This year Labrador was the great cruising ground I had remembered. Less ice than last year (apart from the 64 sq km Peterman ice island which calved off northern Greenland) but more whales than you could poke a stick at. Roaring along at 8 knots near Cartwright Harbour we missed a humpback by no more than 5 feet and I still shudder to think of the outcome had the gods not been smiling on us that day.
We had a cold and windy but uneventful trip from Labrador, up Denmark Strait to Iceland. Greenland Ice Service having confirmed that Prinzchristiansund was well and truly chockablock with ice, with much regret we left Greenland for another day and passed 200 miles south of Kap Farvel, one of the world’s notoriously windy capes, and set course into Denmark Strait to Reykjavik. It was an uncomfortable 10 days at sea, including 24 hours hove to (a deep low passed right over us) – too long for this old bloke.
As crew, Mike was a brick – solid, reliable, tireless, and ever willing. It is easy to forgive his obstreperousness.
We tied up in the shadow of the new opera house in Reykjavik. Couldn’t have been more central if we’d tried. There were 2 other cruising yachts – one, a beautiful little 26′ Vertue just back from a mountaineering expedition to Jan Mayen (oh to be young!). The other, Mike and I could not stop admiring – a 50 foot alloy cutter belonging to a nice Dutch designer, Gerry Djikstra. Simple, elegant and strong, it has the plumb stem of a Bristol channel pilot cutter and a broad flat run aft, gravity-controlled water ballasting and a low, gorgeous pilot house. I’m dreaming of wealth.
Reykjavik is terribly civilised. Everyone is helpful, quietly spoken, self-effacing, articulate and gorgeous-looking. Liv Ullmans, Bjorn Borgs and extras from Ingmar Bergman films are everywhere.
I went to Kulturhaus to see the vellum texts of the Norse sagas. It was terribly moving. 12th century original documents written in Icelandic. Extraordinary that they’ve been in this remote spot for so long, so continuously and with no break in the cultural and ethnic heritage. Hardly surprising that they all seem so quietly happy about who they are and where they fit into the cosmos. I wonder whether they binge and commit suicide less than I do.
Because the season was getting on we sailed south about round the coast rather than the more scenic northern shore. Things improved on the south coast and in the Vesterman Islands warm sun and light airs were a reminder of things long forgotten
Deep southerner Andy and Chris’ brother Bruce joined us for an easy, light air sail from Iceland to the Faroes, Shetlands, Orkneys and Scotland.