Arriving at Iceland

The picture above shows the rising sun around 3.00am on our approach to Reykjavik. Even at midnight it is as light as a long summer twilight in southern England; although so very much colder. I have read so many times about these lands were the sun scarcely set, but it is quite something else to be here at this time, to wake from my watch below, dress in many layers, then climb the companionway to almost daylight.

Our first sight of Iceland a few days ago was from well out to sea: on the horizon, what might at first have been a cloud became clearly the high glaciers of the south and east. We sailed on to reach the volcanic Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), more precisely Heimaey, an island that suddenly erupted in the 1970s. The eruption lasted for months, threatening to close the entrance to the only harbour–and this is an important fishing port. An experimental attempt was made to slow the flow of lava by pumping seawater over it, and over time pumps from all around the world joined the effort. When the eruption stopped, many houses had been overwhelmed, but the harbour was safe, indeed, the lava had made the entrance narrowed and better protected. It is a strange island, with a prosperous fishing port and local industries outside which are huge lava fields and at least two volcanoes to climb (I managed one).

This picture shows the lava field at the harbour entrance

And this the view from Heimaey toward the glaciers on the mainland.

We continued on toward the southwest corner of Iceland in light winds (although the shipping forecast said there were strong gales just to the south). The sunlight sparkled on a ridiculously blue sea as we sailed past the remains of earlier volcanic explosions. The winds were ideal for hoisting the main and mizen topsails. I was not able to video this as I was pulling on ropes, but I stood aside earlier to catch the hoisting of the jib. We are quite a good team now, most of us having learned how to heave on the ropes together, rather than get in each other’s way. We are watched all the time by our permanent crew, who are quick to correct any mistakes. The rigging and sails on this ship are heavy and dangerous if they get out of control.

This is the last day of the first part of this voyage. My fellow guests depart tomorrow, and a new group will join, and a new skipper too, for the next leg up the western coast of Iceland to fjords of the northwest and the northern town of Isafordur.

Comments

  1. Stunning sunrise – Iceland is definitely on my bucket list

  2. Worth the sacrifice!!

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