Northwest Passage in 2018 - no easy transit.
About a week ago, the Canadian Coast Guard sent out a message warning hopeful adventurers that ice in the NWP is heavier than normal and that, should a vessel get into trouble, the CCG might not be able to rescue them. They should be prepared to spend a winter aboard. That means they would have had to have packed enough food for the entire crew for a long winter in terrible conditions.
Subject: 9H9573 – INFO – 08-18-1256 – LR – HEAVIER ICE CONDITIONS
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2018 13:06:44 +0000
NORDREG IQALUIT 181256 UTC AUG 2018
Due to heavier than normal ice concentrations in the Canadian arctic waters north of 70 degrees, the Canadian Coast Guard, recommends that pleasure craft do not navigate in the Beaufort Sea, Barrow, Peel Sound, Franklin Strait and Prince Regent. CCG icebreakers cannot safely escort pleasure craft. Operators of pleasure craft considering a northwest passage should also consider the risk of having to winter in a safe haven in the Arctic, or in the case of an emergency, be evacuated from beset vessels. Safety of mariners is our primary concern.
I have been fascinated by the NWP since our friend Jarlath Cunane transited in Northabout. There were about 23 boats attempting the passage this year. Most boats have abandoned their attempts on the NW Passage and retreated to Greenland. A few have moved to an anchorage behind Long Island and are reportedly safe. One, a French flagged Ovni 345, has sunk, with their two Argentinian crew abandoning ship to retreat onto an ice floe, the only one sunk in recent memory. They were rescued in good condition by helicopter after 11 hours on the ice which was moving back and forth. A German magazine has written about the drama that unfolded when the Anahita made the mayday call.
At the same time, a cruise ship ran into trouble in the NWP. People now specialize in cruise ships adventures in the arctic and antarctic waters. One such cruise ship ran aground last week well off the known route they should have been on. All passengers were safely evacuated but now the CCG has to figure out what to do with the ship.
All the boats have had a trying time this year and two or three are reportedly still trapped by heavy ice in Brentford Bay and can’t retreat. Infinity is reportedly now in Cambridge Bay. Thor, a very sturdy German boat, got themselves into some of the densest ice and had been drifting with the pack for several days. Then seemingly achieving the impossible they showed on approach to Icebreaker Channel and are in Coronation. It looks like the list of successful transits for 2018 will be very short.
s/v Destiny, a fellow Ocean Cruising Club boat that was one of the last boats to turn around, has written about their experience on their blog. Here is a link. It's not over yet and the danger to those still trapped in the Arctic ice is real. I'm keeping the faith that all will make it through.