RGS’s Circumnavigators Reach Sri Lanka

The course to Sri Lanka. Photos of the expedition participants
The course to Sri Lanka. Photos of the expedition participants

The sailboat of the circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society reached the coast of the island of Sri Lanka on February 19. Here, the travelers will rest, replenish supplies, and repair the ship before heading to India.

The voyage from Thai Phuket to Sri Lanka took 12 days. First, the sailboat crossed the Andaman Sea, and on February 10 entered the Bay of Bengal. During a communication session with the expedition's coastal headquarters, the crew received a warning from meteorologist Elena Berezkina. In a couple of days, the wind was expected to increase to 30 knots.

Sailing was not too easy even without bad weather. Serious discomfort was caused by the illness of Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin. Both seem to have caught a virus in Thailand. The third crew member, Filip Alekseev, suffered a serious sunburn.

“The ocean is more or less calm, but you can feel the tension, the expectation of bad weather. By nightfall, we lower the mainsail, we go on one staysail. Stas is sick, he’s taking antibiotics. I'm sick, I'm taking antibiotics. Filip’s suffering from the sun, and even when there is no sun, his skin gets burned. That's why he wears long-sleeve T-shirts and pants," Kovalevsky said.

On February 11, the wind and waves are increasing. The pitching is so strong that the travelers have to sleep not in beds but on the floor. The travelers are forced to reduce the area of the staysail; only three of them together can manage the sail.

“The waves will grow to 2.5 m. This means that some of them will be 3 m or more. We are preparing for difficult situations. We throw the braking rope from the stern. We take out the Australian life jackets. It is necessary to seal all possible entrances of water into the boat,” Evgeny Kovalevsky outlined the situation.

The next night passes without sleep, only in the morning the storm recedes slightly. However, bad weather keeps the sailing ship's crew on their toes until the evening. On February 14, the ship suddenly starts having problems with electricity. By evening, both the chartplotter and autopilot go out, and the crew switches to manual control.

“We are guided by the sun and the compass. We need to fix the equipment before dark. Stas tinkers for a couple of hours and finds the reason. But it will not be possible to fix it today. It takes time, most likely, we will have to make repairs on the shore," explains Kovalevsky.

 As a result, the chartplotter and autopilot were connected directly to the motor battery. Then they had to move with the engine idling to charge. On the morning of February 15th, the storm finally ended. The ocean remains restless, but it isn’t raging, as it has been for two days in a row.

“The side waves are rocking us but are not slowing us down. Cloudy. We are regularly dealing with weather fronts and get rained on. We are approaching Sri Lanka. We see an occasional ship at night," says Evgeny Kovalevsky.

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The crew of the circumnavigation: Filip Alekseev, Stanislav Berezkin, Evgeny Kovalevsky. Photos of the expedition participants
The crew of the circumnavigation: Filip Alekseev, Stanislav Berezkin, Evgeny Kovalevsky. Photos of the expedition participants

On February 17, during the inspection, it turns out that the oil seal was squeezed out in the propeller shaft. It probably happened a few days ago when it collided with an underwater object. When the engine is running, water enters the housing through an annular hole.

“It's dangerous, the ship may sink. It is calm in the shadow of the southern tip of Sri Lanka. We start the engine to cross the strait between the island and India in two days. Overheating is observed. Along with a leak in the propeller shaft, this is even more dangerous, so we decide to go to Galle, a port in Sri Lanka," explained Evgeny Kovalevsky.

The harbor is about 20 miles away. In Galle, the crew intends to inspect the vessel, find the required spare parts, if necessary, and even specialists. Only after the repair will the circumnavigation move on to India.

On the night of February 18, the expedition's sailboat anchored in the port of Galle in Sri Lanka. The journey continues.

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Ropes tied to the stern stabilize the ship during heavy pitching. Photos of the expedition participants
Ropes tied to the stern stabilize the ship during heavy pitching. Photos of the expedition participants

On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.

Alexander Zhirnov