The crew of the circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society expected to complete the next stage of sailing along the coast of Argentina from Bahia San Blas to Comodoro Rivadavia in four days. Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin managed to do this, but at the very end of the 420-mile crossing their trimaran needed the help of the coast guard – the "fierce Argentine south" met the Russian travelers with too harsh a wind. About the thoughts that arise during the night watch, about the silent companions of lone ocean travelers, about the people who come to the rescue, the circumnavigators told the readers of the RGS’s website.
The expedition left Bahia San Blas at dawn on November 12. Forecasters promised variable winds from different directions with gusts up to 25 knots. It was overcast, cold and wet, but after a while nature took pity – the sky cleared up, and by nightfall the stars scattered across it. In such weather, according to Kovalevsky, standing on watch is just wonderful.
Night, stars, and thoughts on watch in the middle of the ocean
“The stars stand out in the clear sky. Here is the great Southern Cross – I choose it as a landmark. I remember the place between the shrouds where I see this famous constellation. The electronic navigation system fails periodically, and our ship disappears on the chartplotter. It needs to be found; it takes time. That's why I'm following the stars. I memorize the location of the constellations on the right and left along the course of the trimaran and keep this course. In the next half hour, the accuracy is maintained. Then, due to the rotation of the Earth, the stars shift. But by this time I manage to return the ship to the plotter screen – to reanimate the automatic identifier of the ships,” said Evgeny.
He reminded that in the distant times, when people had not yet invented ingenious navigation devices, the Vikings and ancient Polynesians were actually guided by the stars. The art of laying a course using the stars needs to be studied for at least 10 years.
“All this time, you need to monitor the position of the stars in the sky every night during the entire dark time. The position of the stars is changing – it needs to be memorized. In addition, it is necessary to go out into the ocean, because at different latitudes and longitudes the position of the stars at the same time is different. Ian, the chief shaman of the island of Rarotonga in the Pacific Ocean, once told us about this. He is one of the founders of the Association of Ancient Polynesian Canoes, the keepers of the amazing art of sailing on fragile wooden boats and orienteering using the stars," Evgeny added.
Observing the starry sky and the smooth surface of the ocean is fascinating! From the hulls of the vessel, three shimmering jets go aft.
“It's fluorescent plankton. It, as the local viceroy of the ocean, gives us its divine beauty, pleases the eye and gently reminds us of Poseidon's possible wrath. After all, three sparkling jets are reflections of his ominously friendly trident," Kovalevsky believes.
One moment to the right, another to the left of the trimaran hulls, jellyfish periodically swim by, shimmering with mother-of-pearl silver, as if cuddled by plankton. Just now, a silver torpedo passes by the left hull.
“It's some kind of big fish, maybe a shark. Makes quick zigzags and disappears into the sinister depths of the progenitor of earthly life. A lone bird is circling over the mast, trying to sit on a crossbar. It doesn't work the first time; it doesn't work the second. The bird flies away resentfully, leaving a reproachful mark on my shoulder. The ocean is constantly pouring from the stern to the central hull, throwing moving phosphorus onto our lonely raft. New jets of water play with plankton, and the hull seems to come to life. It's like it's calling, ‘Play with me, buddy.’ But this is a distraction of a sad tired ship. It rushes into battle with the winds and waves, with sharks and pirates, with the scorching sun and exhausting cold. And we protect him from misfortunes in every possible way and thank heaven for such quiet nights," Evgeny said.
A watchman cannot be distracted in any way. The life of the crew and the fate of the expedition depend on his attentiveness and skill.
“The sea navigation for us is not just life on the ocean, it is the history of the development of the planet by mankind. We are following in the footsteps of Russian circumnavigation expeditions of the 19th century. This is the history of our country, this is the maritime glory of Russia. And we should not give in to weaknesses, fatigue," Kovalevsky stressed.
The flight of imagination of the head of the circumnavigation is interrupted by the appearance on the deck of Stas Berezkin. The captain of the trimaran gets out of the tent to top up the gasoline tank. The night around is beautiful, but with such a weak wind, the sails barely pull the ship forward. They need the assistance of a 15-horsepower Yamaha engine. Four hours of the watch are over, and Kovalevsky, without undressing, so as not to freeze, climbs into a sleeping bag.
The cold and pamperos, a helping hand from the shore
On the fourth day of the crossing, it becomes much colder. This forces the crew to put on all available clothes, but makes dolphins more fun, and seagulls more brazen.
“The seagulls are flying closer and closer. They are attracted by the sight of a ‘giant duck’ slowly moving south. It seems that information about our peaceful intentions has spread among the seagull community, and the birds have become quite brazen. They crawl between the shrouds, sit on the water half a meter from the outriggers, mark the deck, the tent, clothes, mugs and bowls. It seems that we are one big family: the crew, the trimaran, birds, dolphins, whales, and also the wind and the sun," admits Kovalevsky.
Sometimes the coast of Argentina shows itself far to the right. This Patagonia juts into the ocean with its peninsulas and bays.
“The sun resembles the Snow Queen. Its bright glow, mixing with the cold wind, does not warm, but chills the body and chills the soul. It seems to be there, but there is no expected warming effect. But the sun is blinding, requires eye protection, discolors the monitor of the chartplotter, envelops us with cold rays, urges us not to relax,” said Evgeny.
Soon, the Atlantic once again shows its harsh temper. A cold wind, pampero, blows from the south. The rest of the day and night the circumnavigators had to fight their way through it to the shore. Only early in the morning does the trimaran approach Comodoro Rivadavia. But there is not enough motor power for more. Wind currents do not allow to get to land.
“On the radio, we began to request the prefecture, the coast guard. We negotiated with them for 40 minutes. We explained that it was impossible to enter the port without help. Finally, we saw a boat rushing to our aid. The prefectural officer accepted the rope thrown by us, threw his own to us. Having connected our ships with two ropes, we moved to the shore," Kovalevsky said.
The prefectural boat towed the trimaran to the port for an hour and a half. Here, in the bay, the wind is much quieter, because the harbor is protected by mountains. The goal has been achieved!
The crew of the trimaran intends to stay in Comodoro Rivadavia for three days. The Russians were accepted at the local club "Nautico". Stanislav Berezkin and Evgeny Kovalevsky, as always, had a lot of work to do: check the motors, replenish stocks of food and water, tools and everyday necessities. In addition, the Russians will meet with Argentine sailors and young sailors and talk about their voyage, about the beauty of the nature of Russia and Siberia, about the importance of friendship between all the peoples of the Earth.
New crew members will board the trimaran again. They will pass part of the route together with the permanent expedition crew.
“We are preparing for the terrible Cape Horn. Took on board Roman Struchkov from Kaliningrad. He is a scuba diver, head of the center for the development of IT and creative industries of the company ‘Rezanium’. He will go with us to the port of Ushuaia. Tomorrow, the president of the club ‘Nautico’ Marcelo, as well as the coach of young sailors Alexis and two of his 14-year-old students will sail with us for several miles. We will sail together for several miles, then we will approach the shore and they will swim to land," Evgeny Kovalevsky revealed the details.
Then the RGS’s circumnavigation will go to Rio Gallegos, the administrative center of the Argentine province of Santa Cruz. We wish good luck and a fair wind to our navigators!
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.