13 August 2007
“For those who like to combine sailing and wild life there is nothing to beat this ‘Arctic Sea’ adventure holiday. Dolphins in profusion dropped by every single day (once over 20 at the same time) and a hump backed whale close too! This ancient mariner was really well looked after by the skipper and mate – we loved it all”
What a fabulous week we have just had. A 7 day trip exploring the coastline and islands off the north coast of Iceland. A high pressure sat just over Greenland for most of the week giving us blue skies and light winds, the sunshine ensured that by early afternoon we had plenty of sea breeze to sail on.
We started the week with a gentle beat out of Eyjafjord northwards to Olafsfjord, arriving in time for a late evening walk.
The following day we set off for our first island Grimsey and the Arctic Circle. A gentle motor at first and we were surrounded by dolphins Slowly the breeze picked up and with full sail set we reached at 7 knots towards Grimsey arriving early afternoon. The sun shone, and although they are just about to start heading south there were plenty of puffins to admire on the walk to the north end of the island
We slipped from Grimsey and again with full sail set headed to Husavik. We spent a good deal of time looking out for whales, where are they all?, but were rewarded with lots of dolphins. The wind died as we got close which gave us the opportunity to take a close up look at Lundy island just a few miles north of Husavik . Puffins and Guillemots lined the cliffs and flew in circles all above us. We had our late afternoon tea en route to Husavik and tied up early evening. The whale watchers were out in force, so we joined them for an afternoon sundowner on the deck of the local pub to find out what they had seen and where to go.
After a morning visit to the whale museum, and armed with plenty of information to help us find them we set out to ‘search’ for whales. The weather was flat calm, and we motored looking for spouts in the glassy sea. Our strategy was to follow the whale watch boats, but immediately we spotted dolphins jumping and set off on our own track. A school of 20 or so dolphins were frolicking around in the sunshine, leaping completely clear of the water and creating huge splashes as they landed.
Once the dolphins left us we headed towards the x we had marked on the chart where the whale watchers had gone. We were not disappointed. Richard with his eagle eyes had spotted a fin, we watched getting closer and closer as the whale came up to the surface to breathe 4 or 5 times, before diving deep giving us a glorious view of his tail. Our information from the whale museum told us that they usually go down for 9 to 12 minutes so we waited around for him to surface again – trying to guess which direction. Meanwhile we had the book out to identify what type of whale, and discovered he was a humpback, Harry Humpback. Richard again spotted Harry when he resurfaced, claiming to have heard him first. We were again treated to watching him breathe 4 times before diving and giving us a second view of his tail. The third time we had managed to get much closer, and by the fourth time were right up close to Harry as he was breathing. What a glorious sight and sound, as you hear the blow, then see the fin and finally the tail. We tried hard during all this to get some photographs, and finally, we managed.
Exhiliarated by our experience with the whale, we set off towards Flatey Island just as the next set of whale watching boats took up station looking for Harry Humpback to make another appearance.
We anchored off Flatey early evening and whilst Lin stayed on board to prepare the supper everyone else departed in the dinghy for the shore. Flatey is only 20 metres high, and with all other cliffs to the south, we felt the warmth of the afternoon sunshine late into the evening. It was even warm enough to have our dinner in the cockpit, under the sandy pink lights of the sunset.
Friday morning, with the sea glassy calm, Sally and Lin set off to explore the shores of the island by dinghy, rowing in order to not disturb the birds. A friendly seal popped his head out to have a look, and then followed us on our journey. We rowed around the point to the lighthouse, and looked up into the puffins burrows. The young are just about ready to start learning to fly. We drifted silently amongst the birds and enjoyed the peace and quiet in the morning sunshine.
We weighed our anchor just before lunch and headed back to Eyjafjord to our third island of the week Hrisey. Located in the middle of Eyjafjord it is referred to by the locals as the ‘Pearl of Eyjafjord’
We arrived in time for Richard and Sally to set off on a high speed hike to see what they could find. The town of Hrisey is very pretty, and as soon as you venture slightly north there is a nature reserve teaming with birds, and the occasional ‘hide’ to watch from. Sally and Richard came back so invigourated from their walk and what they had seen, that we all decided to go for a longer walk in the morning.
After a fabulous morning spent walking around the nature reserve in Hrisey and soup and bacon sandwiches for lunch, we reluctantly agreed that it was time to set off back to Akureyri and prepare for going home.
Sally says “favourite wild life moments: sitting in the dinghy with Lyn on a perfectly calm sea watching the puffins and being watched by a seal who kept poking his head above the water to have a look. A brisk walk with Richard to a magical place in Hrisey where every sort of waders seemed to be coming home to roost. The sea in all its many forms from glassy to rough, from deep green to black – all amazing. Thank you both for a wonderful time”