We have now reached the ice. Since seven o’clock this morning we’ve been weaving around chunks of ice varying in size from a pebble to much much larger than this boat. The experience is more or less what I expected, you have to be concentrating all the time to find the right passage and much to my frustration it is often necessary to double back to find a space through the ice that you can fit through. We have seen few tall icebergs, these are all from sea ice rather than having been detached from a glacier so almost all of them are just at sea level. We had to turn the engine on and take the sails down so that we can manoeuvre properly. This isn’t a worry however, because of how much sailing we did between Murmansk and this strait we now have enough range by fuel to go all the way to Point Barrow under engine, hopefully it won’t come to that. I have found that I really enjoy steering the yacht through the ice flows, much to Ros’s disappointment all the bits of ice she’s pointed out to me I had already noticed. The air temperature is the coldest we’ve had so far, only one degree but it’s enough for me to where five layers on watch.
Today is Nikolai’s birthday, he’s sixty one and still doing this sort of stuff on a regular basis. In Bristol before we left we were visited by a lady named Margaret Gorely. She had followed the progress of the shakedown voyage last year and had learnt that she and Nikolai share the same birthday. When she came to see us she gave me a bottle of champagne as a present for him and asked me to bring back the cork from the bottle. I’ve kept this a secret from everyone except Dad who was there when Margaret visited so that they couldn’t let slip to Nikolai, I’ve been using it as a pillow so no one sees it. We’re going to celebrate his birthday at dinner, I’ll give it to him then.
If we manage to get through this strait we’re attempting at the moment the trip should be in the bag. It’s the one tight point that still has potentially troublesome ice in it from here to the North West Passage. I’ll write to you again to report on Nikolai’s sixty first. Bye.