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Donna Wood - Gaff Ketch

Donna Wood - Gaff Ketch

Our Icelandic sailing partners run three wooden sailing ships in Greenland. Schooner Opal is the biggest and has been operating in Greenland since 2013. Gaff Ketch Donna Wood is the next largest with good accommodation space and classroom areas for expeditions and scientific research. Schooner Hildur is the smallest schooner but was the first to pioneer voyages in Scoresby Sound. The family run business, based in Husavik, North Iceland have now have a fleet of eight wooden vessels. Most the ex oak fishing boats are used for daily whale watching trips along the Icelandic coast, but as soon as the Greenland sea ice retreats, Opal, Donna Wood and Hildur head North to Greenland to their summer base in Scoresby Sund.

Top of the deck saloon - crew eating on deck

Donna Wood -Ideal for Expeditions and Scientific Research

Donna Wood was originally built as a lightship in 1918. Her massive frames and timbers epitomises the high quality of Danish ship building. They build wooden ships to withstand the harsh conditions of the North and Baltic Seas, and in those days even the hulls of lightships were built as if they were for sailing.In 1990 the ship underwent massive restoration both below decks and above, and was equipped with the traditional rigging and sails of a gaff ketch. Donna Wood has been built to provide an excellent, self sufficent expedition ship for high latitudes.  What she lacks in sailing speed and elegance, she makes up in terms of her 'indoors' accomodation - both in here large deckhouse and below decks accomodation.

Greenland expeditions on sailing ship Donna Wood

She has already proved her popularity as a research ship used by Universities and Scientific organisations monitoring climate change. Whilst the Classic Sailing ethos is very much 'hands on' sailing adventures on some of the best traaditional sailing craft in the world, have added Donna Wood to our fleet becuase she has helped open up this remote wilderness to solo travellers and wildlife lovers. If you are a purist sailor, Donna Wood is not a perfect sailing vessel. you may prefer to sail on Opal or Hildur, but please remember the fjord system in Greenland is sheltered in terms of waves, and in summer there are long periods of flat calm.  There is plenty of trekking, chilly sea swimming, long daylight hours and fresh air to burn up your energy.  Another option for those who just have to tack and gybe to feel happy, is to join the three week expeditions to Greenland on 124ft gaff ketch Tecla, which includes 800 miles of open sea sailing too.

Donna Wood is a roomy ship with a huge deck saloon seating 24 and ample space below deck comfortably accommodating 12 people in 7 cabins equipped with washbasins and closets. The hallway features spacious shared shower facilities and toilets. Another advantage of a big deck saloon is it gives you a higher vantage point to spot whales, walrus or polar bear.



Wooden Boats Around the World Unite !

Classic Sailing are excited to find another pioneering company that has a passion for preserving their national heritage and are active in supporting the coastal and maritime culture and customs by renovating their boats and building by the harbour in Husavik.

All of the fleet in Husavik are traditional wooden fishing boats, which have been carefully restored and adapted to a new role without compromising their original character. All the boats undergo strict inspection and are approved by Lloyd's Register.

Towards Carbon Neutral Whale Watching

Opal has been fitted with a unique hybrid propulsion system that allows running the ship on renewable energy instead of fossil fuel. When Opal is in home waters running short trips Opal runs on electricity from batteries, which in turn are charged in harbour by green renewable energy from the Icelandic energy grid. In close contact with whales, and with little wind, only electricity is used for propulsion. Offshore on longer trips, if the ship is sailing fast the propeller functions as a turbine to produce electricity for the batteries. In Greenland the winds are mostly too light for this so we can't claim she is totally carbon free here....but its a start.. 


Northern Lights in Greenland with Schooner Opal and Donna Wood rafted up

Sailing Expeditions to East Greenland

The schooners from North Iceland are ideally placed to venture North 400 miles to East Greenland. They aim as high as 70 degrees Latitude North which takes them deep into the Arctic Circle.  There are only two inhabited fjord systems on this coast for hundreds of miles and Scoresby Sound is one of them with its Inuit settlement of ittoqoortomiit at the fjord's seaward entrance. Here the sound is 8 miles wide and surrounded by high mountains and tumbling glaciers, but there is even more spectacular scenery to come as your sailing ship heads into the Greenland interior via a 350 km fjord system. Voyages start in July after the sea ice has receded and allows access to Scorseby Sound.

A few adventurous yachts now explore West Greenland, but the East Coast requires a more specialist commitment to run charter voyages as there are no proper ports or supply towns. The Icelandic Schooners make the challenging iceberg strewn sail to Greenland at the start of the season, and then stay based in Scorseby Sound until the middle of September. Guest crew and fresh dairy and vegetables are flown in to a small airport at Constable Point near Ittoqoortomiit.  Fresh fish comes from the villagers.

Greenland sailing holiday with lots of trekking ashore

These 7 day voyages include a flight from Iceland directly to Scorseby Sound in Greenland. The flight places are reserved and sold by our Icelandic authorised travel agents. 350 km long this extensive fjord system offers arctic wildlife like musk ox, polar bear, narwhal, spectacular rock walls, mountains and glaciers.  The ship carries an experienced wildlife guide who is also a sailor and there is plenty of hiking ashore too.  For more details see the individual voyage descriptions.

Sailing Expeditions to East Greenland - voyage descriptions, dates & prices

Arctic Greenland Expeditions - Brochure & Debbies Travel Blog

Ski to the Sea Expeditions in Iceland - voyage descriptions, dates & prices


Ship Specification - Donna Wood


Rig:            Two mast gaff ketch

LOA:           31m (102ft) length overall

LOD:          22m (72ft) length on deck

Beam:        5.6m (18ft)

Sail Area:   400 sq m (white sails)

Hull:          Oak

Built:          Denmark 1918.  Converted to Sail 1990

Port of Registry:       Copenhagen, Denmark

Guests:      12 guest crew overnight (47 day passengers)

Donna Wood - tough expedition ship for 12 guests



See our page on Donna Wood accomodation for more on saloons, berths, bathroom facilities etc.

Opal accommodation is mostly in two person cabins with bunks so fine for solo travellers or couples but there is also a double cabin - see photo right.

The Icelanders have a great style for interiors creating a cosy but stylish expedition base and home for you aboard their vessels. Photos are of the interior from her rennovation just after her purchase from Denmark in 2012 

Kit List for Greenland Voyages

PDF to come - but these pages are printable

Donna Wood by Orvar Porgeirsson

Schooner Donna Wood in East Greenland - 7 day voyages


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