Vestmannaeyjar Islands

Beautiful Snaefellsjokull from Reykjanes Peninsular

Position N63,26 x W20,16. Heimaey Harbour. Calm

Well we made it, but only just. After we rounded Reykjanes Peninsular the wind became light and we needed to motor to make any worthwhile progress. Gradually the wind increased and we were able to sail again but it was an easterly and the sea was more lumpy than you would expect from the lightish wind. Very slow progress was made. A forecast of easterly 18m/s came through on the Navtex for the local sea area. The wind and the sea increased until a very dark line of clouds started to approach just as our lamb diner was being served up. A squally force 6 to 7 hit us and we needed a couple of urgent deep reefs in the main. The sea got up and we were debating the possibility of running off south then heading to Scotland. Under the current conditions with large breaking waves a landfall would have been dangerous. I was pretty determined to get to the Westmann Islands so we opted to tack north towards the Iceland coast for two or three hours and see what happens. As we closed in on the dangerous indistinguishable south coast the wave conditions improved and Sumara made reasonable progress although our velocity made good was only about 1 knot. We plugged on through the night, tack after tack in wet and lumpy conditions until the wind eventually moderated slightly. The rocks around the Islands were now in sight and eventually we saw the lights of Heimaey Harbour between the two volcanoes. So long as the wind remained as it was we would be able to make landfall. After 39 hrs at sea and only a few hours sleep we moored up in Heimaey at 05:00 rather wet and tired.
We grabbed a few hours sleep and went into the town for breakfast, which in my case was coffee and delicious but extravagant peppered monkfish, before climbing the brand new volcano.

On top of the still hot Fire Mountain “Eldell”

This was the famous one which erupted in 1973 and caused the whole island to be evacuated by a fleet of fishing boats and ferries. The lava flowed down into the sea and towards the town. Many of the houses were engulfed but the major worry was that the crucial harbour would be blocked.

Lava engulfs a house in Heimaey

The determined islanders found that by spraying the hot lava with sea water it cooled and solidified. Hundreds of large pumps were put into action and the harbour was saved. In fact the new land formed has made it an even safer harbour. The volcano erupted for five months covering the town with many metres of hot volcanic dust. Many believed the island would never be inhabitable again but the islanders were sure they could make it home again. With the help of volunteers from 19 countries they dug out the town, swept up, painted the houses and got back to work. 10% of the Icelandic fishing haul is from Heimaey so it is an important fishing centre. The people here really battle with nature. The south tip of the island is one of the windiest places in the world with only four calm days a year.
The top of the new volcano is still hot and steam ouzes out of the hillside. The view over the town is spectacular with the new land formed by lava clearly visible. After the climb Gudrun and I headed for the swimming pool and hot tub. Ray has sadly got a bit of a cold coming on and is trying to take things easy until it goes away.
We watched a volcano film in the evening!

Ray and Gudrun take coffee while everything dries out.

Now it is 0800 on Sunday morning and the sun is out. I haven’t checked the weather forecast yet but we hope to set sail tonight after doing all the chores.

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