Hi again. So, I have no idea how long it is science we left Murmansk. I think I had a bit of an idea yesterday, if so I’ve forgotten it. I know it’s Sunday the 24th. I think we left Murmansk on the Wednesday. I think. The thing is, because you’re 24 hour sailing, you’re awake at all hours, except those that you’d normally be awake for. You also have twenty four hour daylight. This means that you have no measure for time passing. You get up at twelve at night to go the toilet and its exactly the same as twelve noon. The only difference I’ve noticed is that at night it’s colder. This means that my main indicator for time passing is how runny my nose is. This is not a joke.

Over the past few days the weather has been getting progressively colder. Air temperature is about six degrees, water temperature is only two degrees higher. Fall in here and even if you are rescued you will almost certainly die of hypothermia. Fun! Because of the risk of falling over board we all have lifejackets that have built in harnesses. We then have cords that we attach to various points around the boat so that if we do get thrown around we don’t go in the drink. David has insisted on a policy of, whenever you’re on deck you have you’re lifejacket on and are clipped in. I know this is the wrong attitude for a teenager to take but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As far as emergency procedures go on a boat, there is a rule that says: Never step down into a life raft. That is to say that unless a boat is sunk to the point where you need to step up into a life raft, then you’re safer on the boat than in the raft. On that point, we have one life raft. Its tied to the back of the boat. In the event of an emergency where you might have to get off the boat you undo the clasps on it and push the case its in into the water. There’s then a rope coming out of the case thats attached to the boat, you pull on that until it releases the compressed gas bottle inside. The case then bursts open and the raft inflates from within. The rule is the heaviest person gets onboard the raft first to stabilise it. That way if lots of other people have to get onboard quickly it probably won’t capsize. The raft is quite big, it also has a cover over the to of it with some foam struts to keep it rigid. So you’ve got seven people in what are basically really thick wetsuits bobbing around in a well insulated plastic orange raft with no windows, in the sun, for hours on end. Not surprisingly, it gets a bit warm, and you get seasick. Given those potential conditions inside a life raft Northabout policy is is: A, don’t sink the boat. B, don’t set fire to the boat. C, don’t do anything, that means you have to get into a life raft. All those in favour say aye. I have full approval.

I managed to get Barbara to do an audio blog for the today program today. As it turns out she’s very good at that sort of thing. It was quite a short one but in my opinion much better than the ones even David has been doing. Barbara disagrees, here’s Barbara now:

This is the problem with sitting next to Ben when he is doing his blog! He is very persuasive, has been chasing me for days to do an audio blog and eventually today we got around to doing the Tascam recording, of course, I like most people, don’t like the sound of my voice, or at least most of the crew here on Northabout, don’t like our own voices. i have tried bribing him to delete or at least cut short the audio blog but he has it all on record now and has threatened to send it to Radio Dublin … such a ratbag! Still … I can now mention his smelly socks!

Thank you Barbara, and yes, I was about to come onto those. Now, recently the keel box has been leaking. This means that in the short corridor from the saloon to where most of the beds are the floor is wet. So when I come off watch I go down into the midships, take off my boots, lifejacket and trawler suit and then walk back up to the galley where I then get a drink. This means that my socks get wet. It’s only after that happens that I remember that I’m wearing them. So I then take off my now wet socks and pit them up by my bunk. Which is right next to Barbaras bunk. This means that she’s had wet smelly socks within nasal proximity of her when she tries to sleep for the past few days and has recently been complaining about them as only a ‘charactered’, Irish woman can. The Mother concurred with Barbara that this was a problem and gave me some stuff for athletes foot which apparently stops your feet sweating. I just tried to put that on. Harder than you might think. My leg is now white.

Unfortunately the wind dropped about sixteen hours ago and we had to put the engine on. We got a good fifty hours out of the sails though and when we were sailing we got up to eight knots over the ground, about eight point eight miles per hour. With the engine on we’re not even getting ix over the ground. I much prefer actually sailing. For one its quieter, The engine is right below the galley floor so you can’t really have a conversation while it’s on. Two, the exhaust in most yachts is under the water. This means that when you’re on deck you don’t get nasty smells from the engine. The designers of Northabout, in their infinite wisdom, made the exhaust a large hole in the side of the boat. As a result if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction and you’re on watch you get a face full of carcinogens. Aside from that I do feel a little guilty using a diesel engine in the Arctic. sadly though if we want to do the trip we have little choice over that. What is strange, and a little worrying, is that here I’ve seen more floating plastic than in the entire ret of the trip. In the past two watches I’ve seen as many pieces of plastic in the water. On the way up to Tromsø I saw that many in five days.

We should reach the top of Novaya Zemlya, don’t ask me how to say that, in about two days and then we’ll decide where we’re going to hang around to wait for the rest of the North East Passage to clear enough for us to get through. I’ll write again tomorrow and tell you how well the foot powder worked, bye for now.