Nome from Home

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Since arrival in Nome, Adrian has been working round the clock to get Barrabas ready and tested.

On Saturday June 25 he emailed this report:

After some wrestling with US customs, my new radar, sponsored by Furuno will touch down in Nome this afternoon. The plan is to get the scanner mounted on the mast, the mast can then be stepped onto the boat and Barrabas lifted back into the water.

Yesterday, I bought a US sim card for my mobile and finally managed to have conversations with home without the attendant worries of phone cards running out of time. The heartening news was that my younger son, Gabriel, did himself proud at his school sports day, bagging a (small) handful of medals.

I closed my eyes and imagined sitting on the sunnied lawns of England this time next year
watching my son triumph in the egg and spoon race, with the Alpha Global Expedition safely consigned to the annals of my personal history.

But, I am ever mindful of the present. This morning was spent going over the engine – draining fuel from the bottom of the two tanks to get rid of the colloidal sediments which accumulate when diesel has been left to sit.

Oil, tramsmission fluids and coolants all went into various openings in the Lombardini engine – the heart of the boat and on which I will be completely reliant when negotiating the ice. Diesel engines will run reliably providing the injectors are being fed clean fuel.

On my various wanderings around the town to get stamps, money, food (and write blogs), I have seen many of the same faces occupying the same doorways as last time round.

Nome is a curious, frontier town. There is a high incidence of alcoholism among the local population and suicide rates during the dark, winter months are high. But, despite the social problems, Nome retains for me an almost beguiling charm.

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Whilst Barrabas is warmed up and prepared for the final phase of the Alpha Global Expedition and I begin to hone my focus for the inevitable trials that lie ahead, there is one last preparation that I will make before casting my lines from Nome Harbour – breakfast at Fat Freddies, made famous by Michael Palin during one of his globe-trotting extravaganzas.

Grits, pancakes and eggs sunny side up – if that doesn’t keep me warm in the Russian ice, nothing will.

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The Pacific Challenge

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On Sedna in Antigua after rowing the Atlantic Photo: Rita Savage

Two Brits prepare for two major solo challenges

With Adrian Flanagan back in Nome Alaska preparing for the final leg of his vertical circumnavigation, Roz Savage is preparing for her thre stage attempt to row across the Pacific. It looks like they will be setting off on their respective challenges at almost the same time.

Roz says:

Rowing the Atlantic was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I had ever done. I’d wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and that, by definition, is an uncomfortable place to be. Physically, it was tough, but psychologically it was even tougher. The ocean is scary and it’s daunting and most of the time I wanted to give up.

So why row the Pacific? Three reasons.

1. I learned a lot on the Atlantic about how NOT to row an ocean. I succeeded, but psychologically I gave myself a much tougher time than I needed to. I think I’ve learned the lessons, and I want to put them to the test.

2. Since before the Atlantic row, I had intended to row the Pacific. My long-term plan is to make a 7-year journey around the world on its surface using environmentally-friendly transport, to get a feel for the true size of the planet in a way that you can’t from an aeroplane. No matter how much I struggled on the Atlantic, it was never bad enough to make me give up my dream.

3. I believe that if you don’t keep pushing the boundaries, keep expanding your comfort zone, your comfort zone actually gets smaller and smaller, until you’re shrink-wrapped in such a tiny comfort zone that you can’t move, you can’t achieve anything, you can’t grow. And so I keep pushing, keep developing, keep evolving. I keep showing what an ordinary person can do when they put their hearts and minds and souls into it.

The timetable is:

A 3-stage challenge, due to launch in July 2007:
Stage 1 (2007): San Francisco to Hawaii (2324 statute miles, course 247 degrees)
Stage 2 (2008): Hawaii to Tuvalu (2620 statute miles, course 224 degrees)
Stage 3 (2009): Tuvalu to Australia (2324 statute miles, course 252 degrees)

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Russian government assists British yachtsman in bid to make sailing history

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British yachtsman Adrian Flanagan, 46 is ready to make sailing history. During July and August he will attempt to sail the first ever single-handed transit along Russia’s Northern Sea Route.

Flanagan set out on the Alpha Global Expedition, his quest to sail the first single-handed ‘vertical’ circumnavigation of the globe, on 28th October 2005. He has so far covered 26,000 miles going west around Cape Horn to Nome, Alaska where his boat has spent the Arctic winter.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who achieved the first single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation in 1969, has described Flanagan’s Alpha Global Expedition as, ‘A serious challenge’.

Expedition Manager and Flanagan’s ex-wife, Louise says, ‘The Alpha Global Expedition Arctic Phase is the greatest challenge of the voyage. The Russian Government has shown vision and imagination in granting Adrian unprecedented access to their territorial waters’.

Only 4 yachts have ever made the Arctic transit on the Russian side – French, German, Irish and Russian, but none of these was single-handed. If successful, Flanagan’s 40ft stainless steel sloop, ‘Barrabas’ will become the first British boat to join this group.

Flanagan’s route will take him westwards from the port of Provideniya along Russia’s Arctic coast. The distance from Provideniya to the UK is 4,800 miles. The first 2,000 miles towards Proliv Vil’kitskogo will be through ice-strewn waters.

‘I am grateful to the government of the Russian Federation. I feel privileged to be given this opportunity not only to achieve my personal goal but also to bring greater awareness to the British public of environmental concerns affecting the Arctic region,’ Flanagan said.

The navigable window in the high Arctic is very short and if Flanagan clears the ice fields he should be mooring up at The Royal Southern Yacht Club in the Hamble River in early September.

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Flanagan set to go over the top

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Adrian Flanagan and Barrabas

On June 25th, British yachtsman Adrian Flanagan resumes his quest to sail the first ever single- handed ‘vertical’ circumnavigation of the globe. Flanagan, 46, set sail on the Alpha Global Expedition on 28th October 2005 and covered 26,000 miles going west around Cape Horn to Nome, Alaska where his 40ft stainless steel sloop, ‘Barrabas’ has spent the Arctic winter.

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Adrian set off from the Solent in October 2005 and reached Nome Alaska in June 2005, where Barrabas had to be taken ashore for the Arctic winter. Adrian is now preparing to put Barrabas back in the water, head for the Russian coast, and then ‘go over the top’ to return to the UK

Flanagan’s route will take him along Russia’s Northern Sea Route. Success will see ‘Barrabas’ become the first British flagged yacht to sail Russia’s Arctic coast and Flanagan, the first sailor to achieve this feat single-handed. The distance from Nome Alaska to the UK is 4,800 miles, the first 2,000 miles of which will be through ice-strewn waters. The Russian government has granted Flanagan special permission to make the attempt. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who achieved the first single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation in 1969, has described Flanagan’s Alpha Global Expedition as, ‘A serious challenge’.

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Louise being filmed by Sky News

Expedition Manager and Flanagan’s ex-wife, Louise says, ‘The Alpha Global Expedition Arctic Phase is the greatest challenge of the voyage. The Russian Government has shown vision and imagination in granting Adrian unprecedented access to their territorial waters’.

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Flanagan will be assisted by Canadian firm MDA which operates 2 space satellites, Radarsat I & II. Images of the ice edge will be taken relative to Flanagan’s position and the data fed to the expedition base. Routing directions will then be communicated to Flanagan on board ‘Barrabas’.

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The navigable window in the high Arctic is very short and if Flanagan clears the ice fields he should be mooring up at The Royal Southern Yacht Club in the Hamble River in early September.

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The Pace Picks Up

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The pace is rapidly picking up for Adrian Flanagan. Busy writing “Over the Top”, he has also be giving talks on his circumnavigation attempt and preparing for the final leg.

Due to fly out to Nome, Alaska to relaunch and test Barrabas next month, there are a host of things minor and major to attend to before he flies out

Several new sponsors have provided equipment and some of that will be installed by Adrian in Nome. This has added a number of training courses to an already hectic programme.

The final choice has still to be made for either the Russian Northern Sea Route or the US/Canadian North West Passage. That decision may not be finally taken until Barrabas is fully tested.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

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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.

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The Sea Chart

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It is a great pity that the economics of publishing price this book at £30 because the price will make it difficult for many young people to read it other than through the dwindling band of under-funded public libraries. In his foreword, HRH The Duke of York makes the point that the excellent charts we take for granted today are the result of centuries of effort, at no small cost, by generations of cartographers and navigators. Today, we can purchase at remarkably little cost high quality charts and maps, together with pilots and guides to navigation. Once we have those charts, we can update them using Notices to Mariners. Increasingly, sailors use computer-based charts and pilots that include high quality colour photographs of coastlines. Once we have the information on CD, or DVD, we can take update services to ensure that all information is as accurate as the latest surveys and notices can make them. With all of these technologies to hand at reasonable prices, it is easy to forget that most of this knowledge has been acquired painfully over the last six hundred years. Sea charts have been in existence much longer than that, but the flowering of navigational skills began with the Italian merchant-venturers of the Thirteenth Century, the great Portuguese navigators of the Fifteenth Century, followed by Spanish, English, French and Dutch sailors, with the English introducing most of the critical instruments of navigation and stamping their authority by taking the measurements from Point Zero at Greenwich. Navigators had to be shrewd observers, artists and mathematicians. Early ‘pilots’ were closely guarded secrets and were detailed diaries observing conditions and important features during each voyage. The navigator, or sailing master, would note the colour of the water, draw sketches of coastlines, adding charts of harbours and sea charts. John Blake tells this enthralling story very well, using a chronological and geographic framework

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