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Schooner Opal

Schooner Opal

Our Icelandic sailing partners run three wooden schooners in Greenland. Opal is the biggest and has been operating in Greenland since 2013. 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.

Sailing expedition in Greenland

Blue Water Sailing Schooner

24m gaff rigged schooner Opal. Originally a Baltic fishing vessel built in 1952, this strongly constructed ship was converted to a blue water sailing schooner in Denmark and her oak hull has copper sheathing. Now the Icelanders are busy giving her a new purpose as an expedition ship in the far North and Arctic Circle.

Each of the sailing schooners will still sail as adventure charter vessels exploring the Iceland coast and Greenland, or are in constant use as whale watching boats in North East Iceland - one of the most reliable locations to see big whales in the world. The story started in 1995 with the restoration of the wooden fishing boat Knörrinn and saving it from destruction. In the construction of these oak boats, Icelandic carpenters elevated their craftmanship to a fine art! Regulations concerning both the choice of materials and the strength of these boats, were particularly strict in Iceland, but the legacy now is that the port of Husavik has a small fleet of extremely seaworthy wooden ships and three schooners that can venture as far afield as Greenland.

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

zodiac ahead of Schooner Opal in Greenland

Ship Specification - Opal

Rig:            Two mast gaff Schooner

LOA:           32m (105ft) length overall

LOD:          24m (78ft) length on deck

Beam:        7m

Sail Area:   380 sq m (white sails)

Gross Tonnage:   68 ton


lacement: 127 tons

Hull:          Oak

Built:          Bodenwert, Damgarten, Germany 1952.  Converted to Sail 1970-83

Flag:           Iceland. Registered Port: Husavik

Guests:      12 guest crew overnight (70 day passengers)

Skipper Heimir sailed Opal to Iceland from Denmark, via the Faroes and is very excited with his new vessel. The ship has crossed the Atlantic 8 times with her previous owners under Danish Flag.


See our page on Opal Accomodation below decks 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


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