New Zealander sails the Arctic on a custom yacht in violation of COVID-19 restrictions


According to the Canadian government, he has no reason to be there.But Peter Smith, 72, is sailing the Northwest Passage anyway, in violation of COVID-19-related orders prohibiting most foreign yachts from entering Canadian waters.

Since June 1, Transport Canada has banned pleasure craft from navigating in Arctic waters “to better protect Arctic communities” from the spread of COVID-19.

More according to a Facebook post on August 20, Bobby Klengenberg, a local observer with the Inuit Marine Watch Program, spotted Smith’s custom yacht, the Kiwi Roa, off Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

Transport Canada confirmed the sighting and said the vessel was ordered “to leave Canadian waters and not to land” in an email to CBC News.

A spokesperson said the Canadian Coast Guard “will monitor the vessel’s transit out of the region.” If Smith is indeed found to have broken the law, they wrote, the agency “will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action,” including fines of up to $ 5,000.

CBC News has contacted the Mayor of Cambridge Bay, its Executive Director and representatives of the local Hunters and Trappers Organization. None responded to requests for comment.

Bureaucracy has gone mad: yachter

Smith is an accomplished boat builder and New Zealand ocean racer. He lives aboard the custom built Kiwi Roa, described on its website as “the ultimate home for the ocean” for 26 years.

Reached by email, Smith said the story was one of an “out of control and madness” bureaucracy.

“I suspect he is also motivated to win political points in support of Canada’s claim to have control of the [Northwest Passage], the local Inuit and the innocent boater being just pawns in the game, ”he wrote.

Smith aboard the Kiwi Roa. Reached by email, Smith said completing a Northwest Passage transit was an “unfinished business” after failing a similar attempt in 2018. (

In a second email, Smith said the wording of Transport Canada’s original ban was “ambiguous.”

The text of the ban allows foreign vessels to exercise the right of “innocent passage” in Canadian waters, which Smith says he now relies on “as a last resort.”

But Canada’s official position is that the Northwest Passage counts as “internal waters”, which means that right does not apply. This position is contested by the United States and several other countries.

“Canada has no legal right to apply Canadian law to a foreigner by [an] the international waterway, ”Smith wrote. Half the world does not recognize Canada’s claims and this needs to be resolved. ”

I am much more at risk from the villages than they are from me.– Peter Smith, captain of the Kiwi Roa

Smith said he was initially contacting Transport Canada after notifying the ban on May 14.

He said it was only six days after he left Nome, Alaska on July 27 that they notified him that the trip would not be allowed.

In response, he stopped reporting his position to the authorities.

“I had tried to comply with Canadian requirements as a sign of respect for Canada,” he wrote. “As far as I’m concerned, I was dictated and not consulted. ”

Since he was spotted, Smith said he had agreed with Transport Canada “not to stop at any place of residence” and to provide daily position reports – but only once a day, not twice. times as Transport Canada requested.

“I am a yacht, not a bloody cruise ship,” he wrote.

The Kiwi Roa when it was launched in England in 1994. Smith estimates that it is two or three weeks before leaving Lancaster Sound, by which time it will be back in international waters. (

Smith went on to say that concerns about its spread of the coronavirus were overblown.

“I am 72 years old [years] old man with a history of lung problems from my job as a boatbuilder, ”he wrote. I am much more at risk in the villages than they are with me. ”

“I respect the residents’ wish to be alone. I am not a tourist. “

‘Record’ trip in progress

Smith’s previous trips have taken him to Antarctica, South Africa, Greenland, and Newfoundland, among others.

In his email, he said his final destination on this trip was Lisbon, Portugal, which he estimated to be around eight weeks away.

They would need a swat team to make me [turn around.]– Peter Smith, captain of the Kiwi Roa

The route via the Northwest Passage is more than 9,000 kilometers shorter than the alternative route via the Panama Canal, he said.

But Smith also said that completing a transit of the Northwest Passage was an “unfinished business” after failing a similar attempt in 2018.

He said he was on track to set a record for the fastest passage through the Northwest Passage without refueling stops, having covered “90% of the way.”

Smith estimates he is two or three weeks away from leaving Lancaster Sound, by which time he will be back in international waters. He is adamant it will not be returned.

“They would need a SWAT team to get me to do this,” he wrote.


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