Please select your home edition
Edition
Pantaenius - Worldwide Support

North West Passage - ice levels alarming for transiting yachts

by Douglas Pohl/Sail-World Cruising on 19 Aug 2013
Comparison between 2012 and 2013 .. .
The North West Passage, once thought of as an impossible dream for sailors, has been more and more ice free over the last few years, encouraging more and more yachts to the adventure. But 2013 is shaping up to be very different, possibly alarming for the boats who have already started. Here, Captain of the 55ft motor vessel Grey Goose and keen NW Passage correspondent Douglas Pohl tells the story:

Over the last three weeks, Arctic ice area has declined by 662,000 km², which is 60% of normal and the slowest on record.

Slow ice melt means more ice choke-points to navigate - many specific locations have been near impossible to even try with 90% ice concentrations. In 2013 there has been a 55%increase in Arctic ice since this date last year.

Basically the summer melt season has been the slowest on record.

There are more pronounced ice 'choke-points' for vessels attempting a NW Passage than in recorded history. Seven vessels have been waiting around Lancaster Sound unable to navigate south nor west while other vessels in the Western Arctic have been delayed in reaching Cambridge Bay from ice in Amundsen Gulf.

Westerly winds have also pushed the Beaufort Sea ice up tight against Banks Island. The 2013 ice season is nothing like the 2012 ice season - a black & white difference.

The bottom line is: If and when the ice melts 'enough' to allow open navigation by small yachts, will there be enough of the summer ice melt season remaining?

...or put another way: When will Mother Nature close the door and the sea freeze over, preventing anyone exiting the Arctic in 2013. It appears that slower sailing boats are at risk of being trapped in the Arctic.

Turning the western corner at Point Barrow has always been a risky proposition at the best of times, and Queen Maud and Bellot Strait are 'choke-points' for either direction of travel this season.

Sailing boats known to be in the area this season intending a transit or a partial transit are the following:

East to West:
Acalephe, Canadian, 13.9m, aluminium cutter rigged
Arctic Tern, British, 43ft Steel cutter rigged pilot house
La Belle Epoque, German, 13m steel cutter rigged ketch
Libelule, Swiss, 47ft catamaran
Tooluka, Netherlands, 14.15m steel sloop
Traversay III, (USA?), sloop, thought to be fibreglass


West to East:
Anna, thought to be French, 10.5 steel ketch
Balthazar, Canadian, 10.5m welded steel
Dodo's Delight, British, 33ft fibreglass sloop
Empiricus, USA, 50ft yawl
Tara, French, 36m aluminium expedition schooner motor-sailer

There are other boats in the region, some have cancelled their journey, others have a different intent than a North West Passage crossing, some are motor boats. Here are a few of those also in the region:

Arctic Joule, Canadian, cabin rowing boat
Babushka, French, a hubrid catamaran with cuddy cabin, going for the North Pole
Bernard Explorer, 46ft motor sailer, historical research expedition, Banks Island
Fairmont's Passion, USA, 17.5ft Norseboat - Inuvik to Resolute
Glory of the Sea, Canadian, 50ft aluminium cutter rig, circling the eastern side
Ikimaya, Canadian, tandem kayak, Tuktoyaktuk to Igloolik
Lady Dana, Polish, 14.3m steel sloop, doing an Arctic circumnavigation
Le Manguier, French, 21.1m steel hulled tug with stay-sail rig, circumnavigating Banks Is
Noeme, French, 14.5m cold moulded epoxy, route unknown
Polar Bound, British, 48ft custom aluminium expedition motor vessel, 6th transit
Rowing Ice, French, 21ft cabin rowing boat, West to East, part transit
Tranquillo, Netherlands, 56ft aluminium sloop, centreboard

They could all experience conditions worse than they had been expecting, and, no doubt, the Canadian rescue services are gearing up for what could be a challenging year.

You can follow Douglas's blog at : http://northwestpassage2013.blogspot.com/
Harken AUS Reflex 660x82Wildwind 2016 660x82Abell Point Marina 660x82 Moor

Related Articles

Sailor Jeanne Socrates, world's oldest non-stop female circumnavigator
70-year-old Jeanne Socrates arrives Victoria, Canada, as the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world After many days of frustrating drifting, 70-year-old British sailor Jeanne Socrates has made it home to Victoria in triumph, becoming the oldest woman to single-handedly sail non-stop around the world without outside assistance.
Posted on 9 Jul 2013
Young Endeavour- 25-year celebration and you are invited!
Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, giving young Australians an inspirational experience at sea, is celebrating 25 years. The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, a not for profit organisation giving young Australians an inspirational experience at sea aboard sail training ship Young Endeavour, is celebrating its 25th birthday.
Posted on 22 Jan 2013
UK Sailmakers gives Yassine a new mast for 150nm Laser sail record
Yassine Darkaoui wants to sail a 150nm course from Phuket - and has a new mast, thanks to UK Sailmakers In December we ran a story about how a young Moroccan sailor was in Thailand training to sail a 150nm course in a tiny Laser to break the world record. His problem was, his mast was broken and he couldn't afford a new one. Now, thanks to our Asia Editor Guy Nowell and UK Sailmakers Hong Kong representative, Barry Hayes, who read the story, things are looking up for Yassine Darkaoui.
Posted on 17 Jan 2013
Southernmost sailing voyages - who really has the record?
Andrew Troup corrects the records on the most southerly voyages by sailing boats. Recently a Ukrainian/Russian sailing boat, the 98ft steel-hulled Scorpius reached 77 degrees south and claimed a world record. This was greeted by a storm of protest from our readers, one of whom pointed out that in 1965 a tiny Moth was sailed at (but not to) 77.5 degrees. There were other claims too. Andrew Troup here corrects the records...
Posted on 14 Apr 2012
And the most southerly-sailing boat ever is...
Last week we said Ukrainian yacht Scorpius set a new world record in sailing furthest south - 77deg but we were wrong! Last week in Sail-World we told how Ukrainian-Russian crew aboard 30m sailing yacht Scorpius had claimed a new world record in sailing farther south into Antarctica than any other boat had gone, reaching 77 degrees. But we were wrong - well, in a way; because in 1965, Lt. Commander Steve Cockley, based in Mc Murdo Sound, had sailed a Moth, an 11ft (3.4m) dinghy, at 77.5 degrees S.
Posted on 1 Apr 2012
Laura Dekker completes solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days
21 Jan: Solo sailor Laura Dekker has arrived Sint Maarten completing her solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days This week (Saturday 21st January) Laura Dekker, 16-year-old Dutch/New Zealander solo sailor, quietly sailed between islands in pleasant seas into the Dutch island of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, completing a solo odyssey around the world in a year and a day. There were merely dozens, not thousands, of people at the wharf to greet her.
Posted on 22 Jan 2012
Steve White - solo round the world the 'wrong way'
Steve White is to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted the 'wrong way', AND break the current record. Dee Caffari has done it, now Steve White is setting out to do it too. He's going to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted, AND the 'wrong way', AND break the current record.
Posted on 11 Sep 2010
Solo Tasmanian Past the Horn
Ken Gourlay left Tasmania on November 6th to begin a personal quest to sail his yacht solo non-stop around the world While the sailing world’s eyes are on the quest by Tony Bullimore to break the round the world speed record, starting in Tasmania sometime this month, there is a home-grown Tasmanian quietly already half way round the same route.
Posted on 5 Jan 2007
Dream on Hold for Australian Solo Sailor
Dr Margaret Williams quest to sail, solo around Australia is on hold again. Dr Margaret Williams quest to sail, solo around Australia is on hold again. The Sunshine Coast GP, set sail from Fremantle on June 2 in her 12m sloop Against All Odds in a bid to be the first woman to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around Australia.
Posted on 14 Jul 2006
Female solo sailor narrowly averts disaster
Solo sailor Margaret Williams weathers severe storm in Southern Ocean in her attempt at circumnavigation of Australia Solo sailor Margaret Williams’ second bid at becoming the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo, non-stop and unassisted almost came to an untimely end with a severe storm off the south-west coast of Tasmania.
Posted on 20 Jun 2006