A cruise in Icelandic waters

by Hakon Helgason

 This article has been written by Hakon Helgason – a TOA member from Iceland. Hakon is an experienced sailor, an airline pilot and an engine fitter – he has offered to help members if they have problems with their boats! Hakon writes:

‘’Dear friends, I would like to tell you about a sailing trip in Icelandic waters, from the capital city, Reykjavík, around the Snæfellsnes peninsula into Breiðafjörður bay and back – around 290 Nm in total

The first day I sailed with my daughter-in-law on my Tomahawk Molly from Reykjavík across Faxaflói bay to a small village (Stykkishólmur) in Breyðafjöður. We had reasonable good weather, south westerly 15-20 kts. Apart from a fuel hose coming apart after 2-3 hrs and which could easily be fixed, everything went well. West of Snæfellsnes, where I decided to take a short nap, my daughter-in-law told my we had an escort of 2 or 3 dolphins for over an hour as close as 1-2 meters from the stern. This part of the trip took 22 hrs and covered some 115 Nm.

At Stykkishólmur, I left the boat in the harbour and we drove back to Reykjavík. Then a few days later my wife (Millý) and I went back to Stykkishólmur and took a tour around Breiðafjörður bay in CAVOK weather ( this is an aviator’s term, clear sky and visibility OK) and in our case no wind! First we went to an island (that is by the way how we write Iceland, ís, meaning ice) called Flatey, only aproximately 17 Nm in size. This is the only island in the bay with permanent residents. There we dropped the anchor by a small horseshoe island about 200 meters from the main island. On Flatey people collect æder down from the æders nests; it is cleand and dried and then put into pillows and beds ( our substitute for quilts) – it is very light and warm.

After strolling around viewing the birds and having a few brandies we stayed the night in newly renovated house made into a small hotel. This was very good – the whiskey too!.The hotel stay was a treat to my wife as this was her first real sail with me. (The year after we chartered a 45 feet Jeanneau in Turkey but that is an other story.) After a good night’s sleep we rowed our dinghy to Molly and sailed to Kvígindisfjörður, a fjord where, as a boy, I spent 6 summers on a farm. In 1960 there were people working on 10 farms but now there is none.The trip to my farm at Kirkjuból took 4 hrs and covered 18Nm in a strong southerly breeze of about 20 kts. After dropping anhcor at a familiar place and rowing ashore, I went a trip down memory lane and showed my wife around.

After a good meal and playing cards we went to sleep in our Molly. The morning after there was no wind but some drizzle. We spotted strange looking vessels in the fjord; on closer inspection they turned out to be a seaweed harvesting boats. They cut the weed and tie it in bundles, which is later picked up by a small freighter and shipped to a nearby factory.Then, still in no wind and beautiful sunshine, we started our next leg of 18 Nm to a group of islands called Akureyjar . I knew that the inner part of the bay was rather shallow and the deepest we saw on the whole trip was 36 meters but on this leg, miles from shore, we sailed for over an hour on a constant 4 metes depth.

At Akureyjar we were met by friends that stay there during the summer collecting and cleaning æder down. After coffee and cookies and being showed around in beautiful weather, we started our last leg of 18 Nm to Stykkishólmur, again with no wind, just our trusty old Yanmar which pushed us along at around 5 kts. But, in spite of good weather and flat sea, you can’t afford to realax too much for in this area there are literally hundreds of islands, with small and big reefs and skerrys. So you carry good charts and keep a good look out!

In Stykkishólmur we had a good shower in the fine swimming pool there. We have a lot of these pools around the country, almost all heated with geothermal water. Then, after a good meal in a fine restaurant we drove back to Reykjavík in about 3 hours. A few days later my brother-in-law and I drove back to Stykkishólmur to sail Molly back to Reykjavík, a distance of approx. 115 Nm. we left the harbour around dinner time; sailing around the clock during summertime is no problem, because the sun dosn’t set from mid-May to mid-July. Now we had some wind, south to southeasterly 15 to 20 kts. So in stead of our steady 5kts we now

 were doing up to around 7! It was good sailing north of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, I therefore used the opportunity to make us a good meal. (I was expecting shorter waves west of the peninsula but this was a bit of an underestimate.) But now we enjoyed our meal watching beaked whales about 50 to 100 meters to port. Then, when we turned south at the end of the peninsula, I seriously considered turning around. We had waves 5 to 7 meters high, wind around 30 kts on the nose and current of 1,5 to 2 Kts from behind – consequently a rather sharp sea!. But after about half an hour, doing 3-4 Kts with double reefed main and just a small piece of the genoa out for steering, I was getting relaxed. Passing the end of the peninsula took som 4 hrs with 2 or 3 dolphins following for over an hour, somtimes only 1 or 2 meters from the boat. Somtimes it was like sailing off a wall, but strangely enough she only slammed 2 or 3 times. But after the 4 hrs we now had 65 Nm ahead of us to Reykjavík with the wind on our nose and dwindling fuel supply. So we decided to head for a small port 2 hrs away, Arnarstapi, on the south of the peninsula. We thought it would be a good idea, not least because my friend has a summer house there and both or wives stayed there that night.

Two days later my friend’s daughter sailed with me the last leg through the night to Reykjavík in beautiful weather, once again no wind just the trusty Yanmar, doing good job. After this trip I can truly say that the Tomahawk is a realy a fine ship in lousy weather. Having experienced crossing the North Atlantic numerous times on a freighter with winds up to around 90 kts, sailed on herring boats, 45’ yachts in the Med and some smaller boats at home, after this trip I have sailed in strong winds and sharp seas in Molly and I admire how well behaved she is.’’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply