30th July, 2019
The weather took a turn for the worse overnight - as it frequently does in these parts - with the calm airs replaced suddenly by wind reaching storm force speeds, and associated waves increasing to 5m in height. Fortunately, Saga Sapphire is a strong, heavy ship and plies easily as well as very comfortably through such conditions.
The even better news for everyone was that after breakfast we entered Siglufjordur and were immediately sheltered from stormy conditions outside by towering mountains on either side of the calm fjordal waters. We picked up our local pilot, an old fisherman who came to meet us in a little rubber boat, to help guide me into the port with his local knowledge.
Nestled in a beautiful fjord, and with a population of just 1,200 people, it was hardly surprising to find that the harbour was not of an industrial size – but when approaching it really did dawn on me that this would be a tricky manoeuvre. Even the pilot was surprised, stating that Saga Sapphire would be the largest ship by far which has ever attempted going alongside here. It wasn’t just the confined nature of the harbour which was restricted, but also the depths of water allow for barely 1 metre under the ship’s keel which slows things down when trying to find ‘grip’ on our propellers. The gusty conditions didn’t help matters, either.
Fortunately, all went smoothly and even the local lifeboat came out to offer assistance in berthing – although with just 800 horsepower to offer, her assistance probably shaved only a minute or two off the manoeuvre time. The village had come out to watch us berth, all pleased to see such a spectacle grace their hometown today.
Siglufjordur’s hey-day was back in the 40’s & 50’s during the ‘herring boom,’ and this period is tantalisingly preserved at the nearby Herring Era museum, where displays of traditional salting and accordion playing are offered along with an extensive collection of boats, machinery and fishing artefacts. Herrings aside, the village makes for a pleasant 15 minute wander. I know this because I popped ashore for a little stroll and, after 15 minutes, found myself repeating my tracks.
Wild and stormy outside the fjord, it remained pleasant enough where the village lay and one only felt brief gusts as a reminder of the Icelandic weather if you took to the hills. Which I did after exhausting the village tour, in order to take a photograph. Crucially, it didn’t rain!
With everyone back on board just before supper at 19:30, it was time to slip back out of the port. This manoeuvre would be easier than the arrival version for two reasons: the wind had eased somewhat, and we were pointing the right way to leave having swung and gone astern into the dock in the morning. So it was that we headed out into the wild Icelandic seas again and turned east, aiming for the north-eastern corner of this fascinating island…and yet another port with a name ending in ‘fjordur.’
Captain Kim Tanner
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.