Best Sailboats For The Arctic

Best Sailboats For The Arctic | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Many sailors want to experience a unique challenge on the water with high latitude. This means you need to find the best sailboats for Arctic sailing.

Not just any boat is going to do the trick, as a lot can go wrong in those extreme conditions. So what type of boat is best for that situation?

Ideally, you want sailboats that have steel or aluminum hulls and a low draft. Some examples capable of exploring the Arctic include Bestevaer 56 Tranquilo, Rekere 36 Ocean Wanderer, and Boreal 47. If you choose not to have that hull type you have to proceed with caution, but it has been done.

Sailboats that are able to explore high latitude areas are a unique breed of sailboats. They are typically geared for that type of sailing, so the average sailor used to nice weather might have not seen that type before.

According to sailors that have experienced this type of sailing, having an aluminum or steel hull is highly recommended. Even though that hull type is not designed to cut through ice, it is the best defense against unexpected chunks of ice that could pierce the hull.


Table of contents

Top Five Sailboats for Arctic Sailing

Sailing in the Arctic requires a boat that can handle the rough conditions. While many boats can handle a variety of situations, a handful are meant to handle high latitude areas. Some boats are specifically built or modified to sail in the Arctic.

Bestevaer 56 Tranquilo


The Bestevaer 56 Tranquilo is a boat that has specifically sailed in the Arctic. Many skippers have chosen this boat due to its aluminum hull and weight to help reduce the chance of ice damage.

Even though it is a little over 57 feet long, it is easy to navigate short handed. This was designed that way so that it could be handled in iceberg waters without having to worry about hitting one.

There is more than enough room to house multiple people in your crew and to make life easier sailing in the Arctic. Everyone can take turns keeping warm in the galley while also having plenty of storage for food.

The boat is capable of holding 304 gallons in the tank, which is great for longer travels. The draft is a little heavier, sitting anywhere between 5.91 feet and 11.48 feet depending on weight. A heavier boat like this could help with powering through chunks of ice.

Rekere 36 Ocean Wanderer


If you want a boat that has recently been seen traveling through the Arctic, the Rekere 36 Ocean Wanderer is a good one. There are plenty of videos online showing that success. While it can be difficult to find used high-latitude sailboats on the market, patience might pay off with this one.

The Ocean Wanderer has a steel hull, which means it is much cheaper than aluminum hulls. It has a great pilothouse, which is essential for sailing in the Arctic due to the cold.

It also has a reliable source of heat known as Refleks. These are generally equipped already, but you could always have one put in if your model does not have one.

The boat sits low in the water around 6.5 feet, which is good for avoiding chunks of ice underneath. The steel hull is capable of powering through, but only if you proceed with caution.

If you are able to find one of these, make sure you know the history. If the previous owner sailed through the Arctic already, a walkthrough would not hurt.

Boreal 47


The Boreal 47 is an excellent vessel that can handle anything thrown at it. The hull, deck, and even the pilothouse are encased with aluminum.

The canoe body has multiple chines and a pair of daggerboards that help with maneuvering. It is equipped with a large wheel and has an autopilot feature. While navigating through the Arctic, you want something easy to handle and that will react in a timely manner.

The deck is also coated with plenty of anti-slip coverings and has safety railings on either side of the mast. So in the event, you do slip due to ice forming on the deck, you have some reassurance for the railings being there.

In the galley, you will find plenty of room for this area to store food and heavy-duty seals on the door to help keep the interior warm. Whenever you need to get out of the cold for a bit, stepping inside here will make you not want to leave.

The draft typically sits anywhere between 3.35 feet to 8.14 feet, depending on how much weight is added. This is great as it sits fairly low in the water. In addition, the fuel capacity is 159 gallons which is a good start for long-distance sailing.

Good Hope 56


The Good Hope 56 is built exactly for high latitude sailing conditions. While no promises can be made on any high latitude voyage, this boat has the capability of getting the job done.

At around 56 feet long and a lifting keel to change between three and eight feet in draft, there is some wiggle room for maneuvering with ease. With it being an aluminum boat, this should help with feeling lighter and easy to handle.

The fuel capacity has an excellent amount at 507 gallons. This is perfect for long distances where fuel might be hard to come by.

When the wind gets up in the Arctics, this boat is a little easier to handle than most others. This could be a great benefit if you are in a tight spot.

Allures 51.9


The Allures 51.9 is still a relatively new design by this brand, which has specifically built sailing yachts. This time, they went with an all-aluminum hull to help power through the Arctics. This 53-footer has a lot to love, especially with a lower draft ranging from three and 10 feet.

They have excellent insulation to help protect the interior and to keep the core warm. The interior designs are one of the more stunning aspects of this boat, in comparison to other sailboats.

At 198 gallons of fuel, it is solid for long-distance sailing. You can keep warm in the galley with comfortable seating and quality seals on the doors and windows.

Sailing with a GRP Hull

If you must sail the Arctic with a glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) hull, you need to take extra precautions. As if it was not dangerous enough sailing the Arctic with a heavy-duty hull, the conditions are worse now.

Since GRP hulls are a blend of fiberglass and polyester resins to form a laminate, it contains air pockets. This allows the resin and the glass fibers to connect. It is more prone to cuts and dings, which is not what you want in waters that are going to have large chunks of ice.

If you sail with this hull type, you want the integral floor frame to be made of steel. You also want a watertight crash bulkhead.

In addition, it would be beneficial to reinforce the waterline and stem with Kevlar. This has good resistance to scrapping in icy waters. No sailboat is designed to cut through ice, but metal hulls have a better chance to survive the tougher conditions in the Arctic waters.

Tips for Sailing in the Arctic

Having the right boat to sail in the Arctic is one part of the equation. The rest of the trip depends on a lot of factors that you can help control, such as clothing, food, and fuel.

Being short on one of these necessities could leave you in a bad situation. It is recommended that you plan a trip like this well out in advance.

Proper Gear

Having the proper gear, no matter what the elements throw at you, is important before sailing the Arctic. This means you need clothing that will keep you warm, dry, and shield you from blistering wind.

Wearing wool as a base layer and then covering up with another layer is your first step. You will need the quality fleece and windproof outlet layers.

You want to make sure to keep your ears, head, and nose protected. Having something to protect your face such as a balaclava is a good idea.

You could look into buying slightly larger boots than your regular size. This will allow you to wear a second layer of socks. The boots also need to have great traction, as you will likely be walking on ice or wet conditions.

Gloves will be tricky for some sailors that do not like the bulkiness of gloves. Fingerless mitts and fleece-lined gloves might do the trick.

You also cannot forget hand warmers. These are great in a pinch to provide heat to cold hands in pockets. Bring as many as you possibly can stand.

Mosquitoes and black flies are potentially a nuisance around certain areas. Be sure to bring plenty of bug spray and a netting suit to ward off those pests.

Keeping Deck Clean

Ice and snow will form on your deck, so you will need to bring along a few shovels to help clean walkways. Using ice melt or other similar methods could be harmful to your boat, so removing it by hand is your best bet.

Staying Warm and Heating System

Since you will be in extremely cold temps, a proper heating system is essential. There are a few options to consider.

Whether you use electric, diesel, or propane, just make sure it works best for your situation. Oil ovens, like Refleks, are great at keeping the galley warm and having hot water to drink with a kettle on top.

If you have double-glazed windows, these are excellent at keeping your rooms insulated since it has trapped air in between two different temperatures. It also helps cut down condensation, which adds moisture in areas that you are trying to keep warm and dry.

Water Maker

If you do not wish to melt snow and ice into water, you need a reliable and clean way to make it yourself. This is where a water maker comes in handy since it is difficult to find fresh water in high latitude locations.

Planning Routes

For any major trip, you should plan at least a year in advance. Some individuals might not need to wait that long due to experience, but this gives you plenty of time to obtain the right paperwork, plan routes, and to test out your boat.

Start your location from where your boat is and find your destination. Make points along the way to stop at various marinas or ports to take on fuel and restock the galley.

You should make stops around one-third of fuel remaining in your tank or potentially half empty. Depending on how much fuel you are storing on board, this could fluctuate, so make adjustments as necessary.

Check the weather for those areas at certain times of the year to ensure no major storms are brewing at their worst. Heavy snow and hail during certain times of the year are more prominent than others.

In addition, you want to have maps and charts handy to scope out the local area. Electronic charts are excellent since they are updated, but old maps can still give you a feel for things.

Potential Maintenance

You will need to do a thorough check from the bow to the stern to make sure there is nothing out of shape. If there is any doubt whatsoever, you need to look it over again by a professional.

This would be a good time to put some stress onto your boat to check for leaks or cracks. You could take it out for a race or push it to its limits safely.

You will need to assume that everything could go wrong, within reason. Having spare parts, enough oil and filters for two oil changes, and an extra propeller would be a good start.

Correct Paperwork

No matter if you are stopping in Greenland or Norway, you will need to make sure you have the right permits for sailing. Each location will have its own routine you need to follow, so check before passing through.

National parks, for example, are a bit different and might take longer to obtain a permit. They are a little more strict and you potentially have to notify them you want to sail at least three months prior to going.


Before heading off to the Arctics, you might want to go over your boat insurance one more time. Skipping out on this could result in lack of coverage or paying more out of pocket for a serious issue.

It would be ideal to call your insurance company to discuss what steps you should take before going. It is better to pay a higher premium for the next six months than spend thousands fixing your boat because you hit an iceberg and your insurance was not sufficient.


Canned foods are likely going to be the easiest item you could store and quickly eat. Soups are great but do not fill you up.

You will need to plan your meals accordingly at each stop you make. Stock back up on fresh food when you get the chance and save the cans when you really need them.

A lot of sailors learn how to make bread, which is great for adding heat to the galley too. It is also served as a morale boost, as the bread will likely not stay long if hungry crew members smell it while it is cooking.


There are rules to how much extra fuel you can bring on board. Before going on your trip, make sure that you can legally take the correct amount of diesel with you.

Depending on the horsepower your engine uses will determine how many extra gallons you need to bring. Plan out trips ahead of time and look for stopping points with ports to make fueling easier.

Keep Informed

Having a satellite phone or a way to connect to weather updates is important. You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you.

Plus, you need a way to communicate with other sailors in the event of an emergency. Having a marine radio or heavy-duty phone can save your life.

How to Safely Navigate Icebergs

Navigating through icebergs is going to be debated by many, but it should boil down to what you believe is the best for your situation. Each iceberg is going to be a different size and shape, so making a decision in real-time is easier than reading what to do on paper.

Move Ahead

A popular opinion would be to go ahead of them the best you can. If you were to go around or cut behind them, you risk running into a trail of smaller iceberg prices that have broken off.

If you have a radar, you will likely see larger icebergs on it. The smaller ones will cause annoying damage, especially if you do not see them ahead of time.

Create Space

While icebergs are interesting to look at, you do not want to be too close. They are unstable and can roll with absolutely no warning at all.

Let Fog Roll

When it comes to ice, fog also likes to be paired with it. Both together are a dangerous situation. If you have a heavy fog and the wind picks up, you should change tack and head out until you can safely navigate once again.

Anchor Carefully

Anchoring bow out from land and having a few long lines to tie off is a good idea. This is assuming you have found a spot that is clear of passing icebergs.

If you believe you could be in danger from drifting ice, wait at your anchor and be ready to cast off. Everyone will need to be ready and in position, so do not hesitate to begin the process.

Be Patient

Sailing with icebergs is often a waiting game and you need to have patience. Simply look for the best opportunity to power through safely.

Best Sailboats For The Arctic
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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