Hello, I'm Henry.  

Welcome aboard my blog's home. 

If you come along with me, you'll become acquainted with my motley mates and faithful crew:

Experiences, Sightings, Observations, Impressions, Ideas, Reflections, Remembrances, Insights and Commentary.

They, after all, have accompanied me for as long as I can recall. Their tenure has helped me turn my tiller, fill my sails, and transport me over seas to distant lands. Maybe if you take the time to get to know them, a few will do the same for you.

Click this way and scroll along if you please...Enjoy your stay.   

 Heimaey, HelgaFell & Eldfell

 Heimaey, HelgaFell & Eldfell

Iceland's Island Communities

 Reindeer's 1976 Transatlantic Crossing

Tuesday, June 30, 1976

Voyage blog entry #21

Soaking wet, cold and tired, I floated ashore and encountered three beautiful, yet reticent Icelandic lasses: Heimaey, HelgaFell and Eldfell. They had been waiting ashored-ly for my/our arrival. And they had been practiced in waiting for and on others when they returned from the sea.

As Reindeer entered their harbored world, these three surrounded, even enticed all of our crew with their magical beauty. But to say they lured us would be partially true.  Reindeer and our captain chose to turn into their community. No we did not  as they, they lured our entire crew as we steered into their intriguing village hideaway. 

 Upon returning to Circe's island, Odysseus was given advice on the remaining dangers that lay before them. The first was the land of the Sirens, dangerous creatures who lured sailors to their death. Odysseus couldn't help his curiosity and had his men put beeswax in their own ears and tie him to the mast so he could hear the Sirens' song. Because of the song, Odysseus pleaded to be freed but his sailors ignored him until they were at a safe distance. (Painting: Herbert James Draper's Ulysses and the Sirens, 1909)

Upon returning to Circe's island, Odysseus was given advice on the remaining dangers that lay before them. The first was the land of the Sirens, dangerous creatures who lured sailors to their death. Odysseus couldn't help his curiosity and had his men put beeswax in their own ears and tie him to the mast so he could hear the Sirens' song. Because of the song, Odysseus pleaded to be freed but his sailors ignored him until they were at a safe distance. (Painting: Herbert James Draper's Ulysses and the Sirens, 1909)

From Surtsey we sailed quietly northeastward to Heimaey, the capital and only town of the Westmanns. These islands are smack in the middle of a branch of the Gulf Stream known as the Irminger Current, which moderates the air temperature all year. The average temperature in the summer is 57 degrees F. Rainfall measures close to fifty inches a year. Heimaey is seven thousand years old, like Surtsey, a relative newcomer to the world. It is dominated by a volcano called Helgafell, which last erupted on 23 January 1973. The entire population of 5,200 was evacuated to the mainland without a single loss of life. Teams of men with fire hoses poured twenty-nine tons of water per hour on the flowing lava, which then formed a ninety-foot wall extending out into the harbor and prevented the rest of the flow from covering more of the town beyond. This lava flow is still solidly intact, including an extension to form a natural breakwater that further protects what is already a good harbor for the fishing fleet.
— Newbold Smith from Down Denmark Strait ~ p 94
 Here I am in the chilly mist, helping furl  Reindeer's  main as we motor into Heimaey's harbor. That cliff ahead is about 900' high with sheep grazing on top and bird habitats dominating its sides.

Here I am in the chilly mist, helping furl Reindeer's main as we motor into Heimaey's harbor. That cliff ahead is about 900' high with sheep grazing on top and bird habitats dominating its sides.

 We took a circuitous route around Heimaey before we entered her harbor and went ashore.  Helgafell  is located on the east side of the island (right side of chart). Mainland Iceland is 15 miles away to the north.

We took a circuitous route around Heimaey before we entered her harbor and went ashore. Helgafell is located on the east side of the island (right side of chart). Mainland Iceland is 15 miles away to the north.

 As self-appointed look-out, I sit on the bow pulpit as  Reindeer  nears Heimaey. The water depth is in the hundreds of feet right up to the cliffs. So these cliffs appear like icebergs with most of their height below water level.

As self-appointed look-out, I sit on the bow pulpit as Reindeer nears Heimaey. The water depth is in the hundreds of feet right up to the cliffs. So these cliffs appear like icebergs with most of their height below water level.

 Our vessel was held captivated by the mystique we sailed into. For our few hours ashore, we explored this mystery and were uplifted by the exploration. 

Our vessel was held captivated by the mystique we sailed into. For our few hours ashore, we explored this mystery and were uplifted by the exploration. 

On a cool, foggy and drizzling day, we entered Heimaey's harbor and explored the town and the remnants of its near volcanic extinction 3 years before our arrival in 1976 The whole day was an intriguing day of discovery. This kind of place was what I had imagined would be part of our voyage. When I had read The Odyssey in high school, I had often imagined Odysseus' 10-year exploits and adventures returning to his homeland and his beloved wife, Penelope. My fascination with his journey frequently became a teaching tool in some of my English classes back in the states. While I had not imagined myself sailing an "epic" or "heroic" voyage, I had envisioned exploring foreign lands and mysterious islands.  I could now actually understand how sea stories teased the human imagination. As Reindeer approached Heimaey, I felt I was living in a scene from an epic tale, some Homeric adventure story. The setting felt almost too surreal to exist, but this fishing community that lived beside two volcanos would stimulate any imagination to wonders. Some other photos of the eruptions and how the townspeople saved their homes in 1973. 

 That's I kneeling on the foredeck dousing and furling the jib as  Reindeer  heads into the wind and faces the extent of Helgafell's eastern lava flow.  The foggy, misty day is eerie as what appears to be steam and smoke is actually low, foggy clouds hovering over the 3-year old flow. These chilly conditions helps to convey an island volcanically still alive!

That's I kneeling on the foredeck dousing and furling the jib as Reindeer heads into the wind and faces the extent of Helgafell's eastern lava flow.  The foggy, misty day is eerie as what appears to be steam and smoke is actually low, foggy clouds hovering over the 3-year old flow. These chilly conditions helps to convey an island volcanically still alive!

The north side of the harbor of Heimaey is dominated by a nine-hundred-foot concave cliff, mostly brown in color, topped by bright green grass, where sheep grave an incredibly steep slopes. The cliff is teeming with nesting birds: murres, puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills, and even dovekies. The murres, standing up in the crevices with their white vests, look miniature penguins. Hovering, always within menacing distance, are the jaegers and the skuas. A parasitic jaeger attack on a highly maneuverable kittiwake is fascinating to watch. The predator attacks when the kittiwake has a fish it its bill. The kittiwake will cut and turn and avoid the jaeger by superior maneuverability but he will drop the fish, which the jaeger will then spear in midair or pick up in the water. It is an amazing show. Sometimes the pursued bird will upchuck a piece of fish; other times he will simply drop it from his mouth.

For some reason the three species of jaegers and the great skua command the skies from the south coast of Iceland all the way to the Faroes, while the fulmars, who were our constant companions everywhere else, disappeared in these waters. Nor were there any shearwaters or petrels. Indeed I never saw those two ocean birds anywhere above the Arctic Circle.
— Down Denmark Strait ~ pp 94-95

We visit that cave we we leave the harbor.

 The crew prepares docking lines as Newbold steers the last few hundred yards into Heimaey's harbor.

The crew prepares docking lines as Newbold steers the last few hundred yards into Heimaey's harbor.

 There was lots to look at. Orlin peers towards the town and Helgafell while Newbold checks out the cliffs and the bird life. 

There was lots to look at. Orlin peers towards the town and Helgafell while Newbold checks out the cliffs and the bird life. 

 The dormant volcano  Helgafell  the town of dominates as Reindeer nears Heimaey's docks and piers in front of fish factories.

The dormant volcano Helgafell the town of dominates as Reindeer nears Heimaey's docks and piers in front of fish factories.

 Moments later as  Reindeer  nears a docking spot, a misty cloud makes Helgafell appear alive. Read about  The Eldfell Eruption of 1973

Moments later as Reindeer nears a docking spot, a misty cloud makes Helgafell appear alive. Read about The Eldfell Eruption of 1973

 One of the many fishing trawlers in the distance just outside Heimaey's harbor.

One of the many fishing trawlers in the distance just outside Heimaey's harbor.

After dropping our sails, we powered into Heimaey and tied to a trawler at one of the docks. Orlin, Phil and I went on a tour of the fish factory, which was busying packing and freezing fish for the Long John Silver chain in America. Most of the workers in the plant were women, the wives and daughters of fisherman, all neatly dressed in white uniforms. In the winter they work up to sixteen hours a day; in the summer, only eight - for two dollars an hour.
— Down Denmark Strait ~ pp 95-96
The village looked almost Mediterranean. The houses had white-washed stucco walls and rust red or green galvanized roofs. Heimaey was exactly what it always had been: a village of people whose lives are wholly dependent on the fishery.
— Down Denmark Strait ~ pp 95-96
 The town of Vestmannaeyjar and  Helgafell,  the island's sleeping giant - that's cloud cover and mist, not smoke or fumes coming from the volcano. Photos of the town after the volcano erupted in 1973. 

The town of Vestmannaeyjar and Helgafell, the island's sleeping giant - that's cloud cover and mist, not smoke or fumes coming from the volcano. Photos of the town after the volcano erupted in 1973. 

 A colorfully-roofed town of 5,500 residents, all families of Icelandic fishermen.

A colorfully-roofed town of 5,500 residents, all families of Icelandic fishermen.

 The Heimaey harbor view from a nearby hill. Note all the black lava rock and ash on the streets, backyards and heights to the right. Reindeer's mast can barely be seen just a little left of center. Those are 900 foot northside cliffs on the far side of the harbor is where thousands of seabirds reside.

The Heimaey harbor view from a nearby hill. Note all the black lava rock and ash on the streets, backyards and heights to the right. Reindeer's mast can barely be seen just a little left of center. Those are 900 foot northside cliffs on the far side of the harbor is where thousands of seabirds reside.

 Icelandic Trawler fishing near Heimaey

Icelandic Trawler fishing near Heimaey

Finding Faroes

Finding Faroes

Drowning Ourselves

Drowning Ourselves