Hello. So the North East Passage is over! We are now the first and only British boat to have sailed the North East Passage in one season. Whoo. We felt this required some kind of celebration so when we stopped in Point Barrow we had Dad go and get pizza before getting onboard. The Beaufort sea has taking about twice as long as we’d hoped. Bad winds hampered us from the start and we had to go north to try and get round them, when that didn’t work we just motored into the wind until we reach Tuktoyuktak. We should reach it tomorrow and we’ll refuel and be on our way in about twenty four hours. I’m really looking forward to being able to get off the boat. With the length of time on Northabout and the lack of exercise I’ve lost a lot of weight. Mostly muscle I think but I won’t pretend I didn’t have fat to lose at the start of this. I don’t know how much I’ve changed but Dad noticed just from looking at me. Scary thought. It’ll be difficult getting my fitness back at the end of it. In the meantime our other new crew member has settled in well. Johan’s good to have in board, very confidant and very cheerful. Definitely a contributor. I’ve just come off my watch and need to sleep so I’ll go now, see you in less than half the world, bye.
Hi, so, we left the Laptev sea a few days ago and are passing through the middle of the East Siberian Sea. We’ve had to divert a long way south to avoid a large patch of sea ice that we couldn’t get through. As we’ve gone south the days have started getting much much warmer. On my morning watch today we had eight degrees. Thats warmer than anything we’ve had since we were covered in smoke from a forest fire while anchored in that bay. Another interesting development as we’ve kept on going south and east is the reinstatement of the concept of night. We now have a couple of hours each day when it’s actually dark. On the one today some of us saw the Northern Lights, unfortunately, I was in bed at the time. Because of the time difference, until recently, the sun set at two in the after noon and rose again at eight in the evening. To compensate for this we’ve changed the clocks and our watches so that it’s dark during the night. Because of this I now have the twelve till four watch instead of the six till ten. About fifty miles ahead of us is the Russian town of Pevec, it’s where we would have stopped to refuel or repair things that had broken while sailing, if there were any. As it happens, because of how much we’ve been sailing we could get to Point Barrow under engine alone. Not that we plan to of course, but we could. Though I have said it many many times before, I think we’ve passed the last of the ice. According to satellite pictures we’ve received and the ice charts we’ve got, the bit of ice we’re currently going round is the last piece before the North west Passage. So through a combination of blind optimism and some actual evidence we hope to reach Point Barrow some time next week. I’ll write to you again to tell you when we get there, bye.
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.
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.
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.
Hello. At the moment we’re in the middle of the Barents Sea. We left Murmansk three or four days ago. I’m not entirely sure how many, you loose track of time after a bit. We set off from Murmansk in fine weather. Calm seas, blue sky’s. The whole lot, this continued for about the next thirty six hours. After that the wind got up, this was a blessing an a curse. It meant that we could get the sails up. We’ve had the engine off for forty eight hours and are going faster with just the sails. The downside is tat now the boat is listed, which means you fall over, and rocks about in the swell, which means that just as you’ve fallen over you get catapulted to the other side of the cabin. I had to miss a watch yesterday because of seasickness although I luckily did not throw up. I don’t like missing watches for any reason, it just feels lazy. Since leaving Murmansk I’ve taken over a bit of the technical officer roles. We’re going to be on the today program on Monday so we needed to send them back bits of audio. These bits are little audio blog or diary entries and because Dad isn’t onboard it’s fallen to me to record and send them along with all the normal go pro video. It’s fun, but leaves little time for schoolwork and sleeping. Yesterday was my Mothers and grandmothers birthday. So we had a little party type thing in the saloon. There was cake and presents. Nikolai gave her a T-shirt from his sailing yacht, I think that was quite special. We’re heading north-east to the tip of an island called Novaya Zemlya, it’s a long island north of Russia. Once we reach there we’ll turn more to the east and go out to the ice. We should get to the ice in the next fifteen days or so, with luck. We’ve been seeing a lot of dolphins lately. All the same species, large, grey with white stripes on the side. They’re more or less constant companions. For some reason all the dolphins we’ve come across have approached from the west, and then gone off in the east. No idea why. I’m tired so I’ll go to bed now. I’ll write again in a few days, hopefully when we reach the top of Novaya Zemlya, you never know, bye.
Okay, so, hi. Sorry I haven’t written for a while, it’s been hectic. So, the remainder of the time we spent in Murmansk was helpful. The Mother and I went to a nearby shopping centre and bought what is either a cat, or a dog. It’s difficult to tell. We attached it to the front of the boat ,whatever it is, on Tuesday. On Wednesday we left. We had a safety briefing at about twelve o’clock and left at six in the evening because the immigration people had to come onboard and get us all to promise we weren’t smuggling vodka. My new shift starts at six so, as usual, we left at the start of my watch. Once we got out of Murmansk the scenery was beautiful for my watch. It took a long time for the water to look clean though. Coal ports are not good for pollution. On the way out of Murmansk we passed the dock that houses a portion of Russia’s nuclear ships, the Atom Fleet. Because of where we were all of them were icebreakers. They were huge ships, larger than most cross sea ferries. Russia has several ports that have nuclear vessels. The only ones I know are Murmansk and one in the black sea. Because of how nice it was during my watch I was prepared for some truly awful weather just down the road, it hasn’t arrived yet, maybe we’re just lucky. I hope so. This afternoon I looked outside and the sea was like glass. Completely smooth with no wind, that’s barely changed. The mother and I put on sea sickness patches before we left and we, and everyone else, h DOLPHINS! Sorry, dolphins were here, I had to go and see, there were only two but still. Anyway. No one has been sick yet, I call that a result. At the moment we’re heading for the top of a very long island who’s name I can’t remember. After that is when we expect to see ice. If we’re very luck indeed this might all take less that twenty five days. On Monday we’re going to be on the today program so we’ve been recording each other talking little bits for it. Well, I’ve recorded David and myself, I haven’t got round to anyone else yet. We’re managing to go along fairly quickly and I’ve got my watch in not too long so I’ll leave you now, Bye. I’ll write tomorrow.
So, we’ve been in Tromsø two days now and we’re all set to leave tomorrow. Mum met us as we came into port and my sister Bea and her boyfriend Joe were there as well. We arrived in Tromsø and nine in the morning yesterday and I spent the rest of the day sleeping. We had booked hotel rooms because Mum, Bea and Joe, were already there. I had’t realised how tired I was until we reached port. At that point I no longer needed to be alert all the time so the fatigue came crashing down.
Today I was allowed to sleep in again. I had hoped to get up early so that I could get on with things. With hindsight, I really needed that sleep. During the day the oven was removed and the microwave was installed. Expectations are that this will make things a lot easier. After lunch Dad showed Mum and me how to transfer camera footage to the laptops. After that Mum and I went into town to buy some things that we needed for the boat. While the surrounding area of Tromsø is beautiful, encircling mountains, some of which still have snow on, what I really love about this city is its tunnels. There is an entire A-road and motorway system beneath the city, we went through it to get to the shopping centre. Also, the Norwegian people are lovely. All those that we’ve had any interaction with have been friendly, helpful and accepting.
While we were in town I got a small polar bear wearing a scarf to cable tie to the front of the boat. On returning to the boat Mum, Dad, Bea, Joe and I went for dinner in the hotel so that we could see each other before we leave. A bit later everyone else went and had dinner in a nearby pizza restaurant. For some reason the Norwegians do really good pizza.
Back on the boat I did an interview for ITN and then we all started packing things away. A Norwegian reporter turned up during this and we talked to him for a while. He was good, very enthusiastic. After that Dad and I went up to the hotel so that he could look at the interview footage and I could write this. I’ll write again during the next bit of sailing time. Bye.
We are now half way up Norway and after 24 hour sailing for a bit you discover that only so much joy can be had from featureless water stretching out in every direction. Just over the last nearly two days I have had a real problem. After my watch last night I was unable to sleep, as such I have slept just under two hours in the last thirty six. This is having some adverse effects. Concentrating is hard, I am very very tired but not sleepy, sleep is not an option. My sense of humour is a little frayed and I haven’t been feeling hungry. This does not bode well. Luckily Tromsø is only three days away.
The change of temperature has been noticeable, not so much when you are on watch but when you are down in the saloon, in the evening it is now necessary to wear a light fleece. The day before yesterday we passed an oil field. Dad used to work as a helicopter pilot flying people out to the rigs and back so I know a little about them. The ones you picture with the flaming top are called N.U.I.’s, or Normally Unmanned Installations. As the name suggests they do not usually have personnel on them. The N.U.I.’s are connect to what is called the Nodal Rig. This is where everyone eats, sleeps and works normally. At night I find both types of rig very beautiful. The Nodal’s in particular. They’re the size of a small town suspended above the water. We will cross the Arctic Circle soon, and from there on to the Lofoten Islands. I will write again. Bye.