High Latitude Voyaging Course a Success

Yours Truly shooting my mouth off, as I did for much of two days.

Yours Truly shooting my mouth off, as I did for much of two days.

We just finished teaching our new High Latitude Voyaging course for the first time. We had a capacity audience of 25 in Munich, Germany for two days of intense work as we packed in as many of the lessons that we have learned in 22 years of sailing in the Arctic and adjacent North Atlantic waters as we could.

An International Crew

The attendees came from nine different countries with one intrepid soul coming all the way from Chile for the course. Attendees included:

  • skippers and crew intending to charter a boat from Boreal Yachting in Svalbard;
  • a professional super-yacht skipper and mate;
  • the skipper/owner of a retired and converted Whitbread 60, just about to head off to Greenland with 10 paying crew;
  • and several private owners planning to expand their cruising grounds to the north.

Experiential Training

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Phyllis and I decided to pretty much ignore conventional classroom training—what I call “powerpoint ’em to death”— and instead go for an approach heavy on scenarios (many from our own experience) for the participants to investigate and solve. We even held a mock “board of enquiry” into the real world loss of a yacht in the high latitudes to see what we could all learn from it.

I have to say that I was more than a bit nervous going into the course about how this rather unconventional “experiential” approach would be received, but it worked even better than I had hoped with participants universally positive and many saying they would have preferred even more scenarios.

Here are three sample comments from the evaluation forms that the participants filled out:

Congratulations, you managed a convincing synthesis of theoretical and practical knowledge.

Great pace, delivery, personal rapport. Well conducted with information, anecdotes, advice.

Course was very well structured and John did a fantastic job communicating the various topics and keeping it exciting throughout with good interactivity with the group.

Lesson Learned

On the down side, we did learn that with 25 people with five different native languages, other than English, sailing technical terms can be a problem and that in future courses we need to provide even more photographs and illustrations to make sure that we are all talking about the same piece of gear.

Thank You

A huge thank you to:

  • Our dear friend Ivar, of Boreal Yachting, whose idea this was.
  • Mathias Werner, a participant in the course (together with his entire crew), who organized the venue in Munich.
  • All of the attendees for giving up a weekend and traveling to Munich to be part of the course. You taught us a huge amount and we really enjoyed getting to know such a diverse group of skilled sailors.

Future Courses

We are planning to give the course again, both in Europe and in North America, although we have not, as yet, set any dates.

You can learn more below and, if you are interested in attending, please fill out the form at the end of this post. Do get your name on the list, as the course we just gave filled up in just a few weeks. We will only send you emails about future courses and we will not bother you with anything else.

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.

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.

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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.

4 comments… add one
  • Iain MacG May 19, 2014, 3:24 pm

    I for one would be interested in your answers to the sample scenario you put up!

    • John May 19, 2014, 4:43 pm

      Hi Iain,

      All will be revealed…at the course. 🙂

      Seriously, to a scenario like this, and in the high latitudes for real, there are no pat right answers, it’s all about the process and the ability to balance a bunch of conflicting requirements, often with far less information than you would like to have, and then come up with the best course of action, while leaving yourself maxim flexibility to change the plan if things don’t go the way you had expected them to. That’s what we teach in the two days, and it takes every minute of that time.

      Having said that, we have all kinds of good content from, and inspired by, the course that will appear here on the site in the coming weeks.

  • FAIVET May 20, 2014, 2:21 pm

    C est un programme de formation ou d’ information precis qui laisse peu de place au hasard, qui a eu lieu a Munich ALLEMAGNE pays ou precisement se situe le constructeur HANSE ( Greifswald en Allemagne de l est )
    Dommage que ce constructeur de voiliers ne puisse pas participer et ainsi beneficier de la precieuse experience de votre forum associatif pour ameliorer la fonctionalite de ses bateaux ce qui eviterai les recours que doivent faire ses clients devant l absence de SAV ( service apres vente?)

  • John Armitage May 20, 2014, 10:28 pm

    Congratulations !!

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