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!”