. Our hard work is often rewarded, and we always feel proud when guests and visitors admire her.  Whilst we have been working this last week there have been 3 cruise liners in Isafjord including the QE2 and many of their passengers have been over to talk to us and are interested in our plans.  We now keep brochures on the quayside!

We’ll be packing up the tools and varnish soon and beginning to prepare for our passage back to UK which is fully booked. Yet again we have had a brilliant summer in Iceland and are looking forward to chasing the sunshine south!

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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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