Juliette Hennequin grew up in France, graduating from University before training to become a professional yacht skipper. In 2004, on her first trip to the southern Polar Regions, she met her future partner, Dion Poncet, while in the Falkland Islands.
Today, Juliette and Dion lead the crew of the Hans Hansson, Quark Expedition's small exploration boat. Accommodating just 12 passengers, sailing aboard the Hans Hansson is a delightfully intimate and flexible adventure cruise experience.
Sailing the Polar Regions
Dion was born aboard his parent's yacht in South Georgia and spent much of his childhood sailing around South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.
The family eventually settled on Beaver Island in the Falklands and took up sheep farming. Dion's love of the sea never left him, and by the age of 15, he was piloting yachts and small ships. Most of his adult life has been spent on charter yachts and he began skippering commercially when he was 20.
“After a couple years sailing in various areas including Greenland,” Juliette explains, “I returned to the Southern Ocean skippering a sailing charter yacht in 2007, then with my own yacht in 2009, with which I ran charters until 2013. It came naturally to me when Dion then became my partner to leave my yacht behind and become his first mate on the Hans Hansson.”
Juliette is unabashed in her admiration of Dion and his skill as a skipper.
Navigating the Southern Ocean
“Dion's knowledge of the place is second to none, and his ability to drive the yacht combined with his local knowledge makes him the best possible skipper/guide you could wish for on a Southern Ocean experience,” she tells Quark. “The boat is unique in that it is small enough to take advantage of little hideaways and passages which usually only sailboats can use, and yet still retains the comforts of living on a ship.”
Refitted Rescue Vessel Hans Hansson Offers Ultimate Adventure in Comfort
Built in Norway in 1960, Hans Hansson was a rescue vessel for 35 years, assisting more than a 1,000 vessels and saving 161 lives. Refitted to accommodate guests in comfort, Hans Hansson is a working boat with a personality all its own.
Size Matters – the Benefits of a Small Exploration Boat Cruise
“What we try to offer passengers is the best possible experience in the Falklands and in Antarctica, allowing them to be involved in the daily program, meaning we are very flexible and try to adapt the itinerary to the passenger's interest,” Juliette says.
“Time ashore is not as limited as on bigger ships; in general, I would say flexibility is our main asset. I think also the social factor can be very important (usually in a good way!) because it is such a small tight knit group of people having an experience together.”
One of the other major differences passengers on Hans Hansson will notice is the time spent exploring. On larger vessels with 100 or more passengers, it takes time to get everyone ashore, and larger vessels can only visit areas that will accommodate them easily. Because Hans Hansson is so small, there is very little need for Zodiac cruising outside of shore expeditions.
“Passengers can enjoy the same things in the same comfort and safety of a larger vessel; stand up, take pictures from a steady platform, go inside if they get cold, go for a nap if they get tired, and all this while still going almost everywhere a Zodiac can,” Juliette says. “As a result it's easy for us to react to unusual or special sightings such as whales, spectacular icebergs, etc.”
Farm-to-Table Meals aboard the Hans Hansson
When it comes to meals, the emphasis is local. Juliette and Dion farm sheep, reindeer and fish. Guests can expect to eat home produce including pâté and smoked meats. Meals are home cooked and while the emphasis is on Farm-to-Table and French cuisine, fare from around the world makes it to the table. Some beer and wine is available (at the Captain's discretion) and guests are welcome to bring their own beverages aboard.
“The boat is our home, and we welcome people aboard as guests,” Juliette says. “Crew and passengers sit at the same table for meals, creating a relaxed and informal atmosphere. We'll get to know one another as the trip goes on, creating a much more intimate experience than you would get on a bigger ship.”
On larger vessels with more passengers, spontaneous events are a little more difficult to accommodate as well, and often have to be viewed from a distance. Many large vessels either continue traveling at night or anchor well offshore. Hans Hansson is rarely more than a few dozen yards from shore at the end of the day.
“On a small vessel you are much closer to nature and the surrounding environment,” Juliette says. “It might be slower-paced on occasion, but it results in a rich experience and a better chance to see it all.”
Choosing an Antarctic Cruise
There are many options for to travel in the South Polar Region. Contact one of our experienced Polar Travel Advisers today to learn more about the Hans Hansson small exploration boat and its upcoming expeditions.