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  • Writer's pictureAsha

Adventure Now at 65° North

Returning to Hestur was an awesome little rest and a great place to regroup after some more socialising and sightseeing on Kalsoy, Vidoy and Eysturoy. Needless to say, we were on high alert for a weather window to sail to Iceland, and it arrived at last! We had been watching the weather patterns carefully every day, monitoring a developing window to see if it would form into something favourable enough to take us north-west to Iceland. It looked good. While waiting for the departure day, we took advantage of the water and electricity that is provided free of charge on the pontoon at Hestur and did some laundry in our little plastic washing machine! The machine is far from ideal, it doesn't really spin and the clothes have to be drip dried but we could afford to do that with the few items we had and dried them by running the fan heater in the cockpit enclosure. A pretty good solution to this earthly task.

On Wednesday the 6th of July, now convinced that the weather forecast was to deliver on its promises, we motored with the tide to Vestmanna on Streymoy. Being on the north side of the Faroe Islands, Vestmanna would make a good jumping off point the next morning. Vestmanna is described in the pilot book as a ‘winter port’ which means it is deemed to provide safe shelter from anything that a Faroese winter can throw at you. This was our second visit to the town. The visitors pontoons, same as last year, had not been put in the water and the entire harbour wall was occupied by commercial vessels so our best option was to moor alongside one of them. We picked an orange and grey painted vessel with tyres attached to its sides and when someone appeared on the deck we asked for permission to more alongside. This amazing looking boat, named Brutus, with a crane on the deck and many mysterious pieces of equipment belonged to a Dutch crew, who had been tasked with maintenance work on an underwater power generating turbine. They helped with the lines and soon we were happily tied alongside and as we were attached to the side of a boat and not the wall, we didn’t have to factor in the rise of the tide as we do if we are going up and down a wall covered in tyres. This goes a long way to ensuring a sound night of sleep without the worry of getting any part of the boat caught under the tyres as the tide rises. After a quick walk into town for supplies and dinner onboard, we retired for the night to recharge before our 260 nautical mile passage to Iceland.

When we left Vestmanna last year we were faced with bleak weather, dark menacing seas and gloomy skies. This time it was different. With dry weather, some clouds and sun peeking through them, we had a very optimistic start at a civilised time 08:25. We motor-sailed until 19:00 as we had to make significant progress west in order to hook into the forecasted southwesterly that was due to blow up to and around the south and east coasts of Iceland. We don’t usually plan to motor for a passage but this was the only viable weather window that had presented itself to us over the last month so we decided to motor-sail west in order to make it work! The plan was that by going west first, we could bear away later and get the wind more on the beam. The plan worked really well in terms of direction and speed but not so much in terms of comfort for the crew! Progress into headwinds makes for harsh contact with oncoming waves and Altor was slamming down onto and through them. I felt seasick and, surprisingly, Mark did as well. After about 20 hours of this ordeal we were finally far enough west to allow us to bear away from the wind and sail pretty smoothly on a broad reach, which means wind slightly behind the beam, towards Iceland.

Although there were a lot of clouds rolling across the skies, it stayed dry but relatively chilly. No wonder, at these northern latitudes summer isn't exactly a sunbathing sort of time, it's time for winter jackets and woollen clothes. I still got wind and sunburn on my face though.

About 35 hours into the passage the wind built up to 30 knots. I don't like it when it happens on my shift but I managed to bear away, reef the jib and let the main right out. The initial idea was to make this passage with full sail, or full rag as Mark calls it, but on the morning of our departure Mark changed his mind and put a reef in the main, just in case. With 30 knots blowing through this proved to be a good choice.

Mark was on his shift when the shores of Iceland became visible on the horizon. The sun was setting over the mountains and the view was so spectacular and welcome that he called me to join him in the cockpit. Indeed, the sight was stunning. The wind died completely after a feisty few hours ride so we dropped the sails and motored along the east coast of Iceland. This approach was a year in the making and it truly felt awesome to see these lands from the deck of Altor. After the sun set a thin strip of fog, which first appeared along the shore underlining the mountain chain, developed into an extremely thick covering all around and reduced the visibility to a mere few meters which put a halt to the sightseeing! We switched on the radar and continued towards Seyđisfjorđur.

The pilot book describes the 8 mile approach down the fjord to Seyđisfjorđur as spectacular, with 800 meter high peaks on one side and 1000 meter peaks on the other but with thick fog we could’t see a thing! Fortunately the high sides made it easy to navigate down the middle with the radar signal bouncing off the mountains and clearly showing the bits to avoid! While closing on the dock area we spotted a blue building with a blue crane in front of it and this had been described to us as the landmark for finding the jetty which we could moor on. We then spotted a man standing on the shore. As it was 5am we felt that he could only be waiting for us and we were right. The Icelandic harbour master, a stereotypical viking type character with an English accent following 14 years of living in Nottingham, had been informed of our arrival by the coastguard who had radioed us when we were about 20 miles off the coast to ask us for the usual details such as type of vessel, nationality, number of people onboard, destination and estimated time of arrival.

We moored alongside the wooden jetty in a bit of an infamous spot marked black with flames where a few months ago a yacht was destroyed by fire after a suspected electrical fault. Not a nice thought!

Nevertheless we tied our lines and started the day by tiding the ship after our successful passage. Thank you Altor for an awesome and safe passage, you are such a fine vessel! This was followed by breakfast and a short nap for me albeit interrupted by the visit from customs and police. Formalities have to be abided by so no complaints.

It was at about this time that the sun was burning through the fog to reveal an incredible vista of snow capped mountains, waterfalls, spectacular slopes with trees on the lower parts and an astounding amount of blooming flowers. What a view!!!! With the sun beaming down, we headed for a walk around the town and were struck by the wild west style of this place. Massive American trucks and broad streets surrounded by tall snow-capped mountains. The arty nature of this place was plain to see by the decor of houses, streets and garden sculptures. Later on we ventured up the mountain to see the waterfall which was atop a sight of a massive landslide, which happened in December 2020, taking down a few historic buildings including a museum with the unfortunate loss of some historic artefacts.

We were told by our friends who previously visited Iceland what a spectacular place it is. They were right and in fact, so far, the reality has far exceeded our expectations. We are here and we are so looking forward to more of this spectacular country.

View around Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Plant suspended between two massive rocks on the breakwater around the harbour in Hestur, Faroe Islands

View of the village on Hestur, Faroe Islands

On the way to Vestmanna, Faroe Islands

A ketch coming down the fjord between Streymoy, Koltur and Hestur

Hestur, Faroe Islands

On the way to Vestmanna. View of the cost of Streymoy island.

On the way to Vestmanna

A beautiful house in Vestmanna on the island of Streymoy

A beautiful house surrounded with trees in Vestmanna on the island of Streymoy

Altor moored alongside Brutus, the Dutch boat servicing underwater turbine.

Leaving Faroe Islands, and on the way to Iceland.

Leaving Faroe Islands and heading for Iceland

Leaving Faroe Islands.

Approaching the east coast of Iceland

Sunset over the east coast of Iceland

It ain't warm at 65 degrees north.

Approaching the east coast of Iceland

First look ashore in Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Fog descending as we approach east coast of Iceland.

Altor moored along a wooden pier in Seydisfjordur in Iceland

Altor moored along a wooden pier in Seydisfjordur in Iceland

Iceland is a bit like Wild West, with big American cars.

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Marina for small fishing boats in Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Very happy to be in Iceland

View from the mountains on Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

An old American tractor damaged in a landslide.

Waterfall in Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

View of Seydisfjordur, east coast of Iceland

Faroe Islands

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