top of page


This summer, Karl will continue on his third year of a multi-year effort to paddle 1,900 miles of the Northwest Passage. Karl has completed almost 900 miles over two seasons unsupported from Tuktoyaktuk to Kugluktuk. In 2024, Karl will be supported by a freighter canoe to complete his journey to Pond Inlet, 1,000 miles East of Kugluktuk in Nunavut, Canada.

Adding a support vessel is more than just for safety and ease. The canoe will allow Karl to more safely complete the final leg of the paddle, which includes large and exposed crossings, and fewer options for resupply. The added support will  allow Karl to paddle further each day (and have more fun doing it) and bring along multiple paddleboards: even a surfboard for those moments he finds a wave!


Map of Northwest Passage

The last two summers, daily range was limited by  space and weight on the board (as Karl brings all his supplies with him from the start of each leg), which has averaged about 400 pounds, including water, shotgun, camping supplies and Karl himself. To pull 400 pounds through choppy Arctic waters using a paddle is a feat, however, it made each day a mission to survive, rather than to thrive. Now Karl can take more time to document and share his journey, go further each day, and have time to wait out storms as they arrive. This final 1,000 miles to completion at Pond Inlet will be vastly more enjoyable and fruitful with the support of the canoe.


Jim Heath, the current owner of the canoe, writes below about the connection between Karl and the freighter canoe, and how this connection mirrors the history of the Arctic and the people:




The 2024 season begins at Kugluktuk, in Nunavut, Canada, roughly halfway through the Northwest Passage. To mitigate the risks, a 24-foot seagoing freighter canoe will serve as chase boat and supply vessel. Despite its varnished oak gunwales and efficient cedar construction, calling it a “canoe” does not convey the reality: its capacity is 5000lbs and a 50 horsepower motor pushes it to 21 knots. A freighter canoe dwarfs the vehicle that tows it.


For almost 80 years, Canots Nor-West of Quebec has built transport canoes that effectively replaced the umiak in the arctic (“canot” is the French-Canadian spelling). They are constructed of cedar, oak, and canvas but are vastly bigger and more stable than the 14’ Old Towne canoe at your childhood summer camp. Freighter canoes are sometimes called the “Inuit pickup truck.” When not on the water, these rugged craft line the beaches of settlements in the Canadian Arctic and Hudson Bay. They haul hunting parties and they carry thousands of pounds of walrus and seal. They are used to catch and tow narwhal and belugas. The hulls are reinforced: the big canoes ferry snowmobiles, which in turn drag the canoes across sea ice. Nor-West canoes take entire families on 100 mile open water crossings to follow game and fish migrations. 


Both on practical and cultural grounds, a Nor-West 24 would make an ideal support vessel for Karl’s SUP. However, production of the canoes was interrupted by a fire in 2023 and they are extremely rare south of James Bay or west of Ontario. Finding one for sale is practically an impossibility. But Karl’s social connections uncovered a pristine Nor-West 24 in Bellingham WA!


The owner is a nephew of the dean of arctic kayak research, the late John D. Heath, who was extremely sensitive to Arctic culture. The former agreed to sell the canoe to Karl’s non-profit, to support him on this venture and to future explorations.


This particular canoe had been shipped from its Quebec birthplace to Winnipeg, then trailered across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to become a recreational boat in the San Juans. Using the canoe to transit the Northwest Passage eastward and descend Hudson Bay would make a working watercraft of it. Plus, its return to eastern Canada would complete a peculiar circle of history.


By following Karl west-to-east through the Passage, and returning by way of its birthplace near Montreal, this wandering-son freighter canoe will link the eastward migrations of the kayak and umiak with the westward odyssey of the birchbark canoe and fur trade canoe.

Following his return from the Arctic in 2022, Karl was asked to write about his experience in 48North, the preeminent PNW water tribe rag. Distilling the experience in his own words, this article helps best describe the pure joy... and wild expanse that is the modern day Arctic. 

Karl Kruger paddling the Arctic
bottom of page