Chilly Barents Sea

It has been a slow, uncomfortable passage along the Kola Peninsula from Vardo. Persistent 20 knot headwinds and cold rain, with no room to tack as we are so close to Russia’s 12 mile territorial waters boundary.

Passing the approaches to Murmansk we strayed 1/2 mile into Russian waters (the other tack was such a dead loser) and were promptly, politely and firmly asked to remove ourselves by the coast guard VHF operator. Needless to say, we did as he asked. There followed an endless series of radio calls from the Coast Guard, requesting our every imaginable detail apart from shoe size. It was a relief to give them contact details of our shipping agent in Archangel’sk. I hope Yuriy will authenticate and endorse our details for them.

There is a series of Federation defined waypoints along the 12 mile limit of this low, snowy and windswept coast, at which vessels are to report in to the Coast Guard. At each of them we have tried repeatedly to check in on channel 16, without success. Two merchant vessels have confirmed our signal clarity and strength, so there is not much more we can do. Even Maxine’s lucid, patient Russian language has not milked a response from them.

Yesterday the seas were confused and irregular, forcing poor Tainui to hobby-horse at barely 3-4 knots into the chaos. It must be vile here in winter storms. We have kept the engine idling for warmth and autopilot charging. Today the seas are flat. It is cold and grey but the rain has stopped. So has the crashing, banging and my mal de mer. Maxine is immune to seasickess of course. Among the many seabirds around us are northern fulmars, terns, guillemots. I have been trying to find the glaucous gull, elusive spotters prize of the birders we met in in Vardo. Apart from the birds and 2 passing ships the sea is grey and empty (like the skipper).

2 am in Barents Sea

2 am in Barents Sea

Now, on day 3, we are abeam Nokuyev Island. We have good current with us and the wind has backed to the NNE to allow us to sail our course at 6-7 knots over the sea bottom, under main and yankee. Our mysterious fresh water coolant loss continues. In fact it has increased to around 1.3 litres every hour. We have a long and expensive list of all the things it couldn’t be, with nothing left to blame. I will dye test the coolant under pressure in Archangel’sk, to see if UV light will point us in any useful direction. Mr Ford (our engine) is himself running smoothly. Tomorrow we turn south into the White Sea approach. It is now ice free. I have my fingers crossed…

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