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Wood & Ice: Through North West Passage
Wood & Ice: Through North West Passage
Wood & Ice: Through North West Passage

Some call it the 'Everest of sailing'. Ever since Roald Amundsen became the first to sail the Northwest Passage from 1903 to 1906, there have been numerous attempts to repeat his achievement in various boats, but almost as many failures. No one, it seems, has successfully travelled the Passage in a wooden sailing boat that they built themselves.

Enter Will Stirling, ...

I met Will Stirling in 2016 when, for over 18 months, he restored my 1952 wooden hull boat ... and she came to love his work and his team and the Stirling and Son boat building yard in Plymouth. At that time Will was planning and building Integrity a 43ft replica Victorian cutter and on the 1st June 2023, Will Stirling and a crew of three set sail. The sea route known as the North West Passage was unknown and impractical, being largely blocked by multi-year ice. The searches by land and sea were accompanied by much hardship. The existence of a route was finally confirmed in 1850 and first completed in 1906 by Roald Amundsen in the sailing cutter Gjoa. A number of vessels, including some commercial vessels have now transited the North West Passage. As the Arctic ice recedes, the route is increasingly open. Despite climate change having affected sea ice, sailing in the Canadian Arctic is still a serious proposition and to be approached with trepidation and great caution. The crew was selected to combine an experienced team of high latitude sailors and cold climate specialists, many of whom had worked together before.  

Following huge interest from our customers who had followed the adventure with us, I have asked Will Stirling to come to talk about his voyage supported by spectacular images and to recount the design and build of a 20ton traditional wooden boat of 1880, of bringing together a team of Arctic specialists to prepare and test the boat and finally sailing her through the fabled Northwest Passage, from Iceland over the top of the American continent to Alaska. Traditional craftsmanship, team building, oceans and uncharted wilderness, mountainous rocky coasts, glaciers, fog, storms, polar bears, walruses, and ice with everything... and all this wrapped up in warm Connolly jackets!
Singing has been a part of life at sea for centuries Sea shanties were work songs devised to accompany particular actions on board. They are generally call and response songs with one singer ‘the shanty man’ leading and the chorus replying. With a regular heavy parallel rhythm designed to keep time with the task on board like hauling ropes, raising sails and also probably to relieve boredom. The sea shanty flourished particularly during the 19th century on board the large sailing ships of the merchant navy. 

- Isabel