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Get a Taste of the Infamous Northwest Passage

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Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Tue 06-08-2024, 18:00Illulissat, West Greenland Sun 01-09-2024, 10:00Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland Tecla 26 NightsTC060824

In 2019, the Tecla crew successfully navigated through the ice and channels of the North West Passage; an enormous voyage with so many highlights, but one of the most thrilling parts was a visit to Beechey Island. This unique voyage takes you from Ilulissat in Western Greenland, into the Eastern end of the North West Passage, as far as Beechey Island, then back to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.

A real Northern adventure, this trip gives a real flavour of Greenland, Canada, and the trickiness of ice navigation and polar exploration, without having to complete the entire 6000 mile route of the full Northwest Passage.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Voyage Highlights

  • Sail the first part of the legendary NW Passage to Beechey Island
  • Sail to the last known position of Franklin’s ships at 74 degrees North
  • Be part of a close knit crew where all participate to sail the ship
  • Realm of the Polar bear, Narwhal, seabirds & Beluga Whales 
  • Landings of historic significance on Canada’s Arctic mainland and archipelagoes
  • Complex navigation, ice and weather to negotiate
  • Learn about A sea route quest that took 500 years to accomplish
  • In the Wake of Intrepid Explorers & the ghosts of those who perished
  • Pristine Wilderness on a vast scale
  • Home of the Inuit – Arctic Masters of Survival


Vessel type / Rig Gaff Ketch
Guest Berths 12
Beam 22ft
Draft 8.9ft
Deck Length 90ft
Overall Length 124ft
Tonnage 92 tons
Year Built 1915
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description


Those of you who would have loved to have done the North West Passage with Tecla in 2019 but are attracted to this shorter taste of the Eastern end of the North West Passage. This well designed voyage, based on Tecla’s experience from her East West transit in 2019, has many of the historical highlights, without the time spent waiting for a gap in the sea ice and the thousands of miles across Canada and Alaska to the Bering Sea.

Adventurers, scientists or environmentalists with a strong interest in the Arctic project, artists looking for wild inspiration, romantics with practical skills, experienced sailors, outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, writers and wildlife lovers. Those fascinated with the history of the North West Passage, the fated Franklin Expedition and the challenge and mystic of finding a way through to the Pacific. Maybe you are attracted to stark, vast landscapes where few humans tread. or want to meet the Inuit people in settlements and hunting land that few outsiders could cope with in the winter months.

Polar tall ship crew
Polar tall ship crew


A Taste of the NW Passage

A unique voyage that will take you from North West Greenland to the Canadian Arctic and back in 3 weeks of high Arctic sailing. This is the route Tecla took in 2019 and marks the first approaches of the North West Passage.

A journey that will take you from the giant icebergs near Greenland to the challenge of constantly moving sea ice funnelled by the wind into bays and inlets. Tecla will cross Baffin Bay, sail along the wilderness coast of Baffin Island and into Lancaster Sound. Beechey Sound is somewhat of a pilgrimage for those interested in the fate of the Franklin Expedition as this is the last place his ships Terror and Erebus were seen.

On a sailing voyage we never use the word itinerary, as skippers will always be aiming for the best sailing and shore landings for the forecast and most idyllic or sheltered anchors and ports. They are as keen as you to include some of the highlights described below, but you have to go with Mother Nature, not fight her. The description below is based on what we think might be possible, based on Tecla’s last adventure here but nothing is guaranteed on a sailing voyage. In this part of the world, ice reports, wind direction and keeping a close lookout is vital.

Just like the North West Passage, this voyage much depends on the amount of ice that is met underway. This could mean you have to wait a day or two in a sheltered place before heading out into the open. 

Explore Disko Bay in the West Greenland Arctic Circle

Departing from Ilulissat, where huskies outnumber people, there should be time for one or two stops. There is a good possibility of spotting whales, so keep an eye out for them. But also at the threshold of the North West Passage, you will find an abundance in wildlife. There are Narwhale, Bearded Seals, Spotted Seals even Beluga whales to be spotted. On the ice or on shore one might spot a Polarbear, or muskoxen and Caribou. 

North West Passage Expedition from East to West Coast on Tecla
North West Passage Expedition from East to West Coast on Tecla

Pond Inlet

 It is likely this expedition will stop at Pond Inlet to clear customs into Canada before setting off deeper into the North West Passage. 

After the big icebergs around Greenland and in Disco Bay, the ice of Lancaster sound will be something very different. Wide patches of sea ice drift around. A close eye needs to be kept on the ice reports as well as outside and around the ship.


Landings may be onto beaches or rocks or at Inuit settlements
Landings may be onto beaches or rocks or at Inuit settlements

Beechey Island, Erebus & Terror Bay

The anchorage at Beechey Island can be on the side of Erebus and Terror bay or on the side of Union Bay, both offering shelter from different directions. Depending on ice state and wind the anchorage will be chosen. 

Landing on Beechey Island is done by dinghy, on shore the hike will take up half a day to visit all the sights on shore. One or two members of the crew will go ashore with you to show you all the best spots.

On board you will find many books that are worth a good read, but for this voyage the book Erebus, written by Micheal Palin, is a must read. One or two prints are on board for you to borrow as you make your way North. 

The distinctive landmark of Terror and Erebus Bay
The distinctive landmark of Terror and Erebus Bay

Resolute Bay

Weather and Ice permitting other anchorages can be visited. Resolute can be attempted if the ice conditions are not too severe. 

These anchorages are well into Polarbear territory. This does mean that any landing is done under guidance and with a gun. You will stay in groups and are not permitted to wonder too far from the group leader. 

This voyage will be one with long sunsets and sunrises, as the sun will only disappear behind the horizon shortly when you set off from Ilulissat, Greenland. The most Northerly point of this voyage will be 74’45N!

At the end of the voyage there will also be some time for sailing as we make our way South out of Lancastersound, to the capital of Greenland, Nuuk.

navigating the sea ice on Tecla in Greenland
navigating the sea ice on Tecla in Greenland

Following in the Footsteps of Intrepid Explorers

Captain of Tecla Gijs has been researching the North West Passage for some time and is enthralled by the way that the Arctic has been explored and mapped, not just the North West Passage. He will be giving some presentations on board about all the different approaches to expeditions, land and sea travel and over wintering in this harsh environment. It is always interesting to debate the different styles and controversies around why Franklin failed and others like John Rae succeeded.

So many people from Naval Officers in search of glory, to Governments seeking a short cut to the Pacific have played their part in discovering a navigable North West Passage. The coastline was explored and mapped by Vikings, Inuit, fur traders of Hudson Bay, the Russians, the Europeans. Much of the expedition frenzy years were after Franklin’s expedition went missing in 1848 with two ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and 129 crew lost. 11 ships went looking for them, and Lady Franklin exerted huge pressure on the British Establishment to find them, and substantial financial prizes to find the NW Passage.

Orcadian explorer John Rae is one of your captain’s unsung heroes. A Doctor from Stromness on Orkney, he went to work for the Hudson Bay Fur Company and learnt many things about travelling in the Arctic from the Inuit. It enabled him to discover Franklin’s fate and the likely missing link of the NW Passage. Unlike Sir John Franklin he was never given the recognition he deserved…and you will have to read a recent biography on him to realise why he fell foul of Victorian politics.

In 1906 the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to complete a passage from Greenland right through to Alaska in a 45 ton sloop (gaff cutter) called Gjøa. The vessel was a wooden herring drifter which is fitting as Tecla is also an original Dutch herring drifter. Amundsen did take more than one season to get through.


Dr John Rae discovered the fate of Captain John Franklin
Dr John Rae discovered the fate of Captain John Franklin and lost crew

Since the Gjøa, the vessels that made it through were typically sailing vessels with auxillary engines with strengthened hulls. Commercial cargo shipping still won’t use the sea route as there are too many ice hold ups. A few big cruise ships or ice-breaking expedition ships have made it, but looking at the records we believe this will be the first North West Passage Expedition on a tall ship since its conquest in 1906. 17 yachts have made it though in 2017, but only 3 in 2018. Tecla was the first tall ship with charter crew to sucessfully sail the 6000 mile route in summer 2019.


What Wildlife Might I See

In August the remaining sea ice offers good opportunities to see polar bears. As you get into September the polar bears are starting to roam the beaches looking for stranded whales or birds to hunt.

In August the seabird chicks are hatching and learning to fly. They are preyed on by Gyr falcon, skuas, gulls and arctic fox. Seals and walrus can be seen hauled out on the remaining ice but by September they have moved to the beaches and rocks or are at sea hunting. Migrating Beluga and Narwhals keep heading North from West Greenland to stick with the edge of the sea ice. The North West passage is probably the only place far enough North to see them at this time of year.

There are often huge pods of Beluga in the estuaries of Somerset Sound. (source – Swoop Arctic).

Arctic birds and icebergs
Arctic birds and icebergs



Ice adds another dimension to sailing, and it’s important to understand that the Skipper will plan the exact route and itinerary to make the most of the forecast conditions, but that ice may also halt progress at any time. It’s good to be flexible, and to make the most of the journey, rather than feeling a need to tick off particular destinations.


Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete beginner, the professional crew will train you to be guest crew from the moment you arrive, with the intention that everybody works together to sail the ship. The common thread to all Classic Sailing holidays is ‘Hands on’ participation on ships that use ropes, blocks and tackles and ‘people power’ to set sail.


We cater for a wide range of ages and physical abilities and how much you are expected to do varies a bit between vessels. See the vessel tab above which explains all about the ‘sailing style’ and what to expect in terms of hands on participation. There is a lot of information about day to day life, the ships facilities and accommodation on the vessel pages.

Tecla on a sailing expedition in the Faroes
Tecla on a sailing expedition in the Faroes


Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office on 01326 53 1234 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.


  • Berth in a 2 person ensuite bedroom – bunkbed
  • All meals on board (or lunch packs for day trips on shore)
  • Pillow, Duvet and fresh sheets
  • Towels
  • Possibility of washing clothes weekly
  • Ice pilotage
  • Fuel 
  • Berthing costs
  • Dinghy excursions
  • Planned excursions on shore / permits with Inuit settlements
  • Third Party liability insurance


  • Travel to Joining Port
  • Travel from end port
  • Alcoholic Drinks but there is a bar on board
  • Waterproofs


Start & End Port

Illulissat, West Greenland

Ilulissat is a coastal town in western Greenland. It’s known for the Ilulissat Icefjord which is an utterly incredible sight and you owe yourself the opportunity to experience the Icefjord in all possible ways. It is listed as UNESCO world heritage site. The Ilulissat Museum traces the area’s history and the life of local-born explorer Knud Rasmussen. The area is home to thousands of Greenland dogs, used for dogsledding which is still widely used for transportation by the local fisherman on the ice or similarly as a way to see the sights.

Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland

A great place to understand old and new aspects of Inuit Culture, Nuuk shows both sides. It is the modern centre of Greenland with its city restaurants, fashion shops and as a tourist gateway to all sorts of outdoor adventures. Down on the historic waterfront you get a feeling that the old traditions, history and independence are still very important to the locals, even if they are now city dwellers. There is Greenland National Museum and the Inuit Art Museum here to learn more.

Although the exact joining location may not be known until much closer to the time, it is likely that Tecla will be somewhere near the harbour – where the ferry comes in on the map below. Make sure you make a note of the boat phone number found in your confirmation for any problems and up to date location on the day.

You can also track Tecla using the marine tracker.

Kit List

Kit List for Tecla 

THIS IS TECLA standard voyage kit list. Specialist Antarctic kit list to follow shortly


  • Sailing instruction 
  • Safety Equipment (Life jackets and harnesses)
  • All meals to including refreshments throughout the day.
  • Bed linen, duvet, pillows and towels. 

What's Not Included

  • Travel to and from the start and end port. 
  • Optional trips or tours taken ashore
  • Meals ashore
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Personal towels


What to bring

There is limited storage space on Tecla so please pack all you belongings in a soft rucksack or bag.

  • Footwear: Shoes with a good grip e.g. trainers or sailing deck shoes. (Sandals are great for beaches but you do need toe protection for sailing). Tecla has steel decks so waterproof walking boots are fine at sea in moderate winds and dry conditions and great for voyages where you might do some rough terrain walking like Iceland and Scotland. 
  • Rubber Boots or second pair of shoes for wet weather or getting in/out of dinghies. 
  • Swim suit & beach towel
  • Suntan lotion & sunglasses
  • Sun hat / warm hat, scarves, gloves
  • Clothes that dry quickly like fleeces and thermals. Mix of warm, waterproof & windproof layers. Wool jumpers are warm, even when wet, but can take a while to dry. Merino wool type shirts are good for under layers.
  • Small rucksack for going ashore
  • Travel insurance documents/any travel tickets
  • Personal medicines/ spectacles/ seasick tablets –check which brand if you suffer from asthma or are on regular medication.
  • Camera/binoculars etc
  • Modest quantity of alcohol for evening meals
  • You are welcome to bring musical instruments



This trip fulfilled my desire for adventure sailing as we transited the north coast of Iceland, along the Arctic Circle. Even though it was rough, the boat and crew performed admirably.


An enjoyable week in less than ideal weather conditions. The crew were competent and friendly, the catering excellent. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a voyage on Tecla.


A great mix of sailing in Scottish waters, some super hikes and an opportunity to see some of the immensely important historical sites in the Orkneys and Sheltands.  

Mooring alongside in the Fair Isles was a great privilege.  

The ocean passage to the Faroes was quiet but as a result we were blessed with clear skies whilst slinking in and out of the islands and some of the best coastal views one could hope to see anywhere.  

The ocean passage to Iceland was a bit of a bimble until we were 60 miles off and then it got exciting.  Thanks to a great skipper and permanent crew we snuggled into a fjord whilst the cruise ship ran aground in Reykjavik harbour.  A good holiday, an adventure and fun.


Any initial doubts as to the number and experience of the crew were very quickly dispelled and we were impressed with the knowledge and the handling skills of the skipper and the 2 mates. Every opportunity was taken to enhance our enjoyment on both voyages and at every stage we were made to feel relaxed and under no obligation to crew the ship under sometimes testing (but enjoyable) conditions. As an observation, we must congratulate the skipper for her culinary skills under difficult conditions..........the food was perfect for the voyage.


A delight. A competent and engaging professional crew, an interesting voyage with some challenges and some great rewards. Good companions to make the log spin around.


Brilliant. I would do it again tomorrow. And good value too. The food was excellent. I loved the spicy meatballs and my wife loved the fresh langoustines.


Most enjoyable classic sailing with great food, a true sense of teamwork, great guidance and a good sense of humour. Can't get any better. 


Vessel Gallery

Globe trotting Tall Ship Tecla in action and images. This historic gaff ketch is our Iceland Specialist and also has Greenland Sailing Expeditions. Photos from Classic Sailing customers, ships crew and professional photographers. We hope it gives a flavour of her sailing, life on board, the people that come, her beautiful sailing grounds and what it is like to live below decks.

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