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Polar bear protection

May 23, 2014
Ellen Leonard and instructor Steve Konkoly do some shotgun familiarization

Ellen Leonard and instructor Steve Konkoly do some shotgun familiarization

Tim Queeney

Regular Ocean Navigator contributor Ellen Massey Leonard and her husband Seth are planning to sail the Northwest Passage in the summer of 2014. They will navigate the route aboard their 40-footer Celeste, a cold-molded cutter designed by Francis Kinney and built by Brent Jespersen in British Columbia in 1986. The Leonards have ice-toughened Celeste with an extra fiberglass skin and a girdle of kevlar around the waterline to protect the hull (more on that in an upcoming issue of Ocean Navigator).

One additional requirement for sailing in the Arctic is something these sailors had never carried with them before. Ellen and Seth need a firearm for protection against polar bears. The two seasoned voyagers, who completed a circumnavigation aboard their previous boat, Heretic, have no experience with guns and so were in need of basic training and some insight on deciding which firearm would be best for them. Luckily, Ocean Navigator had an expert on tap, novelist and former naval officer Steve Konkoly. Ellen flew in from their home in Switzerland (Seth was unfortunately stranded in New York City and missed the training session at the Scarborough Fish and Game Association's firing range in Scarborough, Maine). Ellen enthusiastically took instruction from Steve on the basics of a pump action shotgun and a bolt action .308 rifle. Ellen quickly got up to speed firing the 12-gauge shotgun, working the pump action with all the authority of Hollywood action star.

When the live action work switched to the .308 rifle, however, Ellen was not so sanguine. The thunderous report of Steve's first demonstration shot was enough to make up her mind. "I think I've made my decision," Ellen announced. Feeling more at home with the smoothbore, Ellen decided that a simple pump action shotgun would be their polar bear protection device. Let's hope she and Seth have no reason to use it on the Northwest Passage journey.

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