Northanger is a 54 foot Damien II, lifting keel, steel ketch. The hull was professionally built at a shipyard in Faversham, England with the rigging and interior fitted out by the original owners, Mike Sharp and Rick Thomas.
Rick and Mike built Northanger with the idea of accessing remote regions of the globe for the purpose of mountaineering. In 1985, Rick Thomas took over full ownership of Northanger. He sailed in the style of British mountaineer, H.W. Tilman; small, compact, self-sufficient expeditions to high latitudes. During voyages to Norway, Alaska, Antarctica and a successful transit of the Northwest Passage, Rick took Northanger to the limits and back.
Though very few of these boats were built, the Damien II design became famous through the exploits of Jérôme Poncet. After an adventurous voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia with Gérard Janichon in 1970 aboard their smaller vessel Damien, capsizing and losing their rig, he came up with the idea of a larger, lifting keel vessel made of steel, for voyaging to the ice. Jérôme and Sally Poncet first proved the Damien II designs capability when in 1978, they wintered their legendary vessel, named Damien II, in Marguerite Bay, Antarctica.
During the last decade we have been heavily modifying and upgrading Northanger with an eye to providing a secure and easy-to-operate platform for launching and supporting expeditions into the wild lands. No boat is perfect and the Damien II design has its advantages and setbacks as do all vessels. The most important thing, the basis for all our modifications is that Northanger is a strongly built and seaworthy vessel, proven over years of hard voyaging. Her great advantages have been the rounded hull with a flat bottom which allows her to escape ice and sit happily on the beach, coupled with her lifting keel which has allowed us to access exceptional anchorages where we are able to leave the boat in safety and go climbing.
EVOLUTION OF STYLE
Rick Thomas’s style evolved from H.W. Tilman’s to become his own and Northanger’s style. He attracted a group of climbers and adventurers aboard, many of them New Zealanders or British on a shoestring, who joined him on his voyages in pursuit of unclimbed mountains. It was his transit of the Northwest Passage though that gained Rick and Northanger noteworthiness as the first British vessel to transit this notorious trench. Greg was along as crew on this two-year voyage, having already participated in Northanger’s first big expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. Tragedy often comes with success. After completing the passage, the team sailed south to the coast mountain range of British Columbia where Rick lost his life in a rock and ice avalanche while attempting to scale Mt Waddington, the highest peak in the Coast Range.
We purchased Northanger from Rick’s estate in 1989 and vowed to continue on sailing to climb in both Rick’s and H.W. Tilman’s spirit. Northanger has evolved as a vessel, with improvements, additions and may I say a wee bit of female touch. Our style too has evolved, keeping the best elements of Rick’s and Tilman’s to become our own unique style.
Though it is not possible to take all the suffering out of sailing, we have assuaged the notion that more suffering makes better stories. Our philosophy now encompasses the idea that the fresher and more comfortable an expedition arrives at its destination, the higher the chance of success. We sail now with an expectation of success in endeavors other than just the navigation element. Systems aboard are still simple, though high tech and efficient. Electronics, computers and lighting are all run off of a high-capacity 12-volt system powered by the engine, or the wind generator. A back up diesel generator is there in the event of extra power needs. Showers are taken in a camp shower set up in the front foc’sle. These robust systems not only allow us more time for achieving our goals (rather than be eternally repairing things en-route) but also use less energy to run the boat, giving us greater range of operation with less crew and better environmental efficiency.
Northanger is work in progress. Every year we add new equipment aboard in response to the demands of a new operating regime, make more space or improve upon an existing system. She is our home and some home comforts have been added, perhaps the most momentous being forced air heating. And uuuhhummm, a dodger over the steering (just a small one).
Details of Vessel and Equipment
Length: 16.37 m
Beam: 4.5 m
Draft: 3.3m down to 1m
Design: Damien II
Designer: Michel Joubert
Builder: Conyer Marine, Faversham, England
Year Launched: 1982
Hull Material: Steel
Hull thickness: 6mm under waterline; reinforced, hull 5mm, deck 4mm
Keel: lifting, 5 tons ballast
DWT: 14.5 tons
Engine: Perkins 85hp
Fuel Capacity: 3000 litres
Electrical Plant: Kubota 2.5 kW generator - 12 volt
Power supplies: 12 volt 800Ah battery bank, 110V and 220V inverters to 2.5kW
Sail Inventory: Main, Mizzen, jib, genoa, staysail, mizzen staysail, storm jib, storm tri, spinnaker
Accommodation: 1 double cabin and 4 single bunks available.
Cooking facilities: Full galley with propane stove and oven
Navigation Equipment: 3 handheld GPS, 2 fixed GPS, Radar, SkyEye satellite receiver antenna, depth sounder, regional charts and pilots.
Communication Equipment: HF radio with Pactor III modem and computer (for HF email, weather, wind and ice information), Iridium telephone for emergency and field communications and weather downloads, 3 waterproof handheld VHF radios, 1 fixed VHF radio, 2 FRS radios.
Safety Equipment: 1 406 Epirb (Candian registry), Avon 10 person life raft (with yearly service), emergency flares, inflatable life jacket combined harness, insulated flotation suits for dinghy work, 7 fire extinguishers, propane sniffer, well stocked first aid kit,
Ground Tackle: 50 kg Bruce anchor, 30 kg CQR, 50 lb Fortress, 25kg Bruce, 100m 12mm chain, hydraulic anchor winch, 500m 3/4" polypropylene shore line, 200 m nylon shore line
Tenders: 2 x Polaris hypalon inflatable boats: 12.5 feet, each with 15hp mercury
Charging Systems: Ampair wind generator and 200amp Balmar diesel generator, 1000 watt Honda portable generator, main engine altenator
Specialty Items: (available with prior arrangements). 2 kevlar expedition kayaks with gear, 1 large 4 person base camp tent, camp mats, cookstoves, pots, glacier travel equipment - ropes, ice screws, snow stakes, harnesses, fixed ropes for abseiling, wet weather sailing gear in limited sizing. Also available is a sizeable tool kit which includes power drill, grinder, die grinder, sabre saw, welder, large selection of hand tools, etc. Also aboard are two dive bottles with relevant equipment and 1 large and 1 medium dry suit (with the possibility to organize a portable SCUBA compressor).
Layout and working spaces: Two entranceways into the interior allow for fluid traffic flow. A comfortable settee with dining tahble at the aft of the vessel allow for a group area to relax for meals, and is convenient for computer work etc. Four berths along the starboard side have ample storage for personal gear and are comfortable, private sleeping quarters. A double cabin forward gives privacy for a couple or an expedition leader. There is a large workbench complete with vices, inverters etc. It is also convenient for large equipment storage or as an alternative area for office work. The sail locker has space for more equipment if necessary. A Reflex diesel heater located in the forward area of the boat is the main heating source with a back up forced air Wallas heater. The bow area of the boat is used for drying sailing gear, and wet working gear. There is ample deck space to carry 2 - 4 kayaks plus the two inflatable boats. A small cockpit aft is protected by a dodger. An interior helm and autopilot are used for comfortable navigation during bad weather. A larger hatch in the bow of the boat allows for larger equipment to be loaded into the interior.
Shakedown cruise after construction.
Rick Thomas, Mike Sharp and crew climbed Mount St. Elias, 18,008 feet (5489 metres), the highest peak to have been climbed from sea level.
With a New Zealand crew, an attempt was made to climb Mount Foster on Smith Island but weather and other circumstances did not permit. Using Port Lockroy as a base, ski touring and climbing objectives (including Mount Francais) were achieved over a three month period. Northanger subsequently reached 67° 50' S on this trip.
Northwest Passage 1988-89
Northanger sailed from Faversham, England to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Canadian Arctic. The transit was accomplished in two years with Northanger wintering in Inuvik, North West Territories, after being stopped by heavy sea ice near Herschel Island. Northanger became the first British vessel to complete this historically sought after passage.
After a six month approach march from Canada sailing south via Hawaii, Marquises, Tahiti and Chilean Patagonia, Northanger and crew arrived in the Antarctic Peninsula in mid-January. A climbing team of four made history when they succeeded in gaining Mount Foster, the highest unclimbed summit on Smith Island at 6,900 feet.
Northanger returned to the Peninsula with the goal of making an attempt on the much sought after Cape Renard Tower. During the 7 weeks spent in the region, two major routes were established, one on Cape Renard and another on the Wall Range.
Valdivia, Chile 1997
Northanger spent 8 months in a boatyard in Valdivia getting the addition of an interior steering station and an addition of a metre added aft.
En-route north 1998 – 1999
Northanger sailed from Valdivia, Chile for Ellesmere Island to participate in the Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition wintering over. Places visited on the voyage north include Juan Fernadez Islands, Galapagos, Panama, Kuna Yala, Florida, Newfoundland, Scotland, Norway, Faroes and Greenland.
The Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition 1999 – 2000
Commemorating the great Norwegian explorer, Otto Sverdrup, Northanger spent nearly a year frozen into the ice in a bay on the South Coast of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic with six adults and a 2 1/2 year old girl.
The Greenland Quest Expedition 2001
After spending a winter in Newfoundland, Northanger headed north to Greenland on a four month big wall climbing expedition.
Atlantic Ocean 2002
Northanger left St. John’s, Newfoundland in July, bound for the Southern Ocean. The route first took Northanger across to France, then Ireland before heading on a southward journey via Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Brazil and onward to Ushuaia in Argentina.
Northanger sailed south to the Antarctic Peninsula with a group of hardy sailors from the Ocean Cruising Club of Great Britain.
South Georgia 2004
A voyage to South Georgia was made to explore climbing and ski touring possibilities.
Northanger made two trips south to Antarctica with groups of climbers and sailors.
South Georgia 2005
Leaving from Stanley in the Falkland Islands, Northanger sailed south with the Adventure Philosophy team who completed the first kayak circumnavigation of the Island of South Georgia.
A multi cultural group of friends joined us for the hang gliding and paragliding expedition to Antarctica.
On another voyage later in the season, a group of friends, all from New Zealand, joined us aboard for climbing and ski touring in the Antarctic Peninsula.
Two voyages were made to Antarctica this season, one with kayaking as the main objective.
Six weeks were spent in the Patagonia Channels ski touring and climbing in the winter months.
Led by geologist and professor, Keith Klepeis, a brief foray of international geologists was made aboard Northanger into the Cordillera Darwin area of Tierra del Fuego.
Antarctica December 2007
Northanger supported the Pou Brother’s 7 walls in 7 continents project, sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula region.
Antarctica, South Shetland Islands and Elephant Island 2008
Thomas Joshua Cooper and his assistant joined us aboard for Thomas’ photographic project of extreme points. The voyage took us south to the Antarctica Circle and to the south coast of Elephant Island over a period of 65 days.
Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you.
- Winnie the Pooh -