The enforced break in the Alpha Global Expedition’s progress as a result of the Russian government’s delayed permission to transit the Northern Sea Route was a difficult situation for me to assimilate. Having worked so hard to be on station in the Bering Strait on time to make the short navigation window through the ice (mid-August to mid-September) the proposition of flying home was disquieting. There are upsides: seeing the children after almost eleven months away, time to recover from a number of serious injuries I sustained during the 26,000 miles sailed from the UK and the opportunity to gather myself fully for the final push through the ice.
In many ways though, a break until June 2007 may be a blessing in disguise. Very few yachtsmen have ventured into the high Arctic. Only four boats have ever made a transit of the NSR and all those were fully crewed with Russian ice pilots on board. I will be attempting the first ever single-handed transit of the route so going into such a hostile and alien environment is worthy of expedition status in its own right. When I return to Nome, Alaska in the summer of 2007 to prepare Barrabas for her final ordeal, being refreshed means that my chances of success will probably have improved.
While I am in the UK, the schedule is full. We are trying to raise further sponsorship funding, organize a documentary film and I am getting on with writing the story of the voyage for a book that was commissioned prior to departure.
Then there are the children, the most important factor in all of this,
re-establishing the grounds of normalcy they had been used to before I left and reassuring them of the relatively short time I will be away next summer.
Sadly, my father died suddenly in mid-January. He was a great supporter of the Alpha Global Expedition and as a man who had provided much of the foundation behind the attempt, to lose him before its completion is a bitter blow. I know he was extremely proud and if all goes well in the summer, to have had my father at the finish line to welcome me home would have been a special moment. Whilst not a sailor himself, my father did introduce me to the water. He taught me to swim in a pond at my first home in Nairobi, Kenya. At the age of ten, I went out on the water in a wind powered craft for the first time, venturing into the Gulf of Siam in a ten-foot Sailfish. As a fifteen-year-old, I went into my father’s office in search of something to read and came out with ‘Gipsy Moth Circles the World’, the account of Sir Francis Chichester’s epic circumnavigation in 1966. It was that book that inspired my dream to sail solo around the world. Without
knowing it, my father left his footprints in the sand.