I was looking at noonsite.com during our last trip, getting information for clearing into Wallis and Fiji, when I saw a story about yachts attempting the Northwest Passage that had become stuck in the ice, with the seasonal ice minimum apparently past.
I don't know any more details than that, and I don't mention the situation in order to get on my soapbox and derive lessons from other people's distress - I always find it faintly reprehensible when people do that.
Instead, I mention it because we have (well, I have) entertained notions of having a go at the Northwest Passage ourselves - it's the ocean route through the Canadian Arctic, and has a Moitessier-esque appeal as the logical route to get us from the Atlantic (assuming we get that far) back home to Kodiak.
We've never gotten to the point of planning on the trip seriously, but the incredibly low Arctic Ocean ice minimums of 2007-12 definitely caught my eye. We've met a few people who have been through the Passage, and during a good year it's quite an "easy" proposition compared to the epic struggle that the trip presented a few decades ago.
And the Northwest Passage is part of a global trend - as yachts and gear have improved so dramatically, and navigation systems and weather information and communications have improved at an exponential rate, plenty of places that used to be off limits to most private yachts - like the Antarctic Peninsula, and South Georgia Island, and even the Tuamotu Archipelago, have become more or less routine to visit. But the huge year-to-year variability in Arctic ice reminds me that all of these places, more or less, still involve an incredible adventure to visit. And, as always, we choose our adventures with the the children on board as our foremost concern.
Meanwhile, the clock is rapidly ticking down on our time here in Tonga. We're having one last visit to the "Blue Lagoon", with a like-minded family the only other boat in the anchorage. Yesterday was likely our last family snorkel in Tonga - and we saw our first-ever lion fish. This afternoon we'll proceed up to Neiafu to be well positioned to water up and check out for Wallis tomorrow...