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Homemade Russian boat sailing through Northwest Passage

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
Image courtesy: CBC

A group of Russian sailors have nearly succeeded in piloting their homemade boat through the Northwest Passage.

The 7.6-metre vessel was southwest of Victoria Island on Thursday, crossing from Canada's eastern Arctic territory Nunavut into Northwest Territories waters, crew member Aleksey Skripov said by satellite phone.

The Russian seamen were in Clyde River, on Baffin Island's eastern shore, on Aug. 20, and recently sailed past Cambridge Bay, a community of approximately 1100 people, on Victoria Island.

The four men are taking part in the Orion Expedition, a multi-year, round-the-world trans-Arctic trip.

They left St. Petersburg, Russia a few months ago, piloting their boat through the Baltic and North seas and across the Atlantic.

Their triple-hulled vessel, called a trimaran, features a mast and rigging made out of large pieces of bamboo and uses rope and duct tape. The Rus, as it's known, is powered by a sail and engines.

When they showed up in Clyde River, Nunavut, last month from Greenland, a Mountie there said it looked like something out of the TV sitcom Gilligan's Island.

The crew have apparently had some technical challenges.

Olga Volynkina, the daughter of a crew member, said the Rus's main engine failed recently and the men are using a back up. They're hoping to get the main engine fixed in Barrow, Alaska, next week.

According to Volynkina, they need it to safely cross the Bering Strait back to Russia. The boat is scheduled to end its voyage in Anadyr, in Russia's Chukotka region, in late October or early November. The expedition will be the subject of a book and documentary about the nature and inhabitants of the Arctic.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.