View from the Nattfari on Skjálfandi Bay
We’re up early for another sweet guesthouse breakfast then on the road to Husavik, at the door when the whale watching outfit opens with discount coupons from tour guide in hand. Sunshine is punching cheery blue holes in the whitewash of clouds as weather gods defer to whale watching boats and the tourists that support this enterprise. I dutifully take two dramamine tablets before we board out ship and pull on my new Icelandic knit cap for that extra layer of warmth. What an amazing turnabout of human-whale interaction after nearly pushing most whale species to the brink extinction from slaughter (see the movie In The Heart of The Sea). We now “capture” them through the lens of a camera for equally prosperous gains. We board the Nattfari, a classic oak herring boat built in 1965. Rotting at the docks by 1998, the North Sailing whale watching outfit restored it to pristine condition and it boasts the highest crow’s nest for spotting whales in the rich ecosystem of the Skjálfandi Bay.
On board we suit up into foul weather gear, with full winter jackets beneath, boots, scarf, Icelandic hat and insulated gloves, yet my teeth are chattering with cold within the hour. June in Iceland is stunningly frigid in the Arctic Sea. Waves are choppy and the glint of sun off whitecaps, on both water and landside mountains paralleling our voyage, are breathtakingly beautiful to keep me distracted for the piercing cold. I can’t figure out why I’m so painfully cold while Greg is jaunty and comfortable the entire time. Later I realize, when we are back in port, that the foul weather suit I was given was indeed “foul.” It was actually wet inside from waves breaking over the bow in stormy weather from the day before. The undetected water inside seeps through my pants and stays wet-warm and chilling to the bone the entire time. We eventually see a single medium sized humpback whale and I am unimpressed and relieved to get back to the docks and inside for a warm dinner. Whale watching, that was anticipated to be a highpoint of the trip for us, was for me a low point,…at least in degrees Celsius and comfort. Hot tip for whale watching in Iceland: before you put on your foul weather gear, swipe your hand around the inside to make sure that it is warm and dry. Caution will guarantee the enjoyment of the trip. Our first stop is the restaurant at the dock for a bowl of that famous Icelandic fish soup. Hot soup, warm room, delicious meal. Comfort food and just plain comfort.