How to plan and prepare superyachts for cruising in extreme destinations
by Nigel Sharp
‘We talk to the chefs and stewardesses about provisioning,’ says Haworth. ‘What they can and can’t get in these places, and what they need to fly in from elsewhere. In places like the Falkland Islands, Chile, Patagonia, Argentina, and Greenland, there are certain things you can get and some you can’t.’
‘We also encourage sailing yachts to fit mast steps [so crew can] get aloft to look at what the concentration of ice is and what route you might take,’ Haworth says. The real danger, however, can be ‘growlers’, which form when pack ice disintegrates. They are less visible – typically no more than a metre above the water, which means a further five metres lurk below. ‘That’s a transit van,’ Haworth points out, ‘and not many of us are driving boats that don’t mind hitting a transit van.’
In Baffin Bay, for instance, it is relatively easy to purchase provisions on the west coast of Greenland where most settlements have a state-run supermarket, but less so on the Canadian side. In Antarctica, however, every boat has to take everything with it, as it isn’t possible to buy anything – food, water or fuel – at all. This was not a problem for Itasca, however, as ‘the boat always operates pretty independently regarding food provisioning’, remarks her captain Dale Winlow.
Fuel can be a common problem, especially for a boat like Merrymaid, whose normal range under power is just 900 miles. This was slightly extended by fuel bladders stowed on deck, and High Latitudes made advance arrangements to buy fuel on two occasions, one of which was from drums on the deck of a fishing vessel in Puerto Natales.
‘Provisioning in the middle of nowhere is another challenge,’ Merrymaid’s owner admits. There have also been occasions when High Latitudes arranged for 200-litre drums to be towed from the shore through the water, craned on board and then siphoned into a yacht’s tanks.
Into the ice
Ice is one of the biggest problems encountered in the Arctic and Antarctic. High Latitudes offers the services of ice pilots who have experience on cruise ships that regularly visit the areas, and ‘who know where to anchor and what you can and can’t do in the ice,’ says Haworth. Furthermore, the pilots are often able to enhance owners’ and guests’ enjoyment by sharing their extensive local knowledge. Pack ice is not necessarily a problem as it is relatively easy to see with the naked eye and with radar.
‘We encourage sailing yachts to fit mast steps [so crew can] get aloft to look at what the concentration of ice is and what route you might take,’ Haworth says. The real danger, however, can be ‘growlers’, which form when pack ice disintegrates. They are less visible – typically no more than a metre above the water, which means a further five metres lurk below. ‘That’s a transit van,’ Haworth points out, ‘and not many of us are driving boats that don’t mind hitting a transit van.’
The presence of ice often necessitates a change of plan. ‘We had wanted to visit the east coast of Greenland,’ Lawrence reports, ‘but this is rarely possible due to the ice travelling down the coast with the current from the Arctic. After studying all the ice information for days, Eric our pilot decided it just wasn’t possible for us at that time.’
High Latitudes can also provide specialist wildlife guides, whose first priority is one of safety. In the south, the only likely danger is from leopard seals, although attacks on humans are rare, but in the north there is a potential threat from polar bears. ‘Eric was also our shore guide,’ adds Lawrence. ‘You must carry flares and a rifle when going ashore outside the designated safe areas near settlements in case of polar bear attacks. To shoot a polar bear is a very serious matter, leading to autopsy and inquest, and the authorities have to be convinced it is only a last resort and in self-defence.’
A naturalist guide’s main role is to maximise owners’ and guests’ enjoyment, and in a responsible way. In Antarctica, where the wildlife can be numerically spectacular, guidelines exist within protected areas. ‘The naturalists we send down there make sure we respect all the local rules to do with our permit,’ says Haworth, ‘and make sure we do it all correctly.’ The wildlife in the Arctic can be more diverse, but only in certain areas: more on the Canadian side of Baffin Bay, for instance, than in Greenland.
‘We had a great guide called Belinda Sawyer,’ Winlow says. ‘She was well liked by the owner, guests and crew. She has extensive experience in Antarctica and was able to tell us lots of stories and history, which took pressure off the crew.’
And then there are the fishing opportunities. ‘Richard also arranged the permits and guides for the salmon fishing,’ continues Lawrence. ‘This is tightly controlled in Iceland. We ended up with two guides whose knowledge was second-to-none. I doubt you’d have a bite without them. The owner was delighted with the service they provided’ Haworth adds, ‘We might take other owners where they can catch Arctic char in Greenland, or to the rivers of Patagonia, or near Cape Horn where we know we can catch trout.’