Roger Swanson

OCC Barton Cup - 2008

(s/v Cloud Nine) Awarded for completing the Northwest Passage on his third attempt – see Northwest Passage, Flying Fish 2008/1.

Setting off from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 19 July 2007 aboard his 57ft Bowman ketch with a crew of six, Roger and his crew encountered fog on their way to Newfoundland and then a following gale to help them round its northeast tip, before making their way to Greenland where they met icebergs and more fog. After encountering strong, persistent headwinds they decided to stop at Sisimiut in Greenland, and then on passage to Upernavik they were caught by a long length of polypropylene rope which could only be freed by diving.

This was followed by 400 miles of fog across Baffin Bay and the northernmost point of the passage at 74°53'N, into Lancaster Sound, and westward with few icebergs to Port Leopold – already occupied by more than 100 beluga whales and with bears on the beach. After finding openings in the ice they headed south to Gjoa Haven and on to Simpson Strait, Queen Maud Gulf and Cambridge Bay where they met another yacht, Luck Dragon, sadly later lost in the Bering Sea though without loss of life. The passage through Dease Strait and Coronation Gulf was again marred by fog, but they sailed on to Tuktoyaktuk where they saw many bowhead whales before reaching Alaskan waters on 31 August.

On 5 September Cloud Nine re-crossed the Arctic Circle with favourable winds, having sailed 3433 miles since crossing it northbound. She became the first American sailing boat to complete the Northwest Passage from east to west while, at 76, Roger is probably the oldest person to have achieved the passage. The voyage finally ended at Kodiak Marina, 73 days and 6640 miles after departure from Halifax.