PORT TOWNSEND — With multiple trans-Atlantic sailings and now a voyage through the Northwest Passage, the Breskell has come home.
The 51-feet-long mahogany boat docked at the Port Townsend Boat Haven on Thursday morning after a 70-day voyage from Newfoundland to Port Townsend through the Northwest Passage.
The Breskell was built in 1985 by its captain and master boat builder Olivier Dupont-Huin — “often times called Olivier Huin,” he said — and was launched in June 1986.
Huin was born in Brittany, France, and lived in France for 27 years before beginning his sailing adventures. He comes from a family of seafarers and took his first steps on his father’s boat, he said.
“For me, sailing is like walking,” Huin said in French-accented English. “It’s natural.”
With a thick white beard and hair, gray beanie and a Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building sweatshirt, Huin seemed relaxed and at peace while he sipped coffee at the Sunrise Coffee Co. on Thursday morning.
Huin has lived in Port Hadlock for six years, and considers Jefferson County his home.
“Port Townsend is my home and I’m proud to be part of the community,” Huin said. “I’m glad I’m finally home.”
There were two reasons why Huin sailed the Breskell from Virginia to Port Townsend: to bring the ship to Port Townsend and so he and his wife, Corinne, could witness the melting ice caps in the Arctic Ocean. They sailed there for almost three years to raise awareness of the issues of climate change.
“Ice is melting away,” he said. “That is the message I want people to get. Going through the ice was very special; it was very powerful, especially in a wooden boat. It was prepared for it, so we were safe.
“As a matter of fact, we never went through a day below 32 degrees.”
On both sides of the yellow-painted hull of the Breskell, the words “Let’s make the planet great again” are painted.
The trip through the passage was not all smooth sailing for Huin and his crew, with rough waters in the Bering Sea and wind through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The Bering Sea was the roughest, Huin said.
“We were like in a washing a machine,” Huin said. “The Bering Sea is very hard to sail.”
Throughout the morning at the Boat Haven, members of the community kept coming up to Huin and giving him hugs and welcoming him home.
Originally, a reception was planned at the Boat Shed at 1 p.m. Thursday, but due to Huin and his crew arriving around 9:30 a.m., it was canceled.
Instead, a small, impromptu reception was had at the Sunrise Coffee Company.
The sense of community on the voyage was helped along by various crew members who joined Huin at different points during his voyages (whose names are painted in black along the hull) and the fact that people from around the world have followed his voyages aboard the Breskell.
“People all of the world follow us,” Huin said. “It’s amazing.”
Two films document some of the voyages of the Breskell: “Disko,” which was filmed in 2017, about Huin’s time in Greenland and “Breskell,” filmed in 2018, about Huin sailing the Arctic Ocean.
“Disko” has won three separate awards, Huin said, and now “Breskell” has won one, and has been officially entered into a French film festival that Huin plans to attend, once he figures out how.
“They pay for everything, except for airfare,” he said.
Both films were directed by Dominic Joyce, an English filmmaker.
This wasn’t Huin’s first attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage. He originally tried to sail through it in 2018, but the waters were too dangerous. He reportedly put “two good sized holes in my hull” and the Canadian Coast Guard prohibited sailing above 70 degrees north that year.
Now that he and his wife are home, they are relaxing before figuring out what to do next.
“Our plan is to rest for a few days,” Huin said. “Then I don’t know.”
They are planning to work this weekend at their mobile creperie, “La Crepe De Quimper,” which serves local crepes and galletes using Brittany recipes.
They encourage of the community who want to see them to find them stationed at Finnriver Cidery, the Port Townsend Farmers Market or the Sunrise Coffee Co.
More information about the Breskell and Captain Huin can be found at breskell.com.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].