Preparations for the Northwest Passage

French La traduction française de cette page n'est pas disponible.

As part of my own preparations to sail through that historic passage, I have attended three highly informative lectures delivered by sailors who had transited the Northwest Passage recently. Two had sailed from east to west, and one from west to east. Their boats could not have been more different.

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● Richard Hudson’s Issuma was a steel schooner, based on the famous French Damien II designed and built for high latitude voyages, which included several seasons in Antarctica.

● The German flagged Nordwind is a vintage wooden yacht, built for the German Navy before the second world war. The 86 foot yawl is a famous racing veteran having participated in the 1939 Fastnet Race in which she took line honours and established a new record that held for 24 years. The talk at the Royal Ocean Racing Club in London was given by Robert Page, a young crew member in his early twenties.

● Sailing in the opposite direction at about the same time was the Danish Sol, a 42 foot Beneteau First. She completed the transit from west to east in 2012 thereby concluding a ten year long voyage that had taken Kim Mathiesen and Kirsten Thomsen all the way around the Americas including Antarctica and South Georgia. Their richly illustrated lecture was held at the Danish boat show in Fredericia.

Three very different boats, sailed by three quite different crews, but they all concurred in the general assessment of their achievement by stressing that a transit of the Northwest Passage is indeed possible. However, it should not be taken lightly as besides sound preparation, careful timing and a good dose of common sense, you also need to be lucky as weather conditions differ from year to year as does the state of the ice. But if all these elements come together, a transit of this once unconquerable waterway can be achieved.

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