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Arctic Sailing Expeditions in Greenland, Jan Mayen, Svalbard & Spitsbergen

The Antarctic is a frozen Continent surrounded by the Southern Ocean. In contrast, the Arctic is a vast ocean ringed with islands and the icy frontiers of Scandinavia's North Cap, Russia, Canada and Alaska. In winter the ice sea reaches out and connects with islands like Greenland, Jan Meyen, the Svalbard Archipelago and is not far from the Northern shores of Iceland. In summer everything changes and the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic Islands become a wildlife haven and an outdoor enthusiast and photographers dream.

Mention the Arctic Regions and many think of heroic expeditions to reach the poles on foot or the historic attempts of sailing ships to find a route through the North West Passage. As Global warning accelerates, the Arctic is beginning to look very different. In summer new sailing grounds are opening up, and routes that were once perilous for non ice breaking ships are starting to look more possible.

The Arctic destinations Classic Sailing ships visit are a mix of tried and tested sailing grounds and some new voyage routes that are truly pioneering expeditions for adventure charter crews. When the sun is out and the tundra flowers and mosses are soft underfoot it feels like a magical holiday but this is remote wilderness where crews need to be vigilant and self sufficient at sea and ashore.

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Why we love this sailing ground

Land of Polar Bear and Narwhal

There are creatures in the Arctic you won't find anywhere else, which is part of the attraction of sailing here. Some Arctic creatures reach almost mythical status. Tecla crews spotted narwhal with their unicorn like horn amongst the sea ice on the way to Greenland last year. Another all year round resident of the High Arctic are the white beluga whales. There are 17 species of cetaceans that live or visit Arctic Waters. Some of the bigger whales include bowhead whales, humpback and gray whales which head for the cooler Arctic waters to breed in Summer. Walrus with their long whiskers are also on many naturalists spotting list.

The polar bear has become a symbol of the plight of Arctic wildlife as the open water increases every summer. Classic Sailing crews have a strong chance of seeing polar bears in the Svalbard Archipelago, particularly North Spitsbergen, and a possibility of encountering polar bears in Scorseby Sound or on the way to Greenland.

Photo by Anna Margaretha. Tall Ship Antigua with visiting Polar bear and cubs
Photo by Anna Margaretha. Tall Ship Antigua with visiting Polar bear and cubs

Iceberg Dodging - In the Wake of the Polar Explorers

There is nothing like standing an ice watch on the open fo'castle of a sailing ship to help relate to the polar explorers of the past. Our clothing is better and the cabins are heated, but watching keeping at sea and at anchor is a serious business. Even after the sea ice has broken its grip on the land there are icebergs, floating sea ice chunks and glaciers carving, so you do need to dodge them occasionally.  On some early season voyages you may be helping to find the open leads amongst the drifting sea ice.  

Apart from the dangerous aspects of ice, everyone gets a thrill from sailing near big icebergs and blue glacier ice is very beautiful and sculptural. 

Tecla in Greenland

Land of the Midnight Sun

The Midnight Sun is a natural phenomenon in which the sun is above the horizon at midnight. And the rest of the night. And all day long. Choosing the Arctic  for your summer sailing gives you weeks and months of life-giving, warming and wonderful light. It just makes you feel more energetic all the time and you can really pack an incredible amount into your holiday.

Far up inside the Arctic Circle, in Longyearbyen on Svalbard, midnight can be like noon on a midsummer day, while in the Lofoten Islands at Nordkapp (North Cape) or Scorseby Sound the light is suggestive of early evening, with warm, golden tones over the sea. Further south, though, where the sun peeks between the mountain tops and is only just above the horizon at midnight, you get the wonderful pink sunsets.



Which ship for my adventure?
Arctic Innovation: Schooner Opal has a silent electric engine if their is no wind
Arctic Innovation: Schooner Opal has a silent electric engine if their is no wind

Wooden Schooner Opal has operated in East Greenland for several years and is now offering voyages in Northern Norway and Svalbard. When the wind blows strong like in the photo above, she can charge her batteries, and on calm days if she has to motor she uses her hybrid electric engine. Silence is a great thing in the Arctic. You can hear the call of a Northern Diver, the crack of a glacier calving or the splosh of an iceberg going for a flip.

Tall Ship Antigua in Svalbard with wildlife guides
Tall Ship Antigua in Svalbard with wildlife guides


Blue Clipper
Blue Clipper

Three masted schooner Blue Clipper has recently made the transition from private superyacht to an ocean going sail training vessel with an exciting programme to match. As you would expect from her previous owners - Hennessey Cognac Company – she has elegance, space and luxury accommodation that harks back to a bye-gone era. She was built in 1991 in Sweden to demanding modern standards. In 1992 she sailed half the way around the world from France to Shanghai, recreating the first cargo voyage to deliver cognac to China.

A new addition to the International tall ships fleet, Blue Clipper took part in Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Challenge and raced the Atlantic and back in her first charter season, with stops at tall ship festivals in Bermuda, US East Coast, Canada. After a flurry of tall ships festival publicity in London and North America, this distinctive three masted schooner is already becoming more well known and we suspect will start to feature on the 'bucket lists' of adventurers of all ages. 

Tecla in Greenland
Tecla in Greenland

 Tecla has circumnavigated the globe, sailed around Cape Horn, won numerous tall ships races, and is now carving her name as a great expedition ship. She is an original herring drifter built in 1915 to fish the North Seas under sail and her gaff ketch rig is very authentic. Tecla is owned and skippered by a Dutch family of 4 professional sailors, often with two generations sailing her. Since 2006 the Sluik family have launched Tecla onto the world stage with great energy and enthusiasm, helped with multi-national crews of all ages.

Hildur the Greenland explorer
Hildur the Greenland explorer

Wooden schooner Hildur was the first charter vessel to pioneer sailing expeditions to Scorseby Sound in East Greenland.  Her strong oak hull is copper sheathed around the waterline and she is manoeuvrable amongst the ice. Hildur can take 10 individuals but also is a popular choice for whole boat charter. In addition to Hildur's 7 day expeditions based in Greenland each summer, she runs spring 'Ski and Sail' voyages in remote NW Iceland and a summer mountaineering in Greenland. Regardless if you are travelling solo or with friends, she is a cozy base, with character and heating below decks.  The big saloon table creates a sociable evening with like minded explorers from all over the world, but don't be surprised if the chef plans a BBQ ashore. Icelanders like to make the most of the summer outdoors, so meals al fresco are to be relished.

Donna Wood the Greenland and Iceland Specialist.
Donna Wood the Greenland and Iceland Specialist.

Donna Wood is run by an Icelandic family business who are our Greenland and Iceland Sailing Specialists. During the summer, Donna Wood sets sail for Greenland and Scoresby Sound fjord.Voyages on this beautiful two mast oak ship promise sailing expeditions that will be action packed and exciting as you explore the dramatic mountains, glaciers and arctic wildlife such as walrus, arctic foxes, polar bears and musk ox. Watch for whales and sunsets, hike through beautiful scenery and enjoy delicious food prepared for you whilst anchoring in the remotest spots in the world. 


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Icebergs & summer wilderness trekking.

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