According to Storm Tactics an average sailor spend less than 3% of his time in strong gale winds; so far we’ve spend more than half of our time in strong head winds in excess of 35 knots.
After completing the crew change and the last supper the final crew of Memento Mori set sail from Reykjavik Monday morning at 08:00. The day started with some safety drills and 101 sailing instructions before we set course towards Vestmannaeyjar. With the winds in our face it didn’t take long before we had to set the first reeve in the sail as the winds reached 25+ knots. It became a baptism by fire for Henrik who before the journey started had not set foot in a sailboat before. Although the journey was windy and wet it was a good introduction and test for the crew, and with strong spirits we approached Vestmannaeyjar as the winds faded about 12 hours’ later.
Vestmannaeyjar is a small archipelago of the south coast of Iceland, about 60 nautical miles from Reykjavik. The island has a very interesting story from being having been captured and enslaved by Algerian pirated to the more recent volcanic eruptions in 1963 and 1973. The first creating the island of the Surtsey and the second forcing the populations to evacuate the island as lava poured into the streets.
At Vestmannaeyjar we ascended Heimaklettur allowing us a beautiful bird’s eye view of the town and the surrounding islands; a fairly steep climb, but well worth the effort. After speaking with the local Harbor Master and gathering the latest weather updates we decided to head towards Hornafjordur rather than the original plan of Faroes Islands. However, before departing a dive in a local cave was the agenda. The dive itself proved to be a bit of waste with very poor visibility, and a huge contrast to our earlier dives in Silfra.
We set sail as the sun was setting in calm waters, and with the barbecue burning, well knowing that the winds would be picking up early the following morning. As expected they did and we were again at war with the seas, fighting strong gales and 5-6 meter waves straight ahead. The waves doesn’t only have an effect on the comfort level onboard, it also has a direct link to the appetite; as the waves grow bigger the appetite grows smaller. Life at sea it seems is very much like that of the waves; it got its highs and lows.
After battling the winds and waves for about 36 hours it was a tired, but confident crew that was lining up outside Hornafjordur harbor waiting for the tide to be right to start its approach. The Hornafjordur tidal entrance is one of the most difficult in Icelandic waters; strong current, shallows, skerries, a narrow entrance, and the heavy ocean waves all contribute to this. With Andreas skipping the vessel it was a smooth entry and it was a happy crew that set their sea legs on sturdy ground only to find out that the all the four local restaurants/parlors had closed.
Above: Sailing past the Vatna Glacier enroute to Hornafjordur.