Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Iceland, Nomad's visit to the land of fire and ice.

Nomad departed her winter berth in Conception Bay South Newfoundland  on 04 July to head  North once again.  Destination : Iceland, with a possible stop in South Greenland  conditions permitting.  In light winds, I motorsailed for two and a half days to get clear of the Grand Banks before an approaching weather system caught up with me. Nomad cleared the Banks just north of the Flemish Cap with a little time to spare.  The wind built to near gale strength as forecast from the south which put the wind on the quarter, Nomad’s fastest point of sail. It was a wet and uncomfortable ride but the wind was steady so I was able to carry a good amount of sail without worries of being over canvassed in gusts.  By noon the following day conditions were easing  and Nomad had logged her best ever twenty four hour run of 186 miles.
Wind and current kept me to the west of the rhumb line to Iceland and about and I got within 250 miles from Prins Christian Sund in Greenland .  The wind became light and I was motorsailing again when I noticed that Nomad was only making 2.5 knots.  Checking the gearbox temperature and finding it was getting warm, I shut it down . This evoked a healthy bit of impolite language from me. After the troubles in Greenland last year, the gear was still not working right, so I paid a highly regarded transmission shop in Newfoundland to rebuild it for me since I could not find the problem with it. When it was cool, experimentation showed that it could be run at 1110 rpm before it started warming up due to slippage. I decided not to motorsail and save it for making the harbor in Iceland.  This was a frustrating moment as I turned away from Prins Christian Sund for the second time in as many years.  Being familiar with the conditions in Greenland’s fjords and not wanting to attempt to sail in them without reliable auxiliary power the course was changed to Reykjavik.  Once behind the peninsula approaching Reykjavik the wind quit completely and Nomad tediously made her way into the harbor  under power at two to three knots.
After two unsuccessful attempts at repairing the gear box it became apparent that the only solution left was replacement.  Shipping to Iceland from Europe is surprisingly expensive.  I could fly one way to the USA for the same cost as shipping a new gear from Europe. So six days after arriving in Iceland I flew to the USA and did a couple short jobs, flying back to Reykjavik with a new gear as a “personal item” carry on.
Nimad at the Brokey Sailing Club docks in Reykjavik.

The Harpa concert hall at night. The Brokey Sailing Club is conveiconven located right in the heart of Reykjavik.
It was now the middle of August and darkness was returning at night.  It was time to start working my way around the island and head south to avoid repeating last year’s weather challenges from staying in the north too late in the season.  I took a short bus trip to catch a glimpse of the interior and reluctantly set sail out of Reykjavik only seven days after returning to Nomad. As long as I kept moving in the right direction, there was time for a little exploring on the way.
Reykjanes Aukaviti

Iceland' s geography is quite interesting. Hot springs...


Even the ditches along the road have hot water in them.
Twenty six hours out of Reykjavik, Nomad was rafted up to the F/V Maggy  in the very secure harbor  in Vestmannaeyjar  island.  A volcanic eruption had made the island larger and nearly closed off the harbor entrance a few years back. The resulting narrowing of the entrance provides a nearly surge free harbor even when a storm is blowing directly in.  There are a number of walking trails and some good climbing around the island. 
Nomad's berth in Vestmannaeyjer

Vestmannaeyjer town from the 290 meter Heimaklettur.

Entry to the snug Vestmannaeyjer harbor.

Vestmannaeyjer dead ahead after a long day and night

Like all Icelandic towns, there’s the usual public pool. Thanks to abundant geothermal  energy there is no shortage of hot water. Public pools all have warm swimming pools, hot tubs and steam rooms.  No reason to shower on the boat when one can shower at the pool and then spend half a day playing in warm water.
Vatnajokull glacier close to the ocean.

The haborh in Hofn, up the Hornafjordur

Vatnajokull icecap and glacier.
A day and a half sail from Vestmannaeyjar islands brought Nomad to the town of Hofn  in Hornafjordur.  Sailing along the coast provided great views of the nearby ice cap and mountains.  Despite my best efforts at keeping Nomad moving briskly I missed slack water at the Hornafjordur jetties by two hours.  The seas were beginning to break partway across the entrance as the outgoing tide met the swell.  The new gearbox worked without complaint as I powered against the ebb current, occasionally slowed to 1.5 knots.  Slowly Nomad made her way through the harbor and found a dock to lay on in the inner basin at 2130.  Hornafjordur  is on the SE corner if Iceland  making it the logical place to head south from.   I spent a pleasant but all to brief visit checking out the area including several visits to the local pool.  Ever mindful of the lateness of the season and increasing storm frequency  I sailed for Ireland after only four days here.  Iceland  makes clearing  out simple. Once I saw the weather forecast was in my favor, I called Iceland Coast Guard radio on the VHF for clearance. They instructed me to scan and email them the documents and  by the next morning clearance papers arrived via email and I was able to leave promptly at high tide.  Iceland is another place that I would like to visit again and spend more time exploring their fascinating culture and geography.


  1. Nicely done Dave. Fascinating area of the World and super photos.

    David on Puddytat in Telaga, Malaysia.