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Arctic Sailing Yacht: Input from a Seasoned Arctic Sailor

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

It is the nature of life that we believe our decisions are generally robust. Not until the quiet of the night or a remote anchorage does reality incline to disavow us of those illusions. For this reason, we brought Mangus Day of Eyos Expeditions across half the globe from his home in New Zealand to Naval Yachts in Turkey.

Arctic & Antactic Cruising

Magnus was introduced to us by Eyos Expeditions. He has many seasons of experience in the High Arctic and Antarctic cruising grounds. Experience gained as skipper of Skip Novak's charter yacht Pelagic, as Ice Pilot on large private yachts transiting these locations, and with his purpose-built yacht Baltazar. Read for some further examples.


Navigating aluminium hulled Baltazar through dense brash ice.

Our brief was to look over Vanguard with an experienced eye and to find what we had missed or otherwise found lacking. Ego has no place in this process; we all need a vessel for our intended purpose. Here follows a few examples of how the week unfolded.

The windlass was too low, positioned in the exact location as the previous hull, Mobius.

What differed was that Mobius had a significant independent kedging winch at the main deck level, aft of the windlass. We had a capstan on the main anchor windlass. To prevent the line from rolling over itself, it should enter the capstan drum at the base with a 5-10 degree up angle.

This was not the case; the windlass required a plinth to raise it 100mm (and retain our fingers!).

First figure shows the initial entry of the rope on to the drum with an up angle. This would cause the rope to ride over the windings (second figure).

You need air circulation mesh under the mattress, or they will attract mold as the weather gets colder. Point taken, we can use rain-screen construction mesh.

Acknowledgement EMP Industrial.

Prepare an explorer yacht for arctic sailing

The satellite compass was close to the GPS and Iridium Certus 4200 Satellite phone on the instrument mast resulting in interference.

Relocated to clear air on the forward edge of the flybridge roof. Port side Fwd is the Sat-Compass, starboard side Fwd is the Starlink antenna. Both units are clear of the lower radar beam (23 degrees) and the Certus 4200 Sat link, 60 deg vertical) plus ancillary smaller stuff like AIS/GPS.

Sailing in the Arctic - How to prepare an explorer yacht for polar sailing?

Are you tinting those windows? Our saloon and helm station has large glass windows on all four sides. We intended to fit tinted glass within the 3 part laminated structure for the windows (2 plastic lamination films, two plain 8mm tempered glass, one 8mm tinted). These would act as bandpass filters limiting UV and IR transmission but letting in most visible light. Three windows at the helm were to be left clear. On Magnus's advice, it is now the forward five windows, so we retain better nighttime visibility.

Holddown, pad eyes, and jackstays; if you have enough, fit more. Holddowns for the tender are apparent, but we also need them for lifelines, equipment, toys, spare deflated dingy, ice poles, and boat hooks, you name it. We did not have enough, so more were planned for. Similarly, "those handrails need extending, and you have no arrangement for jackstays" Our side grab rails are an essential safety feature and require extending forward and aft along the cabin sides to help transition to the deck spaces.

Are you using Treadmaster on the decks? Well, we got that one right. "Fit it last so the shipyard work does not make a mess." Good point.

The tender design needs reinforcing at the bow for pushing ice and general workmanlike activities. A call to Habbeke Shipyyard and design adjustments agreed upon. Does the drive reverse to clear brash ice from the grates -"yes." What about a spare impeller, as sediment (glacial flour) is very abrasive? On it. Is the forefoot reinforced? Yes, at last we got that one right! The water jet drive met with firm approval. The same system as the ones they use in South Georgia apparently. We will not claim credit though - Thanks to Wayne & Christine of Mobius.

Figure shows modifications to the bow, adding a front fender and repositioning the towing/hold down eye.

Stair corners are too sharp; minor injuries can turn nasty quickly. Most angled corners already had been radiused >8mm though the stairs were omitted as built last and by a different team. A simple adjustment is needed with a router and tipped bit.

Your anchor wash pump facility is too small. We upgraded the design to a 1.5-inch 200 l/min high-pressure seawater line permanently fitted to clear the chain as it rises. That was easy to facilitate using the bilge pump that doubles as a seawater fire pump. It automatically cleans the chain as it rises, and the chain locker drains directly overboard.

And on it went for a week and some 30 other points we have glossed over or omitted. These are an easy and obvious fix at this point but next year and 5000 miles from home? Less so.

Chris Leigh-Jones

Magnus Day - EYOS Expeditions

Our plans and adventures will associate us with a small group of individuals. They are intriguingly connected, and the same names crop up in disparate conversations. If you, too, choose this path, you will never again meet a stranger.

Our son, Jeff, has dreamed of polar adventures since childhood. Eyos has recently offered to make those introductions based on Jeff's character and winter experience of Greenland sea ice and the Norwegian Plateau. How one dream so rapidly spawns another - more on that to come!

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