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The never-ending Northwest Passage 2023

by Victor Wejer, OCC P.O. NWP 22 Oct 2023 19:03 UTC
Northwest Passage 2023 © Ocean Cruising Club

In 2023, 18 yachts, 11 passenger cruise ships, and 7 commercial vessels transited the Northwest Passage over a longer period than normal.

As most of us well know, the limits of the navigation season for the Northwest Passage are the month of August and the first part of September making it only some six weeks available for an over-3000-miles cruise. Mid-October this year still shows the Canadian Arctic Archipelago ice-free with very little new ice that usually would close all routes solid with ice.

This year unexpectedly nearly no ice during that time made up for the many storms forcing all sailboats into hiding in multiple places to wait for relief. Some boats had to endure lengthy weeks before they could continue which made completion at a much later date. Among 18 sailboats ranging from 10 metres to 86 metres in length was the famed ketch Aquijo (Cayman Islands). Superyacht Aquijo is the world's largest high-performance ketch sailing yacht.

Only 5 sailboats exercised the eastbound route with two of them returning home after making transits in previous years and one that was stopped in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Two boats experienced breakdowns. One in Pond Inlet had to beach the boat during low water to fix its leaking propshaft while another near Baillie Islands had a broken engine full of water. This time the culprit was a faulty Vetus exhaust valve. Fortunately, other sailors nearby were called to tow the stranded yacht to Tukotoyaktuk harbour. As the prospect of wintering was obvious and no facility there, the boat was towed again to Inuvik by a small tug on the very shallow Mackenzie River. The river charts were sent to them immediately for the returning cruise next year. The engine was sent for rebuild to Edmonton.

The incident of near collision was reported by Canadian sailboat Kluane in Franklin Str. on 22 August at night where it met another sailboat sailing in the opposite direction without navigation lights which is subject to a fine in Canada in the amount of $10,000. The boat's name was read as Magnus Zaremba (POL) with two people on board. Later, one of the crew disembarked in Tukotoyaktuk and the skipper continued single-handed to Alaska.

A fun-type event happened to the crew of Hayat (CAN) on Herschel Island where after well over a month-long cruise they were able to get to a sauna and clean themselves in one of the most remote places on earth.

The very last sailboat is still under way after completing the crossing in Alaska. This duo of husband & wife on Walkabout (GER) was delayed by many storms. Now they are hiding again in Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island in search of a wintering place.

Companionship at NWP this year was very strong and there was a group that lasted for many miles together.

2023 18 yachts, 11 passenger cruise ships, 7 commercial

  • Admiral Bellingshausen (EST) (24 m ketch) Priit Kuusk West 6
  • Aquijo (Cayman Islands) 85.9 m ketch Gerhard Veldsman West 5
  • Caprivi (US) 13.4 m cutter Ben Couturier West 5
  • Hayat (CAN) 13.4 m sloop Dariusz Krowiak West 5
  • Integrity (GBR) 12.8 m sloop William Sterling West 5
  • Kluane (CAN) 10.2 m cutter Etienne Gros East 5 [formerly Ratafia]
  • Mae West (NED) 15 m ketch Andre Speet2 East 5 Single-handed voyage
  • Magnus Zaremba (POL) 18 m cutter Eugeniusz Moczydlowski West 5
  • Que Sera (FRA) 16 m schooner Père Valera Taltavull West 6
  • Sentijn (US) 12 m ketch John Pennington West 5
  • Shinkai (Marshall Islands) 54.9 motor yacht Marcus Desaunois West 7
  • Skokica 3 (SLO) 12 m cutter Miran Tepeš West 5
  • Supertramp (SWE) 10 m sloop Eva Sebestyen East 6
  • Tecla (NED) 28.1 m gaff ketch Gijs Sluik East 5
  • Terra Nova (US) 18.3 m cutter Matt Thomas East 6
  • Thindra (NOR) 18 m cutter Sigurd Tengs West 5
  • Ugly Betty (Marshall Islands) 26 m motor boat Jonathan J. Brown West 4
  • Walkabout (GER) 11.1 m sloop Thomas Müller West 5

2023-24 interim

  • Seabelle (NZL) 14.3 m sloop Calin Bujgoi West 5 Wintering in Inuvik

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