“If all goes well, I’ll be sending Buff love just shy of the North Pole this August!” wrote Neil Almy (Fin’10), who is now on a year-long sailing expedition with the goal of sailing farther north than any other vessel in history, through the Northwest Passage to the very edge of the Polar Ice Cap. The mission, called the Infinity Exhibition, includes a team of 22 from 10 countries and is being filmed as a follow-up documentary to Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World. In April, the Coloradan asked Neil a few questions before he took off.
Tell me a little bit about your trip. Where will you be traveling and for how long?
In about a week we will be leaving our current location, Majuro, Marshall Islands, to head north to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, through some of the most dangerous seas in the world. From Dutch Harbor we will wrap around the Alaskan Coast and through the many islands in the northern Canadian territories. We'll mostly be following the fabled Northwest Passage west to east, ending at the bottom of Greenland in October 2018. However, we will be deviating from the traditional route when we reach the coast of Greenland. Instead of transiting directly south we'll head north in an effort to evade oncoming ice flows as we attempt to reach Alert, Canada, the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world, at a latitude of 82 degrees north.
Ice breakers have traveled farther north, but there still hasn't been a sailing vessel to reach this far. We'll keep pushing around the western and northern coasts of Greenland as long as conditions are in our favor. As fall approaches, we'll turn south as we finish the trip sailing down the western coast of Greenland. Our crew of 22 hailing from 10 countries are provisioned to winter over in the event we get sidelined by an early ice pack.
How long have you been sailing? What draws you to it?
Prior to joining the S/V Infinity in October 2017, I only sailed a few days with friends. The freedom of being propelled by the wind paired with memorable experiences living and working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska during summer breaks while attending CU called me back to the ocean. Nico Edwards' award-winning adventure documentary Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World is what ultimately drew me to this trip and the S/V Infinity.
What have you been up to since you graduated from CU?
I've lived in Boulder and Denver since graduating in 2010, working as a small business finance and accounting consultant and then as a chief financial officer for a couple of regional businesses. Now I live on the S/V Infinity. I met the boat in Tonga last October and we've sailed north from there to Fiji, Vanuatu, Tikopia and the Marshall Islands. We've been in the Marshalls since the first of the year repairing and refitting the boat. We'll see where the wind takes me, but I've been missing the mountains far too much to not end up there next.
Anything else you would like people to know?
This trip is being filmed as a follow-up to Sea Gypsies. We are going on this trip for the thrill of adventure, to attempt to accomplish what no other team has been able to, while bringing awareness that our success is directly related to the negative impacts of climate change.
People often marvel at me uprooting from a conventional life path. Over the years, the inspiration of my peers taking risks to do something that spoke to them finally resonated with me. I don't think it’s necessary for people to go on adventures to feel a sense of fulfillment, but stepping outside of one's comfort zone to pursue a path that speaks to oneself is often very rewarding. Having a degree from the University of Colorado makes taking risks feel much more freeing. The education I received from CU has proven to open doors in my past, and I know that whatever I do next, it will prove as a valuable resource.
Photo courtesy of Neil Almy