Murmansk, 25th of June 2002
Greetings from Russia,
Vagabond has been in Russia for a week. Sailing season in the Arctic is just starting, ice is melting slowly offshore Siberia, and so we have time to go deeper in our long but essential administrative procedures. Thanks to the valuables contacts implemented with the help of the French embassy, the crew is notably supported by the Murmansk State Technical University, twined with Brest, owning the famous 4 masts sailing vessel Sedov and having a modern training centre for seamen. We had some interviews for the local TV, and enthusiasm for our expedition is here very strong!
So Vagabond left Tromso on 5th of June, after the friendly visit of Olivier Pitras, and continued her route to the north-east. The welcome in Hammerfest was excellent, thanks to Eivind whose grand-father was involved in an American polar expedition, and thanks to Pele who arranged us a visit with the captain of the Russian trawler Gugunov. Just before North Cap, a short stop allowed Gerard, with a picture in his hand, to meet again 2 of his friends he met during his trip by motorbike equipped with skis, during winter 89. The boat next to us was a whaler, just back from a good hunt.
On 8th of June at noon, Vagabond was going around Knivskjelodden peninsula, the most northern point of Europe, and passed few minutes later the well known North Cap overhanging Barents Sea from its 300 meters. What a pleasure to anchor in the quiet Hornvika Bay, hidden from tourists' buses by the cliffs! We needed about 2 hours to stamp, sign and answer all wishes of our dear stamps collectors, before continuing to the east.
The appointment with the Grande Hermine, French fishing vessel from Saint-Malo, was a success : at about 12 nautical miles from the Norwegian coast, we had the delight to welcome onboard Celine, friend of France, and Nicolas, the baker, loaded with fresh bread and food. Friendly and unusual reunion!
In Kirkenes, our stop has been extended in order to arrive in Murmansk on a week day. So the crew had time to welcome the crew member Karen, to celebrate the captain's birthday, to answer local press questions, and to check twice all entry procedures to enter Russia. For the 'Faites de la lumiere' (Light Festival), on 15th of June, Vagabond was anchored in the small bay of Smaastromman, close to the border line. The sun was still very high at 2 in the morning, participating somehow to the event, and the reindeers and the polar foxes we met in the vicinity could probably not imagine the happy Super 8 show going on in the wardroom.
Each of us will remember our arrival in Murmansk, the long wait at the beginning of the fjord, then the one, 30 miles further, in front of the harbour, in the company of 2 coast-guards, perplexed but very cooperatives. Although prepared long in advance, several days were necessary to customs and other officers to check all our intentions and contacts, before announcing that all was right. Boating in the Barents Sea cannot be considered today without any warning.