Book review by Jimmy Cornell: High Latitude Sailing

High Latitude Sailing
Explore the cold waters of the world
By Jon Amtrup
Co-author Bob Shepton
$US 9.99
Kindle version available on
Printed version to be published later this year.

As the popular warm-water cruising grounds are becoming overcrowded, more and more sailors are looking for more challenging and as yet unspoilt destinations to satisfy their urge for adventure and exploration. As a result, in recent years there has been an unprecedented upsurge in the number of yachts bound for high latitude destinations, from Spitsbergen and Arctic Russia to Antarctica, Patagonia to Greenland and Alaska, and even the once unconquerable Northwest Passage.

To cater for this obvious interest in cold-water cruising, this last month has seen the publication of three separate books dealing with high latitude sailing: the Royal Cruising Club’s Arctic and Northern Waters guide, Bob Shepton’s memoir Addicted to Adventure and Jon Amtrup’s High Latitude Sailing. It is the latter that I have been asked to review, and am doing it while on passage to Greenland on my new Aventura.

Both Jon Amtrup, and his co-author Bob Shepton, are experienced high-latitude sailors, and this comes across throughout this book which draws on their considerable font of practical knowledge. The first chapter deals with the essentials of preparing for a high latitude voyage, both of the crew and boat, but also stressing the utmost importance of having the right attitude and state of mind.

The choice of boat as well as equipment is clearly explained, and the crucial matters of safety and self-sufficiency are spelt out in clear, down to earth advice. When it comes to the practicalities of sailing and manoeuvring in ice, no one may be better qualified than Bob Shepton whose extensive experience gained from successful transits of the Northwest Passage in both directions speaks for itself.

Having had a boat designed and built with high latitude exploration in mind, I agreed with all the main points made by the authors, be it the choice of hull material, rig, aids to navigation, clothing, provisioning, and basic preparations generally. However, I would disagree with the statement that if you are unable to get a boat evidently suited for the rigours of high latitude sailing, with some modifications the boat you happen to have will do. High latitude sailing is not a trade wind passage to the Caribbean. The authors know it, I know it, and, for their own sake, the readers of this excellent book should also know it.

Jimmy Cornell

Back to Top