Freezing In for an Arctic Christmas Aboard

Phyllis Nickel and John Harries, owners of Attainable Adventure Cruising Ltd., are boat sitting Polaris, a Hutting 54 cutter. Polaris is owned by their friends Martina and Michael Haferkamp, who are wintering over in a cove near the village of Aasiaat, Disko Bay, Greenland, which is about 150-miles above the Arctic Circle. Phyllis and John are taking care of “Polaris” for a month, probably through the freeze up, while Martina and Michael go home for Christmas. Below is one of their first posts to their blog, where they will be posting regularly about the experience (see their blog at:
Those of you who have read some accounts of boats wintering over in the polar regions may have visions of dented hull plates, narrow escapes and three inches of frost on the INSIDE of the boat. That is not the Polaris way. That is not to say that there are not hazards lurking in Michael and Martin’s project, but the difference is that they spent years planning and having a boat built that could not only survive a winter frozen into the ice at 68 degrees north, but do it with the minimum of drama and adventure. (I think it was Amundsen, the incredible Norwegian explorer who was first through the Northwest Passage and first to the South Pole, both without losing a life, that said something like ‘adventure is the result of poor planning’.)

To detail all of this boat’s features for an Arctic winter would take a book, but here are a few that I learned about during my hand-over day with Michael; a day we called Polaris University.


Although Polaris is not ice classed, the hull is still built super-strong from aluminum with thicker plate over fewer ribs and stringers than a boat like our Morgan’s Cloud, which has comparatively thin plate over many ribs and stringers, a lighter technique but not as resistant to denting from ice pressure. Also, Polaris has a massive U-shaped beam welded to the inside of the hull right round the waterline to take ice stress and help stop the plate from denting.


The hull is insulated with a special fire proof material that was, I believe, developed for the Space Station. The ports and hatches are the best available and double glazed.


The boat has not one, but THREE separate heating systems. More on that later.


Polaris has the best and most complete system for putting in shore-fasts I have ever seen. That will be the subject of another post.


The engine has a dry exhaust and is cooled by a heat exchanger inside the hull plating where it is safe from ice. As a result the engine will be in commission and ready to go all winter.


A total diesel capacity of 3000 Liters ensures that the crew will be warm and toasty even if they do not break out of the ice until mid-June.


The center board trunk has a valve that allows the crew to pump air into it, thereby displacing the water that would freeze and possibly damage the hull. The through-hull fittings are custom machined so that the outer diameter is slightly larger than the inner at the seacock. The result is that a plug of ice will automatically expel as it freezes thereby relieving stress on the fitting.

Michael will be reading this at home in Germany and I hope he will correct any details that I have wrong, in a comment.

The red drums in the photograph contain a shore survival kit in case the crew is forced to abandon. The blue bag is a small light inflatable that is both a backup to the larger tender and intended to assist in getting ashore during the freeze up when there will be an awkward period where the ice will obstruct the tender but be too thin to safely bear the weight of a person.

For more on Polaris, go to our home page and enter Polaris into the search box in the right sidebar. You will then see a Google search box restricted to our site showing the other articles we have written on the boat. You can also visit our Links page and go from there to Michael and Martina’s web site (in German) while you are there, go to their blog and check out Michael’s great photographs and from there to the builder’s site.


By Ocean Navigator