Adventure Chartering in the Far North

We knew we were right on top of the stark, dramatic Faroe Islands, and yet we couldn’t see a thing. We’d come looking for adventure, and we found it in spades.

August 10, 2017
Rubicon 3 Adventure Sailing
The 60-foot cutter Hummingbird is an ideal vessel for adventure sailing. Courtesy of Rubicon 3 Adventure Sailing

Aboard the 60-foot cutter Hummingbird, we’d left Scottish waters some 40 hours earlier for the roughly 230-nautical-mile ­passage north to the remote Faroe Islands. With an intermittent southerly breeze, we tackled the voyage mostly under sail alone, though we relented in the truly light stuff and kicked over the engine to make some miles while motorsailing. All was going according to plan right up to our final approach to the islands when thick, dense fog enveloped us and our surroundings. We knew we were right on top of the stark, dramatic Faroes, and yet we couldn’t see a thing. We’d come looking for adventure, and we found it in spades.

The most surprising thing about our predicament, however, had nothing to do with the sailing. Just a week earlier, I’d never even met the seven sailors with whom I was now sharing a very memorable landfall. We were all clients of Rubicon 3 Adventure Sailing, a British company specializing in expedition-style yachting vacations on both sides of the Atlantic. The concept is simple: Buy a berth for a 10-day outing to a far-flung destination, pack your duffel and head to sea. Rubicon 3 is just one of many such outfits in the business of taking sailors of all levels on ambitious outbound trips. They aren’t charters in the traditional sense, though the aim is somewhat similar — to provide sailors the opportunity to visit distant locales without the cost or complexity of boat ownership. With this month’s chartering theme, it seemed like a good time to spotlight some of the options.

One of the oldest and best-known companies is American sailor Skip Novak’s Pelagic Expeditions, whose motto, “all seasons, all oceans,” pretty much sums up its all-­encompassing offerings. The Pelagic fleet of two expedition sailing vessels — one 54 feet, the other 74 feet — is available for high-latitude charters in both hemispheres, including such wild destinations as Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego, Cape Horn, South Georgia Island, Norway, Spitsbergen, Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic. Most charters last between three and four weeks. In addition, Pelagic Expeditions offers annual delivery voyages between the Northern and Southern hemispheres.


If you are looking to someday go long-distance cruising aboard your own boat but are interested in accruing the necessary skills and knowledge beforehand, John and Amanda Swan Neal’s Mahina Expeditions may be for you. Conducted aboard the couple’s Hallberg-Rassy 46, Mahina Tiare III, the course provides the chance to be actively involved in all aspects of operating and maintaining a contemporary ocean-cruising boat, including steering and standing watches, sail trim and reefing, anchoring, provisioning and maintenance.

2017 marks the 28th year the Neals have offered sail-training expeditions; to date, more than 1,000 students have successfully completed the hands-on curriculum, sailing nearly 275,000 miles in the process.

Should you prefer high-seas competition, consider signing up for a berth in the Clipper Round the World Race. The brainchild of British sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the Clipper Race takes place aboard a dozen identical 70-foot racing yachts, all crewed by amateur sailors. Divided into eight legs and 14 to 16 individual races, you can choose to sign on for the entire circumnavigation or for individual legs. As the event’s website says, “If Mother Nature throws down the gauntlet, you must be ready to face the same challenges as the pro racer. Navigate the doldrums en route to South America, endure epic Southern Ocean storms, experience South African sunsets, face the mountainous seas of the North Pacific — and bond with an international crew, creating lifelong memories before returning victorious.”


Maybe you’re searching for a more altruistic adventure? Consider joining the crew of the 72-foot Sea Dragon, the flagship of ocean-conservation group Pangaea Exploration. Pangaea offers two types of trips: expedition voyages and sailing ones. The former involve marine research, exploration, education and conservation issues, and could include remote-­island surveys, diving and underwater video, offshore plastics sampling and collection, and water-quality monitoring. The latter are typically seven- to 21-day voyages in which you participate as crew in all aspects of sailing and living aboard. Prior sailing experience is useful but not required.

Back on Hummingbird, we were preparing to hone our radar navigation skills when the fog magically lifted as we made our way into the pass leading to the Faroes. The sudden scenery was otherworldly, and the sense of accomplishment at having knocked off the leg from Scotland with new friends was palpable. If you hanker for something more challenging than a spin through the Caribbean, give some thought to an adventure-­sailing trip. The memories are indeed lasting.

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Herb McCormick is CW’s executive editor.


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