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