PROGRESS REPORT No. 18
Map relating to this progress report
Progress Report # 18 - Paddy Barry Tuesday Sept 14th
This morning, the Tupilov 154 flight to Moscow lifted slowly from
Khatanga. The tundra, reddish grass, yellow birch and willow, shimmering
water of lakes and waterways spread before us.
Behind us, the town and it's dockside disappeared, we had been there
since last Friday morning - 4 days during which we had managed to
(a) organise secure winter storage for the boat
(b) get on a flight out to Moscow
(c) meet some great people and have a good time
Khatanga is the main northern town for the province of Krasnoyorsky,
having a hinterland the size of France & Germany combined. It's
population is 3,000, and unlike the other northern towns we saw, it has
a vibrant community of Russian and Dolgan indigineous people. Coalmining
nearby, 200 kilometers, is the main industry now that the military have
mostly gone. Khatanga is the "basecamp" to North Polar expeditions. It
also is "home" to a 26,000 year old fossilized, now-extinct Mammoth. We
played and sang in the restaurant and in the school, met interesting and
hospitable people and their families, visited their homes, drove and
walked out in the tundra.
In parallel, the weekly flight was going out on Tuesday (although the
last week's one did not run!). So, there was an urgency in getting the
boat "lay-up" done. We couldn't book our flights out, until our boat was
And secure she is! With mast unstepped, by Sunday night, she was lifted
into a large steel river barge, the barge hatch-covers fixed (and
welded). There, the barge (with Northabout within) will stay in the
frozen river until the river ice breaks up next June.
As we head for Moscow and home, we look forward to our return.
With some retrospective thoughts
Rory Casey writes - It was a great trip - even though the ultimate
objective still eludes us. It was my first time in the Arctic and I
found it a fascinating place. Many thanks to our family and friends, and
well wishers, but a huge thank you to my fellow crew members. We worked
very well together, and will complete the job next year!
Kevin Cronin writes - "is fearr filleadh as lar and atha, na ba sa
tuile" (it is better to return from the middle of the ford, that to
drown in the flood!)
We pulled back from an impenetratable wall of ice, and apart from some
bruises to boat and crew, we'll be in good shape to take it on again,
We'll be working over the Winter on improving our communications and
flow of information for next year to best inform the critical decisions
that have to be made about going forward, or retreating as we approach
Cape Chelyuskin again. I am optimistic about our prospects.
It was a happy boat, despite the strains. A personal salute to the new
crew members - Colm, Gary and Rory - who apart from exercising their own
particular skills, were the easiest of company - fitted right in!
Dr. Michael Brogan's thoughts on a possible medical emergency -
As the ship's doctor, one of my main concerns sailing in remote regions
is serious injury or illness to any crewmember, with which I could not
deal, and may require hospitalisation.
The high Arctic is one of the remote regions on the planet. There is the
occasional passing ship, making a delivery to one of the few habitations
of Mys Schmidt, Tiksi or Pevek, or upriver to Khatanga. Going further
north, (77 degrees latitude) towards Cape Chelyuskin, you are very much
on your own. However, radio communication is not a problem.
There is daily contact with North Sea Rout Administration in Murmansk,
who control the 3-4 icebreakers that work the areas where they are
VHF works up to 40 miles
Shortwave radio works to greater distances (to Mayo)
Assuming an icebreaker is available, it would possibly take 2 days to
reach us and another 2 days to get to a habitation with a hospital and
possibly an airport. It could possibly link up with a helicopter from
the mainland shortening the time.
A more serious medical emergency would be dealt with in Makutia or
Krasnoyarsk - both 4 hours flights.
We found Russian sailors very friendly, helpful and especially
resourceful. I would be confident that any emergency would be dealt with
competently, but in a "Russian" way - i.e. we would probably not fully
know what is going to happen, until it happens).
For Northabout 2005, I will be doing an extensive medical on all of the
crew, myself included. I will review medicines and medical equipment on
board, to allow greater flexibility in dealing with any possible medical
situation. I am happy to report that a healthy crew is now returning to
We need to complete our report with a very special thanks to Mr Nikolay
Monko (Northern Sea Route Administration), Mr. Nicolay Batitch (Murmansk
Shipping Company), Alexey Shadanov (Lodestar Travel) and Mr Slava Samoilovich (State Ice Pilot).
In reply to the many queries raised via e-mail on the construction,
equipment, sailing qualities, and ice capabilities of Northabout, the
following may be of interest.
Northabout sails well, points well, and is very stable. Under sail in
force 3-4 winds will easily maintain speeds in excess of 7 knots. The 2
headsails have roller reefing, though normally only the Genoa is used.
The mainsail has 3 point slab reefing.
Under engine we cruise at 7 knots at an economical engine speed of 1800
RPM. Obviously, in ice, our speed is considerably reduced as we weave
through ice leads.
The hull is constructed of welded aluminium. The bow is raised above the
waterline (Like an ice breaker) to enable it to gently slide up onto ice floes,
rather than crash head on as would happen with a conventional design.
We do not attempt to break ice!
The hull bottom plate is 12mm thick to cope with the abuse a hull is
subjected to in Polar Regions.
A couple of features which assist progress in ice -
1. Shallow draft. Northabout draws 1.4 metres with the centreboard
raised, which enables us to take advantage of leads in the shallow area
between the shore and grounded offshore ice.
2. The keel protects the rudder and propeller.
3. The engine is keel cooled, eliminating problems, which can be caused
by ice blockage in the water intake pump impellor.
The engine is a Perkins M92 4 cylinder naturally aspirated diesel 85 bhp
(63.5 kw) Gearbox is a Borg Warner Velvet Drive, reduction ratio 2.1: 1.
Electrical equipment is kept to a minimum Depth sounder, GPS, VHF and
SSB radios, Radar, Autopilot, and this year's new toy: a laptop computer displaying
electronic charts, linked to GPS, showing our position, speed and
direction on the screen. How did we ever manage to navigate previously!
Nevertheless we also have paper charts as backup.
It is interesting to note the three well-known polar boats, Northabout,
Vagabond and Campina, are all designed by the French naval architect
Vagabond has twin engines with propellers port and starboard. The
photographs I have seen show the propeller guards had many encounters
Campina has twin rudders, which are vulnerable, and were in fact,
disabled by ice.
Northabout¹s rudder and propeller are more protected by the keel.
Northabout is now secure for the winter, under cover, in the hold of a
barge in Khatanga; the crew back home at their work, and looking forward
to completing the expedition next year.
Lifting Northabout Into the Barge for Winter Storage