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An eye on the Northwest Passage

NW_insideSprague Theobald and crew completed an 8,500-mile, 4-1/2-month transit of the Northwest Passage Nov. 5, arriving in Seattle aboard his Nordhavn 57, Bagan.

Dim lights

Theobald shares video and photos from his voyage, and describes navigating the loneliest passage in the world. Click play to watch.

NW_inside2Bagan by the numbers

  • weighs 60 tons with a full-displacement hull that’s 3 to 4 inches thick
  • powered by a 310-hp Lugger and carries 2,000 gallons of diesel for a range of 3,800 miles at 7 to 8 knots
  • has a 75-hp wing engine
  • electronics include satellite Internet and phone, forward-looking Interphase sonar, two radars, three VHF radios, two EPIRBs, two hand-held GPS units, three Furuno GPS units and a PC running Nobeltec cartography
  • SPOT Satellite Messenger to update the vessel’s position to the Web site
  • life raft and five survival suits
  • Espar heater
  • two five-man tents and a portable stove in case they got separated from Bagan

Theobald, 58, a veteran boater, filmmaker and head of production at Newport, R.I.-based Hole in the Wall Productions, undertook the voyage to film his next documentary, "The Northwest Passage," which will detail his concerns about the effects of global warming on that part of the world.

Click play to watch video from the voyage and hear Theobald describe the highlights.

Theobald hired Capt. Clinton Bolton to assist with navigation while he filmed and conducted interviews. He and Bolton, along with Theobald's stepdaughter Dominique Tanton, left June 15 from Newport. Theobald's son, Sefton; friend Greg DeAscentis; and stepson Chaunce Tanton joined the voyage at various points during the trip. Bagan made stops in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Greenland, and Beechy Island, Resolute, Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Several stops were made in Alaska before ending the trip in Seattle. They refueled in Greenland, Cambridge Bay, and Nome and Sitka, Alaska.

Bagan was a solid passagemaker, says Theobald, though the 1999 Nordhavn was put to something of a test when it spent two days trapped in ice 50 miles north of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. (Watch the video to hear Theobald describe the ordeal.) Aside from that - and a hydraulic leak - the vessel "didn't skip a beat," Theobald says, who purchased it in 2007 from the Nordhavn brokerage in Dana Point, Calif.

Bolton left the expedition at Nome, with Theobald taking over the navigation, and DeAscentis left at Sitka because of family obligations. Theobald finished the voyage with Dominique, Sefton and Chaunce.

For a more on the trip and the upcoming documentary - including a blog, photo gallery and more video clips from the voyage - visit www.northwestpassagefilm.com.

Look for more on Theobald's voyage in the January issue of Soundings magazine.

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