WATCH ABOVE: A Canadian sailor on a solo mission to navigate the Northwest Passage got stuck in thick ice off Alaska. The U.S. Navy came to the rescue, but the sailor says he had to fend off polar bears while he waited for help. Mike Le Couteur reports.
VANCOUVER – A man from Nanaimo survived for 10 days on his sailboat, which had become trapped in Arctic ice about 40 miles north of Barrow, Alaska.
Erkan Gursoy was sailing his 36-foot sailboat from Vancouver to eastern Canada via the Northwest Passage, when his boat, the Altan Girl, became trapped in the ice.
The U.S. Coast Guard was called in to help.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a polar icebreaker, broke a 12-mile path through the Arctic and towed Gursoy and his sailboat to open water on Saturday. Crews were unable to fly to his location due to weather conditions and and low visibility.
The Nanaimo resident now wants to sail to Barrow to resupply and then he hopes to continue his journey.
“This case highlights the important capabilities that Coast Guard multi-mission assets deployed to the Arctic are able to provide to mariners in distress,” said Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander, 17th Coast Guard District. “The Coast Guard 17th District is committed to working with our federal, state, local and tribal partners along with industry to protect the safety of life at sea in Alaska and the Arctic.”
Gursoy is a boat builder and designer and this was not his first foray into adventure. Twenty years ago he sailed around the world, but one of his dreams has been to sail the Northwest Passage in a boat he designed and built.
He will be the first Turkish-Canadian man to complete the passage.
“A successful passage would come as a much-needed boost in moral to Turkish video,” said Gursoy, speaking before the journey.
He said after this journey is over he would like to sail to Turkey and then build boats there.
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