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Wolfe Island man’s unique winter experiment prepares for Northwest Passage trip

This sailboat is locked in Lake Ontario ice as part of a winter experiment. Photo courtesy: Jeff Campbell/ Sailboat owner

At a time of year when most boats are stored safely on land, a sailboat that’s been moored off Wolfe Island this winter is creating some frigid stares.

The double-masted boat is still in the water and is now locked in ice so the owner can intentionally conduct an experiment. The icy idea came from a friend.

Sailboat’s owner conducts unique experiment. Photo courtesy: Jeff Campbell. Photo courtesy: Jeff Campbell/ Sailboat owner

“A crazy idea presented by a friend of mine, take the boat and sail it through the Northwest Passage and then take it down to Vancouver. That’s where my daughter lives so I’d like to have the boat there on a full-time basis,” explains Jeff Campbell, a carpenter by trade.

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But before Campbell’s 15-tonne sailboat can head through the fabled Arctic passage, he must first test its ability to withstand the crushing ice of Lake Ontario.

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The Margarethe has been anchored off Wolfe Island, almost visible from the Kingston, Ont. shoreline, since last fall. At first glance, it appears the 40-year-old sailboat could be crushed by lake ice. But Campbell says his boat has a number of features to prevent that from happening, like a concrete hull.

“The actual thickness of the hull can vary at times but it’s usually about two-and-a-quarter inches thick. It’s solid concrete. You could drive on top of it and the weight of a car won’t crush the hull,” he explains.

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He also injected a large amount of bacon grease into the propeller shaft to prevent it from taking on water and freezing.

The unusual winter attraction has prompted mixed reaction among some islanders.

The results of Campbell’s crushing experiment should be known following the spring ice melt.

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