Today is a chilly day. I noted that I have to take thicker gloves on hands while working outside. We wear winter jackets and woolen socks from August to May so it’s not a sign of winter but some signs like cold fingers and nose wake you up to realize that tropic really is now quite far away.
Birds' seasonal migration has started on these latitudes. Looking from bridge windows you can see massive flocks of birds heading to the south. To be honest, the scenery outside looks exactly the same as at the North Sea at this time of the year. Grey sea and air with, at its best, only modest visibility.
Officially we are now at the Northern Sea Route as they call it in Russia. We are on the same height as the northernmost tip of Finland and that might also be the reason I feel this area much more comfortable than the coasts of Japan. Here, the sense that you really know every step you take, is much stronger. Shallow waters, the colour of the sea, atmosphere and even the ice warnings make you feel more home than at the wide ocean. This feeling is hard to describe. It’s not that you don’t know what to do at tropics or at deep waters, but it can be said, for example, that the amount of material you have to study to “survive” in the particular area is smaller here up in the north. Of course, the Northern Sea Route requires you to learn a lot of things and inspect but still, this is my comfort zone. I just hope that I can spread this feeling to my crew with the help of my excellent ice advisors.
Speaking of ice advisors, they have now started their duties. They run watches together with Mates and share their knowledge on what to expect and how to tune equipment to detect ice. We have contacted nuclear ice breaker Vaygach which will escort us through the East Siberian sea. Our ship-specific permission allows us to make a voyage without assistance but for the newbuilding, it is wiser to test the ice contact in a controlled manner. This is the final exam our fine lady has to pass. Ice forecast shows ice condition to be relatively easy for us. Winds have been in our favour and drifting ice massifs have been blown away. I have to say I would like to observe much more ice than predicted on printouts, but this is the reality we have now her due to climate change. During the evening we entered to area which has the possibility for drifting ice and bridge will keep a sharp lookout.
Jussi Vaahtikari is Master of m/v Haaga. He has participated to the construction of Viikki and Haaga since the design phase and he was also part of the supervision team in China during the construction phase.
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