Whales on the way to Akureyri

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Thu 10 Jun 2010 23:03
65:40.924N 018:05.187W Thursday Night

We're moored alongside a decrepit old jetty on the side of the fjord at Akureyri. We got here really late last night after what seems in retrospect to be a very long day.

Andrea and I were determined to see a bit more of Husavik before we left so we got up early and went for a walk up to the lighthouse on the bluffs outside town where we were attacked by Arctic Turns. We then went to the town swimming pool and enjoyed ourselves alternately swimming and sitting around in the hot tubs. Then we had a quick visit to the whale museum which was OK as museums go but had some great whale skeletons. The bones look so different to the actual creatures, especially the heads. Then back to the boat to find that Kali had charmed two local fishermen out of a couple of lovely Haddock and was busy making a delicious fish soup for lunch.

We finally set off about 1pm having finally worked out how to reverse off the docks here. They're higher than our hull so we can't just pivot off a fender and the bow like normal or we'd demolish the pulpit. We're now inflating one our monster fenders then hanging a normal one at right angles over it. This gives us enough leverage to get the stern off the docks far enough to reverse off into the wind. It worked a treat.

There was enough wind (just) to sail as we left so we put up full sail across the bay - as much for Nils' benefit as anything. He'd made the effort for me the day before and I thought he'd appreciate it seeing us sailing away. As we reached the west side of the bay, the wind died completely and the sea became mirror calm. This is the hot-spot for whales so the conditions were perfect - would there be any action though?

We were just motoring along on tick-over when Andrea spotted our first whale of the day. A Minke not far off the bow. They're small but sleek and don't make a visible blow so they're pretty easy to identify. Not long after that, we heard an explosive exhalation nearby and it took us a while to spot the culprit. First one, then two Humpbacks were taking half a dozen breaths and then diving in front of us. We watched them for a few cycles with then doing their spectacular flukes-up dive each time. Once, one of them waved his long front flipper at us. The flippers are extended and knobbly with a white underside so it looked very strange.

Just as we were getting used to them, a different whale surfaced on the port side of Saxon Blue. He was much more slender with a tiny dorsal fin further back and a higher blow. It could have been a Blue or a Fin whale but the book says neither of these usually show their flukes when they dive but this one did every time. Anyway, we just bobbed around watching them all for an hour or so before we realised that the day was getting away from us and we set off past Flatey and along towards the fjord where Akureyri sits. As we motored along, a pod of White Beaked Dolphins just tore through the water towards us. They must have been feeding as they were hurtling along, almost out of the water as they breathed in. Not bad then, with 4 species of cetation in one afternoon.

After that, it was a picturesque but long journey to Akureyri with the first bit along the coast past a series of glacial valleys filled with waterfalls. The fjord is the longest in Iceland at around 30 miles so we had our dinner (fresh-caught haddock) while we motored down it. The fjord starts out wild and uninhabited, then you pass a few isolated shacks with footpaths, then more farms with tracks, then villages, fields, roads and civilisation. The transition is very gradual but, by the time we got Akureyri, we were looking at high-rise blocks and a proper complex of docks.

This must be the biggest town we've seen since Southampton which seems like a lifetime ago. By the time we arrived, it was around 11pm and we were struggling to find much enthusiasm for berthing. We finally found a dock and got alongside but it wasn't well sheltered and we were getting pushed on hard by the wind and waves. As the tide ebbed, our fender boards were in danger of slipping below the tyres on the dock which would have flattened our stantions in short order. I decided we had to move to the inside of the dock. Everyone was tired by this stage (around 1pm) but the team worked well and we got off, re-rigged on the other side and got alongside again. The dock still isn't great as we're getting a bit of wave buffeting that's pretty noisy but it's safe enough.

Kali made us an apple crumble in what seemed like 23 seconds and we ate that and went to bed.

First thing this morning, I heard Kali and a male voice and it turned out to be a harbour representative collecting his dues. This is the first time we've been charged in Iceland and it was quite a shock to be charged 50 Euros to sit on the worst dock in town. Thankfully, I stayed in bed and calmed down later when I realised it's harbour dues and not specifically a docking charge and it covers us for a week. Still...

We were joined for breakfast by two women who are sailing a yacht called Snow Dragon II around the Atlantic. They've been on the go for years now and had been in Husavik just before us. I think we'll probably meet up with them again as we cruise Iceland and then Greenland. Then we went to town for a bit of local colour. Had a great lunch and visit to the Akureyri pool complex which is the largest we've seen with about 10 different pools ranging from Olympic one with lanes to 40 degrees C tubs and one with jets of water like a fire hose. I spent a long time in that one.

We're going to hire a car tomorrow to head inland to a volcanic area with hot pools and lava and stuff so we'll probably spend a day or two there and stay in a hotel. It will be very strange to leave Saxon Blue but I think she'll be fine.


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