High Latitude Sailing Course With John


The course will focus on the challenges of cruising to Svalbard, but also include information on other northern destinations including Greenland, Newfoundland, Labrador, Baffin Island and Iceland.

Course Outline

Subjects covered will include:

  • Boat preparation.
  • Heavy weather tactics.
  • Crew training and preparation including clothing and safety gear.
  • Weather reception and analysis.
  • Ice information sources and analysis.
  • Anchorage selection and anchoring.
  • Navigation in the high latitudes.
  • Provisioning and provision availability in the areas covered.
  • Polar bear safety.
  • Environmental concerns.
  • Culture and language.
  • Customs, immigration and other rules and regulations.
  • Difficulty, rewards, and risk levels associated with each of the northern high latitude cruising destinations covered.

Rather than teaching you what to do in every case, which is simply not practical in a two day course, we will focus on helping you to recognize and respond to risks to your boat and crew at an early stage, as they develop and before they become dangerous. As part of this process, the instructors will present scenarios, based on their own experience, for participant discussion and analysis.

Plenty of time will be allocated for questions and discussion and, in addition, John, Phyllis and Ivar will be available outside of the course time for one on one meetings.

Help With Insurance

By the way, the original idea for this course came from Ivar’s discussions with Pantaenius, his insurance underwriter and the company that has insured Morgan’s Cloud for some 17 years and almost all of our high latitude expeditions. We certainly can’t guarantee anything, but the impression Ivar and I were left with was that completion of this course will be looked on favourably by Pantaenius if you are applying for coverage for a high latitude voyage.

Future Courses

This course has come and gone, but you can read about how it went and register as interested in future course here.

A bull walrus lies on an ice floe north of Nordaustlandet.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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21 comments … add one
  • Steve Gallion Feb 19, 2014, 11:52 am

    Please consider bringing this course to North America. Personally, I would like to see it at Strictly Sail Pacific 2015 in Oakland, California (along with an A40 info booth).

    • John Feb 19, 2014, 12:53 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Certainly an interesting idea. One problem is that I’m not American and therefore I can’t work in the USA without going through a huge amount of paper work and being sponsored by a US company.

      What we might consider would be giving the course in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, our home port.

      • ben garvey Feb 19, 2014, 1:22 pm

        If it weren’t for the fact that I am already blowing $1500 on a flight to Ireland in April (to repatriate my fathers remains, but that’s a different story); then my wife and I would be IN.

        If you bring it to Lunenburg, we are DEFINITELY in. Anytime – but make it cold enough to be realistic… not much sense in doing it in August. October/November might be a good choice – lots of wind usually. I’ll even buy you dinner at The Knot (Heck I’d like to do that anyway)!

        Had a nice chat with Erik aboard Bagheera about the A40 the other day. Sounds very promising!


  • chris Feb 19, 2014, 1:53 pm

    A bump for a US based course. In the north east and I’m there.
    John, I understand the problems with you working in the US but Just thought I’d put my $0.02 in.

    • John Feb 20, 2014, 3:19 pm

      Hi Chris,

      It would be great to do a course with you. Would Lunenburg work for you?

  • Neil McCubbin Feb 20, 2014, 12:16 am

    We will be on board Milvina in Tromso at that time, getting ready for a cruise to Svalbard, so will think about attending

    • John Feb 20, 2014, 2:15 pm

      Hi Neil,

      Sounds great, we will hope to see you there. You may want to book with Ivar soon as I gather it’s filling up fast.

    • Ivar Feb 25, 2014, 6:43 pm

      Hello Neil
      So fun you will be in my home town Tromso in May. I just have booked flight for me and my wife to München. Use SAS if you want to be there . We have now 15 registered participants – have set a limit to 25..

  • Jan-Paul Waldin Feb 20, 2014, 1:07 pm


    This is an exceptional idea for a seminar, and I would jump at the chance to attend, but for the travel time involved. Doubtless many others are in the same boat, to coin a phrase.
    Would it be feasible to also make this available concurrently as a webinar? That would extend its reach to a far broader audience. Not as good as being there, to be sure, but better than not.
    Webinars have become the norm in continuing education seminars in the legal and medical professions, and in other circumstances where travel time is a a strong impediment, but dissemination of information is seen as critical.

    Kind regards,


    • John Feb 20, 2014, 2:21 pm

      Hi Jan-Paul,

      That’s an interesting idea. I don’t know a lot about webinars, but two things would worry me:

      • The time and effort required to put one together in relation to the possible audience size.
      • The whole idea of the course is that it will be highly interactive with group discussion and analysis of real world scenarios from our experience. Therefore the group must be kept small and should ideally all be able to easily and seamlessly interact with each other as well as the the instructors. I’m not sure that a webinar would support that.
  • Jan-Paul Waldin Feb 20, 2014, 5:16 pm

    Hi John,
    Started a response, but lost it in the ether part way through; don’t know if you got the fragment or not. I will try again later this evening.

    Kind regards,


  • Richard Elder Feb 20, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Hi John,
    Webinars are quite straightforward, but there is a learning curve like anything else. I’m not sure one could replace a personalized presentation like the ones you have scheduled.

    Might be interesting to offer a seminar in Vancouver— even draw from Seattle which is only 2 1/2 hrs away. I believe there is a very active CCA club there that might host it .

    re webinars— this might be a great sales tool to present the A40 concept to interested parties that are widely disbursed. . I’m thinking a question/answer session(s) with a lot of slide visuals as talking points.

    • John Feb 21, 2014, 9:36 pm

      Hi Richard,

      I suspect you are right about the webinar not early working for the High Latitude Course, just not interactive enough and also is anyone really going to sit through 14 hours of webinar? Or pay enough to make creating it worth while? I’m guessing not.

      However, as you say, they webinar might work well for the A40. Several people have mentioned a traveling road show on the A40, but business travel and boat show appearances are surprisingly expensive. And we have to keep in mind that we are dealing with a fixed price product here (less than US$200,000) so every dollar we spend on such marketing activities must come out of the boat. Given that, webinars might be cost effective. The only problem I see is that I’m running out of band width here!

  • Sam Steele Feb 21, 2014, 3:22 pm

    While I would enjoy coming to Nova Scotia, a West Coast / Vancouver seminar would be a stronger possibility for me. I’ve been following the Adventure 40 as well and agree with Richard Elder that it could be a good lead in to educate and garner further interest in this new concept boat.

    Sam Steele
    Commodore – William H Seward Yacht Club
    Seward, Alaska

  • Martin Fischle Feb 22, 2014, 4:57 pm

    Hope for a second course an other date

  • Jan-Paul Waldin Feb 23, 2014, 3:58 pm

    Hi John,
    Hosting a webinar is not something I have done, though I have participated in several, either as a presenter or simply a viewer. To look into the issues of cost, preparation time, learning curve and interaction capability, I have spoken to friends in government and industry who have hosting experience and have been directed to various products available commercially on the web. Below is summary of what I’ve learned so far, though perhaps one of your readers with hands-on experience could advise on how well these services actually do work:

    1. What is it? – web-based seminar or “webinar” applications appear to be simply screen-sharing systems. The better ones allow not only projection of the seminar material over the web, but effective interaction between participants using either VOIP and/ or on-line video conferencing.

    2. Do-it-yourself webinar providers: There appear to be two leading products for do-it-yourself interactive webinars: GotoWebinar by Citrix and WebEx by Cisco. (I have no connection to either of these services nor any webinar provider.)


    3. Preparation: Other than learning how to use the application and arranging the participant registrations (more on this below), it appears that prepartion for the webinar would be minimal and straightforward — very little in addition to the extensive preparation that will have been undertaken for the live seminar itself. That is to say, the webinar doesn’t get created separately — it’s just a way to disseminate the live seminar as it happens.

    Web presentations at their simplest can consist merely of turning a camera on the presenter, and making it available over the web for remote viewing ( a “webcast”). To this can be added the screen-sharing of electronic documents such as pdf’s, jpg photos, etc., and the ‘live’ creation of ‘whiteboard’ documents to illustrate a speaker’s point, or the showing of video from a presenter’s computer. In other words, whatever one is presenting to a live audience can is shown in real time to the remote viewers, either by sharing the presenter’s laptop screen or videocam images. And the host can instantly switch between presenters, (who need not be in the same physical location.) To turn a “webcast” into a “webinar”, an interactive facility is added.

    4. Interaction – Both the GoToWebinar and WebEx sites tout their interactive capabilities — allowing both voice communication AND high definition video interaction among the host and the participants, with the host controlling who speaks and whose webcams appear on everyone’s screens. Both allow audience members to “raise their hands” and ask questions, under the control of the host, with the rest of the audience hearing or seeing the question and answer.

    This link from the WebEx site has an imbedded video “Learn how to share your webcam” which I found instructive on the facility for visual interaction between participants and presenters. It looks pretty much like the seamless multi-directional interaction that you have in mind.


    5. Size – Both provide scaleable options, from 2 to hundreds of participants.

    6. Registration – both provide online registration services, so the host gets information about who has registered and who is on-line. Both permit you to send email registration invitations and both have a registration facility for participants who respond.

    This link presents an overview on how one of such service works:


    7. Cost – surprisingly modest. Both offer a free trial – Citrix has a free 30 day trial, Cisco’s free service seems to limit you to 3 participants. The prices for the various levels of service are flat rates between $50 and $90 per month — with no apparent minimum number of months that I could see. Other than that, there’s the cost of a webcam or two, and an internet connection.

    8. Participants vs Incremental Cost: As for who would log on for 14 hours — well, count me for one, and anyone else who would attend in person but can’t spare the two to four additional travel days in getting to Munich and back, and I think we’ve heard from several for whom Lunenberg is as far from home as Munich is for others. But if the incremental cost of adding this web-based option to the live seminar is indeed as modest as this information suggests, it could be a low-cost, low-risk way to increase accessibility to this invaluable information on high latitude voyaging — with a potentially positive effect on net revenue for the presenters. It could also serve as a trial run for future seminars.

    9. Remote vs Live: No doubt the live experience will always be better, but being there remotely is better than not being there at all, to my mind.

    Kind regards

    Jan-Paul Waldin

    • John Feb 23, 2014, 10:32 pm

      Hi Jan-Paul,

      Thanks so much for sharing all that—saved me a huge amount of research.

      Reading it confirmed for me that he is absolutely no way that I could coordinate all the technology and do a good job of presenting the content and properly guiding the discussion at the same time. Definitely a two person job!

      It also confirmed that Webinars would not work for what I have in mind for the High Latitude Course, but, on the other hand, might be a good technology to spread the word on the A40. Having said that, someone would need to volunteer to handle the technology and coordination side of the webinar in that I feel strongly that Erik and I need to focus on our strengths and not get distracted learning and messing with new-to-us technology.

  • Petter ;-) Mar 4, 2014, 8:42 am

    For the benefit of those interested, The Norwegain Governments guide to Svalbard and Jan Mayen has now become a free item and can be downloaded if pdf format.

    The full guide (7 volumes) covering the Norwegain coast is available, but only the Svalbard and Jan Mayen guide is in English language.

    About: The Norwegian Pilot Guide consists of sailing directions for the Norwegian coast, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, and is a supplement to the nautical charts.

    Svalbard guide- http://www.kartverket.no/dnl/den-norske-los-7-english.pdf

    Main site- http://kartverket.no/en/Kart/Nautical-Publications/The-Norwegian-Pilot-Guide/

    • John Mar 4, 2014, 11:44 am

      Hi Petter,

      Great tip, thanks very much. I am downloading the Svalbard volume as I write and Phyllis will do a post about this availablity on our Norwegian Cruising Guide site.

  • Neil McCubbin Mar 4, 2014, 9:56 am

    Great news on the free Svalbard Pilot.
    I received your Email a few days before I was going to buy the paper edition.. Now it will be on all 3 computers on board and the iPad.
    Money and space on board saved

  • Roger Apr 22, 2014, 12:51 am

    Definitely interested in a Lunenburg venue. Thanks.

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