Whoomp, there it is... now for the next mission!
Mon, 21 Jan 13 05:04
Greetings everyone... from Arctowski Polish Antarctic research station on King George island.
Right, firstly... this turned up in the mail the other day. I could stare at it for hours. It's little things like looking at this that really bring it all home.
I just look at it and ponder what it took to get it.
Ok... back to Antarctica, once again I find myself in some temporary style accomodation with the wind whistling outside. About 400 meters from where I am sitting, another weird boat sits patiently waiting for the adventure that she is about to take us on.
Check out www.shackletonepic.com for all the details and updates.
The 'Alexandra Shackleton' sits at the other end of the speed sailing spectrum. She is just under 23 feet long and weighs 3 tons. 1 ton boat, 1 ton ballast, 1 ton humans and accessories. The rigs are tiny and everything on the boat is either 100 years old or designed and built with the same style and materials as the boat which she so closely mimmicks. We are trying to re-create the voyage of the "James Caird" which Shackleton and five other men sailed from Elephant Island (120 miles as the crow flies from where I am now) to Sth Georgia. We will be eating the food, wearing the clothes and using the same equipment to navigate with. I'll be sharing the sailing side of things with Nick Bubb and also the celestial navigation. We really want to do this the old school way and want no input from outside sources. We will be shadowed by a support vessel for a number of reasons but only want the bear minimum of contact from them. Tomorrow we head off to try and make a landing on the notoriously desolate Elephant Island. That is where our voyage will really start.
Well, she aint no speed weapon... but she may well deliver another 6 men safely across 800 open miles of Southern Ocean.
It remains to be seen if we can truly follow in the footsteps of Shackleton and his men. Weather is a huge, random variable down here. we have a good team, a great little boat and a pretty thorough plan. It has been a real holiday for me not to be carrying the weight of the responsibility for the whole project.
Why am I doing this?
The offer was made about 18 months ago but I turned it down. the main reason was that Sailrocvket was just taking up too much of my time and I couldn't commit the required effort to make this one work. When Nick stepped into the skippers role I knew that there would be a solid guy there to pay attention to the details. I was speaking to him a month or so before I last departed for Namibia to see how he was getting on. He was still looking for a 'number 2' and we discussed options. I asked him about the timing of this project and then commented that we should have finished our session with VSR2 by then. Nick quickly fired back that I should do it. My mind naturally raced for excuses but then was quickly dampened by my awareness that I wouldn't believe my own excuses myself anyway. I said I would sleep on it. I discussed it with Helena and in the morning agreed to do it. It was simply the opportunity for adventure that was impossible to turn down. These things don't come knocking often and when they do you best recognise them for what they are. I continued to question my motives for doing this and what the trip was really trying to achieve. You can't really copy Shackletons trip as to do so you would have to do it in the context by which he did it i.e. to save his and 27 other mens lives. In the end I had to stop myself and simply go back to the adventure. That's most likely what made them walk out of the comfort of their own homes 100 years ago... and that's what made me walk out of the comfort of mine. So, here I am.
The base is quiet and I'm the last one up. I had to update the blog as I have been aware that I sort of just stopped... then x-mas and then this and so on. I didn't have much of break between the two. In fact after we landed at Heathrow after that epic session in Namibia, Helena and I drove to Weymouth, I picked up a back pack and then Nick picked me up and we drove 1000 km up to Scotland to the foot of Ben Nevis where we did a mountain survival course. that was pretty radical. from a sand dune to an igloo in a few days.
When VSR2 started smashing things up I was worried that these two projects were going to overlap. I wondered if I should ditch this one and focus hard on pushing the recent success of VSR2 to the media and sponsors. I really didn't know what to do and there wasn't an obvious answer... so I went with my heart and that said to go with the adventure. The rest would work itself out. I could be wrong but then everytime I look around at the sheer splendour of the scenery down here, it just feels right. It has already been a fantastic adventure and we haven't even got to the good bit yet.
By doing this I have also avoided the 'come down' that can often come after something like what we just achieved in Namibia. Everyone wants to know "What's next"... and so do I. We have some good ideas but they really need knocking into shape. we have a really nice team here and we all feel that we are well placed to do some pretty special things. I don't think anyone expects us to return to a 'normal' path of development. There are so many other great ideas out there that have either never been done properly or simply haven't even lifted themselves off the drawing board. Whatever it is we do, it has to be fun. It has to be something that we are passionate about... to the extent that we are willing to put everything we have into it again. We have to totally believe in it.
What I am doing now is giving me a nice break. It gives me some breathing space to sit back and really think about what is next... what I want to do myself.
Fear not by the way. One way or another we will be back to have one more shot with Vestas Sailrocket 2. She is nowhere near done yet. The current foil might be close to her limits but we reckon we can take our newfound knowledge and have a good hard dig into the 70's. We will also focus harde on the safety elements of the boat.
We have all really enjoyed the joy that the teams success has brought to those who have backed us in all forms. It's just so damned nice to finally deliver the goods that we promised. I feel the sense of satisfaction that I hoped would be here. I think about it all every day (there are yellow '65 kns' written wobbly in the snow andon glaciers down here:)
When i get back to the UK in late February, our little design team will sit down with a clean sheet of paper... just like we did at the start of the VSR2 stage... and start looking at our options. It's a fascinating and very exciting stage of any project... but especially one that has so much creative potential. The loose plan is to start making our discoveries more practical. Surely we have to take this offshore. I have some ideas that I think can deliver a lot more offshore for a lot less than what we see out there now... but I need the brains trust to run some numbers on things. We'll see. The ideas aren't ready to be wheeled out yet. Many of the answers will present themselves pretty quickly though I think. I'll leave it at that. I'm pretty sure that we are closer to a new beginning than the end.
We are all very keen to head off tomorrow. Can Nick and I really navigate this thing safely to King Haakon Sound on South Georgia using a sextant and a 100 year old clock? I think we can. It's sure one hell of an exam test for us two celestial novices. I'm pretty interested to see if I can translate everything I have learned in my weird world of modern sailing to solving this 100 year old problem. Yeah, it will be an adventure alright. I don't think I will be doing the blogs on this one. Tim will probably be relaying short messages off the AS via VHF. That will be our only contact. You should be able to follow our progress. We will have a tracker onboard and you should also be able to see where we 'think' we are using our own 'dead reckoning' and celestial skills. You might all be in for a bit of a laugh on this one.
See you all on the other side... then we can get back to the fast stuff.