Hello, so, news of the moment is that we’re anchored. Today at seven o’clock exactly we sailed into a sheltered bay in the middle of an archipelago just west of a passage made up of three islands, that is where the proper ice starts. It is a huge relief. We’ve been sailing non stop for the last eleven days and though you don’t really notice it during the journey twenty four hour travel really grinds you down. Inside this bay we have almost no wind and absolutely no swell. The boat is level for the first time in two weeks and I can lie flat in my bunk. The surrounding area is very familiar. It’s basically Scotland. Low brown bleak moors with bits of jutting rock here and there. There is some ice about but it’s mainly on the low rocky beaches that are dotted about everywhere. We haven’t done much after anchoring. Mostly we’ve just been sitting around and enjoying not moving for a few hours. Lots of effort was put into dinner this evening. We brought a set of pizza bases that we got out and made pizzas with. Those were nice and afterwards we had steamed puddings with custard. We’re all going to bed relatively early, about ten o’clock, and then we have anchor watch.
ICE! We came across ice today! Or at least so I’m told, I was in bed. It was after my watch, about eleven thirty, as far as I know we were just sailing along and a small chunk of ice floated by. This is exciting for two reasons: one, we’re getting close to the pack ice which means we’re getting through the journey and two, we’re approaching land again, according to Nikolai we should be in a little bay on a island safely out of the wind by midnight. This means we’ll have a few hours or days to rest, make repairs and generally enjoy not being tossed around by the waves. Not long now, I can’t wait. Just now I noticed land off the starboard side. It’s very faint and there’s not much of it but it’s definitely land which means we’re definitely close to land which his the most exciting thing thats happened all week. I feel our standards have dropped slightly. I’ve got a feeling that when we get back to England we’ll all have a hard time adapting, I feel particularly sorry for Barbara, she’s got the ten till two shift. I’ll just be waking up at six in the morning every day for a month and will be overheating in midwinter.
Onboard the boat there are various rules that you have to follow in order to stay safe. These include wearing lifejackets while on deck and clipping in and so on. For most of these rules I’m generally fairly good at keeping them, I haven’t gone overboard or anything. There is however one rule that I am forever breaking purely by accident. Hold on. You’re supposed to hold on to a solid part of the boat with at least one hand at any time. This is something I can never remember to do. In my defence I do hold on about fifty percent of the time and make sure I am braced against something most of the time. Despite this David has quite reasonably asked me to work on it, wish me luck.
Nikolai just tried to put the generator on. He tried to put it on but it just refused to start. He took up the floorboards and had a bit of a look at it. After a few seconds Nikolai got up and picked up a screwdriver from the side. He knelt back down to the generator and gave it a thwack with the screwdriver, he got up and pressed the ignition switch gain. Lo and behold, the generator is on.
Over the past day my cold has got much much better, I can usually breathe a little through my nose now and the headache and sore throat are gone. I intend never to go on watch again without a hat. Or a hood.
We hope to be anchored up against the shore in about three hours. I can’t wait to be able to stand straight I might even stop falling out of bed. Anyway, I’ll write again tomorrow when we’re anchored. The last thing I want to say is that I’m reading the Lord Of The Rings and I’ve memorised whats written on the inside of the ring, Ash nazg durbatulúk, ash nazg gimbatúl, ash nazg thrakatulúk agh burzum-ishi krimpatúl. Bye
Hello, you know a few days ago I told you we should have reached the ice by now? Yeah, well, that hasn’t happened. Because of our proximity to the pole the auto pilot has a very hard time getting us anywhere with any accuracy. As a result we’ve been hand steering four the past four days and through a combination of large waves and the wind being in a weird direction instead of following the great circle route through the kara sea we’ve had to go in a south-easterly direction all the way. Recently we’ve managed to steer the boat into a gentle northerly direction for the past few tens of miles. two days ago we hit a rough patch, a very rough patch. The wind got up to thirty knots at times and the waves were bigger than I’ve sailed in before. Because of this the boat got knocked about a bit, sleeping was of course a joke and when I came off watch my face was covered with a thin layer of salt from where waves had hit me. David got the worst of it though. I was down in the saloon and he was on watch steering the boat. We were going forward, slowly, through swell bigger than we’d had before and suddenly there was a loud crash and roar of water as we went through a wave. Allow me to outline the difference between going on top of a wave, and going through one. To go on top of a wave in where the hull of the boat bears you over the crest and the boat keeps floating. To go through a wave is when this does not happen. When you go through a wave the boat ignores the water in front of it and the sea swell just rides straight into and out the other side of the wave. That is what we did. An exciting moment I’ll admit, but not one I’d like to repeat. The wave hit David while he was on the helm and would have washed him overboard if it weren’t for his lifejacket tether and the fact that he’d braced his leg against the side of the cockpit. That was by far the worst weather we’ve had all trip, and I hope, the worst we will have.
Yesterday something very nice happened. On my watch I saw the sky and sun for the first time in four days. before and since then we’ve just had endless grey clouds. It was nice to have a change. Though we have had quite a lot of wind and enough waves to last a lifetime we have only had very light, and very occasional, rain. Despite this it’s still hard to keep your clothes dry inside the boat and putting on wet sailing gear for your watch after having spent the night in a damp bed with a damp sleeping bag is not an experience I would recommend. The day before yesterday, durning a rough patch, I managed to catch a cold. It was my own fault, I went up without a hat and had put my hood back so that I could see better. The sea spray came straight over the side and hit me in the face. Not really surprising then that I’ve spent the last couple of days with a blocked nose, sore throat and headache. It’s passing now which is good but I’ve learnt an uncomfortable lesson. We’ve been sailing without the engine for over a week now, I think, its hard to keep track of time here, and we’re made relatively good time. We don’t want to go too fast because we still can’t get through the Laptev because of the ice.
I haven’t had the opportunity to shave for over a week now and as a teenager all this means is that I look like I’ve splashed coffee all over my face. The plan is, I think, to anchor somewhere to get out of the wind and waves while we wait for the ice to go. At that point the boat should be stable enough for me to shave without lacerating my my face. Yaay. We hope to keep going at a steady pace for the next few days. I don’t know when we expect to get somewhere but distance wise we’re now a quarter of the way round the world. I’ll write again when we’re a bit further on and the something interesting happens, until then, bye.
I have a cold. It’s my fault of course. Yesterday on my first half hour of the horrible watch I had no hat and had my hood pulled back so that I could see better. A wave came over the side and hit my in the face, that was, to put it mildly, cold. A couple of hours after that I developed a blocked nose, headache an sore throat. This got progressively worse as the day went on and I spent the night with little sleep. The morning came and the cold was a little better. I still couldn’t breathe through my nose though and the headache was not exactly fun. During my first watch I saw the sun and sky for the first time in four days. Alas this did not last long and by the end of my watch we had complete cloud cover again. On the plus side the weather has been getting progressively warmer, it’s not exactly the Bahamas but we’ve turned the heater off and have still had fifteen degrees in the cabins. I know that doesn’t seem like much from your perspective but up here thats bordering on too warm for some of us.
We’ve been able to go more or less due east since this morning. The sea state has been kind enough, as has the wind, so our course has been fairly steady. I have to admit that this bit of the journey has been very Twilight zone like. I have completely lost track of time, as has everyone else I think. I’m really looking forward to getting to some land and hopefully some shelter from the wind. And the waves actually, no waves would be lovely. This blog is going to be very short I’ve afraid, this is because I’m currently finding thinking very difficult, probably because of the cold, as in the virus not the temperature. I’ll write again when I can think strait. That might be a while, in the meantime, bye.
Hello, sorry about “no blog 31”. I couldn’t resist. The last day has been lost in a gale.
Anyway. Yesterday we started sailing south east with a good wind and no particular hurry. This wind then got out of hand. By this morning we had a force 8 gale and waves with whiteheads that would have done a teenager’s face proud. The waves and wind were strong enough that the autopilot couldn’t cope and failed to keep us going in a straight line. It was up to us. It was then that I realised that we were in trouble. I did my evening watch. Every half an hour we would switch out and you would go up into the cockpit, clip on, stand behind the helm and do everything in your power to keep the boat straight. We had the main and staysails out, as such the boat was tipped over so you had to stick your leg out to stay in the cockpit when the waves came. It was freezing. As the shift went on I began to measure time by how much my fingers hurt from the cold…. We sailed on, the waves got higher, the wind got stronger and the waves began to break over the bow and smash into the saloon windows and the cockpit. Cold water splashed into your hood and you were blinded for seconds at a time. The wind pushed the boat and you were fighting the wheel to stay pointing in the same direction. I finished my shift and tried to sleep. The bow went up and down crashing into the waves with loud cracks and tilting so that any chances of sleep were dashed against the bulkhead as loose boots and boxes rocketed around the cabin. Even in bed there was no escape from the icy spray of the sea. There is a vent in the porthole at the front of the boat and as the waves come over they spill through onto the floor. In the aft cabins spray water came in through unseen cracks and fissures in the hull. Eight hours later I rose from my bunk for the morning watch. Things had only got worse. The boat rocked and the sea spray filled your vision. David was helming when the weather reached its peak. We approached a huge wave and as it filled the portholes’ views the boat come crashing down, we braced for it to rock back up, it didn’t. The swell was too high and we didn’t go over. The wave came over the foredeck, the saloon, the cockpit. Were engulfed and for a second the entire boat was consumed by the massive body of water. That second passed and the water roared off the decks as we plummeted into the trough on the other side. Water had come through in a dozen places: vents, the companionway and poorly sealed windows. But that was not my concern, I grabbed the cover of the companionway, pulled it back and breathed a sigh of relief. David was still there. (see photo of my view of David from the companionway) Water would dry and we could place back any objects that had come loose but with a wave of that size the main danger was that David had been washed over while helming. True I knew he was clipped in but all that really meant was that he could be being dragged behind the boat rather than be fully detached. As luck would have it he’d been positioned so that he was braced against such an assault. After that the weather began to calm, slowly, very slowly. By the end of my watch we were still rocking about but things quickly calmed enough for me to write this. Once I was finished I came below decks to dry off and I noticed something rather odd. My face was completely covered by a thin crust of dried salt. So things have calmed and what I hope was the harshest weather we will see has passed somewhat. I am, I admit, relieved.
Yesterday at the very beginning of my evening watch something quite exciting happened. We had an Icebreaker pass. It was hard to tell but I think it was one of the Atom Fleet. It was huge, black and cream in colour and very cubic in design. It had been days since we’d last seen another vessel so it was really nice. I got some video for posterity.
For the moment the water maker has stopped working. This isn’t a huge problem as we still have a lot of water and we think we know what the problem is. Still it’s irritating.
The waves are kicking up a bit so I’ll stop writing now. We’re going to hit the ice in the next couple of days I think so we’ve got a lot to look forward to, bye.
For any of you who are watching us on the AIS I wish to reassure you that we have not gone insane, or least not by that much…. Yes, we are going round in circles, no this isn’t very constructive to swift progress but there is madness to our method, or something. South of us is wind, strong wind, in fact, wind strong enough that we don’t want to be there. As such we want to stay in the north. There is still wind in the north, wind that we are using, but not in the right direction for us to plow on ahead, and anyway, the Laptev sea is still covered with ice. As such we just want to hang around in the north and wait for the ice to shift or melt in our favour, and because of the wind we can do that under sail.
So we’re just zigzagging about off the Northern tip of Novaya Zemlya and it’s sunny and warm and a couple of hours ago a whale turned up offering us free drinks and free tickets to an underwater adaptation of the Lion King. In case you hadn’t noticed, that was a lie. It is cold and felt colder than it is because of the wind. The wind keeps coming round so we have to tack the sails and while it isn’t raining we still are cold enough to switch with the other crew member on your watch every half hour. We haven’t got the engine on so it’s not much warmer inside than it is out. The water temperature is under five degrees, you don’t want to fall in.
Hello. Onboard we have two rotas, one for cooking and one for washing up. Each person does one day of each every week. Today was my first cooking day. Imagine how well that went. I didn’t have to do anything for breakfast. Everyone is expected to either get their own food for breakfast or be asleep. Most people are asleep.
For lunch we had two sails up. As a result we were tipped over onto our side, funnily enough I didn’t try anything extravagant. We had a small loaf of brown bread that had been made a couple of days ago so I cut some slices off that and made sandwiches. Happily these turned out to be edible so some people had them. Dennis and Nikolai had had soup about half an hour earlier so didn’t want anything, David was asleep (he told me so himself) and so wasn’t eating. Constance had some soup instead so in the end I only made three sandwiches.
We have no more cheddar cheese. I made dinner during my watch, or to be more accurate, I started making dinner during my watch and then The Mother finished the job. Dinner consisted of boil in the bag rice and some pre-cooked packages of lamb hotpot.
I’ve got my washing up day tomorrow and I expect that to be rather busier for me. I have my own system which says that on any of the days that I’m washing up or cooking for I don’t have to do schoolwork. That works out pretty well because trying to fit in cooking, schoolwork and sleeping together in the right amount is just a little too difficult to do. As it turns out I’m not the only one doing schoolwork on the trip. Barbara and David have become engrossed by my history textbook. They’ve placed postitnotes on pages 213 and 67, the Russian revolution and the Cold War, respectively.
Hello. Yesterday The Mother promised me that today there would be wind and that we’d be sailing again. Fat chance. By the time I was on my morning watch we were still motoring and by the state of the sea and sky that didn’t look like it was going to change any time soon. How prophetic that thought was. By four in the evening we’d got the genoa up and were paddling along at two point five knots. This was disappointing. By six we’d put the engine back on and were motor sailing at a steady five point seven knots over the ground.
During our brief sailing period I was awoken by an odd sensation. It didn’t feel like the boat was moving. We were moving of course, just very slowly. The thing is though that you get so used to certain sensations and sounds the you don’t notice them. Then when they go away you’re suddenly deep disturbed. For me I woke up as soon as the smooth slides and sudden decelerations of moving through the water ceased and when the sound of the waves breaking on the bow fell silent. I’ve discovered that I’ve found such noises and movements very comforting due to their perceived permanence. I expect that I’ll be similarly disturbed when twenty four hour daylight goes. I don’t think I’ve been somewhere dark for nearly a month. Even Lerwick only got dim during the night.
The expectation is that we’ll be crossing the Atlantic in near twenty four hour darkness. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve experienced it before in Lapland and really enjoyed the sensation. I like the dark and have done so for a number of years, of course there was the brief interlude of the week after I saw World War Z, at which point I took to sleeping with the light on for a couple of nights. It will of course be harder in twenty four hour night. A lack of vitamin D for one. We have a store of tablets but the effect is supposed to be quite marked. Because of this sunbeams are sometime prescribed medically in Norway to keep vitamin levels up.
I just finished my late watch and at the end I had a rather unpleasant experience. For the BBC David has to do three audio pieces a week and as The Mother and I are joint stand in technical officers I’m the one that records them. The one I did today was based at the front of the boat so at the end of my shift I went up to the bow and stood very still in the wind for three minutes and recorded the background noise of the bow. That was cold, really cold. I was wearing no hat because I had to have headphones on and my hood was down. I was wearing no gloves because I had to press buttons and was hanging onto the forestay. When you’re doing that, three minutes is a long time.
We’ve been able to see Novaya Zemlya since this morning. Not for any reasons of proximity mind. This morning it was grey and misty, in the distance we could just about see a low headland. As the day wore on the mist receded and we began to see mountains covered with snow and glaciers. I don’t know exactly how large they are but they look massive from thirty miles away. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
With a bit of luck it should be another forty eight hours until we reach the waypoint at the end of Novaya Zemlya. At that point we’ll turn east and then to Siberia. Yaaay. I’ll write soon, bye.
Hi again. So, I have no idea how long it is science we left Murmansk. I think I had a bit of an idea yesterday, if so I’ve forgotten it. I know it’s Sunday the 24th. I think we left Murmansk on the Wednesday. I think. The thing is, because you’re 24 hour sailing, you’re awake at all hours, except those that you’d normally be awake for. You also have twenty four hour daylight. This means that you have no measure for time passing. You get up at twelve at night to go the toilet and its exactly the same as twelve noon. The only difference I’ve noticed is that at night it’s colder. This means that my main indicator for time passing is how runny my nose is. This is not a joke.
Over the past few days the weather has been getting progressively colder. Air temperature is about six degrees, water temperature is only two degrees higher. Fall in here and even if you are rescued you will almost certainly die of hypothermia. Fun! Because of the risk of falling over board we all have lifejackets that have built in harnesses. We then have cords that we attach to various points around the boat so that if we do get thrown around we don’t go in the drink. David has insisted on a policy of, whenever you’re on deck you have you’re lifejacket on and are clipped in. I know this is the wrong attitude for a teenager to take but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As far as emergency procedures go on a boat, there is a rule that says: Never step down into a life raft. That is to say that unless a boat is sunk to the point where you need to step up into a life raft, then you’re safer on the boat than in the raft. On that point, we have one life raft. Its tied to the back of the boat. In the event of an emergency where you might have to get off the boat you undo the clasps on it and push the case its in into the water. There’s then a rope coming out of the case thats attached to the boat, you pull on that until it releases the compressed gas bottle inside. The case then bursts open and the raft inflates from within. The rule is the heaviest person gets onboard the raft first to stabilise it. That way if lots of other people have to get onboard quickly it probably won’t capsize. The raft is quite big, it also has a cover over the to of it with some foam struts to keep it rigid. So you’ve got seven people in what are basically really thick wetsuits bobbing around in a well insulated plastic orange raft with no windows, in the sun, for hours on end. Not surprisingly, it gets a bit warm, and you get seasick. Given those potential conditions inside a life raft Northabout policy is is: A, don’t sink the boat. B, don’t set fire to the boat. C, don’t do anything, that means you have to get into a life raft. All those in favour say aye. I have full approval.
I managed to get Barbara to do an audio blog for the today program today. As it turns out she’s very good at that sort of thing. It was quite a short one but in my opinion much better than the ones even David has been doing. Barbara disagrees, here’s Barbara now:
This is the problem with sitting next to Ben when he is doing his blog! He is very persuasive, has been chasing me for days to do an audio blog and eventually today we got around to doing the Tascam recording, of course, I like most people, don’t like the sound of my voice, or at least most of the crew here on Northabout, don’t like our own voices. i have tried bribing him to delete or at least cut short the audio blog but he has it all on record now and has threatened to send it to Radio Dublin … such a ratbag! Still … I can now mention his smelly socks!
Thank you Barbara, and yes, I was about to come onto those. Now, recently the keel box has been leaking. This means that in the short corridor from the saloon to where most of the beds are the floor is wet. So when I come off watch I go down into the midships, take off my boots, lifejacket and trawler suit and then walk back up to the galley where I then get a drink. This means that my socks get wet. It’s only after that happens that I remember that I’m wearing them. So I then take off my now wet socks and pit them up by my bunk. Which is right next to Barbaras bunk. This means that she’s had wet smelly socks within nasal proximity of her when she tries to sleep for the past few days and has recently been complaining about them as only a ‘charactered’, Irish woman can. The Mother concurred with Barbara that this was a problem and gave me some stuff for athletes foot which apparently stops your feet sweating. I just tried to put that on. Harder than you might think. My leg is now white.
Unfortunately the wind dropped about sixteen hours ago and we had to put the engine on. We got a good fifty hours out of the sails though and when we were sailing we got up to eight knots over the ground, about eight point eight miles per hour. With the engine on we’re not even getting ix over the ground. I much prefer actually sailing. For one its quieter, The engine is right below the galley floor so you can’t really have a conversation while it’s on. Two, the exhaust in most yachts is under the water. This means that when you’re on deck you don’t get nasty smells from the engine. The designers of Northabout, in their infinite wisdom, made the exhaust a large hole in the side of the boat. As a result if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction and you’re on watch you get a face full of carcinogens. Aside from that I do feel a little guilty using a diesel engine in the Arctic. sadly though if we want to do the trip we have little choice over that. What is strange, and a little worrying, is that here I’ve seen more floating plastic than in the entire ret of the trip. In the past two watches I’ve seen as many pieces of plastic in the water. On the way up to Tromsø I saw that many in five days.
We should reach the top of Novaya Zemlya, don’t ask me how to say that, in about two days and then we’ll decide where we’re going to hang around to wait for the rest of the North East Passage to clear enough for us to get through. I’ll write again tomorrow and tell you how well the foot powder worked, bye for now.