Rebuild of an Orkney Yawl

All the serious preparations are in full swing. Certification, permits, charts, local intel you name it we are on it! The Arctic is not a play ground for the weekend adventures. But its shores with al their untold stories lure in the most conscious of  traveler. For us it is very important to respectfully visit the places we go. Experience them in their true form leaving the smallest footprint possible.

The area is still relatively unspoiled and very pure. The Inuits mostly live of the land and sea and don’t meet many strangers. By boat the area is only navigable for a few weeks a year. This year it was nearly impossible to get through the Passage. This is the natural border keeping most secrets surrounding this fabled passage well hidden.

John Rae Yawl

Over the past few years I have been reading a lot of John Rea’s work. The man who put the last piece, in the North West  Passage puzzle. This stout Arcadian was a doctor in the Hudson bay Company and was on several Arctic expeditions to map the country on the Arctic Sea.  He lived with the local people, the Inuit’s and learned their survival skills. This in turn enabled him to travel light while living of the land. Like Rea many Arcadians where employed by the HBC. They where highly praised for their boat skills and hard labor!

John Rea’s qualities did not go unnoticed to the governor George Simpson, who visited the Moose factor on several occasions. On one of these visits Rea challenged the visiting governor to a round the Island race . A boat to  Rea’s design against Simpsons canoes, fitted with his best voyagers! Ofcoures the boat won and Simpson later stated that Rea was the most capable man in the HBC service. When Rea set out 1854 on the expedition that later revealed the fate of the lost Frankling crew he had two boats built. Two Orkney Yawls. He crewed them with of course Arcadians. 

The boat’s where designed on the lines of the ones back home. The builder was not familiar with this type, so Rea watched him closely. He picked the Yawls because of their great range in use. They where seaworthy for an open boat, but could still be portaged! The boats proved a great succes on these expeditions and kept the crew safe! Many types of water craft where used on the rivers and lakes. Their builders used what they knew best from back home. Over the years though a new type of craft emerged, the York boat. A shallow  flat-bottomed boat carrying one large Square sail, but was mainly propulsed by oars.

Who was John Rae really? What did he find while he was exploring a way through the North West and what did the Inuits tell him as he searched for the long lost Franklin Expedition?

When John Rea found clues concerning the fate of the lost Franklin crew he was much criticized by his country men. Charles Dickens came to Lady Franklins aid denying all allegations of the supposed cannibalism and did much harm to Rea’s reputation. He was never fully credited for his findings and it was not until very resent a statue was erected in Stromness  harbor. For me the best way to honor this great explorer would be to rebuilt one of his boats and attempt the passage. This would be foolish! But rebuilding the boat and making an attempt with the Tecla would be less foolish. And that is what we are going to do! Rebuilt one of the Orkney yawls with the Boot Bouw School to launch our attempt at the North West Passage. Building the boat wil be done in a class open to everyone. Several of Tecla’s crew will be working on the boat and we invite all that are interested to contact us or the Boot Bouw School to apply for this amazing project.

Building the boat will take 10 days with a crew of at least 6 – are you up for it? Then come and join me in the beginning of november in Den Helder, the Netherlands. We start the first or second weekend of November, depending on the amount of entries. Costs to be confirmed.