The challenges have started already. Before most yachts intending to transit of the North West Passage - the latest adventure paradise for cruising sailors - have started their attempt, one boat has already had to be rescued from the ice.
Altan Girl trapped
A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker had to break 12 miles of ice to reach the trapped sailors, Erkan and Elizabeth Gursoy, on Altan Girl, their rugged 36ft steel boat.
The incident occurred about 40 miles north east of Barrow. The Coast Guard cutter, Healy, had to be diverted from a research mission to respond to the sailboat.
Altan Girl rescue
The Altan Girl was attempting a West to East Passage from its home port in Vancouver.
'The Healy crew conducted a safety inspection of the mariner’s vessel to ensure the vessel was seaworthy and that all the required safety equipment was on board,' the Coast Guard said in a news release. 'The mariners intend to sail to Barrow to resupply and await safer weather conditions before continuing his journey.'
The Healy then towed the vessel to open water, before returning to their National Science Foundation-funded research mission.
Altan Girl under tow
Coast Guard 17th District watchstanders in Juneau were contacted by North Slope Borough Search and Rescue Monday who reported that the sailors, Erkan Gursoy, a Turkish Canadian and his wife, Canadian Elizabeth Joy Gursoy, needed assistance after their vessel had become trapped in the ice.
The NSBSAR personnel reported that they were unable to fly to the man’s location due to weather conditions and low visibility. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided ice and weather forecasts to help responders set a course of action.
That's when the Coast Guard diverted Healy from its NSF-supported research mission in the Arctic in order to assist the mariner.
'This case highlights the important capabilities that Coast Guard multi-mission assets deployed to the Arctic are able to provide to mariners in distress,' said Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander, 17th Coast Guard District. 'The Coast Guard 17th District is committed to working with our federal, state, local and tribal partners along with industry to protect the safety of life at sea in Alaska and the Arctic.'