Fire and ice

Words and Photos by Mike Jones

Fire and ice

From the very beginning, Firebird was conceived to be able to accommodate the owner and his family who enjoy every minute of their time onboard together, whether that is cruising with friends or pushing the performance boundaries at the Mediterranean Superyacht regattas. The comprehensive and high-end specification also satisfies the stringent demands of charter guests, be it in the Mediterranean, Caribbean or even the Arctic, with every eventuality and creature comfort catered for. With one of the family’s great passions being off-piste skiing, a passion that has taken them all over the world, it was inevitable that they would combine two of their great loves.

Now with Firebird’s first season under their belt, they have gone in search of adventure inside the Arctic Circle, to the very north of Norway, ski touring in the famous Lyngen Alps and surrounding islands, a far cry from the crowded slopes and lifts of Europe’s major resorts.

No small undertaking, especially for what most would call a ‘bluewater’ cruising yacht, the waters in the Arctic may be clear, but they are very, very cold, and the weather sometimes quite unpredictable. The owner and the crew have gone to great lengths to prepare themselves and their yacht for her maiden Arctic voyage, even calling upon independent surveyors, to satisfy themselves that Firebird would be capable and worthy of the task. Passing with flying colours, a sure testament to her build, only a few small tweaks were required, along with several special customisations. It seems that no detail has been overlooked, with boot heaters installed in the lazarette, ski racks fitted in the sail locker, and on the foredeck she sports a new rugged tender suited to beach landings with groups of skiers and their cumbersome boots, each cabin is even stocked with several pairs of insulated slippers to keep any chills at bay.

Having already chartered a local yacht last year as part of a location scout for their extended trip in March and April this year, everyone, yacht, crew and owner are all more than well prepared for the conditions. From Andrey’s point of view there is no doubt that the choice of the 885 Raised Saloon variant was the right one, as it lends itself spectacularly to the scenery, making breakfast or afternoon tea quite an occasion with an inescapable panoramic view of the landscape around you.

The skiing itself is both diverse and thrilling, with routes and mountains to suit everyone from the armchair adventurer to the extreme enthusiast. The sense of achievement borne from scaling an Arctic peak, whilst your yacht is in clear view anchored in the Fjord below, is nothing short of an awe-inspiring and exhilarating experience. The skiing on the way back down is, quite simply, the icing on the cake, which incidentally is what will be waiting onboard for the intrepid and well-exercised skiers upon their return. Some of the descents are the skiing equivalent of an infinity pool, with a seemingly never-ending ridge of lovely fluffy and fresh powder snow dropping away into the sea. Mind-blowing. Picking an experienced guide who knows the local mountains is key to everyone’s enjoyment and piece of mind, and Andrey and his family have been skiing with renowned mountain guide Brian Farquharson for a number of years. He really knows his stuff, working closely with the captain to plan routes and itineraries through the Fjords, tailoring each day to the group as required, his knowledge is remarkably encyclopedic, even if his pronunciation leaves a little to be desired!

Offering something of a luxury ‘ski chalet’ experience at sea, the set-up is impeccable, and what could be better than a chalet that delivers you to a different mountain everyday? The scenery is overwhelmingly breathtaking, in the Fjords of Northern Norway, there are amazing views at every point of the compass, the water is ice cold and crystal clear, and the locals extremely welcoming. Few ski-accessible chalets are able to claim a potential view of the Northern Lights, but it is certainly on the cards whilst onboard, especially being so far away from any light pollution whatsoever. Any yacht in this beautiful landscape makes a great sight, but Firebird with her mid grey topsides and orange accents under full sail, surrounded by snow covered mountains is truly a wondrous spectacle.

The cruising grounds here are second to none, with peaks rising right out of the sea, quite a unique offering and a real contrast to the shallow, sandy anchorages of the Caribbean, northern Norway offers an entirely different proposition. Sheltered bays nestled in the Fjords, fishing village piers are more par for the course, and predictably the local salmon is as good as it gets. The salmon is something that Chef/Stewardess Mel puts to great use in her menus which are aimed to satisfy both your tastebuds and to fuel you for another day of Arctic exploration, be that by ski or sail.

Firebird is set-up to accommodate seven guests across four cabins (the office/snug converts to a comfortable large single cabin) in exceptional comfort. Onboard you will find that the crew takes immense pride in their work, presenting the yacht in immaculate condition at all times, whilst doing everything in their power to enhance the experience for everyone onboard.

Learn more about the Oyster 885.