Gerda and Dima have been with us since Nizhniy Novgorod and they are excellent companions. Maxine complains intermittently of what she calls Volga Fatigue (really, I think she is just missing her man) but is her usual cheerful, witty and efficient self. I tinker, read, and write stuff like this between power naps in my wonderful saloon berth.
We have settled into a comfortable routine. Of course the crew are now fully attuned to Tainui’s demands. Maxine, for example, no longer complains about the absence of under-floor heating in the bathroom. Territorial claims over small spaces in the cockpit and below are made and respected. And there is always the foredeck, by turns a gaol cell, a remote mountain top and the meditation room. We respect one other’s need for privacy, we move efficiently and do not fall over one another. Even Dirk, who was, and presumably still is about 9 feet tall, achieved some sort of harmony (well, at least an uneasy truce) with our cramped environment.
At anchor I am usually up at around 5.30 am for the first of my many coffees in the cockpit. I will never forget these Volga mornings, which are cool, still and often luminous. They give a real sense the brooding power and timelessness of the river.
Maxine stumbles tousle-haired from the forecabin an hour later, struggling to find consciousness. Coffee, a plunge into the river and then her disgusting Russian grits breakfast usually do the trick.
We read in silence for another hour until the children emerge from their playpen (the aft cabin) bright-eyed, fully formed and beautiful.
As conversation warms up, all of it in Russian, I go below to give the engine its morning medications, then up comes the anchor. Breakfast follows (I am doing pancakes today) as we settle into our journey once again.
Dima does all the steering. He seems to love the buoy navigation, collision avoidance manoeuvers and route planning. I am not sure what the rest of us do, but what with eating, reading, laundering and just ogling there seems plenty to occupy us.