Tuesday, November 22, 2011
You’ve done the great loop – you’ve cruised the Caribbean – you’ve crossed the Atlantic – you’ve crossed the Pacific – you rounded the Horn – you cruised through the Northwest Passage ... say what? ... you did the North West Passage? Yes increasingly private yachts are taking a shot at the Northwest Passage. Suicidal or extremely capable are the two types of sailors who choose to do this trip. Since 2007 ice conditions have become more favorable in the far north. Since the Franklin Expedition perished 150 years ago, only a handful of private yachts (mostly steel hulled sail) have made the 3,200 mile journey through perilous conditions of ice and cold.
When you’ve done the Northwest Passage, you have real bragging rights that less than 60 private yachts in human history can lay claim to. In the last few years, as ice conditions improved, more have taken the gamble, with over twenty boats a season rolling the dice - and less than half of those successfully making it through (and an even smaller portion that didn’t need help from a Canadian ice breaker at some point). Some seasons only a few boats can make it through and can claim their spot in history. It is a perilous, wicked journey and only the most experienced and well prepared crews would even consider taking the risks. In a “difficult scenario” you have to be prepared to be trapped in ice for a season or more and in a “worst case scenario” your yacht will be lost and probably your life too.
I recently looked at a blog of a sailboat that had made it through from east to west and it was sitting in Alaska covered with a foot of snow and ice in late October about to go on it’s way south down the Pacific coast. I guess sailing in gales with a foot of ice on your boat is a piece of cake in Alaska when you’ve done the passage eh? While most boats have long ago been hauled out for winter storage it’s is a testament to human adaptability that some cruiser is steaming down the Pacific coast in a blizzard happily enjoying the company of the wind howling in the rigging. Some people have such an overwhelming sense of adventure that bungee jumping off a bridge would be downright boring and predictable. If you check around the web, every once in a while there is some Captain planning the Northwest passage looking for crew. There is not exactly a lineup of capable people wanting to do this trip!