Andy Larson and ‘Good Buddy’ Rafiki Northwest Passage Gazing

  • Cruising
  • NEWS
  • By Christina del Conte
  • 04 May 2016 15:00:00
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Today, Andy is sitting on his yacht Rafiki at the CYCA Marina, waiting for a weather window which will allow him to depart (again) on a solo circumnavigation via the Northwest Passage. I say ‘again’ because there’s a big dose of deja-vu in this for Andy.

Q: What do an overheating boat engine, spilled boiled eggs and an Arctic Cyclone have in common?

A: Andy Larson.

Today, Andy is sitting on his yacht Rafiki at the CYCA Marina, waiting for a weather window which will allow him to depart (again) on a solo circumnavigation via the Northwest Passage. 

I say ‘again’ because there’s a big dose of deja-vu in this for Andy.

He departed Sydney in May 2013 on the same journey but turned back due to an overheating engine. 

When a mechanic could find nothing wrong with the engine, he set off again the next day. About 185nm out, rough seas upset the eggs he’d been boiling for breakfast and the water ended up all over his right forearm, scalding him so badly he had to return to Sydney for medical assistance.  The delays put an end to the planned trip for that year, which is just as well because a cyclone in the Arctic that season churned the ice up so much it saw 60% more ice in the Northwest Passage, which became blocked at both ends.  It’s likely Rafiki would never have made it through the passage and Andy could have been trapped.

“Nobody could get through the passage in 2014 either,” says Andy.

“But 2015 was very warm in Alaska and the channels opened up and now Greenland has been very hot and the ice is melting a lot so hopefully the Arctic will be easier to get through again this year.

“In terms of the immediate forecast, it will be at least Monday before it looks good for me to depart Sydney.”

The trip will take Rafiki out of Sydney Heads and towards New Caledonia, see it pass left of New Caledonia, pass right of the Solomons, sail past Midway, go by Wake Island, through the Aleutian Islands sometime in July, sail up to the Baring Sea and into the Chuckchi Sea. Andy will likely encounter sea ice near Nome off Western Alaska.

“The sea ice should break up around late July and early August” says Andy.

“Then it’s through Beaufort Sea, Cambridge Bay and depending on how the ice channels open I’ll go up nearly to Resolute and then to Lancaster Sound,” says Andy.

“From there it’s Baffin Bay, down Iceberg Alley for a couple of weeks off Newfoundland and then try to catch the gulf stream to the North Atlantic, come around past Portugal, through the Canaries, then south towards Brazil and then fight my way south of Cape Town and then back through the Southern Ocean to Tasmania and up to Sydney – from Cape Town will take 2mths so I should arrive back around January 2017.”

Andy learned to sail about 35 years ago, but it wasn’t until he reached the age of 72 that he decided to buy a boat.

“I found a boat I liked in Canada, bought it and sailed it down the coast of the US and to Mexico where I stayed for about three months doing maintenance on the boat – it was 2012 and my first solo sailing trip,” he says.

“From Mexico I sailed across the Pacific for 90 days to Sydney.”

He named the 36 foot sloop ‘Rafiki’, which comes from a greeting in Swahili – “Jambo Rafiki”.

“Rafiki is like ‘good buddy’,” says Andy, who originally hails from Edmonton, Canada, but spent two years in Africa and arrived in Australia in 1987 via Asia.

If you can catch Andy before he heads Rafiki out of the harbour towards the Arctic, it’s worth having a chat with a man who has been a newspaper reporter, a freelance writer and photographer, worked in advertising and broadcasting, can operate morse code, started the first manufacture of 16bit and 32bit computers in Malaysia and started his own satellite education TV network. Not to mention the seven books he has authored.

Did I mention Andy is now 79 years of age?

“I’ll turn 80 when I’m due to arrive back in Sydney,” he says.

“I’m still fit and it looks like this will be a good year weather-wise, so this looks like the year to do it.”

You can follow Andy and his ‘good buddy’ Rafiki on their journey via his website www.rson.ca, where you can see the boat’s position and also enjoy Andy’s regular blogs.

Andy’s also raising funds for Alzheimers Australia via www.justgiving.com/Andy-Larson

We’ll try to check in with Andy along the voyage to keep everyone updated on his travels. 

Smooth sailing Andy from all your friends at the CYCA! 

Nicole Browne / CYCA Media

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