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Donna Wood

Donna Wood is run by an Icelandic family business who are our Greenland and Iceland Sailing Specialists. During the summer, Donna Wood sets sail for Greenland and Scoresby Sound fjord.Voyages on this beautiful two mast oak ship promise sailing expeditions that will be action packed and exciting as you explore the dramatic mountains, glaciers and arctic wildlife such as walrus, arctic foxes, polar bears and musk ox. Watch for whales and sunsets, hike through beautiful scenery and enjoy delicious food prepared for you whilst anchoring in the remotest spots in the world. 

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  • Length overall: 102 ft (31m) 
  • Length on deck: 72ft (22m)



  • Year built: 1918
  • Vessel type/rig: Two Mast Gaff ketch 


  • Guest berths:12
  • Crew berths:   4


Our Expert View: What Donna Wood Does Best

BBQ. Sailing expeditions in Greenland is not all icebergs and glaciers
BBQ. Sailing expeditions in Greenland is not all icebergs and glaciers

Based in East Greenland for the Arctic Summer

If you want to experience the high Arctic, trek amongst the tundra, sail under towering granite spires and marvel at icebergs and glaciers, then the Icelandic fleet of Donna Wood, Hildur, and Opal are definitely the experts. As soon as the sea ice melts they sail across the Denmark strait for Scorseby Sound and base themselves in this extensive 350 km long fjord system for the short but stunning Arctic summer. The beauty of the 7 day expeditions on Donna Wood is you can fly in to a small airstrip near Ittoqqortoormiit and enjoy flat water sailing and some fantastic trekking ashore. The wildlife is not as prolific as Antarctica but you might see polar bear, walrus, musk ox, arctic foxes, ptarmigan, divers and a variety of seals.  Debbie from Classic Sailing office sailed in Greenland with her new found Icelandic friends a few years ago and the scenery blew her away.

"If you mix the granite spires of Patagonia with the Dolomites, the dazzling flora of Iceland and the ice sculptures of Antarctica....then you are close to the beauty and attraction of Scorseby Sound. It was ridiculously warm and sunny on my trip so I even swam back to the ship ocean after some of the best trekking I have experienced"  Debbie Purser


Northern lights or Aurora Borealis over Donna Wood and Opal in Greenland
Northern lights over Donna Wood and Opal in Greenland in September

Whale Watching Skippers & Greenland Guides

The family run business that runs Donna Wood, Opal and Hildur love restoring wooden vessels and are internationally renowned for their whale watching day sails in Iceland. All three ships are out there in the remarkable Skaljfandi Bay, Iceland from March each year, as it is statistically the best place to see whales in Northern Europe. Consequently the same captain and crew on Donna Wood in Greenland in high summer can tell you a lot about cetaceans and bird life as it is their daily task to educate their guest crews.  In addition the ship carries a guide who can look after you ashore in Greenland and tell you about the wildlife, glaciers and icecap, and the local Inuit culture. They are required to carry a gun ashore for protection from polar bears. Your voyage is outside the National Park so the local Inuit still hunt. Polar bears are more common further North, where there are no humans at all but they have been spotted on Hildur's trips, and they do come South for food. Hildur has a zodiac ships boat on stern davits for quick launch and on a Greenland voyage so it is no trouble to drop guests ashore for an evening walk, and almost every other day when you are not sailing there is a longer trek. 

East Greenland once the ice melts all the tundra flowers come out
East Greenland once the ice melts all the tundra flowers come out

Ski-ing, Mountaineering & Small Group Adventure

Donna Wood has spacious accommodation for 12 and communal areas so she is popular with Universities and research organisations that want to hire the whole ship for polar or wildlife research. Combine this with her handy home location on the North Coast of Iceland and you have a vessel for clubs or groups of friends who want to go off the beaten track in Iceland or East Greenland. The only snag with this is you have to book early if you want a whole boat charter.

If you don't want to organise an expedition yourself, she has a couple of tried and tested 5-7 day adventures which can be available for individuals or several small groups, using the ship as your base and sailing between landing spots as much as possible:-

Ski to the Sea in Iceland with a ski mountaineering guide. We give you the opportunity to explore the peaks, valleys and fjords of the Hidden Land. With no roads or way of access in the winter and spring seasons, the sea remains the only way to visit the area, offering peaks that rise over 1000 metres and snowfall of epic proportions. Each day the schooner anchors in small bays and coves along the north shore of this spectacular mountain range and then the day is occupied with skiing fresh tracks. 


Week long expeditions in East Greenland, sailing and and trekking in the spectacular Stauning Alps, led by polar explorer Vilborg Arna. There are only one to two dates a year for this incredible expedition, usually in August. (The vessel used for this expedition varies between Opal, Donna Wood or Hildur)

Donna Wood has already proved her popularity as a research ship and is used regularly by Universities and Scientific organisations who wish to understand this remote area. A voyage on this lovely lady will be one for the bucket list for wildlife lovers, photographers and sailors alike. 


ski mountaineering by sailing ship in Iceland by  Kristján Maack
skiing by sailing ship in Iceland by Kristján Maack
Eating on the saloon roof on Donna Wood


Where ever you live and what ever your expectations are be prepared for wilderness adventure on Donna Wood! The backdrop of Greenland, floating Icebergs, wildlife and sailing provide the mix for a very memorable voyage.

Expect Mountanous landscape carved by ice. Greenland is all about awesome scenery on a scale that is hard to comprehend. Fjords over 1km deep, glaciers tumbling off the Greenland icecap, rocky spires and granite walls as good as any in Yosemite or Patagonia. Apart from the inuit in Ittoqqortoormit  and your fellow crew you may never see another another human being. Greenlands silence is profound except for the crack and groan of an iceberg flipping over and is as loud as an avalanche.

Despite hundreds of glaciers carving into the fjords, the sea temperature can reach 12 degrees celsius and after a  breathtaking walk under a hot and cloudless sky you may be tempted to have a swim in the Artic! Certainly something to boast about when you return home to your family and friends! 

Donna Wood is a gaff ketch
whole crew on the deck house roof looking for whales


As the Greenland high pressure generally brings good stable and dry weather where the winds can be light or flat calm be prepared to grab every opportunity to set those sails. For those with no sailing experience a Donna Wood voyage is ideal for novice sailors and provides the perfect introduction to sailing a large wooden boat. The crew will teach you how to set the sails and handle the ropes.  How much you get involved in the sailing, keeping lookout or steering the ship is very much up to you and the mile making is very much in daylight during the Arctic Summer as there is virtually no night until you get into late August.  If you are a purist sailor who hates to reach for the engine switch, then this is probably not the voyage for you as the narrow parts of Scorseby Sound can be flat calm, or so filled with small bergs in a narrow space it would be impossible to weave around them under sail.

For nature lovers, walker and ornithologists this expedition provides world quality pioneering walks in a wilderness that few humans have ever stepped on. Evidence of Inuit summer hunting camps can be found  amongst the large footprints you are likely to see of the Musk Ox.

no seasickness worries on a calm day in Scorseby Sound
no seasickness worries on a calm day in Scorseby Sound

Life on Board

Donna Wood is the perfect Expedition Ship. The crew on board to greet and meet you will consist of a Captain, a mate and chef, plus an experienced Greenland Guide who will share his knowledge of all fauna and flora. The hospitality and attention to detail is well thought out from the firewood stacked on deck for barbeques to the superb organic lamb, salmon and delicious dairy products flown each week from Iceland. Each perfect anchorage is celebrated with a toast. The ships library has evocative expedition books in English, German, Danish and Icelandic. Working language is English. 

Greenland voyages are great for trekking in the mountains.
Greenland voyages are great for trekking in the mountains.

Below Decks Accommodation on Donna Wood

Donna Wood is a roomy ship with a large deck saloon seating 24.  An ideal place to write your journal, download your stunning photos onto a tablet or laptop, or warm up after a trekking day ashore.  Being at deck level you are not far from the action and can keep an eye on scenery or the light or weather changing.

Down a deck level, there is also ample space. comfortably accommodating 12 people in 7 cabins equipped with washbasins and closets.

There are 5 cabins that can take 2-3 customers (see photo below). A 2 berth cabin and a single cabin in the guest crew area.

As the ship only plans to sail with 12 guests on these expeditions the 2-3 person cabins are more likely to be used for couples, or  two guests of the same sex in upper and lower berth (not using the third berth) or or a group of three, if everyone is happy to share.

The hallway features spacious shared shower facilities and toilets.

lower saloon on Donna Wood
below decks on Donna Wood - cabins
An example of a WC and shower on sailing ship Donna Wood

Layout Plan for Donna Wood

Below decks layout plan for Donna Wood


Donna Wood - Ships Specification & History

Incredible rock walls in Scorseby Sound

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 sufficient expedition ship for high latitudes.  What she lacks in sailing elegance, she makes up in terms of her 'indoors' accommodation - both in here large deckhouse and below decks accommodation.

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)

sailing towards the icebergs. Greenland expedition on Donna Wood

Icelandic Skippers from a Family Business

Our Icelandic sailing partners run four wooden sailing ships and several large wooden fishing vessels converted to whale watching so they have a big pool of potential charter skippers at home in Iceland with good customer skills and lots of wildlife knowledge. The skipper rota for the Greenland voyages is much coverted and you will often find one of the directors of the company as the Captain.

How are they Crewed Professionally?

The family run business, based in Húsavík, North Iceland have now have a fleet of ten wooden vessels. Most the ex oak fishing boats are used for daily whale watching trips along the Icelandic coast and attract dedicated crew from all over the world, who want to work in wildlife eco tourism and raise public awareness about Cetaceans. 

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 and was the first to pioneer voyages in Scoresby Sound. As soon as the Greenland sea ice retreats, Opal, Donna Wood and Hildur give up their whale watching and North Iceland tours and head North to Greenland to their summer base in Scoresby Sound.All three will carry a skipper, mate, cook and a guide as a minimum.


North Sailing Skipper

All the members of the crew pride themselves on consistently offering outstanding quality experiences from the welcome on board, the quality of the food provided and the sailing adventure - meeting all expectations. As very few people outside Iceland speak Icelandic (similar to Viking Old Norse) all the crew are used to communicating in several languages and English is the common working language for the crew on board. These voyages are popular with Germans, French, Austrian, and Swiss as they love the great outdoors and mountain trekking so German can be a common language socially too.



Captain coming to collect us
Captain coming to collect us at the end of a great walk
Current sailing grounds

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