Superyacht owner Anil Thadani would usually spend the month of April exploring on board his 45 metre motor yacht Latitude, but travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus meant he had time to sit down and speak with BOAT International editor Stewart Campbell for the second episode of our new series "At Home with BOAT".
Thadani is an ambitious owner with a particular affinity for Arctic exploring. Among his travels, he has traversed the Northwest Passage twice, circumnavigated the Svalbard archipelago, and even been stalked by polar bears.
“The Arctic is unique in its beauty and what it offers,” says Thadani. “It’s a special feeling. You’re doing something totally unique that a very small percentage of the human population has ever done.”
Thadani has visited the Arctic three times on board his yacht_,_ including a circumnavigation of Svalbard and two journeys through the Northwest Passage (once from east to west and the other in reverse). While the Timmerman-built motor yacht may at first seem an unusual option for such extensive polar cruising, Latitude is proof that you don’t need an ice-class hull to cruise in higher latitudes.
“Anybody with a boat of pretty much any size can do this, but I’m always surprised with how few people use their boats the way they could be used," he says.
However the journey isn’t easy. Yachts have to contend with quick-changing landscapes and, of course, a lot of ice.
“When we circumnavigated Svalbard I wanted to see how much further north we could go. We went straight up towards the North Pole and got to 83 degrees but there was a lot of surface ice.” He explained how the boat became surrounded by ice and had to wait overnight to be able to continue.
By the morning, narrow pathways had appeared in the ice. “Too narrow for the boat to go through, but the captain was able to nudge the ice apart using the bow. We very slowly made our way through and found open water."
Despite the conditions, Thadani wasn't deterred. “It would have been much nicer to have an ice-class boat. But at no point did I ever feel like our lives were in danger. We always have to be alert for what the ice might do," he says.
Icebergs also pose a particular threat. “These things are massive,” he says. “You get a sense of how immaterial you are.” Yachts have to stay as far away from the icebergs as they are high, in case they suddenly roll over. Thadani's top iceberg tip is to approach in a tender and break off a piece to plop into a glass of whiskey back on board.
Despite the challenges of Arctic cruising, the rewards are plentiful. As well as the wildlife and stunning scenery, Thadani says the skies are a highlight. "While you don’t get sunsets up in the higher latitudes you get colours that I cannot even describe to you. The whole ocean changes colours with hues of pink and grey."
For those interested in exploring Svalbard, Thadani suggests taking your time to get there. “If you’re not in a hurry you should take your time as there’s a month or six weeks of amazing cruising on the way. Getting up there is fun because you do the whole west coast of Norway, Barents Island, the fjords.”
For more episodes of At Home with BOAT, click here.