Scotland to Iceland

Getting ready to head into the North Atlantic.

Days 1-3. Arriving in Stornoway, Scotland

Having joined Tony Fleming on his Fleming 65, Venture, for two previous voyages, one from San Diego to the Sea of Cortez and the other from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands, I was thrilled to be invited on his next big adventure. I met him aboard his newest Fleming 65, Venture II, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland where we would travel to the Faroe Islands on our way to Iceland.

I arrived in Stornoway, the largest city in the Outer Hebrides, early evening after flying from Edinburgh along with Steve D’Antonio, a marine consultant/journalist assigned to write a technical article about Tony’s new yacht. Looking down at the sea from the small SAAB 340 aircraft I saw large areas of white caps, and even from a height of a couple thousand feet I could tell that the seas were at least 12 to 15-feet and running from the north, our intended direction. Stepping off the aircraft and descending the stairs to ground level, I was almost blown off my feet by the stiff wind. Holding onto my cap, I thought, “God, I hope Tony is in no hurry to shove off tomorrow, because it’s going to be awfully snotty out there.”

A short taxi ride to the city's ferry landing delivered Steve and me downtown to where Venture II was tied up to a pontoon used by the tenders of visiting cruise ships. It looked totally out of place, as the harbor was full of small sailing vessels and commercial fishing boats. The Fleming was the only motoryacht of its size, and certainly the most luxurious one in the harbor.

Tony and his captain, Chris Conklin, brought us up to date about the conditions and explained that we would be sitting tight for a few days until the north winds and heavy seas calmed down. Relieved, we all went off to a local pub to have dinner and a local brew. A steak and ale pie and a strong local beer named “Berserker,” put us in a good mood as we discussed our upcoming adventure.

As soon as weather permitted, we would be headed for the Faroes, about 250 miles north, where we would spend a few days before embarking on the 550 mile passage to Iceland. The Faroes are a constituent country of Denmark and has a population of less than 50,000. The group of 18 islands covers an area of 540 square-miles with a rocky, rugged coastline. Our plan is to spend a week exploring the islands while waiting for a favorable weather window for our passage to Iceland.

But first we have to wait for conditions to improve here before heading to the Faroes. We’re planning to leave Saturday morning and proceed slowly along the coastline of Lewis Island while the winds are predicted to still be howling out of the north. The forecast is for things to calm down in the afternoon, so as we lose the protection of the island and face the North Atlantic, we hope the winds will be as forecast, 20 knots or less, and the seas to be 6-feet or less. A big advantage of our latitude at this time of the year is that we will always have some light even in the middle of the night. Our first passage should take about 30-hours.

As we wait in Stornoway, we're doing some last minute provisioning and getting a thorough briefing by Captain Chris of Venture's safety gear and its electrical/mechanical systems. As he went through his comprehensive presentation showing us the location and contents of our ditch bag and survival suits, the ambitious scope of our voyage hit me. This was no casual vacation cruise. We were about to head out into the North Atlantic known for its challenging conditions even during mid-summer months, far from any rescue service. Fortunately, Venture is a well-built, properly equipped yacht, and my fellow crewmembers consisted of Chris, a seasoned captain; Tony, the man responsible for developing and building the Fleming line; and Steve, a highly knowledgeable marine technical consultant and boater. I am going to be in a good boat and in good hands. I can't wait to shove off for another adventurous voyage.

Stay tuned.

For a gallery of images from George Sass, Sr.'s Iceland adventure click here.