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David Scott Cowper Polar Bound – Boatworld

David Scott Cowper Polar Bound – Boatworld

During the 2019 Southampton International Boatshow, Boatworld UK our Director Mike Leese was honoured to meet the first person to complete the Northwest Passage single-handed, David Scott Cowper. David came onto our stand looking for an Air Deck boat that he could use a tender for his next expedition.

Before we get into the specification of the boat he was looking for… let’s talk about the amazing feats that Mr Cowper has accomplished in his astonishing nautical life.

Born in 1942 David was educated at Stowe School, Buckinghamshire. David works and resides in Newcastle where he is a respected Chartered Building Surveyor and a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, however, sailing has always been his passion.

David Scott Cowper – The Early Years

In 1974 David participated and successfully completed ‘The Observer, Around Britain Race’ in his wandered class sailboat. Airedale. 29.6” designed by John Laurent Giles ( John (‘Jack’) Laurent Giles (1901–1969) was a naval architect who was particularly famous for his sailing yachts.  He and his company, Laurent Giles & Partners Ltd, designed more than 1000 boats from cruisers and racing yachts to megayachts.)

In 1980 David completed the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe via Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin in Ocean Bound a 41ft Sloop Designed by Sparkman & Stephens (Sparkman & Stephens is a naval architecture and yacht brokerage firm with offices in Newport, Rhode Island and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA. The firm performs design and engineering of new and existing vessels for pleasure, commercial, and military use.) Beating Francis Chichester’s 53ft Gypsy Moth IV, record of 226 days by one day.

After this feat, the city of Newcastle, celebrating its 900th anniversary, recognized his feats and awarded him honorary Freedom of the City. The Freedom of the city is an honour bestowed by a municipality upon a valued member of the community. Arising from the medieval practice of granting respected citizens freedom from serfdom.

Two years later the trip was repeated sailing against dreadful weather and rounding all 5 capes in 237 days, beating Chay Blyth’s 59” British Steel record by 72 days and becoming the first person to circumnavigate Cape Horn in both directions single-handed and still also holds the record for the fastest single-handed time in each direction.

David then switched to motorboats, and in 1984 – 85 he sailed westward in a converted EX RNLI Watson 42 foot wooden lifeboat, the Mabel E Holland, Via the Panama Canal, becoming the first person to circumnavigate the globe solo in a motorboat.

The Northwest Passage

These great accomplishments all preclude in Boatworld’s opinion David’s greatest achievement. The first solo circumnavigation via the Northwest Passage. For those of you that don’t know the Northwest passage is a treacherous sea route which takes you through the Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and the Arctic coasts of Norway and Siberia. One of the most interesting stories which we highly recommend you read about is the Franklin expedition in 1845.

Spoiler alert in 1845 2 lavishly equipped expedition ships HMS Terror a specialized warship constructed in 1813. She participated in several battles in the war of 1812 she was then converted into a polar exploration ship 2 decades later. And the HMS Erebus a Hecla class bomb vessel built-in 1826. In 1845 both ships were updated with steam engines and uprated ice breaker hulls. Sir John Franklin 1786-1847 was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer of the Arctic. Franklin also served as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1837 to 1843. Unfortunately, not much is known about what happened to the crew but no survivors were ever found. The ships themselves were discovered in 2014 and 2016. The story of the crew has been immortalized into books and tv shows.

Back to David’s solo circumnavigation of the Northwest Passage which took 4 years and 2 months and ended in 1990. 14th July 1986 David left Newcastle for the west coast of Greenland to enter Lancaster Sound eventually reaching Fort Ross at the east end of the Bellot Strait. Due to heavy pack Ice, the Mabel E Holland remained in the Ice for 2 full years at this location (this is what happened to the Franklin Expedition). When David returned, he found the boat waterlogged and spent the summer pulling her ashore and repairing her.

In 1988, he managed to reach Alaska having left the boat at Inuvik, Northwest Territories on the Mackenzie River, before one of the coldest winters in recorded Arctic history. On the 10th of August 1989, he sailed into the Bering Strait, becoming the first person to sail the Passage single-handed as part of circumnavigating the world. Carrying on via Midway, Papa New Guinea, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australian coast, just before hurricane season. He continued via the Cape of Good Hope arriving in Newcastle on 24th September.

In 2002 David tried to sail the North-East Passage in his Aluminium 14.6m boat Polar Bound but was refused permission by the Russian authorities. He turned and completed the Northwest Passage again in 2 summers becoming the first person to have completed an East to West and West to East single-handed transit.

More Recently

In August 2009 David Began his 6th circumnavigation of the world in his boat Polar Bound. The journey was planned to last 15 months and cover 35,000 miles starting in Cumbria. At this point, David sailed the Northwest Passage for the third time single-handed and in a single season in 2009. David left Dutch Harbour on 29th September 2009 and sailed to San Francisco on October 14th heading for Chile and Antarctica, he would then make his way to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, Tristan da Cunha and Cape Town. From there the route was South Australia, Pacific Ocean, Fiji, Hawaii, Dutch Harbour and back through the Northwest Passage. The first circumnavigation involving a double transit of the Passage.

Search and find mission

On 5 October 2011 Polar Bound arrived at Whitehaven UK completing his sixth solo circumnavigation and fourth Northwest Passage transit. When Polar Bound called at Honolulu for a brief refuelling stop in June 2011, before continuing up to Dutch Harbour in the Aleutians, agents for NASA were trying to find a vessel which would undertake a 900-mile journey out into the Pacific to try to locate a $2.5 million prototype beacon that had developed a fault, that they wanted to be retrieved. This was a far from an easy task as it required extreme accuracy in navigation and literally it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack as the only part of the beacon visible was its slender antenna measuring approximately 18 inches high, coloured black with a diameter of approximately 10mm.

Polar Bound was given the task and an approximate location of the beacon. After setting out NASA would bring the beacon to the surface to obtain an accurate position. It was necessary for Polar Bound to reach that position within 48 hours before the batteries giving out the position died. It took Polar Bound 6 days to reach the location and at that time there were approximately 15 knots of wind blowing with a 4 – 5 ft swell running.

Four hours were spent in the location looking for the beacon and purely by chance and good fortune it was observed in a breaking wave which showed the body of the beacon from a distance of approximately 20 yards. Polar Bound was then put alongside the beacon and a sling attached. The beacon was then brought on board, stored on the aft deck and taken to Dutch Harbour where it was duly collected by Yi Chao and Thomas Valdez who were the innovators and designers of the beacon.

Retracing history

In 2012 David took Jane Maufe. ( Four times great-niece of artic explorer Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin mentioned above.) Aboard Polar Bound and became the first yacht to navigate west of Cape Prince Alfred on the Original Northwest Passage through the McClure Straight discovered by Captain Robert McClure aboard HMS Investigator in 1851. David and Jane completed the Northwest Passage in just under 20 days of transit. Following this Cowper was awarded the Blue Water Medal and the Cruising Club of America.

David Scott Cowper has completed five (5) official Northwest Passages (four solo single-handed and one with crew) passing through the Atlantic Arctic Circle and the Pacific Arctic Circles; in 1986 aboard M/V Mable E Holland, in 2001, 2009, 2011 & 2012 aboard M/V Polar Bound.[4]

In 2016 Aboard MV Polar Bound, David Scott Cowper and his son, Freddie Cowper, became the first to complete the Northwest Passage via Route-7 West, navigating through Fury and Hecla Strait.

More to come on David’s next adventure………

The Boatworld Polar Bound Signature Model

After meeting Mr Cowper and hearing about the incredible achievements he has accomplished in his life we offered to make David a boat to his specification.

Introducing Boatworld’s newest boat, the Polar Bound Signature model. Needless to say the boat, Polar Bound, we have supplied has to be the ultimate in build quality and robustness to survive all that the Arctic & Antarctic can throw at it. David will be taking delivery of his 3.2m Airdeck in June to start a new adventure. He gave us a summary of this incredible journey… “I hope to be leaving Newcastle Upon Tyne area about mid-June to go around the top of Scotland, fuel in Glasgow before setting across the North Atlantic, perhaps briefly calling at Portrush in Ireland and then straight to Julienhaab in the south-west corner of Greenland.

From there a decision will be made whether to try the Hecla Fury Strait. This involves crossing the Davis Strait, transiting the Hudson Strait and then around Cape Dorset up into Foxe Basin and through or alternatively going up the west coast of Greenland to enter Lancaster Sound along to Beachy Island and if ice conditions allow, to travel eastwards through the Parry Channel and down through the Prince of Wales Strait to Alaska.

Regarding the first route through the Hecla Fury Strait, if successful then again to go up to Lancaster Sound and attempt the Prince of Wales Strait. If either of these two routes is successful and I end up in Alaska. Further decisions will have to be made in order to get the boat back to England. As to whether to leave the boat in Alaska. Or go back for it in the following year or to continue down the west coast of America to the Antarctic and then up to the Falklands, over to South Georgia and to Cape Town, visiting with Saint Helena and then back to England arriving back in April 2021.

However, with ice conditions, there has always to be a degree of flexibility for change of plans when operating up in the high Arctic. ie 75 degrees North.” He will report back on how the boat is performing and give us valuable feedback us to incorporate into our future boat production line.

Polar Bound Signature Model Boat

A limited number of these custom build boats are available to purchase, the ultimate in small inflatable boats.

About the Boat

  • Air deck reinforced underneath on hull with an extra layer of black PVC over the standard grey finish.
  • 2 x black moulded handles fitted to inside of sponsons at the stern. Just after transom board, for carrying boat from rear.
  • 2 pairs x black moulded handles mounted shoulder-width apart (70cm) on each side. Designed for 2 people to carry the boat at its approximate weighted balance point.
  • Boat length: 10’6” (3.2m).
  • Boat tube diameter: 17.5-18” ( 45cm).
  • Beam of boat: 5’ 9” (1.7m)3.2m
  • 2 pieces of black anti-skid/slip matting fitted centrally on top of tubes.

Boatworld are delighted to be able to offer this boat to the general public. As well as one of the most accomplished explorers of recent history. If David Scott Cowper can use our boat as a tender in the Northwest Passage, why would you buy anything else? Take a look at this amazing boat.

If you need any more information please let us know.

01246 453815

[email protected]


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Comments (2)

  • tkescorts.com Reply

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    1 September 2022 at 8:45 am
  • Northwest Passage Arctic Adventure | Angela Neal Grove Reply

    […] yachtsman, David Scott Cowper, in his book Northwest Passage Solo, describes the Northwest Passage […]

    6 October 2022 at 10:11 pm

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