The Alpha Global Expedition is one man’s quest to achieve a vertical circumnavigation.
This had never been attempted before. Previously all attempts to circumnavigate by sea from the voyage of Magellan and Drake have been horizontal West to East or East to West voyages. It is only in recent times that Slocum, Chichester, and Knox-Johnston have attempted single-handed voyages of horizontal circumnavigation in yachts. Very recently, horizontal circumnavigation has become almost commonplace with several very expensive racing yachts battling round against each other. Adrian Flanagan started out from the United Kingdom in October 2005, rounded Cape Horn into the Pacific and headed North to the Bering Strait, prior to attempting the first non-stop single-handed voyage through the Russian Northern Sea Route to the Norwegian Sea and home to Britain. Latest report on Adrian's quest from Nome:
Nome is baking in the midst of a massive high pressure system which is funneling heat down onto this often frozen-over land. The global warming evangelista would probably have something to say. But for the purposes of sailing the Northern Sea Route, the more heat the better. Ice reflects solar radiation whereas sea water absorbs the heat, melting the ice which creates more open water areas to absorb more heat and so on.
Work on Barrabas has continued apace. The mast and rig are back on. Ric Kostiew used the American Independence Day holiday to help me out. First he welded the bases of the upper spreaders which were showing hairline fatigue cracking. Then, with a touch of hand at which I can only marvel, he picked up the 2-tonne mast with the ‘big’ crane and with me on deck to guide him, Ric lowered the mast into its slots on the first pass and with surgical precision - it was a staggering piece of skill.
Barrabas will soon be cramped as fuel cans and other supplies are loaded for the final leg of the circumnavigation
Talking with the local fisherman and gold miners, whose futuristic floating contraptions suck up sand from the seabed in the gamblers’ quest for gold, I learned of a 2-part underwater, rapid-setting cement called SplashZone. Why couldn’t I find it after nine months searching on the Internet? I’ve ordered 2 quarts from Homer, a commercial fishing port down the coast. Peace of mind comes in two tubs of epoxy in case I ding the ice and put a hole in Barrabas.
Tomorrow, Barrabas is lifted back into the water - I can sense the ‘race horse’ eagerness beginning to build in her.
Since arrival in Nome, Adrian has been working round the clock to get Barrabas ready and tested. On Saturday June 25 Adrian 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.
Adrian Flanagan - a Major Historical First - Alpha Global Expedition
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.
Nome, Alaska - Alpha Global Expedition
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. www.alphglobalex.com