Slava-Our ice pilot

One of the conditions of our permit to sail the North East Passage is that we are accompanied by an approved Russian ice pilot .Our pilot is Vladislav Lashkevich who goes by the name of Slava.

Slava is 60 years old, grey haired with a splendid mustache and is short and stout. He was born in Moscow and grew up in Siberia and has been an ice pilot for 23 years. When speaking he can become very animated with very eloquent hand gestures and facial expressions. During an impromptu music session he stole the show by doing a Cossack-style dance on the deck, showing remarkable agility, with sinuous dance steps that would not be out of place at the Bolshoi.

We first met him in Moscow when he turned up in full uniform with black blazer resplendent with gold braid and buttons and carrying an officious looking briefcase. Now that he has settled aboard we seldom see the full regalia but it is very effective when dealing with the authorities when we have to call into port such as harbour masters, border guards and police.

Having a person such as Slava aboard a small boat like Northabout is a totally new experience to us. Compatability of the group is vital on a voyage such as this and the introduction of an outsider has the potential to be very disruptive.Similarly, it must be extremely difficult for him,used to working on big ships among his fellow Russians, to find himself on a small boat among an eccentric bunch of Irishmen

The principal source of potential friction is the interpretation of his responsibility and authority vis a vis that of our expedition leader and skipper.After a few fraught exchanges it is now accepted the his role is advisory and Northabout's leaders are the ultimate decision makers. However it is recognised that that his knowledge and experience of this area is immense and consensus is always sought and mostly achieved.

The most difficult part of our journey is still ahead and we are very happy that Slava has settled in so well on Northabout and we will be able to tackle the challenges to come as a team,all with the same objectives.
'Ni neart go cur le ceile' Kevin Cronin