5 tips on how to tackle ice with an explorer yacht

Plan when is best to tackle ice

Last year’s Global Order Book showed a  surge in explorer yachts as owners seek to visit remote destinations. However, if you want to visit some of the world’s most incredible ice destinations the biggest challenge is also going to just that — ice.

Here master mariner Uli Demel, a veteran of 135 voyages to the Antarctic and 25 to the Arctic, and EYOS Expeditions' Tim Soper, who helped mastermind the furthest voyage south ever undertaken with Arctic P, share their knowledge on how to tackle the hard stuff.

1. Plan when is best to tackle ice

The first decision for an Antarctic adventurer, Demel says, is when to tackle it: “From mid-October until mid-March visibility is good and some ice is likely to have retreated or broken up.”

Pictures courtesy of Captain Ronald Maclean, Paul Crierie, Dr Glenn Singleman and EYOS Expeditions

Do your ice research

Surveys – read by an expert pair of eyes – report both the coverage and type of ice. In the case of Arctic P’s journey to the Ross Sea, EYOS Expeditions looked into records for years and decades before, then closer to the time made sure it got daily updates. They waited until mid-January to set off.

Assess your superyacht: is she ice-ready?

Before you set off, make a serious assessment of your boat. Of course, it should be Ice Class – but there’s more. The propellers and rudder are important: what are they made of? Are they protected? Are seawater intakes low enough not to get clogged with ice?

Know your ice

No matter the prep, you have to know, in the moment, what kind of ice your hull is ploughing towards. According to Tim Soper, there are two types that your ice pilot will be particularly wary of. “Glacial ice comes from snowfall on the land, which turns into a glacier, breaks off and forms an iceberg. This freshwater ice is very hard and compressed, like rock,” he says. “Multi-year ice is frozen seawater that survives the summer and then re-freezes, becoming harder and thicker.”

Have a back-out plan if the ice is impenetrable

As the sea around you starts to thicken, turning to ice, when exactly should you start to worry?

“What you see first is a thin veil that’s maybe one or two centimetres – that can come fast,” says Demel. “This then forms into a pancake form of ice. If it’s only sea ice it will take days to freeze around you. But it may be that ice from a bigger belt comes adrift and closes you in. It’s nothing that you can reliably predict. You always have to think about a back-out plan.”

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