Sailing the Arctic

Since my partner, Edvin Buregren, and I started planning to sail the Northwest Passage this summer aboard our 31-foot fiberglass sloop Belzebub II—on a shoestring budget, no less—we have realized that a polar voyage is unlike any other.Route Planning: Picking a route through the Northwest Passage requires methodical planning. The majority of charted Arctic waters were surveyed with
Author:
Publish date:
Arctic-Route-without-names

Since my partner, Edvin Buregren, and I started planning to sail the Northwest Passage this summer aboard our 31-foot fiberglass sloop Belzebub II—on a shoestring budget, no less—we have realized that a polar voyage is unlike any other.

Route Planning: Picking a route through the Northwest Passage requires methodical planning. The majority of charted Arctic waters were surveyed with obsolete technology dating from the 1800s. In addition, because the sea ice is retreating so dramatically as a result of global warning, there is plenty of navigable water that has never been surveyed. A joint U.S.-Canada mapping mission estimates it will take more than 25 years just to map the prioritized areas of the Arctic seafloor.

Arctic-yard-1

Ice and Timing: Timing is everything when sailing among ice floes. Arriving a few days, or even hours, too early or too late can mean getting trapped in pack ice indefinitely or having to wait weeks for another opening to appear. Worst-case scenario: you must turn around and try again next year.

Winds and Shelter: High-latitude sailing undoubtedly means heavy weather and isolated conditions where self-sustainability is paramount. Katabatic winds blow forcefully and create acceleration zones over ice-covered surfaces. In these uncharted waters full of ice, unidentified rocks, sand bars and low islands that provide little sanctuary, heavy weather tactics must be planned in advance. Anchoring in fjords, with their deep waters and steep sides, in particular, requires a boat to move close to land and run lines ashore in order to be secure against the intense winds. In every anchorage, it’s important to always plan for a quick escape in the event pack ice begins to encroach.

Boat Preparation: Most of the yachts that have sailed to the Arctic have been made of heavy wood or steel. Increasingly, though, smaller fiberglass boats like Belzebub II are taking on the challenge. All boats must be appropriately insulated, heated, reinforced against ice, and fitted with large fuel and food stores. Winter survival gear and a reliable engine to maneuver through the ice floes are a must. Ice-sailing equipment includes long poles with tapered ends to push small bergy bits away from the boat; grappling hooks and ice-climbing screws so you can latch on to and drift with the pack ice; spotlights and the best binoculars you can afford.

Peissel and Buregren plan to depart Malm, Sweden, this June and hope to arrive in Vancouver, British Columbia, this October. To learn more about the expedition, visit belzebub2.com.

Related

dometicadler-700x

How to: Upgrading Your Icebox

The time has come when the prospect of cold drinks and long-term food storage has you thinking about upgrading your icebox to DC-powered refrigeration. Duncan Kent has been there and done that, and has some adviceFresh food must be kept at a refrigerated temperature of 40 degrees ...read more

Jet-in-Belize

Cruising: Evolution of a Dream

There’s a time to go cruising and a time to stop. As Chris DiCroce found, you don’t always get to choose those timesAlbert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, ...read more

01a-rosemary-anchored-at-Qooqqut,-inland-from-Nuuk

Cruising: A Passage to Greenland

When a former winner of the Whitbread Round the World Race invites you to sail the Northwest Passage, there is only one sensible answer. No.More adventurous types might disagree, but they weren’t the ones facing frostbite of the lungs or the possibility of having the yacht’s hull ...read more

Allures-459-2018

Boat Review: Allures 45.9

Allures is not a name on the tip of many American sailors’ tongues, but it should be. After the debut of its 39-footer last year, the French company has made another significant entry into the U.S. midrange market with the Allures 45.9, an aluminum-hulled cruiser-voyager with ...read more

ZP-Sail-Away-pic-No

Jury-Rigging on Charter

A little know-how goes a long way on vacationThey say cruising is just fixing your boat in exotic places. Maybe that’s why so many people prefer to charter. After a week of sailing you pack your bags and step off your charter boat without another care in the world, leaving the ...read more

shutterstock_673678240

Chartering in Cuba, A Study in Contrasts

It was a bit of an unexpected flashback. After all, it had been decades since I lived in the old Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and yet the feeling that bubbled up was the same. I stuck my camera out the bus window to capture yet another of a dozen billboards dotting the ...read more

TRINKA-OVERTURNED_final

Experience: Misadventures in the Med

After crossing the Atlantic in 2011 and spending two leisurely years crossing the Med, I found a homeport for my Crealock 34, Panope, in Cyprus. In 2000, we had completed a villa in Tala and the little pleasure/fishing port in Latsi was a scenic 40-minute drive away.The ...read more