Last week was a challenging one for the Japan trip.
The group met twice. On Tuesday evening, we had a group conference call, to speak with a captain who has run our route along the Aleutians several times. We wanted to hear from someone who had been there before, who could tell us what we are in for.
The meeting began with our guest describing his background. He runs 135 foot tug boats back and forth between the northwest and Asia. He has taken both a southern route, via Hawaii, as well as the northern route along the Aleutians, in both directions. I then described the trip we were planning for next year. Our guest then spent the next hour trying to talk the group out of the trip. A few excerpts from his presentation:
– We would be heading directly into 25 knot headwinds and 6 foot seas, for thousands of miles
– The Aleutians do not offer good hiding places. They are low barren islands.
– The distance to Japan via the route we are planning is 5,000 miles. If we instead go the southerly route to Hawaii, we will have nice calm seas, and go 7,000 miles. For him, the tradeoff is an easy decision. He’d much rather have the smooth trip.
– Storms in the Aleutians are frequent and violent. I pushed him a few times on this topic. He said that July and August are the best months, but that there are no good months.
– There is nothing to see in the Aleutians and no place to go
– And.. he repeated several times: “If I never go back to the Aleutians, it will be too soon.”
Our group pointed out that the “bad part” of the run is only 2,500 miles, and that the difficult part of the run will be over in three weeks. Also, we like the idea of going where few have ever gone, and the chance to take the boats into Siberia is a “once in a lifetime” experience. We didn’t convince him, and he didn’t convince us. I was nervous at the end of the call that our group might shrink, but everyone hung in.
Then, on Thursday, we had a face to face meeting with an agent who is working on getting us into Siberia. We had met with this same agent a couple of weeks ago, and had a great meeting. For this meeting he was going to have a detailed budget for each of our boats. Somehow, between our first meeting, and this most recent meeting, the numbers jumped materially. We have heard reports of boats arriving in Siberia and being surprised by huge fees for services they never requested. This sudden increase in fees caught the group by surprise, and shook our faith in the credibility of the agent. He seems like a really good guy, and I suspect the fees he is suggesting are fair. Kamchatka Siberia is a heavily militarized zone, and to my knowledge no group such as ourselves has ever arrived there. Providing us security, fuel, moorage and more is not easy, and the fees reflect the effort involved. I’m not sure what we’ll do. We badly want to stop in Siberia, both for refueling, and to sight-see. It’s a major component of why the routing we’ve chosen will be fun. I do think we’ll work this out, but it certainly wasn’t a fun meeting.
So .. I guess the good news is that after these two meetings this past week, it will be tough not to have better news soon!