Into the White Sea

We have 18 hours to go until Archangel’sk, gods willing, and should take our pilot on board for the final approach tomorrow at 2pm. The pilot is one of the many bureaucratic burdens we are having to put up with. Reporting in to the navy and the Russian coast guard every 6 hours or so by radio, to operators who have no English and are generally unwilling to respond to our calls, has been wearisome. So we have started calling up passing ships, of which there are very few, and asking them to relay our position reports for us. Each VHF conversation takes about 25 minutes of patient Russian for Maxine, without whom I could certainly not have managed. We can hear the relay ship conversation with the coast guard and it is clear that the latter have heard all that we have said.

The Barents Sea is a lonely grey place and it is good to be out of it, into the White Sea. It has been gloves, beanies, scarves, and 3-layer thermals cold. 2 degrees with wind chill. In the White Sea we have exactly the same view from the balcony, but psychologically it is a relief to be here. It has been a long trip from Norway, made worse for me by low-grade, non-vomiting seasickness. Miss Perfect does not suffer from that vile malady, needless to say. There has been much crashing and banging, of the sort Chris (and I suppose any sane person) would have loathed. Winds on the nose and slow progress.

We have been motor-sailing into fresh headwinds and have had to stop the engine every four hours, wait for it to cool down then top up the coolant chamber. The leak is steady and remains concealed from rational assessment. We have enough coolant to get to Archangel’sk, and I will be glad when we arrive. Now the seas have abated and we are sailing fast with engine on idle for warmth.

Maxine had been terrific on navigation and radio communications and is eternally enthusiastic and cheerful. I am glad she is here. On board she is a bloke, really, and a good one. Archangel'sk088This afternoon I hove to to reef the main and then flopped into the cockpit for a rest. Up came Max rugged up to the nines, with a bottle of Jacobs Creek chardonnay under one arm and and two glasses in the other hand. A delight, until she started complaining that Tainui’s toilet compartments don’t have under floor heating.

The channel from the Barents Sea into the White Sea is about 40 miles wide and the tide runs at 2-2.5 knots. So the seas kick up when wind is against current. We have only seen 2 ships in the last 24 hours and our conscientious seabirds seem to have deserted us. Still, in bright sun the seas now sparkle and the whitecaps are dancing. It is good to be here.


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