Slow ice melt means more ice choke-points to navigate - many specific locations have been near impossible to even try with 90% ice concentrations. In 2013 there has been a 55% INCREASE IN ARCTIC ICE SINCE THIS DATE LAST YEAR.
Basically the summer melt season has been the slowest on record... there are more pronounced ice 'choke-points' for vessels attempting a NW Passage than in recorded history... seven vessels have been waiting around Lancaster Sound unable to navigate south nor west while other vessels in the Western Arctic have been delayed in reaching Cambridge Bay from ice in Amundsen Gulf. Westerly winds have also pushed the Beaufort Sea ice up tight against Banks Island. The 2013 ice season is nothing like the 2012 ice season - a black & white (blue & white..lol) difference.
Bottom line - "if" and "when" the ice melts "enough" to allow open navigation by small yachts - will there be enough of the summer ice melt season remaining - or put another way - when will Mother Nature close the door and the sea freeze over closing the door from anyone exiting the Arctic in 2013... it appears that slower "sailing" boats are at risk of being trapped in the Arctic - turning the western corner at Point Barrow has always been a risky proposition... while transiting "Queen Maud" and "Bellot Strait" are 'choke-points' for either direction of travel this season.
Temperatures are declining... freeze up is right around the corner...
Forecast - Beaufort Sea Fall Super Storm will block Arctic Alaska Coast
You can follow along at my blog for specifics as they develope: http://northwestpassage2013.blogspot.com/
You can also track known yachts as they attempt to navigate their way through their Northwest Passage - see: http://northwestpassage2013.blogspot.com/2013/08/northwest-passage-2013-arctic-boats.html