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25th July, 2016

Vestmannaeyjar. Iceland

Somewhat tongue in cheek I explained to the passengers at the welcome cocktail party that I really only care to take the ship to places I can pronounce, which might mean some disappointment this cruise as we are intending to call at six ports in Iceland, only one of which, Reykjavik, that I can actually get my tongue round.

After a four day voyage, with a stop in Dublin on the second day, we arrived off the island of Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands and perhaps best remembered in recent times for the volcanic eruption that destroyed much of the original town in 1973. All was quiet on this day however, in fact skies were leaden, there was no wind and a ‘dampness’hung in the air. Perhaps not the conditions hoped for by passengers, but perfect for me as I was able to keep the ship, using engines and thruster, in the vicinity of the harbour entrance allowing the tenders to get ashore in around twelve minutes.

The dampness became a steady ‘mizzle’, and the cloud base dropped even lower. Meanwhile the local ferry to the mainland came back and forth every few hours and at a great rate of knots, causing an uncomfortable wash at our pontoon, most unsociable I thought. The various tours went off and included a tour round the island, on land, and a tour round the island, by boat, a subtle difference I was told. Some folks went off on a RIB to look at caves, fortunately they were given very bright and adequate protective clothing.

The afternoon became quite exciting when an Iceland Coastguard rescue helicopter came racing around the cliffs, below the cloud, and asked whether he could do a long line exercise over the bow. Optimistic I thought, as to carry out such a long line exercise he must surely be back in the clouds. Obviously not a problem for this skilful Icelandic pilot as he stopped level with the bridge and down came one of his chaps with a couple of observers who were promptly brought to the bridge while the helicopter shot off to get fuel. We gave them a cup of tea, quick show round, and then the chopper returned, by which time I had made an announcement and he had quite an audience for his ‘retrieval’.

Captain Philip Rentell

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