North of Iceland in a town called Húsavík is a very forward thinking whale watching company called North sailing. In their fleet they is a transformed electrical schooner “Opal”. This vessel has an outer appearance of a traditional gaff rigged sailing ship, but is without a doubt the most technologically advance ship in the North sailing fleet.
Opal is the first ship in the world to feature specifically designed Regenerative Plug-In Hybrid Propulsion System, and is equipped to recharge the batteries while under sails. On a day-to-day basis, the ship’s batteries will be recharged when docked, utilizing the sustainable, green energy of Iceland’s power grid, much of which is supplied by Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company of Iceland. During whale watching tours, the electric motor will silently propel the boat, but when the ship is under sails, the propeller blades can be modified and used to recharge the ship’s batteries. This technique has never been used on a sea vessel before.
The new electric system is not only eco-friendly and carbon-free, but it also minimizes the disturbance to the whales, enabling the ship and its passengers to get closer to the majestic animals. From this day on, Opal will run solely on eco-friendly electricity, and the old diesel engine will only be used for emergencies. Along with the engine changes, the ship’s hull has been overhauled and strengthened, and the sailing gear has been modified to better utilize the wind energy.
Jón Björn Skúlason, General Manager of Icelandic New Energy, says that North Sailing’s developmental work has not gone unnoticed and that it has been carefully monitored from abroad: “This project has utilized technology from many different sources, coming together in a unique, never-before-seen, novelty. I think this is one of the biggest events in the utilization of eco-friendly energy that has taken place in Iceland in a long time.” Icelandic New Energy’s largest shareholders are the Icelandic State, Reykjavík Energy, Landsvirkjun and HS Orka.
About The Schooner Opal
The Schooner Opal is one of the latest additions to North Sailing’s Fleet. Built at Bodenwerft shipyard in Damgarten, Germany in 1951, she served as a trawler in the Baltic – and North Sea, and in the Barents Sea. In 1973, new owners started her restoration. During eight years until 1981, Opal was converted to the elegant but seaworthy, double masted schooner she is today. She has sailed all over the world, completing several trans-Atlantic crossings, being carefully maintained through the years. Opal remained with the same owners, until becoming part of North Sailing’s fleet in early 2013. She has undergone restoration and had interior work done to better fit her for the new purpose as an expedition ship.
About North Sailing
North Sailing is a family owned company, founded in Húsavík in 1995. It was the first whale watching tour operator in Iceland to offer regular whale watching tours. The company has grown steadily, along with its growing number of customers, and the fleet has grown from one ship to eight. Apart from the Whale Watching, North Sailing owns and runs the restaurant Gamli Baukur, the coffee house Hvalbakur, and the Húsavíkurslippur shipyard. North Sailing has received numerous honors and awards internationally and domestically for consistently delivering outstanding quality experiences for its customers.