POWER OF THE ARCTIC: Moli’s First Northwest Passage

ASMA in the ArcticAboard Moli is a small hardbound book titled Rund Amerika, the story of my boat’s initial adventures with then owners, Clark Stede and Michelle Poncini. It’s in German. I can admire the photos, like the one above, but I can’t read a word.

So, I was grateful to receive this week the below Yachting Monthly article from 1991 where Stede/Poncini, in translation, describe their Northwest Passage in Asma.

By way of reminder, Asma (then Taonui, Gjoa, and now Moli) was commissioned in 1989 from Dubbel and Jesse, a renowned German yard specializing in custom aluminum sailing yachts, for a specific adventure–to circumnavigate the American continents. At the time, the number of private expeditions to successfully transit the Northwest Passage could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and no one had attempted a complete loop of the land mass that included, at its southern extremity, Cape Horn.

There are many things to note in the article, the halting nature of progress in a world of floating rocks, the rapidly changing weather, the confined spaces with little room to hide, the cold…but what grabbed me was the advice of one Inuit, “Patience and energy–that’s the power that will bring you forward in the arctic.”

Asma NWP-page-001

Asma NWP-page-002

Asma NWP-page-003

Asma NWP-page-004

15 Comments on “POWER OF THE ARCTIC: Moli’s First Northwest Passage

  1. Well you have the right boat, Randall. She knows how to climb out on black ice and break through. But without the Ice Breaker in this piece she might still be there. She’s even been round the Horn. Keep on keeping on.

    • I’ve developed a private joke based on the fact that as ASMA my boat was assisted through the Arctic by an icebreaker (referenced in the above article) and as GJOA she was assisted through the Arctic by a cruise ship. I was in ARCTIC TERN and just a few miles ahead when GJOA went “aground” on an ice block that was part of a larger ice plug that had refilled Bellot Strait as the tide turned. We were on the outside of the plug and could see GJOA in her plight but couldn’t have gotten to her. A cruise ship ended up cutting a path for her.

      So my joke is that I intend to take MOLI on her third transit of the Arctic…but her first unassisted.

      • “Your question about the voyage of the 13 m sailing vessel ‘Asma’ in 1990. This is not included in transits of the Northwest Passage because the vessel was carried as deck cargo aboard CCGS ‘Martha L. Black’ for part of the transit.”
        It would be so fitting to see MOLI make a NWP unassisted. I’m looking forward to your adventure! When will you be ready to get off the dock and stop beautifying MOLI?

  2. Did a little Google trolling for it… couldn’t find it, but found other videos of sailboats making the passage. I can see why a fellow would want to make the passage. I got a charge out of just watching it, I can only imagine the excitement/thrill of actually doing it. I probably felt something akin to it when I road the ALCAN highway to Alaska, but it was a lot shorter and lot safer :-).

    • Thanks for checking. The passage is extraordinary. Utterly foreign and excitement is admixed with a little terror at the thought of being stuck…

  3. Hi Randall, who was the designer of Moli? I have followed your boats earlier life as Taonui but have never seen who drew her? She reminds me of a Koopmans design. A great choice and I wish you fair winds.

  4. Hey Thomas, sadly, I don’t know the answer. She was built by Dubbel and Jesse out of Norderney, Germany. My understanding is that the yard built nothing but custom aluminum sailing yachts and that Herr Dubbel was the designer and Herr Jesse was the builder (or vice versa). I’ve no proof of that and can’t find anything affirmative online. There are no plans on the boat. The yard is shut down, but I don’t even know when that occurred. You are right, though–she is reminiscent of a Koopmans…a good thing in my estimation.

  5. I am going to bring my friend Inka with me when I come over to check your progress. She is German and can translate the book for you…..

  6. Thank you for sharing. Very inspiring. I am hoping to someday make a passage in the opposite direction with my aluminum Meta Dalu 47. Time will tell.

  7. Hey Victor, from what I’ve read, you have a very capable vessel. Don’t let time tell. Go for it. I would also like to make the passage from W to E. Different strategies, I’m told. Fair winds.

  8. Hey Randall – if you can find yourself a VCR from the last century I’m happy to forward you a video (Pal format) from your yacht’s “Around the Americas” voyage (1989-1992). In traversing the NW Passage it was never our intent to enter the record books – it was just one leg of the journey around the Americas, Arctic to the Antarctic. We’re geographic photographers, travelers, researchers of maritime expeditions (eg. Sir John Franklin, Amundsen, Shackleton) and at the time, a yachting duo that had logged a lot of sea miles. Other passages recorded by Clark Stede include “The Sinbad Voyage” Oman to China and “African Winds” Madagascar to the Red Sea in another vessel also called ASMA. If you like extreme latitudes check out the journeys and works of Rolfe Bjelke and Deborah Shapiro on SY “Northern Light” (1980s/90s) published in english. Love your spirit. Best wishes for an adventurous and successful passage. Michelle

  9. Pingback: POWER OF THE ARCTIC: Moli’s First Northwest Passage – The Figure 8 Voyage

Leave a Reply