Butt of Lewis in Sight!

We are in sight of land, the Butt of Lewis, the northern tip of the Hebrides. We left the Vestmanna Islands, Iceland, just three days ago in the early evening and have had a most enjoyable sail to the top of the Hebrides in Scotland. We benefited from a ridge of the Azores high which reached all the way to Iceland and was slowly moving with us to Scotland. The result was moderate, Southwesterly breezes and sunshine all the way! We even had the Parasailor up for a while for the first time this season! And there were times when we were able to open the Bubble and let the slightly less frigid air into the cockpit!

On this leg, I was joined by John Fryer and Stefano Galdiolo. John is an old friend from American Yacht Club with whom I crossed the South Atlantic in 2017. He has crossed the North Atlantic several times doing the transatlantic race, has done many Newport to Bermuda races and has many trips between Newport and the Caribbean under his belt. He calls himself "Fryer Marine Services" - to describe his core competency! (We did not ask him to cook.). Stefano is a cosmopolitan banker who's quite Italian, lives in London and travels with a German passport. He has done many deliveries of sailboats and he cooks well! It was a pleasure having such an experienced crew on board but I had to work overtime to teach them to enjoy cruising. No, it's not a delivery where we have to get the boat to a certain place at the allotted time and turn the engine on whenever the speed drops below 6 knots. No, it's not a race - we don't have to stand in the cold and rain and break stuff to go fast and eat freeze dried grub to make up the calories. It's a cruise where we enjoy the sailing, even in light airs, have good food and enjoy ourselves!

When we were looking for a weather window a few days earlier to sail from Reykjavik to Vestmanna on the Southwest coast we were not so lucky as on the Scotland leg. No wind at all for days was in the forecast, and this for the notorious Denmark straight! So we decided to leave and hoped we would not need to motor all the time. Luck would have it that we did find a little Southwesterly breeze after Reykjanes and got a few hours of sailing in, which died just outside Vestmanna. The entrance to the harbor is among very steep cliffs, absolutely stunning. To our surprise, there is a new floating pontoon with space for just two visiting yachts and we were delighted that our OCC friends from the boat Henry were already there and took our lines. Even the electricity worked! But the harbor staff is also quick at collecting dues for everything you can imagine - dockage, electricity, using water, even trash. This was the most expensive place all season - but still dirt cheap as compared to a marina in the Med.

Approaching Vestmanna in the fog and finding Henry at the dock!

We stayed a few days in Vestmanna, helped by nice hiking trails and even good weather! It is clear that Vestmanna is a rich community. All the houses look well maintained, all the cars are recent vintage. There is a statue, a piece of stainless art, at the harbor entrance! There 3500 residents who enjoy decent restaurants, a good bakery, a good supermarket. The source of the money is obviously the massive fishing industry on the island. There is a large plant for producing dried fish which is exported to, of all places, Nigeria, which is the largest market for dried fish in the World! There are many huge tanks that seem to store some fish related products although we were not able to find out what it was. There are many massive fishing vessels and there is literally hundreds of meters of dock space for more. But there is also tourism. While we were there, even a small cruise ship docked in the harbor with difficulty and discharged a few hundred passengers for a few hours.

Eldfell, which erupted in 1964, on the left and Helgafell, which we climbed, on the right.

On the Helgafell volcano

Art on a litter box!

Throughout the island, there are many placards which discuss the history and other features of the island. Fascinating, how the islanders saved many houses and, most importantly, the harbor from being filled with lava during the eruption in 1964. They shipped in large pumps and pumped large amounts of sea water on the lava streams to stop the lava from advancing to the houses and the harbor. It took many weeks of pumping but they were ultimately successful. An estimated 6.2 million tons of seawater was used in this operation!

Vestmanna was definitely one of the highlights of this season.

The ferry to the mainland which is only a few miles away negotiates the narrow harbor entrance

A small chapel at the harbor

Dinghy ride to visit the caves and bird cliffs

As far as I know, no other harbor in Iceland has a piece of art at the harbor entrance!

Or in the industrial part of the harbor!


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