A Real Nome from Home

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Nome is still enjoying the last of the summer sun before the long Arctic winter sets in. This frontier settlement nestles close against rising ground, giving some protection from the bitter storms of winter.

Adrian Flanagan reported on the winterizing of Barrabas on September 17. Since then the photographs have arrived.

Having to winter over during the vertical circumnavigation was always one of Adrian’s concerns because the Alaskan and Russian coastlines have few harbours and these are mainly used by fishing boats and supply vessels with limited experience of keel boats. This is the case in Nome where the port freezes each winter but the vessels that may be forced to winter there are bilge keeled fishing boats.

Adrian was lucky to receive skilled and enthusiastic help in Nome that provided an innovative solution to safely storing a keel boat like Barrabas through what would be very low temperatures and storms with very high wind speeds.

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The solution was to level a section of land and then construct a recessed berth to take Barrabas’ keel.

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The bulldozer created a pit that was carefully calculated to take the supported shape of Barrabas’ underwater sections.

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Adrian provides an indication of scale and view behind him shows a typical Alaskan port and settlement on low buildings clad in timber or metal sheets.

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The trench has been lined with old tyres, positioned to spread the hull weight and protect it from heavy ice formation. As can be seen, all external gear has been removed to protect it and to reduce windage. The Arctic storms that sweep Nome during the bitter winters does not make it practical to protect a vessel in the way possible in the much more friendly British winters.

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The stripped Barrabas could almost be sailing across the dockland. As can be seen here, she is presenting a very low profile to the Arctic winds and positioned to present her head to the prevailing winds. She has been stropped ready for lifting out and back into the water next summer.

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A last look out of the cockpit that has become a home to Adrian during the months of sailing since he left the United Kingdom in October 2005. This image shows that the polycarbonate screening he fitted last summer has stood up well to the extremes of temperature and the effects of breaking seas during the voyage.

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Soon the ice and snow will lock in the town of Nome. Barrabas will be held in the icy prison until the thaw brings life back to this northern settlement.

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Barrabas in Bed for the Winter

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Adrian reports that Barrabas has been winterized for the Arctic winter: “Facilities for storage of keel boats do not exist here in Nome, so improvisation is required. The personnel at Crowley Marine Services have been truly outstanding in the help they have provided and in particular, Rick Kostiew. Rick and I have figured a way to store Barrabas through the long cold winter when wind chill temperatures will plunge to 50 below”

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Adrian Returns

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Adrian is due to arrive back in the United Kingdom before the end of September, flying in to Heathrow from Nome, Alaska, where Barrabas is now safely chocked up ashore to wait out the Arctic winter.

During his break in the UK, Adrian will be busy writing and has a growing number of speaking invitations. It will be a very hectic time because he will also been making arrangements to return to Nome next summer to complete his vertical circumnavigation.

Planning for next summer, Adrian has to arrive in Nome ahead of the first possible ice transit window to test and re-store Barrabas, ready for the attempt. He still hopes to make a transit of the Russian Northern Sea Route which will mean that he will have closed all lines of longitude during the circumnavigation, will be the first yachtsman to have made the East to West transit of the Russian NSR, and will be the first solo yachtsman to have made any transit or partial transit of the NSR.

To attempt the NSR, he will have to sail first the three days from Nome to Providenja for an inspection of Barrabas and her safety equipment. He will then sail through the Bering Straits and head West along the Northern coast of Russia to the Norwegian Sea. If the ice retreats far enough, the transit will take approximately twenty days to be followed by the journey around the top of Norway and down into the North Sea to return to Hamble Point.

Adrian will also be prepared to take the alternative route East through the Canadian North West Passage, into the Labrador Sea and across the Northern Atlantic back to the British Isles.

The final decision can only be taken next year when he is back aboard Barrabas and has full information on the conditions for either route.

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Ice Return Forces an Interlude for Alpha Global Expedition

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Time finally ran out for Alpha Global Expedition. The Arctic ice retreated early this year and has now returned early. This means that Barrabas will be stored safely ashore in Nome Alaska until next summer when Adrian will return and attempt to complete his vertical circumnavigation. Paperwork delays have proved to be a blessing in disguise because had Adrian left Nome on schedule after completing repairs he could have been trapped in the ice.

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AGX on Standby to Leave Nome

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Wind is lashing Nome and Adrian will be unable to leave before Sunday. The Russian permissions have been confirmed but it may be too late. Ice is reforming at two critical points on his route along the Russian Northern coasts. Final decision day is Sunday September 10. The ice transit now looks possible only with assistance from ice breakers

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Best Use of Time

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As soon as Barrabas was lifted out of the water, the work began to replace the cutless bearing. Adrian is enjoying the Alaskan summer sun having withdrawn the prop and shaft. Refitting the shaft and new bearing went smoothly.

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It was just too good an opportunity to miss. Adrian is applying new anti-foul after the hull was completely cleaned of marine growth. In only a few weeks the harbour behind him will be frozen solid once more.

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Looking at Barrabas it is difficult to believe that this vessel has already travelled a longer distance than the circumference of the World. The new anti-foul, the gleaming white cheat line and the polished titanium stainless steel hull look as though the boat has just been built and is ready for its first experience of the sea. In the weeks that Adrian has been waiting for the paperwork to be completed by the Russians, he has put the time to good use making sure that everything is clean, tidy and fully tested. All he can do now is hope that the paperwork will be completed in time to allow him to make his ice transit. With each day that goes past that looks less likely and he may have to leave Barrabas in Nome for the Winter and return to complete his voyage next year.

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Frustration Rises

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Having arrived in Nome on August 9, Adrian feared for delays in the repairs but this turned out not to be the problem. The repairs were completed out without any problems and Barrabas could have been underway by August 18. Unfortunately the sailing had to be postponed because of paperwork from the Russian Government. Long running discussions had been taking place since six months before Adrian left the United Kingdom in October 2006. The Russians had never before permitted a lone yachtsman to use the Northern Sea Route. There was no precident and no paperwork. By August 14 it looked as though a new passport would have to be issued by the British Embassy in Washington and stamped with a tourist visa by the Russian Embassy before being flown out to Adrian in Nome to make the three day passage to a Russian port and sign in with the FSB Border Guards. Then the Russian Embassy discovered that they could not issue a tourist visa and a special visa would have to be issued in Moscow. In the meantime a key official in Russia had gone on holiday and a letter which he had issued had not arrived with other departments. All the time tension and frustration rose as the clock ticked and the time for the refreezing of the Artic seas neared.

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Barrabas is lifted and Adrian discovers electric clothing

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August 14 and Barrabas was lifted out of the water by crane without unstepping the mast. A difficult lift and a crane operator was flown in from Anchorage to perform the lift successfully. This greatly speeded the process of replacing the bearing and returning Barrabas to the sea. Once ashore, her hull was also cleaned and coated with industrial anti-foul formulated for the local waters. While this was happening smoothly, Adrian met another yachtsman and discovered electric clothing.

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