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Date: 05 Jun 2010 00:47:00
Title: Moored alongside the fish dock in Vopnafjorder

65:45.479N 14:49.184W Friday night

We were all sad to leave our new friends in Seydisfjorder today but it's been a great day on the water and it's good to be moving again.

While Kali was out with her new friends on Wednesday night, she met a guy who was working at a private nature reserve called Skalanes at the point on the south side of the entrance to the fjord. It sounded interesting so we decided to go there on Thursday afternoon while Andrea was busy doing artwork in the Bistro. Christophe had offered to take us down there in his Land Rover as it's about 10 miles from town but he was off shopping in the next town so we rang the place itself and asked whether we could take a taxi. They said that wasn't a good plan and offered to pick us up from Saxon Blue, take us to the place and bring us back again in time for tea. All for about £35. We agreed and it wasn't long before a guy showed up in a big 4x4.

We piled in and it turned out that he was the owner of the reserve so we got to talk to him for the whole drive back there. We learned so much about the history of the influence of people on the land and loads of other stuff. It turns out that the land was covered in Birch forest before the vikings showed up. They promptly burned it all off to get grass for their cattle. Trouble was that the soil is really light and just got washed away in the rain. Pretty soon there wasn't enough grass for anything except sheep. Recently, the government had got everyone to walk around spreading Lupin seeds in eroded areas with the predictable (to everyone except the government) consequence that there is now a big problem with invasive Lupins crowding out the native plants.

While he was telling us all this, we were driving along progressively worse roads until we ended up driving through some pretty deep rivers and along a dirt track. Just as well we didn't take a taxi! He showed us he experimental method for removing Lupins - pigs. They're pretty good at the task and tasty so that's an experiment that looks set to be repeated. Just before we arrived at Skalanes itself, we drove through a field where a colony of Arctic Turns had set up home. They were dive-bombing the truck as we drove through so walking there would be painful, I think.

The house itself is surrounded by small ponds where a colony of Eider ducks have set up home. These guys seem to have a "If you build it, they will come" philosophy, both to guests and the wildlife. We went on a short walk to a viewing platform over the cliffs where we sat and watched the Kittiwakes and Puffins all around us. Kali was entranced by the difference in temperament of the two species. The Gulls are always squabbling. They shout at their neighbours and fight other visitors off. The Puffins just shuffle along a bit and let any new arrivals have a bit of space. They never seem to vocalise atall and just stand there, calm and aloof. It was fascinating to watch the difference.

Anyway, it was a really interesting and inspiring visit. Great to see people just getting on with what they want without waiting for beaureaucrats to approve the plans. We got a lift back to town with Kali's friend who had a look around Saxon Blue and was very impressed. He's a carpenter and has made a couple of yacht interiors so he knew what he was looking at. Once he'd left, Andrea and I went out for dinner together to the Hotel. The food was OK and it was lovely to spend a bit of time together on our own. I think Kali appreciated the space, too. After that, we went to our host's place for drinks and traditional Icelandic snacks. The very smoky salmon was lovely but they also had some smoked over "black sheep shit" which was a bit too strong for me. They had smoked Minke whale, too, but I didn't fancy that. I flaked out eventually and felt a bit of a whimp for heading off but I realised when I got back to the boat that it was after midnight so that's pretty amazing for me.

So to this morning. Lots of getting the boat shipshape again to be done. Packing things away and getting other things out. By the time we'd finished all that - and done a bit more Humpback spotting over breakfast - it was noon. We said goodbye to Nina and Christophe and thanked them for letting us use their dock for the week. They've been really good to us and helped us get acquainted with Iceland on a more personal level. It was sad to say our farewells.

The trip back down the fjord was a contrast to the one in on Monday. It was completely clear and we could see the magnificent mountains and snow all the way down. As we cleared the entrance, the wind piped up and we set the sails and were off heading North again. Soon after, we were enveloped in fog again for a couple of hours and then it cleared and the scenery had changed to more rounded mountains and a bit less snow. We had out dinner while we sailed along as we knew it would be late before we got into port. We finally arrived here a bit before 8pm. It's a great harbour with a wall made by extending some natural islands into a serious sea defence.

As usual, we'd been spotted and there was a welcoming committee on the dock with the Harbour Master, the local Policeman and some other helpers. I sorted out the customs stuff while Andrea had a chat to the Harbour Master, a local fisherman. The Policeman was amazed that there were only the three of us onboard with the implication that two of them were women. I think it's a rare thing here for woman to be at sea. They were pretty impressed by Andrea and Kali who clearly know exactly what they are doing, even down to tying that most tricky of knots, the Bowline-Under-Pressure.

The locals soon shot off and left us to the amazing peaceful evening. The water is completely calm now with a few Eider ducks bobbing about. We're moored near the biggest trawler that I've ever seen. She's about the size of a small cross-channel ferry and bristling with rope-handling and fish processing gear. I don't think there's anything comparable in the UK. No point really as this beast would hoover up the paltry remnants of our fish stocks before lunch one day. Behind the trawler and lifeboat is a range of mountains covered in pink snow, glowing in the midnight light. The sun is just about below the horizon but it won't be really dark all night.

We've got a long day tomorrow to get around the North East tip of Iceland and start heading West towards our rendezvous with John and Cind but, if it's like today, it'll be a great day on the water.

Harvey

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