Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sailing Catamarn LIBELLULE arrives Nome Alaska to celebrate being the first catamaran to cross east to west through the Northwest Passage

NW Passage

This is it. The end of our North West Passage adventure!

After 2 months and 7,500 km sailing on Roald Amundsen's tracks from Nuuk/Greenland to Nome/Alaska, we now go back to a different life. No more icebergs, strong winds, fog, no more cold, lack of sleep, no more adrenaline rushes searching our way through dense pack ice, no more wild arctic landscapes and fantastic wildlife!

A lot of people were skeptical of our success chances when we started out, as glassfiber catamarans are not 'a priori' built for the ice. However, catamarans also have a few advantages, such as being faster; having less draft which gives more safety margins in shallow grounds and anchorages; such as having two engines and two rudders so if one breaks we can still use the other one; plus significantly more space. And with the modifications we made to the boat (Kevlar around the crash boxes and the sidelines of the hulls, reinforced rudder shafts) Libellule actually did very well in the pack ice. We managed to push ice floes away, go on top of some floes, and felt reasonably protected against crashing into floes and bergy bits. And with our Inmarsat Fleet satellite communication system, we had "the best ice charts in the Arctic" (quote Tooluka), meaning we could always download the latest weather and ice information from the internet, which helped us a great deal. In the end, we were the second sailboat to arrive at the other end of the Passage this year, which speaks for Libellule in itself.

2013 was a very difficult year in terms of ice. Locals told us that they hadn't seen similar ice for 20-30 years. According to the ice statistics of some of the most difficult passages (Peel Sound, Bellot Strait, Larsen Sound, Cape Bathurst) this was the most 'icey' year since 2005. So it is nice to know that, despite of global warming, mother nature still is mother nature. One year will look completely different from the other. The NW Passage will always remain an adventure. And this is good so.

What have we achieved?
- The first cruising catamaran to sail the NW Passage
- The second Swiss boat (after Chamade in 2011)
- One of the first families.

But much more important than these achievements are the many impressions we take home with us. We will keep these impressions our whole life! We have been able to fulfill a dream! Life is very short, so it is nice to be able to seek a challenge and live a dream from time to time.

It was certainly a great experience for the whole family, we stuck together throughout the trip, and made this happen together. But we would particularly like to thank our dear French friends Yves and Sylvain, without whom this expedition would not have been possible!

And long live the Arctic !!!

PS 1: This is the end of the blog. It felt very strange to back in the civilization, especially in the Wild West town of Nome, home of the famous Iditarot dog sledding race, where Libellule was surrounded by gold digging boats in all shapes and colors. Libellule is now on its way to Dutch Harbour and eventually Hawaii, where it will stay for a while. And the Cottier family has moved to Shanghai to a slightly different life and life style...

PS 2: Thanks for following our blog, and thanks for all your encouraging comments, which helped us a great deal. You were often our only link to the world.

News story in Toronto Star:

Arrival in Nome

Nome, Alaska

Text to follow ...
(we're at the bar)

Walrus colony


Fairway Rock, Bering Sea

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