Getting to the Commander Islands is not easy feat as there is no regular or reliable connection with the mainland. We managed to hitch a ride with Sergey on his small sailboat (the one we were racing on in the last blog post) as we has heading there to pick up some scientists.
After 3 days of waiting - for the boat to get fixed, for the sun to come out, for Monday to pass and for permits - we finally set sail from Petrapovlovsk-Kamchatsky to Nikolskoye (Bering Island)!
The first night, the Pacific wasn't very pacific. We were caught in a (tiny) storm going against the waves and the wind! The storm passed but we still had north-eastely winds (when we were trying to go north-east!) making our speed a ground-breaking (or rather ocean-breaking) 3 knots… we just had 297 nautical miles to go! After the storm and the wind against us the wind died completely - so much for sailing but least the sea was flat calm. We were quite seasick despite being constantly under the effects of motion-sickeness pills, which made the limited vegetarian menu (boiled carrots with cabbage and onions) nauseating (and traumatizing). We didn't eat for 4 days and I couldn't drink either. My berth was right next to the fuel line tightly sealed with two different colors of tape giving me the final blow.
The days passed nonetheless: being sick, seeing humpback whales, orcas, seals and dolphins playing in our surf. And on the fourth morning we were woken by the alternating cry of "land, whales; whales, land"!
This trip has demonstrated that we don't have the sailing gene (we don't need triplicate independent experiments to prove this). Furthermore, the fun of sailing still remains elusive, having lead us to reconsider our idea to visit Tristan Da Cunha in the near (or far) future!
Little did we know that the way back would also be… uhm… particular! We vaguely knew that possibly, maybe, potentially there the boat that takes supplies to the Commander Islands and we were given someones mobile number to call. We had asked some Russian speakers to ring this mysterious number for us and get some information about our return and how to book it. We were told that there will be a boat sometime mid-August which could take us back and that we should email them to book places. Which we did but after 4 days hadn't received a reply so we weren't sure if we were booked on the boat and most importantly when our return ticket was. We kept on calling and he said he would email us (very helfpul on the Commander Islands where a 56K connection is considered highspeed). Even on the islands the information was mixed and vague: from oh but the boat left yesterday to what turned out to be the correct answer: no one really knows. By August 10th we manage to get a cheeky 5 minutes on the internet to check our inboxes for this much anticipated email. We were booked on the boat it should leave between the 13th-15th August but not to Petropavlovsk but to Ust-Kamchatsky which is in the north of Kamchatka. On August 11th the Captain of the boat calls us and in Russian tells Barbora that we are actually leaving the next day at 9am. By the evening we get another phone call, due to permits, we are leaving on the 13th at 6pm. The trip back should take between 14 and 22 hours.
After the first night we are told that we will be landing in Ust-Kamchatsky in 2 hours! After another hour and a half we are told that we will be landing n 20 minutes but then we are told that due to a storm we can't land and that we will take shelter in a bay until the evening or maybe the next morning.
That evening the captain decides to change our destination: in 30 hours we should arrive in Petropavlovsk! The evening we see a sunset whilst anchoring in a different bay near Petropavlovsk. We will shelter there for the night for an unknown reason. Turns out that the boat doesn't have a license to moor in Petropavlovsk so we need to wait for two tiny yachts to take us to port. We wake up at 5am as by 7am we were meant to transfer boats… at midday we see the two boats on the horizon and by 2:30pm we are back on land! On this trip we were not seasick (OK, fine, I was a bit sick and Barbora was fine) but the menu on the boat was meat and fish which is great for two vegetarians and we didn't have supplies as we were planning just an overnight journey (and ran out of chocolate by day one - THE REAL CRISIS)! So again we did't eat for 4 days (just munched on mouldy bread!). Despite the chocolate crisis we were amongst the calmest of the 20 passengers as, unlike the other russian tourists, we were well weathered and by now accustomed to "Kamchatka time and schedule". And weren't surprised that our 14-22hour journey took 68 hours.