Northwest Passage Across the Top of N. America
With all of this talk about Global warming, I am wondering if anyone here is planning to repeat Roald Amundsen's feat of sailing from the Alantic to the Bering sea, a tad more than a century ago? Crossing the top of North America. It was done again in late 2005 by Irish sailers on the 49 foot sloop 'Northabout'.
A few questions here:
What size vessel and of what material?
The crew number and if is it a mixed crew or not?
The planned duration of the voyage?
The support group for the voyage?
Prepositioned supplies? Or not?
There are other questions that can be asked.
Such as would you go?
Would you allow you significant other to go?
What other questions come to mind beside the sanity of those going?
It has been done again a few times. For an interesting account read Arctic Odyssey by Len Sherman who did it in 1995 in a single season. There were three of them in an 8.5 metre steel boat made by Winston Burchill (who was the skipper for the trip).
Winston is a very likeable guy. I met him while cruising the North coast of BC and he signed my book.
I know, who cares, right?
At the risk of being ridiculed, I confess that transitting the NWP has been a dream of mine since I was a youngster. Not one I'm likely ever to realize, but I do get a vicarious thrill reading about other expeditions that make the attempt, a number of which have been successful in recent years.
I can still vividly remember watching -- in junior high school -- the movie about the Manhatten (ice-breaking oil tanker) making its attempt on the NWP. They got stuck and needed help form some of the larger CG icebreakers, but that was in the early '70s. Today they'd easily make it.
Now's the time to do it, before the next little ice age returns....
I've thought about it as well, and agree that if current trends continue it's much more feasible as a small boat passage than before. But it's not for the faint hearted. I've sailed three times in the Arctic (on the second trip we cross 80N in a Beneteau 345:eek: ). I have known well and sailed with people who've been there many, many times. I think the people who keep going back time and time again are just a little nuts (nice nuts, but nuts nonetheless). I've found the Arctic to be psychologically very challenging. In a way it seems to draw you in -- something about it makes you want to go there -- but once there, all I could think about was how and when we were getting out. I didn't like going to sleep every night inches from death.
With any imagination at all you soon realize that the place could kill you fast. Fall overboard and you have very little time to get back aboard -- you lose muscle function in minutes. Ice can crush almost anything in its path -- a wind change and pack ice can pin a boat against a coast line or trap you in a bay for days or even weeks. Ice can break props and bend rudders pretty easily. In many, perhaps most, places in the high Arctic and certainly along the NWP, there aren't many resources to turn for help if you get into trouble. High latitude sailing is the ultimate test in self-sufficiency and it occurs in an environment where the margin for error is greatly reduced. It takes very special people to attempt something like the NW passage. I'm not sure I'm in that group -- as I told the skipper on of my trips north as he was trying to convince us to attempt a circumnavigation of Spitzbergen, "I want to play with my grandchildren someday."
It would take a large bank account to fund such a trip. You'd need a very strong (probably metal) boat in top condition, a competent experienced crew (not just good sailors, but Arctic sailors experienced in navigating in ice), lots of gear for the boat and the people, four or more months to stage and execute the sail plan, and a lot of luck with the weather and ice conditions. You'd have to be winning to lose the boat -- insurance would be either unavailable or very expensive. You'd have to have a way to get the crew out if you got stuck along the way and the weather window closed.... the list goes on.
All of that said, I've often thought that a sailboat race from St. Johns to Dutch Harbor would make a great reality TV show -- something along the lines of "Deadliest Catch". :rolleyes: If anybody knows a TV producer with deep pockets, let me know -- I can find at least some of the racers.
I also know a guy (one of the nuts I mentioned) who's looking for crew for this summer -- UK to Greenland and (hopefully) back. He's a world class 100,000 miles offshore sailor and he's been there many times. Last time he was there he was wintering over and lost his boat. Any takers?
I've met and discussed Arctic sailing with the couple who took the first private yacht into Hudson's Bay since...well...Hudson: Leslie and Carolann Sike in Aqua Star, a customized Goderich 40 steel cutter.
I've been aboard prior to Leslie selling her...you don't see many yachts of that size with a crow's nest on the mainmast, but Hudson's Bay has reefs and ice, and neither are well-charted. Another good Arctic crewing narrative is "Tuning the Rig" http://www.amazon.com/review/product...owViewpoints=1
which is set aboard a tall ship in Arctic waters.
My impression is that while the physical, mechanical and bodily demands of Arctic sail travel is considerable, there is a strong psychological component relating to both the isolation of the environment (Canada may not save you, folks, if you are too far away), and the utter dependence on one's shipmates and the trust you must have in their abilities to keep ship and crew safe while you sleep.
This seems difficult if not impossible for some (not all) to experience, and a lot of high-latitude narratives seem to feature unhappy crew who can't find that trust within them and who succumb to indifference, depression or hostility.
As Gjoa demonstrated, the right crew can take a very minimal/borderline boat into the extremes of the Arctic successfully, but the crew must be the right psychological mix.
All I have to say - it is one of the most wondrous events you can encounter... the air is not purer and nature is no rawer than being what you experience being there... it does take someone willing to be able to fathom being in the the middle of nothing...my experience was breaking up through..(subs) but to this day - one of the most incredible memories...
Given the possibility of the NW passage being open due to global warming, some sailors have been speculating about a race around the Americas, or even just from Halifax to Vancouver. http://forums.sailinganarchy.com/ind...howtopic=66126
Also, while not a race, there is a plan for a educational/scientific sailing voyage Around the Americas, departing Seattle in June 2009: http://www.sailorsforthesea.org/ata/index.html
I seem to recall a fellow that had a special built boat, he sailed from Oz, breaking a few records along the line, but the boat ran into some mechanical issues in the summer of 06, with the initial attempt at sailing this route solo. I am recalling him getting stuck with the mechanical issues on the east coast, with what would have been a late start, so he sold the boat, which was the intention upon completion.
So it has been thought of, and tried recently. If one had the right boat, this would be a fun attempt. Not that I would like it that cold.
During the summer of 2007, the sailing vessel Cloud Nine completed the transit of the fabled NW Passage, an amazing 6640 miles in 73 days. This blog contains the entire story of the expedition.
Northwest Passage Attempt for TV Show
For those of you who have posted to this thread (many fascinating musings!), please take a look at my post regarding the Northwest Passage in the General Discussion (sailing related) thread.
Thank you very much,
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