Since 2007, when the first dramatic signs of global warming began to make the once-dreaded Northwest Passage possible to transit, about 40 boats have transited. But there are no guarantees and it's still one of yachting's prime adventures.
Best Explorer and iceberg - photo by Stephano di Luigi
Last month another first. The first Italian sailing vessel, the Best Explorer, piloted by Capt. Nanni Acquarone, has completed the still dangerous passage, roughly 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
It did it by sailing between the two Diomede Islands, one (the bigger) Russian owned, and the other (smaller) owned by the Americans. At that time they calculated they were more than 7,000 miles from Tromso in Norway.
Best Explorer is a 51 foot steel cutter that took two years to prepare. She had already had extensive experience in Arctic navigation, skippered by Paolo Prieri. The course they followed skirted the island of Jan Mayen in Iceland, then sailed up the west coast of Greenland, entering the labyrinth of the archipelago of Nunavut in northern Canada, continuing along the low coast of Alaska and then down across the Bering Strait to the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific.
The Italian crew believes they are the first Italians to complete the route, and saw it as a dream come true. 'We worked years to design and develop this enterprise,' said skipper Nanni Aquarone. 'We were spurred by a passion for the sea, the desire to discover, sharing the excitement of this adventure.
'Our message is that even more ambitious goals are within reach of everyone. '