3.000 Miles in Alaska: A cruise out of the ordinary

While the majority of our adventurous clients tend to head for warm weather and tropic climate in – for instance – the Caribbean, some go for the opposite. A good case in point is the story of the SV Eden, led by skipper Bernard Hensey, who’s looking back at 3.000 miles of Elvstrøm Sails-powered performance cruising to Alaska and back.

Hensey comes from Ireland, but ended up working and living out of Seattle, WA. This is also where the whole story of the adventure started from, as Bernard and Emer Nolan commissioned their Moody 54DS, named Eden, in 2017.

Some would argue that this was quite a step, especially given that Bernards previous boat was a Howth 17 – a small, wooden sailing boat from 1894 which he sailed a lot at home in Ireland. Their careers then led the couple to move to Seattle – and here, they wanted a boat that ticked all the boxes.

- My last boat was a Howth 17 from the year 1894. We spent ages maintaining it every winter, but it was great fun to sail it in Ireland back then. My job led us to the US as I started to work for Boeing, and thus, we wanted something that would both handle well and still offer good accommodation for longer trips.

They looked at several options, but in the end the now Elvstrøm Sails-powered Moody ended up being the choice.

- We considered lots of options, but since weather is not always good here, it also had to be a boat that would do well come rain or shine. That’s where the Moody is just brilliant – it has the size, it handles great, and it generally fits our needs really well.

Heading north

The decision to do a big 3.000-mile journey to Alaska actually came across as a natural decision. Nothing is ever close in the United States, but the local cruising grounds outside Seattle are already great, and they just get better if you head north. Another very important aspect was to do it the right way, Bernard says:

- Living in Seattle, I had of course heard lots about Alaska and indeed the nature. To us, this was a unique opportunity to do it with our own boat. There are many cruises, and with all due respect for them, I just can’t help thinking that they are too artificial. Comfortable, yes, but they are not that spontaneous, and to us it just felt completely right to do it on our own. And so we did – we got the real deal, one could say.

The 3.000-mile round trip took them from home in Seattle and all the way up Alaskas inner fjords. SV Eden and crew made it to Prince Rupert and then continued for the bay Fredericks Sound and and further on to Traceys Arm. Piling all the experiences from months in the middle of pristine Alaskan nature is of course quite a feat, but we asked Bernard to mention some highlights:

- Alaskan nature is just in its own league. We have countless albums of photos from seeing humpback whales in the wild. We saw lots of whales on the way to Prince Rupert and further up towards Five Finger Light – what an experience.

The wildlife is of course the big attraction – and since it is possible to get relatively close with a sailing boat, the Eden crew got themselves some incredible first-hand experiences of the Alaskan wildlife.

- The wildlife is extraordinary in so many areas. I must mention the Khutzeymateen Park near Prince Rupert. Until then we hadn’t had much luck seeing bears, but since this place is a sanctuary for grizzlies, it turned out great. Normally, tourists go there on expensive guided tours, but you can sail there on your own if you speak to the park rangers and arrange it. We did and it was a big highlight for us.

Elvstrøm from the start

Besides cruising, Bernard is an avid racer. He races with friends on a TP52, and he caught the bug at a very young age. At the age of eight, Bernard had his first Optimist, and he has known our sails ever since.

Thus, he made the move to equip the SV Eden with Elvstrøm Sails, and the current wardrobe consists of five sails in total, all done with help and consultancy from our Elvstrøm Sails NorCal dealer, Ian Ferguson.

- It felt natural to go with Elvstrøm Sails again. I actually started with Elvstrøm at a very young age. I began sailing Optimist at the age of eight, and that had Elvstrøm Sails on it. I’ve known the company ever since, and our Moody has five Elvstrøm Sails in the wardrobe. The main is the HPM (also known as EPEX), and then we also have the self-tacking jib, a genoa, a spinnaker, and the Blue Water Runner.

The latter was especially well suited for the job. With many of the miles being covered in narrow fjords, this quickly turned out to be the perfect territory for downwind sailing, which suited the use of the Blue Water Runner perfectly.

- I was particularly happy about the Blue Water Runner. It is so easy to manage, and it suited the conditions perfectly in Alaska. As you get to sail in many narrow fjords, Alaska is a brilliant place for downwind sailing. The fjords tend to act like a funnel to the wind, meaning that you spend plenty of time going downwind.

The trip ended all the way up at Tracey Arm, around over halfway between Seattle and Anchorage. The trip had to stop due to a leak developing from the propeller shaft on the Moody, and the decision was made to head back towards Seattle by then.

- We ended at Tracey Arm which is a glaciated fjord – and it was where we got to. A leak started to develop from the propeller shaft housing, and it meant we couldn’t go further. We had to head for port to have it fixed, and by then the timing suggested that we should start heading home rather than getting caught in the winter.

Heading north has been ticked off for Bernard and his crew – so what’s next? There are new territories to explore, so next up is a trip heading south rather than north. It is – however – not as easy as such. The American west coast has its way with currents, and with a strong current heading up the coast, one needs to take a long detour to get back up again.

- Had we not gone north this time, I doubt we would have ever done it. The big trouble is that there is a strong current going down the west coast of the US, so going south is no problem – but it gets very difficult if you want to sail back up again. So if you go to the Caribbean, which we want to do next, it is basically a bit of a one-way ticket. You need to go the long way out to Hawaii to get back up, Bernard says and adds:

- That said, the Caribbean is our next destination – we are on a little break for the time being, but we are by no means set – we want more adventures, and I’m sure we will soon find ourselves on another long haul on our Moody, he says with a smile.

You can read more about SV Eden and their travels at: