Vincent Moeyersons had a heck of a view when he woke up Monday morning.
Moeyersons, who lives in Stowe, is currently in the Northwest Passage, en route to Greenland’s Disko Island, with his brother, Olivier, and a childhood friend, Jean Englebert.
The three men left July 7 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, setting sail for the Aleutian Islands, where they’ll winter their ship, the Alioth, a 56-foot Azzuro 53 sailboat.
They’re heading there via Greenland, though.
Right now, they’re in the Northwest Passage, heading for Cambridge Bay, an area off the coast of Canada’s Nunavut.
They’d been in the Northwest Passage for 11 days by Monday morning, when Moeyersons, 61, was able to connect with the Stowe Reporter on a satellite cellphone.
“The ice covers one-tenth of the ocean’s surface here. It’s ice pack that’s slowly melting and dissipating. It’s actually sunny, and we have a little bit of wind from the north behind us,” Moeyersons said, describing the scene.
The temperature outside was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit Monday morning.
At night, temperatures drop to below freezing, and the men take turns on the deck sailing to keep warm, Moeyersons said.
To him, sailing to Greenland has been a lifelong dream. He’s ticked off a lot of his other travel boxes, including sailing trips with his brother to Norway, Ireland, Scotland and Iceland.
“I’m not sure what made me do this,” he said, chuckling. “I grew up sailing, I raced a lot, and this was a very intriguing part of the sport. There are a lot of challenges. Because of the conditions and the geography and the ice and all that, it’s a challenging part of the world to be sailing in. Within the next 24 hours, we should be freed up of ice for the rest of our trip. We have been sailing amongst ice” for weeks, he said.
That’s difficult to dodge in a ship as long as the Alioth, Moeyersons said.
“As long as the visibility is good and the wind is not too strong, we just go very, very slowly. We have ice poles to push ourselves off the ice if it gets too dense. We can only do that when the boat is close to a standstill,” he said.
“The highest concentration we’ve seen was a few days ago, six-tenths of (the water was) ice, and it gets very challenging. You’re constantly changing direction and going through narrow passages. It takes two people, one to steer the boat and another to look for a passage.”
Being essentially trapped among ice floes on the crown of the world gives Moeyersons a unique feeling, he said.
“We felt very vulnerable, very isolated and very vulnerable, including when we got here 36 hours ago when we had the transmission (problem with the boat). We were unable to go anywhere until the ice dissipated. The sense of vulnerability is something I don’t ever remember feeling anywhere else. It’s not fear, it’s more totally dependent on the outside surroundings,” he said.
To add to that, the Alioth’s crew has recently run into some engine transmission problems, meaning they’ll likely have to be in the Northwest Passage another few days.
Moeyersons is still trying to figure out how to access the parts he’ll need; for a man who’s been told he’s stranded for the time being, he’s remarkably calm.
He says the crew has an extra month’s worth of food on board, and a device that allows them to make drinkable water from seawater.
There are 17 other ships sailing along with Moeyersons; they don’t know each other beyond that they’re traveling a similar route, but he says it’s good to have a support system en route.
Moeyersons should be back home in Stowe by the end of September.
“I miss Stowe and my wife (Barb Bull Fitch, who grew up in Stowe) and all that. I miss all of that terribly. It’s really strange,” he said, but “it has been a longtime dream to do it. It’s fantastic and very challenging at the same time,” he said.
For more: sites.google.com/view/yacht-alioth/home.