Opal was originally built at the Bodenwerft in Damgarten, East Germany, in 1951. The building costs were about 400.000 East German Marks. She served as a trawler in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the Barents Sea until 1966. According to one of her former owners, she was then transferred to J. P. Thomsen in Skagen, Denmark, as part of mutual financial agreements and named “Opal”. She operated with her sisters under the Danish flag from Skagen and Hirtshals until the 1970s. During that period, they all gained a reputation for their excellent handling during bad weather when they could continue fishing while other Danish trawlers had to return to their ports.
Big dreams to travel the world
In 1972 Opal was offered for sale in the fishing port of Esbjerg. Around the same time, two young lads, Jakob Harms Larsen and Gert Gouser Gudnason, had big dreams of travelling the world, so when they saw the sales sign on one cold December night, they didn’t hesitate for a moment. The boat was then towed to Grenaa and the work of transforming her into a two-masted topsails schooner commenced. After ten years, countless hours of hard work by both owners and their good friends and an endless struggle to find spare parts, proper quality wood, sewing sails, making blocks and so on, she was finally ready to sail again, now as one of Northern Europe’s most beautiful schooners. Opal had become the elegant but seaworthy, two-masted schooner she is today.
During the next 30 years, Opal graced Scandinavian waters with her presence and also made several transatlantic cruises to the Caribbean, South America, and the USA.
Opal joins North Sailing’s fleet
Opal remained with the same owners until she became a part of North Sailing’s fleet in early 2013. She has undergone restoration and had interior work done to better fit her new purpose as an expedition ship.
On July 12th, 2015, Schooner Opal was launched with her uniquely designed electrical system. The launching marked a worldwide first: Offering carbon-free whale watching tours by using only wind and electricity for propulsion!
From this date, Opal is fitted with an innovative electric hybrid drive propulsion system, which makes her perfect for silent whale watching activities and allows for more efficient sailing on green energy during voyages.
In the winter of 2017, a wooden hot tub was installed onboard Opal! The owners thought it would be the perfect addition to the great facilities onboard.
Currently, Opal is the largest sailing vessel in Iceland and remains busy carrying expeditions to the Arctic waters, where she has reached 79º North.