Progress Report No. 4

Map relating to this progress report

Tuesday July 27th.

An email came in to the boat last Thursday night. We had been at sea for a day and a half, the contrary wind had eased and we were settling into the passage.

"The Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) has informed the Irish Embassy in Moscow that it had NOT given clearance for the voyage of "Northabout" and that, until such time as such clearance was issued, the boat and its crew WOULD NOT BE WELCOME."

God Almighty! What now?

The options were to alter course for Nome, Alaska, to heave to at sea until the Permit could be sorted, or to go back to Dutch Harbour.

We chose the fourth option--to keep going, and our Iridium Sat-Phone began to hop.

Since our visit to Moscow last December to lodge our Application, all 60 pages of it translated into Russian, we had known that this was no foregone conclusion. But Colm had twice been to Moscow since, been to the heart of the system, with our good partner Alexey Zdanov, and we thought we had the Permit sorted.

And it was, but we didn't know it until a couple of days later, when we were about 40 miles westward of Glory of Russia Cape on Saint Matthew Island.

What lifting of anxiety as we carried on, crossed the International Dateline and sat round the cabin table to a 'Dateline Dinner'--and a very fine and relaxed meal it was. The wind now filled the sails from the starboard quarter, what a relief to be able to cut the engine. Our windvane steered the boat as we cracked, yarned and then brought out the music. Joan on the fiddle, Tom on the mandolin, and mé féin on the guitar. And surprise surprise, Jarlath on harmonica--what a dark horse. I think we exceeded our 1-beer-per-man-per-day quota that night.

We changed charts. The coast of Chukotka became the talking point,what would it be like?, its history as the most remote of the Republics of the Russian Federation. Roman Abromovitch, oil oligarch and owner of Chelsea Football Club had become Governer of this immense place. We had read that he was spending huge money of his own there, and the worry now was what would happen to this poorest of regions after he would be gone?

Our watches passed easily, 3 hours on, in pairs, 6 hours off, no hardship about that. The nights grew brighter, on that day before we made Anadyr I rigged a 'curtain' over the portholes in my cabin, for darkness--arctic nights again. About 100 miles out, the weather closed in, fog all round. The sea water grew brown. We were seeing the effect of the Anadyr river, 700 miles of it discharging.

With GPS, radar and sounder we were within 5 miles and still had seen nothing, not a ship, no shore. The VHF radio begun to come alive, in Russian naturally enough. The big test came, my call to Anadyr Radio--all my efforts at learning Russian now about to be put to the test. And it seemed to work, they acknowledged our call and asked that we change to Channel 15. There we heard nothing!

Anyway it didn't matter, we were now in the estuary, and could see where we were going, very industrial indeed, with the tower blocks of this 10,000 population capital of Chukotka on the hill behind. The berth we took, the only one we could see, was open to the wind and waves, getting lines ashore and tied required some acrobatics.

Then it began, the men in uniform. How I wished Colm, Russian speaker, was here. My Best Wishes and Greetings from Ireland didn't seem to cut much ice with these men. I was taken in a van through the town to a gate where the sentry, armed, saluted and waved us through. Tales from Solzhenitsyn passed through my mind. the room I was taken to had printed on its door 'Major', at least that's what I think it said. He couldn't have been more helpful over the next couple of hours as he explained that Chukotka was a 'closed' area and that we shouldn't be here--the communication from Moscow had not been so good. I explained, as best I could, that the rest of our crew would be arriving in from Moscow that evening with our Permit, our Russian speaker and with our State Ice Pilot. I think the Major phoned Moscow, even with the 9 hour time difference, and I was given documents, formalities completed. Great smiles all round and on the way back to the boat we stopped at a bank so I could change dollars to roubles.

In the meantime, back on the boat,visitors, curious, were starting to call. They don't get too many sailing boats here--none at all in fact. One man had come from the Airport and was able to tell us that our Irish friends had arrived. Their story of baggage retrieval would fill a page.

And to bring our story right up to date, here we are in Anadyr, all together after a great night in the Chukotka Hotel, sore heads to prove it. Tom, Joan, Brendan and Eoin are packing their bags and tomorrow are flying back to Moscow and Ireland.

Rory Casey, Mike Brogan, Kevin Cronin, Garry Finnegan, Colm Brogan and Vladimir Samolovich are moving their gear on board. The town is a building site, a lot of Turkish building workers among the Russians and indigenous Chukchi. They all seem friendly. After I finish this I'm going for a walk around.

We're taking on diesel and water. Tomorrow we hope to be on our way.

P.S. - Update from the arriving team members.

We flew from Dublin on Friday morning, via Warsaw and arrived into Moscow on time on Friday night. Colm Brogan met us at the airport and took us to our hotel and then his local, La Cantina for a fine meal and a few well deserved beers.

The next morning was spent looking around Red Square, the Kremlin and some of the fine Moscovian sights. Saturday night was a very cultural affair with us going to the ballet - the Nutcracker.

We flew from the new Moscow airport, but just when we thought all was in-hand, our flight was delayed for 7 hours. The arrival in Anadyr was very memorable – 3 hours waiting for our passports (even though everything was in order), a scrum for baggage reclaim, and then a helter-skelter minibus ride on an off-road mudtrack. This was followed by a short ferry ride, and even though it was raining, we spotted at least a dozen whales (Belugas) and lots of seals. It was great to see Northabout tied up at the pier.

End of progress report no. 4