Adrian Flanagan has now arrived in Tiksi, Russia and awaits instructions to board merchant ship 24/9/07

Adrian Flanagan’s Alpha Global Expedition remains at a standstill. Forty-six-year-old Flanagan who resumed his Alpha Expedition to sail solo round the world on the ‘vertical’ route in mid July remains in Russia, restricted by ice.

Due to ice on the north-eastern side of the Tyrmyr peninsular which blocked the eastern approaches to Proliv Vil’kitskogo Flanagan has been unable to continue his voyage. One of the most recent ideas was to follow an icebreaker through through Proliv Vil’kitskogo, joining a caravan of three small merchant ships. However, this option had to be cancelled because the weather took a change for the worse.

Flanagan is now in Tiksi where he hopes to have Barrabas lifted onto a large ice-hardened merchant ship to continue his expedition west through to Murmansk.
Chatting from Tiksi Flanagan said: “Tiksi is an unremarkable place. Apparently 30,000 people lived here in 1990. Since then the population has been emaciated to 2,000. Many of the buildings are derelict, windows broken, roofing tin torn off by the winds. Most accommodation is in tenement type blocks held off ground by concrete stilts.

“The asphalt is cracked, migrating slowly ditchwards as though subject to some mini-tectonic shift. Military uniforms and vehicles predominate. There are no visible shops only peeling pictures of bread or tomatoes hung askew on doors which slat on loose hinges in the constant wind. There is another settlement further to the north, and the airport. The sound of the wind is occasionally torn by the whine of turbines which fade quickly in the dense, low cloud.

“The dock area comprises a number of piers spaced like the spread fingers on a hand. Through driving sleet and poor visibility I was directed to the western pier. Someone was screaming, literally screaming over the VHF on channel 16 in Russian. It sounded to me like invective. Whether the voice was directed at me, I don’t know. The pier was dilapidated and disintegrating. Iron spikes bristled seawards, bolts which at one time secured timber joists long since decayed or broken off. The pier was exposed to west winds – this and the spikes were concerns but after I had moored in a ‘clean’ spot, these concerns were brusquely dismissed.

“The expected phalanx of uniforms descended. A research vessel had followed me into port and had berthed at the eastern side of the dock. Its cargo of German geologists come to say ‘hello’ but were told in unequivocal language to get lost. I met them later in town. After being ‘processed’ I was handed over to some branch of the military – expressionless faces, khaki camouflage, high laced boots. After a considerable amount of time during which my papers were handed from one man to another amid much discussion, examined, photographed and discussed again a slightly built local man of Yakut descent was brought to the boat. His name is Vissarion. He learnt his English at Oxford. I was delighted.

“Through Vissarion I explained the nature of my situation, the plans to transport the yacht and my desire, much as I was grateful to be here, to leave just as quickly as possible. The following days brought repeated visits and more questions. Each time Vissarion was present to translate. These Q & As took place either in a military vehicle parked dockside or on Barrabas. One time, one of the officers, clearly the designated photographer began snapping the Russian chart open on the navigation table. Why did I get? They wanted to know. England, I explained. I opened the chart table and showed them the thirty or so others detailing the north Russian coast. He gave up taking pictures of the charts after that.

“On Saturday the wind kicked in from the west gusting to 40 knots. By some fortuitous foresight I had scavenged among the piles of debris on the dock, discarded marine engines, bits of crane, burnt-out hulks of buses and cars and skidoos for tyres. These I hung from the quayside to cushion Barrabas’s hull. By Saturday lunchtime, the boat was being picked up by the seas and hurled against the dock. The tyres undoubtedly saved the boat from serious damage.

“As is my habit, I talk to the Captain Danilkin every day. I asked them to contact the harbourmaster. I needed a tug to pull me off and get me to a more protected berth. Eventually a small and ancient tug puttered around the corner, approached Barrabas far too closely, lost control in the high winds and collided. Despite the mayhem, we got Barrabas out of danger and she sits now happily tethered to a rusted crane platform moored deep in the recess between two piers and sheltered from the westerlies now screaming down the frosted hills at 50 knots.”

Within the next 48 hours Flanagan should be able to announce when he’ll hopefully be leaving Tiksi bound for Murmansk.