Two Royal Marines navigate Northwest Passage

Two Royal Marines have successfully navigated the Northwest Passage in 17.5 ft. open boat. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Oliver and Major Tony Lancashire of the British Royal Marines sailed, rowed and when necessary dragged their NorseBoat 17.5 across the ice in a historic 1,400 mile voyage through the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. For centuries the Northwest Passage has been a lure to adventurers and explorers seeking a northern link between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.

The expedition was conceived to support the UK based charity ‘Toe in the Water’, which uses adventure sailing to rehabilitate men and women injured serving their country. Through the expedition the marines were able to raise awareness and significant funding for the charity.

A NorseBoat 17.5 sailing & rowing cruiser was chosen by the marines for its seaworthiness and versatility. Built in the Canadian Maritimes by NorseBoat Limited, this craft blends high performance with classic lines. It can be sailed, rowed by one or two persons, and used as a camp cruiser with its abundant storage and sheltered camping accommodations.

NorseBoat president Kevin Jeffrey performed sea trials with the marines at Quantico Marine base in Virginia early May 2009. The boat was shipped to the arctic in June and the marines began their expedition on July 24, 2009 from the town of Inuvik located on the Mackenzie river 2 degrees above the arctic circle. After reaching the Beaufort Sea they travelled east toward the Canadian territory of Nunavut. It took them 42 days to reach Gjoa Haven on King William Island.

The two adventurers encountered a wide range of conditions – sailing to windward in extreme conditions, rowing on glassy seas, sailing steadily at 6 knots with strong following winds, and being locked in ice floes for days on end. They also encountered charging bears, curious whales, and the warm, friendly people who inhabit the arctic.

At the successful conclusion of the voyage Kevin Oliver and Tony Lancashire gave a glowing report of their NorseBoat:

“Arctic Mariner has been our home for six weeks, and she has been superb. She has been out in big seas…on, into and off the ice, beached on rocks, and there are no dents in her hull, just the odd scratch. Her rig is simple and robust, and she can be rowed at over 3 knots by one person. And everywhere we go, people say how pretty her lines are.”
Kevin Oliver said of the voyage:

“This has not been all plain sailing, we have had 90 per cent more ice than the seasonal norm and as a consequence have had to drag the boat across ice as well as row and sail it.”

“The weather and local wildlife has provided us with a number of heart-stopping moments which rank among the most memorable of the trip, all of which was topped off by the hospitality of the people we met. A great adventure!”

Tony Lancashire added:

“Every one of the 42 days has offered a unique experience, from the Arctic landscape and wildlife to the incredibly hospitable people that we have met in the northern communities.”

To find out more about NorseBoat sailing & rowing cruisers visit For more details of the Arctic Mariner Expedition or to make donations to Toe In The Water charity visit