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North West Passage of Canada TC230723

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Sun 23-07-2023, 18:00Dutch Harbour, Unalaska. Sun 17-09-2023, 10:00Illulissat, West Greenland Tecla 56 NightsTC230723

Northwest Passage
In 2019, the Tecla crew successfully navigated through the ice and channels of the North West Passage. In 2023, they will attempt the Northwest Passage again, this time from West to East. You can join the Reserve List without any payment.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Northwest Passage – Once in a lifetime.

You can be part of crew. 

The attempt to sail the Northwest passage is a once in a lifetime experience. A long voyage of 54 days. Starting off in Dutch Harbor, you will first make your way to Nome. This will be the last harbor of America, where officials will stamp us out of the country. From there it will be over 1000 miles before entering Canada. 

Ice reports and weather reports will be closely monitored as the Tecla and her crew get closer and closer to the edge of the ice. 

The route to take will depend fully on the ice reports. Possible stops include Herschel Island, Talayoak, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Resolute, Beechey Island, Pond Inlet, finishing your voyage in Greenland, Ilulissat.


  • Dutch Harbor
  • Gjoa Haven
  • Terror and Erebus
  • West to East attempt
  • Resolute
  • Beechey Island
  • Ilulissat, Greenland
  • Once in a lifetime!


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  you may be able to do it 2023.

The voyage is full already but there is a long time to wait before the voyage starts.  We are happy to add you to the reserve list provided you are in excellent health and do  not have  any complicated medical issues.

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.


  • 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
Polar tall ship crew
Polar tall ship crew


The NW Passage

A unique voyage that will take you from Alaska through the Canadian Arctic of the North West Passage to North West Greenland’s high Arctic sailing. This is the opposite route that  Tecla took in 2019 and marks her second route through the North West Passage.

The route is very much determined by the weather and in particular the ice conditions.

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

Following in the Footsteps of Intrepid Explorers

Captain of Tecla Gijs has been researching the North West Passage  for some time. Now he has sailed through going westwards he is going to do it again going Eastwirds. Gijs 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.

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. 

Some places you may visit.

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 voyages 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!

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

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.

Explore Disko Bay in the West Greenland Arctic Circle

Departing from Illilissat, where huskies out number 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 Polar bear, or muskoxen and Caribou. 

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

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



Classic Sailing office team have sailed in Antarctica, East Greenland and Nova Scotia, but not the NW Passage or Bering Sea. Our best source of what it is really like is the sailors who were on Tecla last year.


We have the following useful publications, and will be reproducing the most useful snippets about weather and sea conditions.

  • Admiralty Sailing Handbook chapters on Ice navigation.
  • RCC Pilotage Foundation – Pilot Book for Arctic & Northern Waters


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 the NW Passage, 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.

In response to the age and fitness restriction for the Tecla voyage – We know it may be a disappointing for some of you. The Tecla team didn’t make this decision lightly but the voyage is going to be quite the adventure, lasting 56 nights in some of the most remote places on the planet, and there may be some pretty challenging landscapes and conditions to contend with. There may be times when you’re several days away from emergency medical help, so we want to ensure everyone is fit and healthy enough to handle any potential difficulties. Rest assured that Tecla has all the necessary safety and medical equipment onboard to comply with legal regulations. Unfortunately, having a medical support team associated with the voyage is just not financially feasible. So, while we would love to have everyone on board, safety is our top priority. There are of course a variety of voyages on our website with no upper age limit at all!


Start & End Port

Dutch Harbour, Unalaska.

By air:

It’s roughly a 3 hour flight from Anchorage with Ravn Alaska to Dutch Harbor.

Due to the weather conditions be advised that flights can be cancelled. Allow flexibility in your schedule to join the ship.

By sea:

Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System has schedules available and typically run 4 to 6 times each summer from Unalaska (Dutch Harbor) to Homer. This trip takes about 3 to 3.5 days each way.



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.

Kit List

What to pack for a sailing holiday on 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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