PROGRESS REPORT No. 8
Map relating to this progress report
Thursday, August 12th
We're into The Laptev Sea, approaching Tiksi, now less than 200 miles away, and that will be half-way. So it's about time that we thanked Alexey Zhdanov,Lodestar Travel, and Vladimir Vestugin. They are our Moscow Partners, whose work for us in getting the Permission made this all this possible. 'Bolshoi Spaciba' Alexey i Vladimir!
There's history in the islands, the seas and the rivers all around us. However, the ice-reports show very heavy ice beyond Tiksi.. We expect that we have plenty of sitting- around- time waiting for it to open and can be talking about history then.
Let's tell you how our day goes. We're on 3 hour watches, 3 on and, in theory, 6 hours off. One watch is Jarlath, Rory and Gary. (Gary Finnegan is the cameraman, who stood in for John Murray at short notice. Gary doesn't seem to be regretting it yet!) There's Micheal and Kevin. And there's myself, Colm and Slava. (Slava is the Ice-Pilot, required in our Permit, He sat-phones Murmansk twice a day, giving our position.) Suppose you're on at 4 am. You get a shake about 15 minutes before, crawl out of the sleeping bag, legs over the side of the bunk and pull on your black thermal long johns (if you haven't slept in them--). Pull on your next layer of nice cosy red 'midlayer ' 'Volvos'. (Thank you Volvo!) And then put on your Dubarry boots.---I hadn't intended this to be a commercial, but thanks Mick.
---as I try to type, Mike and Kevin have just cracked on more sail, the boat has heeled and the laptop is sliding across the cabin table-mustn't complain, got to keep the mileage going!
As you come up into the main cabin, you'd look out to see what sort of a day it is,foggy or not? ice around?, going under sail or engine?. It's mostly engine, but if there's any good wind, the sail goes up. One of the lads from the going -off watch will be making a cup of tea, or more likely pouring out a whiskey. It may be the start of your day, but it's the end of theirs. You put on your heavy outer oilies, gloves and hat and up you go to the cockpit. There would be a brief word or two about position and course being steered, wind or ice and then you're on your own, the sun already up in the morning sky. It's bright all the time, just a bit dusky at night. The boat's yours for the next 3 hours. Sometimes if we'd be going along in shallow water, close to the shore, to try to keep in out of the ice, the depth sounder has to be watched big- time. The boat has a lifting centreboard, but we still don't want to be banging it off the bottom. Breakfast varies, for us its mostly 'kasha', porridge to you. Slava adds all sorts of concoctions to his, but in fairness he has taken well to our non-Russian diet-I could add thanks here to various Irish food suppliers, but enough 's enough, for the time being at any rate. Your main ration of sleep, about five hours, is got during your 'night' off-watch. The rest you'd get in off- watch catnaps during the day, by inclination or opportunity. As I think I said before, it's quite social from mid-day to after dinner, eight or nine o clock. Then it quietens down, and no, we don't anchor at night! Our food is good, not all tins by a long shot. We've loads of rice, pasta, salmon and char in our ice-box. I don't know what they do with it, but it's grand I shouldn't be the one to be writing about food, and I won't. Rory and Micheal are our pedigree cooks, Kevin bakes bread in our big oven, we lesser souls do wash-up, all in salt water to conserve our fresh water. Some of the sea water is decidedly silty, coming out from the big Siberian rivers, the Kolmya, the Indigirka and the Lena coming up shortly..
We passed an icebreaker going the other direction this morning, leading 3 vessels , eastbound. The convoy was out in the deepwater Laptev Strait. We were inshore, out of the ice. Slava spoke to them on VHF radio, she was the 10,000 ton 'Vorudkin'
Of seabirds there are very few, some kittywake-like fellows, some snow-buntings who have lost their way-they are a land bird, they shouldn't be here, must be something else! In a dead end ice lead a couple of days ago there were a HUGE number of seals bopping about and breathing. I was worried that this was a sign of scarcity of sea and that we would be trapped in this very dense ice. Maybe I should have been more worried about polar bear. These feed on seal-you see we've no gun for bear protection. We couldn't legitimately bring a gun in to Russia, thought that it would be no bother to buy one here. And it isn't, except for the red tape---and we've had quite enough of that, so we're taking our chances with the bear.
Charlie Brower of Barrow, Alaska in ' Fifty Years Below Zero', wrote: "The bear was almost on top of him when he fired. And then he only wounded the animal. Too far away to help, we watched as the man fired his other barrel, then started to run for his life. He hadn't a chance. The bear just struck him a casual blow on the head, followed by one bite under the arm, leaving him dead"
What a lovely finish to this report!
Rory continues on Food, Glorious Food !
The question I am most frequently asked in my emails is - what do you eat? The honest answer is, most of the time - I don't know! I have been eating and cooking aboard for the last 2 weeks and it is a real puzzle. Morning can begin at various times, depending on what watch you are on. If you strike it lucky, you may be included in the breakfast being prepared by the previous watch. If not, you will need to prepare something. The best option is to heat up the previous evening's leftovers (if any), fried potatoes, fried rice - but this is usually claimed by the first watch. Otherwise, you are looking at beans & noodles, omelettes, porridge or just coffee. Gary has developed a world-class potatoe cake that is currently being patented.
Midday usually signals a cup-a-soup, which can be accompanied by Odlum's brown bread (hopefully baked an hour earlier by Kevin) and a variety of toppings (cheese, cheese or cheese). There was a feast of ploughman's pickle, but that feast is now over as the last jar was polished off yesterday. The occasional Fig Roll bar, or bar of chocolate can add an interest to this otherwise predictable snack.
Mid afternoon is additional snacking time for the team on watch (but is usually confined to tea, coffee, soup, or drinking chocolate), but occasionally a tin of fruit may be shared around. This is usually weather-dependent.
The main meal comes at 7 or 8 pm, and is the culinary highlight of the day. Having been involved in the preparation of these meals, I know for fact that anything goes. Whatever is within arm's reach (once you light the gas stove) is considered "fair game". Along the galley window are 20-30 jars of various spices - including soya sauce, garlic salt, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, 1000 island dressing, tomato ketchup, chilli sauce, curry powder, chef sauce, etc. etc. If your meal comes without at least 5 of these, you are just not hacking it! When everybody is munching and commenting how great this tastes, and they ask how did you do it, you need to be able to truly say "a bit of this and a bit of that". The problem is that you really cannot remember what went in. The highlights so far have been
(1) Mick's fish dinners,
(2) Mick's "scent-of-a-chicken" dish - (the chicken bought in Pevek had so little meat on it that Colm reckons they are training for the Olympics)
(3) Gary's "Tuna Pasta Milky Sauce" - made with tinned ham!
And (4) Kevin's brown raisin bread.
I have had a "one-hit wonder" that is being repeated every few days. Here are the directions for Northabout Stir-about Get 2 tins of Glanbia ham, 2 tins of pineapples, 2 tins of peaches, 2 tins of corn, 1 bag of rice and 1 bag of raisins. Chop the ham into cubes, and fry in a deep frying pan in oil. Dose the ham in curry powder (don't let Jarlath see you doing this, as he doesn't like curries!) Add in 2 sachets of Chicken Cup-a- Soup (in place of stock!) and whatever other seasonings are within reach. Add in all of the other ingredients into a large saucepan. Bring up the fluid level to cover the uncooked rice. Put this in the oven, stirring every fifteen minutes. Within an hour or so, the rice will be cooked and you will have a very tasty, unidentifiable meal! Caution - be careful of trying this at home, as it can lead to an outbreak of singing and belching.
All told, the food is excellent, nobody is going hungry and nobody is losing weight!
3 Men on the Ice
Northabout At Anchor in Mys Schmidt
The Crew at the Stern
L - R
Garry, Colm, Kevin, Paddy Rory, Mick, Jarlath
Photo By Slava