In just three weeks the Great Siberian Sushi Run starts, and final preparations are underway.
We are on the home stretch getting Sans Souci ready. When I spoke with the team on the boat yesterday, they were taking off all the protective cardboard that had been taped around the interior of the boat. The headliners have been put back up, and the boat is starting to once again “look like a boat.”
Whereas a few weeks ago, the work list had tasks like “Swap the generator” or “Install a dive compressor”, tasks now are more in the finishing details category. For example, I’ve been working on the getting the television and internet working. We swapped to Dish Network, from DirecTV, because we believe the odds are greater we’ll get reception in the extreme north. Will it work? I have no idea. Also, we swapped how I get internet on the boat. Once again, there is no guarantee. I spoke with KVH about whether or not my expensive new satellite internet system would get internet in the Bering Sea, and they said “We think so, but really have no idea. We’re looking forward to you telling us.”
Next Wednesday and Thursday I’ll be doing a two-day final checkout run on the boat. My goal is to stress every system. We’ll run over 150 miles, and I’m busily making check-lists of everything I want to do. Any problems I can identified now can be fixed prior to departure. I’m also curious to see whether or not our effort to re-pitch the props actually gave me any extra fuel efficiency. If the water is relatively smooth, and current isn’t an issue, I’ll run at a wide range of speeds, tracking engine load and fuel burn. I also want to look system by system at what spare parts I have on board, and try to identify anything that is missing. It will be a BUSY couple of days.
After the checkout run, we’ll have just two weeks to do final tweaking, and then that will be that. We’ll be headed north.
Meanwhile, it’s a cold winter in Alaska…
As I type this, I’m sunburned from a hard day of golf in Cabo San Lucas, and Alaska seems a million miles away. I’m looking out the window at dozens of boats, calmly anchored. A 40’ sport fisher just passed by pulling two spring-break kids on boogie boards.
It’s hard to comprehend where we’re going.
To help refocus me on reality, Bill Harrington, an Alaskan fisherman going along with us on the Bering Sea portion of the run, just sent this picture of the view looking out his front door (in Kodiak Alaska):
Bill has been trying to get out fishing for a week, but the weather has been ugly this year. This report shows what he is looking at in the Gulf of Alaska:
…GALE WARNING TODAY…
.TODAY…SW WIND 35 KT. SEAS 30 FT.
.TONIGHT…W WIND 30 KT. SEAS 28 FT.
.FRI…SW WIND 30 KT. SEAS 22 FT. SNOW SHOWERS.
.FRI NIGHT…SW WIND 25 KT. SEAS 18 FT.
.SAT…SW WIND 35 KT. SEAS 12 FT.
.SUN…S WIND 45 KT. SEAS 26 FT.
.MON…W WIND 45 KT. SEAS 29 FT.
“…Hi Ken. I can't believe this weather. Non stop gales forever. We're heading out, and it is not looking good. We may have to go anyway if we can play it right with fair wind out and back. Due east out, NW back to Homer. So we need westerlies on the way out, southerlies on the way in. Once on the grounds it can be fished uncomfortably but it's the traveling that makes the difference. I'll let you know what's up when I get it figured. Hope all's well in the sunny south. Best regards. Bill …”
Thirty foot seas! Forty-five knot winds! And, this is in the Gulf of Alaska, well south of where we’re heading in the Bering Sea. There are days I ask myself “What the heck am I thinking to be doing this????”
That said, we don’t leave for a couple more weeks, and it will take time to get north. The weather gods are working hard now, and will hopefully exhaust themselves before we get that far north.
Of course, it does have me thinking about safety…
I ordered Roberta and I survival suits yesterday. We already have suits on the boat, but Roberta’s petite, and I’m “big”. I think I might fit into one of the suits we already own, but I’d hate to be wrong, and I was worried that Roberta’s might be so large on her that she could swim laps inside it. With a bit of googling, I found a supplier that makes small, and oversized suits, and ordered new ones for Roberta and I: http://www.stearnssafety.com/dyn_prod.php?p=STRI590&k=80887
I also decided that I needed to get serious about medical supplies for the boat, and contacted a pharmacy about medical kits. Here’s an email I sent to the other two GSSR captains:
Braun and Steven:
I just spoke with Mike, at:
Lafferty’s provides the medical kits and drugs for much of Seattle’s fishing fleets.
As Captains, with our licenses, we can buy and carry prescription drugs, as long as we keep them locked up until an emergency. Coincidentally, Lafferty’s (Mike) put together the medical kits and recommendations for the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004!
I asked Mike if he had a list a list of what we want, or if I should speak with my Doctor, and he said “come see me”; that he has a great list, and can take care of us.
Specifically, I’m looking for things related to trauma, allergic reactions, food poisoning, diarrhea (and, the opposite), dehydration, extreme seasickness, etc.
My thinking is that we need three minor medical kits (just the normal band-aids and stuff) plus one SUPER-kit, that the three boats share access to. That said, since we may fragment after Japan, there could be an argument for three complete kits. When we are together next week we can discuss this. My guess is that prescription drugs have a shelf-life and anything bought now can’t be relied on after Japan anyhow.
So… I tentatively set that we’d drop by to talk with Mike about what our options are. I’m happy to go alone, or with you guys.
All thoughts appreciated.
One very clear thing about this trip is that we need to be self sufficient. If we get into trouble, our best chance at getting help fast, is to help ourselves.
Here's a semi-interesting thing we are doing, which we also did on the Atlantic Crossing:
Everyone is preparing a sealed envelope with their medical history. These envelopes are being locked away, and will remain confidential, but will be available in case someone becomes incapacitated. If someone passes out, or becomes unconscious, we need to know what we’re dealing with.
All of this said, it is unlikely there will be any problems. Everyone is healthy, and has been to sea before. It would be interesting to know the aggregate sea-miles of the crews on the three GSSR boats. I am positive it is a VERY big number. There will certainly be some seasickness, and someone may take a tumble down the stairs in rough seas, but overall, the odds are heavy that our medical kits will arrive safely in Japan – unopened.
On a trip like this, you prepare for the worst, and then work like heck to ensure that it was wasted effort. Here’s just a few of the many reasons why this is going to be a safe trip:
So, overall, I guess the message is that we are taking safety very seriously, and trying to leave no stone unturned if it helps lock in a safe trip.
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
PS: I just discovered a new website devoted to Passagemaking: http://www.oceanlines.biz/. The site has a lot of interesting articles, including one about the GSSR: http://oceanlines.biz/2009/03/great-siberian-sushi-run-prepares-to-weigh-anchor/