North on The Wind

A sailing expedition to discover the coastal mountains of Arctic Norway

Feature type Story

Read time 10 min

Published Dec 08, 2022

Author Nino Mazzone

Nino Mazzone

Big adventures and expeditions often start as small sparks of excitement ignited long before the reality of any kind of trip comes together. For Nino Mazzone sailing came into his life pretty early on, it was just a matter of time before that initial spark spread into something greater. Exactly how would be dictated by the twists and turns of life during the decades that followed.

Below he shares how a love of crossing vast swathes of ocean by sailboat blossomed into the start of an ambitious ski-sailing expedition in the coastal mountains of Arctic Norway.

I can’t say that my passion for the sea came naturally, it is something that grew over time. I worked on it with effort and dedication. My thrill for adventure and new experiences, on the other hand, has always been a big part of me, like most people I suppose.

After sitting on a school bench for 12 years, the idea of sitting on a university bench for another three or even five years was unimaginable. So I saved money for a few months and found an opportunity to get away. A friend of my father’s was crossing the Atlantic, heading east on a sailing boat and agreed to take me with him. With very little to no skills at all, in the middle of the sea, I had to learn the ropes, the knots, the winds and the compass rather quickly. After landing in Europe two months later it was clear, I was going to become a sailor. It seemed like a good way to travel the world while making money. But how would I get started? How does someone become a captain?




I would build the skillset and knowledge to lead an Arctic expedition of my own

All I knew is that I needed more nautical miles under my belt and a deeper understanding of the theory behind navigation. While working a boring telemarketing job in Switzerland, I started reading. I devoured every book I could get my hands on, starting with the classics: Sailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum, The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier, the story of Shackleton’s Endeavour expedition, KonTiki by Thor Heyerdahl and many more. These stories gave me the taste for great adventures. They sparked the need and desire to do something remarkable myself!

I have been skiing since childhood and started growing interest in ski-touring, climbing and mountaineering. I read in an article that in Norway, with peaks rising over 1000 metres above sea level, just 200 metres from the shoreline is a famous terrain for ski-sailing. I imagined myself rocking up in a small sailing boat, going onshore with a small dinghy and climbing straight from the sea. A few hours later I’m at the top, contemplating the view, spotting tomorrow’s line before clipping on the skis and making my way back down to the shoreline. And what about Greenland or Svalbard? With a boat, I could go anywhere. This became my dream, my idea, my drive. I was still figuring out what to do with my life and it can be difficult and scary to sacrifice everything to pursue a singular idea, so I decided to make it a journey, progressively, one step at a time in the right direction. I would build the skillset and knowledge to lead an Arctic expedition of my own.

I started by doing some courses but found them quite expensive. Instead, I embarked on different yacht deliveries as a free crew member. Travel expenses and food costs were covered, so it was almost free to build nautical miles and experience. Whenever I had time I sailed: Gibraltar to Southampton, Mallorca to Tenerife, New Zealand to Tahiti and across the Atlantic. One year later I was ready to face the exam, I flew to Mallorca and passed the RYA Yachtmaster offshore certificate. I was a confident sailor and a competent navigator, but my knowledge of mechanics and maintenance was limited. If I wanted to lead my own expedition, I would need to be a good in engineer, capable of dealing with electronic failures, fibreglass repairs, plumbing and much more. In remote areas of the Arctic, one must be able to fix and repair anything that breaks or learn to live without. I also learned to enjoy learning about the technical aspect of boats, so I went to university and studied marine engineering. After a year of studying and three months as a cadet engineer on a 205m cargo ship, I felt ready to move on.

I then started working and saved all the money I could: I was spending summers on yachts and winters in ski resorts. To lead this expedition, I needed experience in mountain safety and proficient avalanche training. I went on like this for several years until I had saved enough money to buy my own boat. In the spring of 2020 when the pandemic first started and the whole tourism industry shut down, I found myself without a job. It was time for me to start doing my own thing.

The first step was to, with a limited budget, find a boat fit for the Arctic winter. After extensive research and several visits, I found the one, a French homemade steel yacht, small but very robust. I made an offer and received a positive response, how exciting! After signing the contract I flagged the ship in Sweden, my home country and renamed her Tiki. A double nod to my time in beloved New Zealand a few years before and the KonTiki adventure led by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Tiki, in Polynesian mythology, is the protector of men and brings good fortune, which is ironic because Tiki also means ‘unsuccessful’. I am not particularly superstitious but maybe I was challenging fate. After a long period of repairs and maintenance, the boat was ready, or so I thought.

Getting ready to head out to sea, while doing some final tests on all the systems, a problem with the exhaust manifold flooded the engine with seawater. I did some digging and called the manufacturer. They said that the engine was damaged beyond repair and I’d have to get a new engine installe. There was no way I could afford to do that. With no other option, I dismounted the engine to get the water out of the cylinders. Some of that extra training was already coming into use! After getting everything cleaned up and spraying diesel and WD40 everywhere to prevent rust, we had to wait for several weeks waiting for spare parts and gaskets.

At that point I felt very discouraged, the boat was broken, and I had spent all my savings in the process of buying and fixing it. I was in well over my head and the whole idea was going to be a flop. I was too scared to see it through. I was secretly hoping that something would come up giving me an excuse to give up. I was overwhelmed and down. Yet, we received the parts, managed to put things back together and started our sail north, through the British Channel. We were several weeks behind schedule, winter was just around the corner and I decided to leave the boat in the Netherlands while I went back to Switzerland to work for a few months in a bit to save up some more money.

I was secretly hoping that something would come up giving me an excuse to give up. I was scared, overwhelmed and down

In spring 2021, I assembled a crew of skiers and went back onboard. Nobody had any sailing experience so it was all up to me. The pandemic was still raging and the Norwegian borders were closed to any foreigner without a valid reason to travel. I contacted the coastguards, the police and customs, and they all said the same thing: I would be asked to turn around before setting foot on land. Of course, this was a great disappointment for everyone, but we found a different approach. We headed east around Denmark and up through the Baltic sea. A month later we were in Luleå, at the top of the Baltic. We rented a car and drove towards the Norwegian border. We crossed the border by foot for some ski missions in the Swedish Fjäll, just to say that we had made it after all. We then returned to the boat and sailed down to Stockholm.

The expedition was partly a failure, and again, I was broke. So I got a job as a mechanic in a shipyard near Stockholm. I also met a girl in Switzerland that made my heart turn and I decided to settle for a normal life. My plan was to sell the boat and start over a few years later, having learned from my mistakes. Luckily, I didn’t get the price that I was after for the boat and put it in a dry dock while I went back to Switzerland to do another winter season in the Alps.

By this point, I was quite lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. The one big project I had been focused on was unsuccessful and I needed to find another long-term goal. That’s when I met Danya, a passionate adventurer, photographer and video maker. He fell in love with my project and inspired me to keep going.

I came to realise that I couldn’t settle on a defeat, the idea of moving on before achieving my dream was unbearable and so I decided to give it another try. I removed all the sale adverts and began preparing for another attempt to reach the Arctic waters of Norway and Svalbard. Danya brought a new dimension to the trip, we could make it into a film, a media project and hopefully get sponsorship, maybe even some financial support.

In September 2022 after another period of refit and maintenance we departed from Stockholm, six weeks later, after three big storms and many sleepless nights, we made it to Tromsö, 350 km north of the Arctic Circle where we wait for the first snow to fall.

There is a great Norwegian saying that I have picked up during this journey: ‘ting tar tid’ which means things take time. In order to achieve anything in life, patience and resilience are required. I’m no great adventurer, nor a professional athlete, just an amateur with a strong desire to do something out of the ordinary. I decided that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and I think that it is true for everyone. I am hoping that this story will inspire some of you to go out of your way to achieve something great, whatever that may be.

Don’t miss a single adventure

Sign up to our free newsletter and get a weekly BASE hit to your inbox

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • linkedin
  • whatsapp
  • reddit
  • email

You might also like

StorySKIRR Adventures • Jan 10, 2023

Among Ice Giants

A 4,820 nautical mile sailing expedition to some of the most remote places on Earth

StoryBelinda Kirk • Aug 31, 2021

How Adventure Changes Lives

The case for ditching the living room in favour of a longer, happier, and more adventurous life.

The wild tide race off Morte Point at the western extremity of North Devon’s Exmoor Coast in a Force 8 easterly gale, with the 4 knot ebb current running at full tilt. In local Devonian lore, Morte Point is ‘the place that God made last and the Devil will take first’, due to the numerous shipwrecks and fishing boat accidents that have occurred on the point. Unusually, there in no ‘inshore passage’ [an area of calmer water immediately offshore] off Morte Point, and the tide race breaks directly on the rocks. Not a place to be in wrong conditions, or without knowing which way the tide is flowing. © David Pickford

StoryWilliam Thomson • Aug 27, 2020

An Adventurer’s Guide to Tides and Currents

William Thompson provides a practical guide to understanding the basics of ocean movement