Arctic Mission

Notes on departure

Words and photos by Tegid Cartwright

‘This is existence sailing,’ says Dr Nick Carter. ‘Too rough to be enjoyable, not rough enough to just focus on survival.’

I’m sitting in our cabin as Bagheera bounds through the waves near King Island, 18 miles from shore. Seasickness has caught some of our team members, but the seas as we approach the Bering Strait (that relatively narrow channel of water that separates Russia and North America), are the roughest we’re likely to face on our voyage north.

Dr Nick Carter manning the decks.

It’s a drastic change from what had become the norm. Our departure was delayed by several days because of a storm surge over the very waters we’re now sailing through. We had become accustomed to our home port of Nome, Alaska: the daily rhythm of the team gathering for breakfast, tinkering on the boats, and getting to know the local cafés and other haunts where we could find a decent wifi connection. We had begun to joke that we were Nome’s newest residents – until we actually set sail.

Standing on the decks as we left the safety of the harbour, many of us felt like we’d run out of time, as though we’d gone through the motions of sailing a boat, and now we were surprised to find ourselves actually sailing – it was as if the boats had set off on a journey and we just happened to be on board. The sky was serene, orange clouds against a blue sea. Alaska’s sunsets come late in the day, but they are worth the wait.

During the night we had our first teething problems as illness spread through the crew, many of whom are used to working on the slowly shifting ice of the polar regions, not the waves between Russia and America. We also hadn’t worked out how to close a seal in the bedroom hatch properly, so I was briefly soaked in my bed by oncoming waves. A problem we quickly fixed. And it was nothing that couldn’t be solved by tea. And thankfully we have tea.

‘It was nothing that couldn’t be solved by tea…’

This morning Nick has been above deck, enjoying being out on the sea finally – pointing out puffins (‘the chickens of the sea’) as they skim along the waves around King Island. Even those of us resting are restless – we constantly nag our skipper Erik de Jong, asking when we will emerge from the Bering Strait. He is patient as he explains the distance and the wind speeds. We, however, remain impatient, eager to get to the Central Arctic Ocean and truly begin our voyage.

Co-skipper Erik de Jong keeping us on track.

Tegid Cartwright is Arctic Mission’s resident film- and tea maker.

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Arctic Ocean and portrait images by kind permission of Martin Hartley:

Yacht and wildlife images by kind permission of Erik de Jong:

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