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April 6, 2010

Conquering the world’s fiords

Breakingpen House news!


Sorry if this sounds like a broken record, but we’d like to announce another cruising accomplishment made by a Nordhavn. Since so many Nordhavns have virtually been all places of the world, it’s pretty significant when one goes somewhere that not many Nordhavns – or other make of powerboat – have been to. In this instance, we’re talking about Dick and Gail Barnes on their Nordhavn 57, Ice Dancer II. And it’s not one specific place that they visited, but many places – all of which bear a common geological thread: fiords.

Fiords, the long, narrow inlets caused by glacial activity and characterized by steep bedrock surrounds are awesome to see, and quite often, difficult to get to. There are said to be five principal glaciated regions of fiords: the west coast of Europe, the west coast of New Zealand, the northwest coast of North America, the northeast coast of North America, and the west coast of South America. Whether it’s due to their far-reaching locales or the harsh weather that surrounds them – or both, getting to all these fiords is no picnic. But if you find yourself in a boat capable of the journey, you are in for a treat with surreal views and outstanding fishing.

Just last week, Ice Dancer II toured the fiords of New Zealand’s South Island; it marks their third of the five “principal” fiords conquered, a record for Nordhavn owners. The area known as “Fiordland” in New Zealand features a number of fiords, including the difficultly-accessed (and appropriately named) Doubtful Sound. Why all the fanfare surrounding Fiordland? New Zealand’s South Island is in the high latitudes, the “Roaring Forties”, where sudden and dramatic changes in weather are common. Weather so harsh, in fact, that it has shut other boats off from approach.

Two years prior, the Barnes navigated the fiords of Chile after doing something else not many Nordhavns – or power boats (or boats) – have done: round-trip the notorious Cape Horn. Currently in the midst of a three-and-a-half year trip, the Barnes arrived in Chile in February of 2007 and navigated the oft troublesome Straits of Magellan and Beagle Channel en route to exploring Chile’s gorgeous fiords.

The great Nordhavn fjord-tour began long ago in Alaska, initially in their first Nordhavn, a 50-footer, and then again in their 57. Visited by many Nordhavns, and makes of other boats, Alaska’s fiords might have less “notoriety”, but Dick says the surrounding Gulf of Alaska can have just as impressive seas. It was on this trip where the Barnes first witnessed the drama of the spectacular plate tectonic collisions.

But what might seem like a fiord fascination for the Barnes is really just a matter of chance. “We did not target visits to the fiords of Chile or New Zealand,” said Dick. “Rather, (they were) a feature of an overall voyage.” A voyage that includes an itinerary of high latitudes, gusting winds and uncertain sea states. Begs the question: are the Barnes thrill seekers? It might seem that way, buttruly, the Barnes about diversity. It just so happens they have the arsenal that allows them to not shy away from any place. “We have over 61,000 nautical miles of sea voyaging on our Nordhavn 50 and 57,” says Dick. “Ice Dancer II performs well in adverse weather.  We choose our seasons, watch current storms and prepare the boat for adverse seas.”

The couple departed on their Nordhavn 57 in October 2005 bound for Alaska and worked their way back down the coast prior to spending several weeks in San Diego to ready for their endless journey, which they departed for in November 2007. Since then they’ve visited Mexico, Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, South America, Australia and their current location in New Zealand.

So what’s next for the Barnes on Ice Dancer II? Perhaps the Westfiords of Iceland?  Dick is one to never say never, but he does tend to refrain from announcing cruising plans. Still, it would be cool to tick one more location off the fiord world tour. There’s no doubt fiords make for awesome sight seeing and challenging, rewarding cruising, admits Dick. “Nonetheless, changing seasons cause you to start dreaming about the South Pacific Islands, new friends and anchorages.”

Guess we can’t fault that thinking.   



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