Friday, 31 July 2015

Husavik - whale watching capital of Iceland

Tied up at Husavik 3 hours ago amidst an armada of whale watching vessels. Ecotourism is big business here which is so different to the Faroese who prefer to eat their tourist attractions.

Arctic nights

The last time we crossed the Arctic Circle in Shimshal we kept the midnight sun being a month earlier in the year. This time the sun dipped below the horizon bathing the wonderful volcanic rocks of the Langanes  Peninsular in a warm glow. Then came a full moon and an icy breeze from the north west. 

We are now just 270 miles from the entrance of Scoresby Sound our hoped for cruising ground for next summer. The last ice chart we downloaded showed it to be still choked with ice so it will be out of bounds for us at least until July is finished next year.

This year, however we will duck south to explore the wilder and remoter parts of Iceland. So 63 degrees 30 minutes north will be our highest latitude. We couldn't have had a better evening voyage to it. A tad more wind in the right direction would have been appreciated!

To add the cherry to the gateau the compass has fixed itself and we have our autopilot back so the Arctic "night" watch is being done in the snug of the companion way.

Whale ahoy!

Captain Robb sighted the first whale (live one that is) of this cruise on a mirror calm evening just south of the Langenes Peninsular. We all saw it but sadly the only picture that exists is of the whale watcher and not the watched.

Although the minkes evaded the camera the dolphins were more obliging as the evening became more golden.

What did you do on your summer holidays?

It's high summer and the sun is shining but whilst most sensible folk are baring their flesh we are adding layer after layer! 

Tonight we should kiss the Arctic Circle as we round the most northerly tip of Iceland leaving the Norwegian Sea behind us and entering, for the first time, the Greenland Sea.

We tied up at Vopnafjorfur at midnight last night and the harbour master was on the pier to take our lines. Supper in the form of a midnight feast meant that we didn't get to bed until it was properly dark - at about 01:30. Morning saw us stroll into town for a fix of caffeine, Internet and cough medicine. Very nice it was too. Apparently we are only the 5th yacht to visit this year so I think we are now officially off piste.

The ever so friendly harbour master drove us to a garage to fill a couple of cans of diesel and then we pushed off after lunch aiming to get to Hussavik in about 20 hours or so. That should mean that the first of the exposed capes will have been rounded in settled weather.

Raymarine isn't flavour of the month again as today our flux gate compass persistently tries to lead the auto helm astray by firing off rubbish data. We have seen this all before and thought we had fixed it when the pilot was sent back to the manufacturer and we replaced and re-positioned the compass. No such luck! So now we are enjoying the sunshine at the helm whilst cursing Raymarine and hoping it fixes itself before the weather turns grim.

On the picture below the green arrow shows the direction we are really heading whilst the compass thinks the opposite.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Sunny welcome to Iceland

I woke the Harbour Master at Seydisfjordur when I rang him to request a berth and I don't think he ever quite forgave us. Customs stepped on board before the springs were on and formalities were completed within 10 minutes. Within 15 minutes Sally had hatched a plan to hike up to some waterfalls but first we had dry out the forward cabin which involved multiple trips to the camp site's laundry. Inadvertently we had left a hatch slightly ajar and a few gallons of Norwegian Sea had soaked the bed, mattress, duvet and pillows.

We were tied up de hind Summer Haze a rather fine aluminium expedition 56' German charter yacht by Dykstra but nobody was aboard.

The fjord was magnificent and the cafe in town excellent. In the evening we hiked 350m up  to some gorgeous waterfalls. The hillside were tinted by lupins and together summer alpine flowers on the walk were beautiful.

Seydisfjordur also gave our first taste of Icelandic swimming pools, saunas and hot tubs. They say there is one in every port.

Light wind, sparkling sunshine and an astonishingly beautiful coastline

We sailed, or at least motored, at 14:00 bound for Vopnafjordur some 60 miles north west. Glorious seascapes and even more glorious landscapes all bathed in the late afternoon sun.

An aborted trip to the fueling berth

Just when everything seems perfect a surprise comes along to keep us on our toes!

It was only 100m to the fuel berth but the moment we let go the lines I realised the steering was jammed. We very narrowly missed the stern of Morning Haze as we headed out to the middle of the fjord and clear water. Then came the frantic emptying of lockers and checking for lines over board to find out why the rudder was jammed but no culprit was found. By judicious use of bow thruster we nudged our way back to the berth we had just vacated and breathed a huge sigh of relief when safely tied along side after a short but stressful journey.

Then came the detective work and the awful contemplation that this may involve getting wet to eyeball the rudder. At this point we were approximately 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle so I decided the swim was a last resort!

Out came the tools and the culpit was soon found.

The spindle on the port wheel had jammed and I just heard from Lewmar that a replacement will take at least4 weeks to source. We do, however, have a starboard wheel and once I had disconnected the port one the steering was restored. 

We weren't brave enough to take the trip to the fuel berth again though so instead gave our arms a stretch humping cans back from the garage.

Almost in Iceland

I think we must now be in the south bound cold current that splits off the east Greenland Currents and flows down the eastern side of Iceland. Certainly we have current against us with 37 miles to go and the sea temperature has dropped to a chilly 5 degrees. The cold water brings with it fog and a tanker we had seen on AiS from 30 miles away was only visible to the eye at 2 miles. 

We switched on the radar but the network is down so it can only be used on deck and not at the chart table. So a new job for port will now be trying to sort out the networking problems between the 2 plotters. Or maybe they will fix themselves?

We had a brisk sail for the first 24 and covered 164 miles noon to noon but today has been slower as wind has now veered to the north and we deliberately slowed down in an attempt to resuscitate the crew. That tactic has worked as Ronnie is now functional and I think Sally is too - though she is sleeping at the moment.

The whale meet stew remains firmly in the pressure cooker partly due to seasickness but mostly due to our disquiet about eating whales. On the night before we left Torshavn the the harbour master appeared with a gift in the form of 1.6kg of pilot whale steak from the 'Grind' or whale slaughter of the day before. It seems 150 pilot whales were driven into a fjord and the killed and butchered on a nearby shore. Hundreds of Faroese and foreign spectators had taken part and the Navy and Police had kept Greenpeace at bay until the meat was off the shore and widely distributed. Embarrassingly our share still sits in the pressure cooker which we haven't yet ventured to open. Though the Grind is an ancient tradition it does fly in the face 21st century sensibilities but the Faroese do seem only too willing to disregard international opinion both on this and on those they choose to trade with. 

PS the network chose to fix itself and the stew tasted great!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

All good and surging north

The northern cliffs of the Faroe's have now dropped below the horizon and we are surging at 8 knots north west in a perfect force 4 on the beam. We could be going quicker but Ronnie has succumbed to seasickness so we put some sail away to calm things down. Sally, however, is bright and has her belly intact which is a huge relief. The sun is out and we have the ocean to ourselves. 

Remarkably most of the fixes are working. Ray marine replaced the wind transducer fitted in May as it was full of water! So, for the first time in ages all our instruments are working I just hope that lasts.

I replaced the broken starboard Lopolight with a Hella one before we left Torshavn. The only trouble is the port Lopolight fitted last autumn has now also died. It's a good job the nights are short up here! Lopolight have alway been great at replacing duff units but the are so unreliable we are going to have to switch brands.

The firmware on the wireless router was updated by Digital Yachts and that seems to be working well.

The Dyneema shrouds on the wind generator have eliminated the vibration and we are in a neutral energy balance with just 14 knots of wind with minimal noise.

So all is good on board - for the time being at least!

Last glimpses of the Faroe's

Sally dressed for the Arctic with weasel suit (thinsulate one piece suit covered with wind proof Pertex) and oil skins as we nosed out past the northerly ramparts. Massive waterfalls, soaring cliffs and sea stacks chiseled by northerly storms. Thankfully though there are no storms forecast. In fact we just have 4 knots of wind and are motor sailing.

Sad to be leaving

It's sad to be leaving these lovely islands where we have been so warmly welcomed. But, unfortunately, time presses on and we have just 3 weeks to get to Reykjavik. So, with a good forecast, we got the anchor at 10:00 Sunday to catch the north going tide in the hope that we get a tidal boost towards the Arctic.

It had rained overnight and the fresh green hillsides were washed and thinly veiled in mist. 

With a very light north westerly we motored gently to the north west hoping that the forecast switch to north easterly wind will materialise. If the forecast is right then in an hour or two we should have the wind on our beam all the way to Seydisfjordur. We will see!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Sunshine in the Faroe's

Sunshine and gentle winds in these wonderful and spectacular islands. Pottered just 20 miles north with a ferocious tide to anchor off the sixth largest town in the Faroe's. Glorious.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

We are off again!

We are driving north this evening to catch  a morning flight to the Faroe's so, in a little over 12 hours, we should be back on board. Ronnie, our crew for the next 3 weeks, arrived in the islands 3 days ago and found them bathed in unfamiliar sunshine. The very good news is the forecast for our crossing to Icekand on Sunday (see below). Beam winds to waft us along. Let's hope it is right!

Friday, 3 July 2015

A week in the Faroe's

The sun did come out once or twice during the week we have been in the Faroe's but fog, drizzle and rain seem to be the default weather. On Thursday we took a trip by bus and ferry to Mykinnes and only found the lighthouse on the headland when we were 5 metres from it, such was the density of the fog. Great walk though out to the most western point which I am sure would have been very spectacular should any of it have been visible.

Puffins posed for their foggy photos and the ferry took us out to look at the gannet colony below the lighthouse - which we had not been able to see from above.

The ferry trip itself was an adventure. On the way out it ploughed into the swell at 15 knots before lurching to starboard to enter a tiny cove guarded by foaming rocks on either side. Once we had squeezed and surfed past these the captain spun the boat in the nautical equivalent of a handbrake turn before coming along side the jetty at the foot of the cliffs. On the way back he clipped the frothing headlands with only a few metres to spare and then ran the tide as he threaded between sea stack and cliff. Quite a showman!

The sun came out on the bus back to Torshavn and the lovely green Faroese landscape was at last revealed.

Back at the boat there were the usual decommissioning  jobs and then a leisurely supper in Torshavn's most expensive restaurant. Janus the harbour master dropped by at midnight to say his farewells and we chatted with Rachel the skipper/owner of Hummingbird who was rafted up to us. She runs a sailing adventure company ( that plies northern waters aboard her ex-Clipper 60. We may see them next month in north west Iceland when they are back from Greenland.

Boat jobs update:
Hallelujah the diesel generator is fixed with the help of our neighbouring ship yard. A relay had failed and a tiny wire to a thermal cut-out sensor had come adrift. 
The Tacktick wind sensor is being returned to Tacktick having given up the ghost after just 2 days.
The Digital Yachts internet router arbitrarily stopped talking to the wireless hub so that too is being returned.
Most other things are working- at least for the time being.