Famous round the world yacht pays fleeting visit

She has circumnavigated the globe on three occasions and proved the worthiest of vessels for hardy explorers, but the yacht Polar Bear briefly enjoyed a quieter spell when she berthed at Lerwick this week.

The crew of the vessel, which became famous three years ago when she was sailed around the globe non-stop by solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari, stopped off in Shetland on Monday as they prepared to undertake yet another epic adventure.

Having set off from their home base in Newcastle, the crew berthed in the town to stock up on supplies before sailing to the Lofoten Islands off the coast of Norway, deep into the Arctic Circle.

From there they will pick up a group of 12 Norwegian mountaineers, who they will take to the remote island of Jan Mayen, 500 miles west of mainland Norway.

The mountaineers are then scheduled to disembark before taking on the most northerly volcano in the world – the 2,200 metre high Mount Beeremberg, which is still live and last erupted in January 1985.

Normally it takes three men to crew Polar Bear – father and son team Phil and Mark Richardson and engineer Adrian Heath, who mixes his much-needed ability to fix things in the middle of nowhere with a passion for photography.

However the crew – who together form the Polar Front Sailing Adventures company – are also taking along a group of travellers for the ride, hoping to gain experience of coping with the pressures of sailing on the open wave.

Skipper Mark Richardson said the mountaineers would spend six days exploring the island. However the crew will have to stay on board as the entirely oceanic island offers no port or harbour for Polar Bear to berth.

“It’s the business of Polar Front to provide expeditionary support for people who want to remote places. Because of the remoteness of the island we can’t leave the boat. We’ll let the mountaineers go ashore, and they will spend some time on the island,” he said.

Meanwhile, those extra travellers who came from Newcastle will quickly gain experience in helping to keep the vessel in top working order in very isolated conditions, and with a never setting sun.

“They’re not here to crew the vessel but they will certainly learn as much as they can while they are on board,” said Mr Richardson.

He said Shetland was an ideal place to stop on their journey, because they had been given such a warm welcome, despite clear evidence that living in close quarters was beginning to take its toll on some of the crew’s personal hygiene. “People are beginning to smell, so it’s the right place for a break,” he joked.

“We’re in our third year running, and the third Arctic season. We always call in to Shetland because it’s a lovely place to be. We get a very friendly welcome here, and we can get all the facilities we need for the vessel.

“When we were coming in we had an electrical problem on board. We called an electrician and two electrical engineers were waiting for us when we tied up. We can also fill up on fresh food and all the supplies that we need.”


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