As it turned out in the end there were two major benefits in staying where we were in that bay for as long as we did. The first is that we did eventually leave, the second is that I got my wish, I saw a polar bear. It was yesterday, we’ed got the dingy out and inflated it. That alone took a good hour and a half because we hadn’t done it before on this trip so to some extent we learnt as we went, and Denis has hurt his back so our most able bodied crewman was, to an extent, out of action. After assembling and inflating the rib(ridged inflatable boat) we then had to lower it into the water off the side. To do this you attach the rib to one of the halyards we have and then hoist the dingy up and lower it over the side. This is as tedious as it sounds. You have one person on the winch hoisting the boat(David), and at least two people pushing the boat over the side into the water(me and Nikolai). After that merry escapade Nikolai took the rib out with me in it, he was steering, I had a GoPro and found a shallow beach where we could get off onto land. When we returned to Northabout Mum, Barbara and Constance got onboard and we went ashore.
Once we were ashore we went about doing all the usual touristy things, taking pictures and so on. We then walked about two hundred and fifty meters along and up to a cairn with a large stick sticking out of the top. It was the only manmade thing I could see. The land there was fairly flat and honestly could just have been scotland so from our meagre vantage point we could see the entire bay. I want to go back there. We then started walking back down to the beach to the dingy at which point Ros(Mum) looked up at the other side of the bay and said, “That’s a polar bear.” I immediately looked round to where she’d been facing and saw three white dots making their way along the bay towards us. I shouted “Bears!” to alert anyone who hadn’t heard Ros or needed any encouragement to start running.
We all ran back to the boat and got in quickly, I pushed it off and jumped in while Nikolai started the engine. Once we were in the water we were safe, the rib could outrun a polar bear in the water so there was no reason to panic. Nikolai brought us in a little closer and we could see that it was a large mother with two decidedly messy cubs. We hung around a bit taking pictures and generally feeling pleased with ourselves and then went back to the yacht. When we got back I got out with Ros Barbara and Constance and David and Denis got in. They then went and had a look as well. As the bears went away they got out or the dingy and walked about the beach a bit, nothing as adventurous as our trip to the cairn. From the boat as they landed we could just see the three white dots disappearing over the hill, and that was how I came to see a polar bear, box ticked.
Three days earlier it had been Denis’s birthday. He’s now thirty three and tomorrow Nikolai turns sixty one. Barbara, Constance and Ros made a cake for Denis using the bread maker we have and the microwave, it was very nice. I hadn’t been able to get Denis a birthday present in Murmansk but I did get Nikolai one in Lerwick, I think he’ll appreciate it.
We left the bay this afternoon. At about one o’clock we hoisted the anchor and went off. I was asleep for all that unfortunately and only woke up when we put the sails up. This was because the engine turned off and the boat tipped, so I fell out of bed. With luck we should pass the next strait, the Viltitsky strait which is notorious for being blocked with ice for most of the year, within the next forty eight hours and maybe come across some pack ice. The first people to pass the Vilkitsky strait, when there was more ice than there is these days, took several attempts over several years. Ice would slow us down but would be a lot of fun. I’ll write again when we pass the strait and get into the Laptev sea, bye.