View from the bridge: Superyachts encouraged to cruise northern ‘less-travelled road’


Superyachts may be tempted to join their smaller sisters cruising the Cool Route northern waters.

There has been what I consider to be a welcome trend over the past two or three years, for yachts to stretch their wings a little and head out of the Med for the summer season, writes captain Iain Flockhart.

An increasing number of yachts are setting off to explore higher latitudes, such as Ireland, Scotland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

Some very sizable and notable vessels have already visited Ireland and Scotland this year and there is plenty of time yet to see more arrivals.  One initiative that has been around for a couple of years is called “The Cool Route.” The ‘cool’ being a pun on both meanings of the word. The route includes Ireland, Scotland, the Faroes and Norway.

Its aim is to promote some of the areas listed above in a collective manner as a stunning alternative to, what for many, has become the mundane scene in the Med. Let’s face it, in the Mediterranean, berthing and even anchoring are becoming more difficult as the overcrowding increases year by year.

Cruising in northern latitudes

Escaping the same old scene can bring a whole new world of excitement to your summer cruising itinerary. Here are some things that summer cruising in northern latitudes can offer:

  • Absolutely spectacular scenery
  • Even now we have passed the summer solstice, you can still expect close to 18 hours daylight in the north of Scotland, and of course even more, as you head further north
  • Amazing clarity of fresh air
  • Wide-open spaces and very few people, so you have all the space you could dream of for tranquillity and privacy
  • A plethora of marine and land-based wildlife
  • Centuries of fascinating culture to explore, much of which is easily accessible
  • Although the weather can be unpredictable, even when it is less than ideal this can enhance the appeal of the place making the scenery becomes more dramatic
  • Generally, very friendly and welcoming people.
  • Stunning, oft-times deserted beaches – particularly in my native Scotland.
  • Crystal-clear waters.
  • Higher latitudes bring with them an amazing quality of light often capitalised on by filmmakers in Scotland and Ireland.

Network of support services

As the number of yachts cruising these higher latitudes grows, the network of support services is becoming more established to cater for the increased demand. It is however prudent when planning to venture into these areas to take the planning stage of your trip

seriously and to ensure that you are well stocked up on essential spares and long-term provisions. Services and supplies, though readily enough available when properly planned, may be further apart than you are used to.

The more adventurous you get, the more important this part of the planning process becomes. Certain aspects of this planning may go beyond the reach of captain and crew. So, it may be worth considering seeking professional help among the growing number companies that specialise in this field.

Pay particular attention to unexpected contingencies. Being that bit off the beaten track can make the unexpected more complex to deal with: make sure you have planned ahead. Also ensure you are well stocked with medical supplies and have a trusted telemedical service set up in advance of your trip.

Trusted telemedical service

Also, look at your V Sat coverage to ensure that continuous service of your IP comms. will be available for your trip north.

My own observation of yachts that I have seen or known to have visited these areas is that they are generally of good pedigree and well-found vessels. This is an important consideration as a less-well designed, built, and maintained yacht operating on a tight budget, may find conditions taxing if they are less than ideal during the cruising.  So, ensure that your vessel is properly up to the trip before contemplating these cruising grounds.

Cruising in high latitudes may also require adjustments from your crew. It is a far cry from the high temperatures of the Med in the summer. So, ensure your crew members are prepared for the challenge. If you are going very far north you may well need to have an ice pilot onboard and or other crew with extensive experience in waters where ice is likely to be encountered.

I very much welcome the current trend and wholeheartedly encourage owners to consider these higher latitudes as a thrilling alternative to the more-traditional summer cruising grounds of the Med.  There is clearly a steady growth in this market and, hopefully, it will continue, bringing a helpful boost to the local economies of these areas and, also, take some strain off the Med which, as most would agree, is becoming severely overcrowded.

About the author

Iain Flockhart is a highly-experienced yacht captain with over 250,000 nautical miles in the role of professional captain since 1996. He grew up on sailing vessels but chooses to work on motor yachts now. He has a wealth of experience of working in challenging roles and a wide and varied skills set with solid management and administrative skills. He enjoys simple pleasures such as using his seven-metre RIB to go exploring and wild camping in his native Scotland. Iain is currently looking for new opportunities to command a superyacht.

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