Things can go wrong, even for VERY experienced captains!

My friend, Doug Pohl, has been an ocean ship’s master for almost thirty years.  In his retirement, he has undertaken the trip across the Northwest Passage (North Pole) by water.  The following is what has just happened:

The Northwest Passage after decades of so-called global warming has a dramatic 60% more Arctic ice this year than at the same time last year. The future dreams of dozens of adventurous sailors are now threatened. A scattering of yachts attempting the legendary Passage are caught by the ice, which has now become blocked at both ends and the transit season may be ending early. Douglas Pohl tells the story: 

The Passage has become blocked with 5/10 concentrated drifting sea ice at both the eastern and at the western ends of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. At least 22 yachts and other vessels are in the Arctic at the moment. Some who were less advanced have retreated and others have abandoned their vessels along the way. Still others are caught in the ice in an unfolding, unresolved drama.

The real question is if and when the Canadian Coast Guard(CCG) decides to take early action to help the yachts exit the Arctic before freeze-up… or will they wait until it becomes an emergency rescue operation?

The first blockage area is at Prince Regent Inlet in position 73.7880535N, -89.2529297W which became blocked on 27th August with 5/10 ice concentration with 7/10 ice pushing.

This effectively closes the 2013 Northwest Passage without Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker escorts for transit. The alternative is a very technical and risky southern navigation through Fury & Hecla Strait mostly blocked with sea ice.

Currently there is a commercial cruise ship on a west to east passage which will reach Prince Regent Inlet in another day. It is unknown if there is a CCG icebreaker in the area to provide assistance since government ships do not provide Automatic Identification Service (AIS) to public AIS websites.

Since one of the Canadian Coast Guard’s prime missions is to provide icebreaking for commercial shipping it will be interesting to see if Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Government views this as an opportunity for good public relations to help recreational yachts transiting the Northwest Passage.

Another choke-point stopping marine traffic is on the western Canadian Arctic at Cape Bathurst in position 70.6672443N, -128.2763672W which became blocked on 26th August with 2/10 ice concentration and quickly filled with 5/10 ice on 27th August and today has 8/10 ice pushing towards Cape Bathurst. Latest word is the ice is retreating at an agonizing 1 nautical mile per day northward.


Empiricus – one of the ice-blocked yachts, still smiling -  © Environment Canada

There are a number of yachts known to be in the Cambridge Bay area heading west: ACALEPHE (CA), ISATIS (NEW CALEDONIA), LA BELLE EPOQUE (DE), LIBELLULE (CHE), NOEME (FRA), and TRAVERSAY III (CA). PAS PERDU LE NORD (DE) was ahead by 10 days and has already gone on to Arctic Alaska waters. While BALTHAZAR (CA) departed from Inuvik a month ago and is now on the hard in Nome Alaska.

The following yachts are enroute from the west to the east: ANNA (?), rowboat ARCTIC JOULE (CA), DODO’S DELIGHT (GBR), EMPIRICUS (USA). rowboat FAIRMONT’s PASSION (USA), tandem-kayak IKIMAYIA (CA), in Russian sea ice is LADY DANA (POL), POLAR BOUND (GBR), rowboat ROWING ICE (FRA), in Russian sea ice is TARA (FRA), and a group of jetskis known as DANGEROUS WATERS (USA) reported east of Gjoa Haven.

Several updates on known others:
LE MANGUIER (FRA) is wintering over in the ice at Paulatuk. Motor Yacht Lady M II (Marshal Islands) was escorted by CCGS icebreaker HENRY LARSEN through Bellot Strait eastbound on 20130824. ARCTIC TERN (GBR) and TOOLUKA (NED) retreated to the east towards Greenland/Newfoundland away from Bellot Strait on 20130822 with the opinion that the Arctic ice was finished melting and freeze-up would prevent them from reaching the Northwest Passage finish line at the Arctic Circle in the Bering Strait.

Watch this space for ongoing news about the situation.

Douglas Pohl is a USCG licensed ocean master of motor and steam vessels, fifth issue, retired. Doug and Michelle now live their dreams cruising aboard their 55′ steel motor yacht GREY GOOSE and provide yacht routing, satcom and wifi communications consulting. He can be contacted by e-mail at: douglas_pohl (at) yahoo (dot) com

Graphic information in this article was derived from the following sites, with thanks. (Notations on the graphics are by the author.)

News from the Amari Rose

Gag grouper and mangrove snapper fishing has been very good.  Kingfish and black fin tuna are still available.  Kingfish should start showing up in larger numbers in October.  Red snapper, amberjack  and grouper will also be available in October.  Book your charter now – open days will become scarce.  Email: and leave your phone number or call Captain Leiner at 727-647-7112.

What do I do first?

Purchasing a boat is a big decision. You have found the perfect boat.  You can picture yourself on this boat fulfilling your dreams whether it be fishing, entertaining clients, family vacations, whatever YOUR dream is.  But is this boat really a good buy? Is it safe? The first step to determine if, in fact, this is the perfect boat, is to obtain a complete survey from an accredited, certified boat surveyor who has complete knowledge of both hull and engines since they are two separate surveys. The surveyor you choose is the most important person involved in your purchase and should have many years experience in boat building, boat repair, boat inspections.  If you have an engine survey completed, the surveyor should have a background in engine manufacturing and repair. A surveyor with the proper knowledge, experience and equipment will save you money in the long run.

What does a hull survey entail?

        • a complete topside inspection which should include thermal imaging, ( moisture meters and percussion soundings are NOT accurate and went by the wayside almost  twenty years ago), exterior and interior inspections including bilge areas and  all compartments, tankage, electronics, internal running gear, wiring, batteries, sea valves, condition of safety equipment and all systems
  • an out of water inspection with thermal imager to check for moisture and delamination, external running gear, external hull above and below the water line, and manufacturer’s hull number.
  • The hull survey should include a written report which includes deficiencies and recommendations that are compliant with the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, NFPA, ABYC, IMO and any other regulations pertaining to the particular vessel.  Many underwriters are unhappy with standardized, computerized surveys and prefer a survey written to the particular boat that you have purchased.
  • Hull surveys will vary in price based on size of boat, minimum size charges, additional travel and experience of the surveyor.  The lowest price is not always the best, especially in this case.
  • What does an engine survey entail?
  • A complete engine survey will include inspection of cooling systems, possible bore scoping, compression checks and/or computer scans of engines, thermal imaging, engine heats, possible turbo inspections, transmission inspections, engine pump inspection, manifold and oil sampling. The engine survey requires a longer sea trial than a hull survey alone.  Prices on engine surveys vary by number of engines, horsepower, gas, diesel, type of insulation, age of engine and accessibility.