Sailing in the Westfjords of Iceland

It was with a ‘heavy heart’ that we set sail from our beloved ‘nordic home’ and bid farewell to the family and friends we had made in Ísafjördur, a town that will forever hold a special place in our hearts. After spending a dark, yet very social winter in Reykjavík and making memorable friendships which will never be forgotten, we moved Messenger to Ísafjördur, the birth place of Ártico, the newest addition to our crew. We were in Ísafjördur for spring and for part of summer, un-mistakingly the coldest summer we have ever experienced. After signing off with an Icelandic company as a sponsor and getting the boat ready, we were off to explore other places along the north coast of Iceland.

Knowing that for sure we would return to Ísafjördur, maybe even to settle down one day, we pushed off the dock in the middle of the night in order not to make a spectacle out of our departure.

By early morning we arrived in Hesteyri and anchored in its protected and isolated bay. After a good sleep and all the busy preparations for departure behind us, our hearts filled with excitement for all the new places and people we would be meeting in the months to come.

Hesteyri and it’s surrounding areas used to be permanently inhabited until the 1960s, but is now occupied only seasonally, as a summer camping area. It cannot be reached by road, but is accessible by boat from Ísafjördur, Bolungarvík and Súdavík.

Anchorage in Hesteyri

Anchorage in Hesteyri

Birna holding Artico

Birna holding Artico

During the summer months a lively old lady named Birna runs a café where we sat down for some hot tea and coffee along with her homemade Icelandic pancakes which are served traditionally with sugar. Birna was quick to extend her arms to hold Ártico. Icelanders love babies, people from all ages, even teenagers and young children, give lots of attention to babies and they always want to hold them.

Birna’s son and daughter, Hrólfur and Pálína respectively, were both visiting. Hrólfur is an established musician who lives in Germany and Pálína has an incredible voice. While Pálína took a turn holding Ártico she began to sing to him, her voice made the packed café go silent. Hrólfur got inspired and pulled out an accordion and a langspil (a traditional Icelandic stringed instrument of the zither family that has few melodic strings played with a bow), together as Hrólfur played Pálína sang, it was beyond memorable.


On our way back to our dinghy as we walked along the path that borders the water an arctic fox was headed straight towards us using the same path. Jay who was at the front told all to freeze. The fox continued towards us but made a short detour around us to then hop back onto the path and continue on it’s way, such a peculiar little four legged animal. Before climbing back into our dinghy we collected a bucket full of mussels and while gathering our dinner either the same or another curious fox came to check out what we were up to, we were discovering that these arctic foxes aren’t very shy.

As we rowed towards Messenger Captain Jay contemplated on what a long way Messenger has come. From it’s abandoned state in which we found her in to close friends recently asking us if we had gotten a new boat by photos they have been seeing of her on social media. It has been a ‘labor of love’. Jay has worked very hard to restore her to her original splendor, and I would admit even beyond that, he has made her even better, more comfortable and sea worthy. Messenger has taken us thousands of miles in the five years she has been our home and although she is a wild ride she has always brought us safe to port.


After Hesteyri our next stop was Hornstrandir, located in Iceland’s northernmost peninsula, to the north of Jökulfirdir and to the northwest of Dragajökull, it is also only accessible by boat and it’s perhaps the most spectacular and remote area of the Westfjords. We walked along the top of the spectacular cliffs that drop about 400 meters into the ocean and serve as nesting grounds to thousands of birds. The hike is long and at times dangerous but the views are spectacular. The hike takes you up a valley over streams, up and over the highest mountain and then down another valley with a large lake where we saw thousands of birds showering, the lake was also home to two swans. We ran into another arctic fox and it's cub, which again just toke a detour around us. During the beginning of our hike it was sunny but half way through the clouds moved in and it began to sprinkle, luckily we had no strong rain. The weather in Iceland can change drastically and quickly, which explains one of Icelands most popular sayings “there is no such thing as bad weather, only people badly dressed”.