tiistai 24. syyskuuta 2013

September 24th 2013

Across the Arctic Circle
66° 33,000' N, 170° 34,307' W

Today, on the 24th of September at  06.45 UTC, s/y Sarema crossed the
Arctic Circle, and the Northern Sea Route aka the North East Passage is
finally behind us. The passage was icier than we had hoped for, the winds
were stronger than we had expected, and it took us far longer to traverse
the passage than we had anticipated. At times we were cold and tired, and
especially towards the end of the passage, frustrated and stressed, but
this is exactly as it should be in a truly Arctic Adventure.

As a result of our achievement, one of our crew members received an
honorary title. Since Latte is one of the very few dogs in the world, if
not the only one, who has circumnavigated the North Pole, as of today,
she'll be called Latte the Polar Dog!

Though we still have about 800 nautical miles ahead of us and the
notorious Bering Sea to cross before we get to Alaska, it's time to
celebrate. We just opened a bottle of Russian champagne, so come raise
your glass with us. “Cheers!” everyone or as we say in Finnish “Kippis!”

All That Splendour!

The day we crossed the Arctic Circle was spectacular in many ways. The weather was absolutely gorgeous after so many cold and grey days, and as we were sailing near the coastline, we could see dozens of humpback whales feeding close to the shore, there were walruses swimming near our boat, and thousands of seabirds everywhere, clearly on the verge of migration. In the evening, when darkness had set in and the stars had come out, the magnificent lights of the Aurora Borealis were glowing all around us. We had seen nothing like it while traversing the Northern Sea Route. This was so like in Alaska, and the very reason why we were going back there!

After all that splendour, we feel confident that the one thing that has worried us for quite some time i.e. our expiring cruising licence, will be sorted out in Providenya without difficulty.

sunnuntai 22. syyskuuta 2013

September 22nd 2013

Looking Better!

Luckily we only had to spent two restless nights in the open and windy bay.
The easterlies began to subside eventually and as the wind
direction also started to change, we weighed anchor and the 65 metres of
10 mm anchor chain we had seen fit to use in this occasion although there
was only seven metres of water below us.

In the past 24 hours, we have made a total of 153 nautical miles, and although
it is snowing and the deck is like an ice-skating rink, our spirits are
high. Later this evening we are going to leave the East Siberian Sea
behind and enter the Chukchi Sea. And if we are able to keep up our
present speed which is between seven and eight knots, in about two days'
time, we should reach the Bering Sea, and one major leg of our voyage
around the world would be over.

perjantai 20. syyskuuta 2013

September 21st 2013

Weather Versus Bureaucracy (Or Vice Versa)

Because of the delay caused by the cyclone, we are now badly behind
schedule. We are not too worried about the shortening of the days, the
roughening of the weather, the approaching of the winter, we are confident
that we can deal with all that. What we are concerned about is Russian

It is now the 20th of September and our cruising licence will expire on
the 25th. From our  anchorage, in good weather, we could sail to
Providenya in five days i.e. just in time but, with the current 25 to 35
knot headwinds, it would take at least nine days to do that and the risks
to both the boat and her crew are too high. Hence, the only sensible thing
is to wait until the weather allows us to continue our voyage. We would
call this force majeure, a superior force that couldn't have been
reasonably anticipated or controlled, but how the Russians are going to
interpret our situation, we'll only know when we arrive in Providenya.

September 20th 2013

Blowing Still!
70° 04,726' N, 170° 33,912' E

We had sailed to Pevek as quickly as possible because we knew that there
was a weather front approaching with 15 to 20 m/s easterlies. When we
arrived there after only five days of sailing, the skies were clear and
the seas smooth as silk. For three days we waited for the winds to come
and when we became tired of waiting and were ready to leave, they finally
arrived and with such a force that we were glad to be still in Pevek.

In the morning of the 19th, after four stormy days, the weather seemed so
much better that we decided to continue our voyage. We cast off, bid
farewell to the crew of the small ship to which we had been moored, and
then realized that our good boat Sarema was not moving anywhere. There was
now almost half a metre less water underneath our keel than before the
storm, and we were lying on the bottom. As the engine power was not enough
to free us, we tied a rope to the ship's railing, winched us out of the
mud, and headed for the sea.

We sailed around the corner of Cape Shelagskiy to see what the situation
outside the Chaunskaya Guba Bay looked like. And it looked so bad that we
turned around and continued back to a bay a few miles further south that
would give us at least some kind of protection against the winds. While we
were heading for the shelter, the winds continued to increase in strength
from 20 to 35 knots, gusting 40+, which seems to be the norm out here.

We are now only about 25 miles north of Pevek, anchored in a large, open
bay as close to the shore as we dared. The wind is blowing from behind a
large mass of land but yet sharp, foam crowned waves keep tilting our boat
from one side to  the other, and spray is flying in the air. Clearly, the
storm is not over yet!

September 16th 2013

Held Up in Pevek
69° 42,326' N, 170° 15,792' E

On our way to Pevek, Pekka spent one whole day (eleven hours to be exact)
repairing our heaters. The plural form is quite correct as we initially
had two Webastos but for some reason they both stopped working almost at
the same time. Now, we only have one heater left because Pekka had to
cannibalize the two and take the fan from the one that had developed an
unrepairable nozzle problem and install it in the other one that had given
a 'Fan Error' message. During the eleven hours, the temperature inside the
boat dropped to nine degrees Celsius which was tolerable (after all, this
is an Arctic Expedition) but I must say that we were relieved when our now
one and only heater started working again.

We arrived in Pevek early Saturday morning when it was still dark and
dropped anchor in the bay next to the town. After a few hours of sleep, we
motored to the port and moored alongside a rusty barge that had sunk years
ago and has since been used as a wharf. Pevek Harbour Master and a
friendly Immigration Officer named Yura came to our boat to check us in.
Later the same evening, the Harbour Master arranged both water and fuel to
be delivered to the wharf, and now all our tanks and jerry cans are

During the next two days, we toured the town, visited the city library,
the regional museum, a cafeteria, and several small grocery stores where
we did some reprovisioning. By the end of the third day, we were ready and
anxious to continue our passage.

However, as so often before, the weather didn't agree with our plans.
Yesterday, the Harbour Master hurried to the wharf to warn us of
approaching 15-20 m/s winds. Because of the incoming seas, he asked us to
move to the other side of the barge and moor alongside a small ship, which
we did. So, here we are once again held up, biting our nails, and
listening to the Arctic wind howling in the rigging.

lauantai 14. syyskuuta 2013

September 14th 2013

Latte the Dog Model

As you may have guessed, Latte the Boat Dog also has her own Arctic wardrobe. In order to present Latte's clothes I took a few photos of her dressed up in the different layers of her Arctic outfit. This was not an easy task as she is not one to readily obey orders.

I positioned Latte on the deck the way I wanted to photograph her and said “STAY!” (or actually PAIKKA! in Finnish). I then retreated towards the bow to get to a sufficient distance but when I turned around, she immediately ran to me. I took her back and tried to explain her that this was a photo session but clearly she didn't have a clue of what I was talking about. We then repeated this positioning and retreating (far too!) many times until I realized that I had to start saying the word “PAIKKA!!” immediately I had positioned her and keep repeating it all the while I was walking towards the bow.

This did the trick, and we finally managed to take the photos. After so much effort I do hope you'll appreciate them. Latte didn't enjoy the photo session very much which you can tell from the way she is holding her ears. (But you should have seen my ears after the  session!!!)

Based on this experience, as cute as she looks, unfortunately Latte the Boat Dog will never make a career in the modelling business!

September 13th 2013

Iced Over!

One day before we arrived in Pevek, Sarema got an icy coating. During the night, everything outside had frozen stiff including the wind sensor at the top of the mast as a result of which the instruments showed the wind speed to be zero, and the wind angle had frozen to 45 degrees port.

Everything looked absolutely beautiful but when the sun came out and the ice began to thaw, the conditions on the deck became almost life-threatening; big chunks of ice started coming off the rigging crashing to the deck with a thunderous bang.

We knew that ice would be a hazard along the Northern Sea Route, but we could never have imagined that we should have brought crash helmets along to guarantee our safety!

September 12th 2013

Sailing in Shallow Waters

In addition to ice, fog, and headwinds, the one thing that has been a
nuisance almost throughout the Northern Sea Route is the shallowness of
its waters. Many a time we have been battling against 30 to 35 knot winds
in only five to ten metres of water. Unlike in the Northwest Passage,
there is no archipelago to prevent the seas from building up and in rough
weather, i.e. quite frequently, the waves are so steep that you feel
certain that it's only a matter of time when the boat is going to hit the
bottom. This easily takes some of its charm away from sailing!

A Lonely Passage

The other thing that has made the Northern Sea Route less enjoyable for us
compared to the Northwest Passage is our disability to communicate with
the locals. Very few Russians can speak English and as we only know a few
words in Russian, socializing is extremely difficult if not impossible. On
the other hand, lately we haven't had too many opportunities to socialize
either. Since leaving Dikson three weeks ago, we have seen no sign of
human life, not a single ship, a single yacht or a single anything. We
know of only two other boats that are sailing the Northern Sea Route this
summer, Lady Dana and Tara, a French boat we haven't met. They are both
more than a week ahead of us and have already reached the Bering Sea.
Thus, our good boat Sarema is quite probably the only yacht still in the
Russian Arctic. No wonder it feels so lonely and empty up here.

keskiviikko 11. syyskuuta 2013

September 11th 2013

Getting Arctic!

Yesterday, we received a message from our good friends in Kodiak telling
that there are a dozen or so yachts stuck in Cambridge Bay because the
Northwest Passage has already begun to freeze up. For this reason, our
Polish friends onboard Lady Dana who had originally planned to continue to
the Northwest Passage, have been forced to alter their plans and are now
on their way to Vancouver.

Here on the East Siberian Sea, the air is currently +1°C, the water is -
1°C, and for the past five days, it has been snowing or sleeting daily.
Although for us freeze-up shouldn't present a problem, not yet anyway, the
conditions around us are becoming more and more Arctic every day!

September 9th 2013

On Our Way Again!

As forecast, the winds began to abate late Sunday evening decreasing from
35+ to some 25 knots and, early Monday morning, we continued our
interrupted passage towards Alaska.

It is such a relief to be on the move again. One more day at the
anchorage, and I'm sure I would have hit the roof! The reason for my
impatience is, besides my temperament, the fact that we are so very close
to completing the Northern Sea Route. We only have about  six days to
Pevek and from there, another four days to the Arctic Circle. But it's
best not to think about it and instead, focus on the present. And today is
a very good day to do just that as, although the winds are not fair and
the skies are not clear, we are on our way again and, at the moment,
making good progress!

tiistai 10. syyskuuta 2013

September 7th 2013

Winter Is Approaching

A cold wind blowing from the East Siberian Sea decorated our windscreen
with droplets of ice and the nearby hills with a thin layer of snow.
Winter is already close by and sooner or later the seas begin to freeze

We are gradually becoming impatient but if the weather forecast holds true
we only have a few more days to wait until the cyclone has turned the
winds in our favour. But whatever the situation, we have decided to leave
no later than Monday evening. I read somewhere that 'To travel in the
Arctic is to wait.' And do we know this!