Launched in February 2012, Safira made her maiden voyage to Greenland for an owner trip and charter. In a preview from issue 67 of The Crew Report, we talk to Captain Walter Wetmore about the rigorous planning and considerations that he and his crew had to undertake due to the remoteness of the destination and length of the trip.

Safira in Greenland. Credit: Safira's owners.

Safira’s trip to Greenland was planned before her keel was laid and as such had to be taken into account in each facet of design on board, something with which Captain Walter Wetmore was heavily involved to ensure the new build was able to endure the voyage. “The Greenland trip was the intention of the boat all the while it was being planned, designed and built,” he explains. “We started planning it when we were building the boat, to make her capable to do these things. We wanted reinforced steel, we wanted the ability to refrigerate and freeze food long enough so we would have the capability to stay away from the dock for maybe six or seven weeks. So we thought about these things when we were building the boat.

“This particular boat is ice transient so if we were to bump into a piece of ice it wouldn’t really hurt us,” Captain Wetmore continues. “Safira’s hull is resilient to one-metre-thick sea ice that is up to one year old. Glacial ice is a lot harder, a lot denser and a lot bigger than anything that has undergone one year of regular freezing. So much consideration went into safety in and around ice. We were cautious because we did not want to hurt the boat or hurt anything that would shorten the trip or make the trip back home precarious. There are shipyards in Greenland but I don’t think that you would want to get stuck there. When you are up in remote places like that, you are on your own.”

If you have a captain with good experience and the owner and the captain trust each other and work well together, the cooperation of the owner with his captain or design team is priceless.

In planning for the trip, Captain Wetmore had to be absolutely certain that nothing could go wrong. “You have to think about spare parts, things that you may have to change out of your ordinary service routine,” he reveals. “Water makers are very important as you can’t make as much fresh water from salt water when you are in and around the ice. There are special systems that filter fresh water into drinking water but most yachts don’t have a system like that. We have systems that process seawater into fresh water naturally and we needed to think about doubling the size of water makers to keep up with demand. In the cold climate you can’t make as much water as you would in a normal temperature, even in Canada or the United States.”

Captain Walter Wetmore

Careful thought was also given to how the conditions in Greenland would affect the maintenance on board and, as a result, Safira was given a unique design through her heating systems. “Most boats don’t plan on sitting in thirty degrees Fahrenheit of water,” says Captain Wetmore. “So when the hull gets cold, it will sweat and the moisture on the inside of the boat leads to mould or rust, so we did a lot to eliminate that.” He believes that these details are the key to building an enduring yacht. “It’s things that are going to cost you a little bit more money but the benefits well outweigh the cost. It will increase the life of the hull and it means less maintenance and less painting on the inside – for a steel boat if there is any little nick or crack that’s when rust will start. So we have tried to eliminate all these things.”

Captain Wetmore’s significant involvement in the shipyard and design phase made a crucial impact on the success of the yacht’s suitability for such a trip, and this is something that he strongly recommends. “If you have a captain with good experience and the owner and the captain trust each other and work well together, the cooperation of the owner with his captain or design team is priceless. People always say you have to do what you do best and let other people do what they do best. Most captains wouldn’t want to run a Fortune 500 company but owners depend on people like us to point them in the right direction and give them good boat utility advice so they can make a trip to Greenland without any drama.”

Find the extended story of Safira's trip to Greenland in issue 67 of The Crew Report - click here to download.