|Over Russia and Around the World|
Part 3: Insulated by a thick lining of rock wool
Story and Photographs by Alex McMullen — February 2002
The engine drives an ice-strengthened four-blade propeller ahead of a Schilling-type balanced rudder which will give the maneuverability Cowper wants for working the zigzag channels that will open up, he hopes, through Arctic ice.
Polar Bound is insulated by a thick lining of rock wool, with an additional layer of foam-and-ply laminate in the aft cabin, the main living space. Cowper will cook on a diesel-fired stove, which will also provide heat, directly in the aft cabin and through radiators in the wheelhouse and engine room if the boat is icebound, when the engine and the genset will be closed down to save fuel. Two wind generators should then keep the batteries topped up, but kerosene lamps can, if necessary, be used to provide some heat as well as light.
In the wheelhouse Cowper will sit on a Bostrom sprung seat of the size and type found on lifeboats and pilot boats, hoping that his commercial-specification Robertson AP35 autopilot will keep the boat on course. For communication, he will have a satphone and MF/HF and VHF radios, but his navigation aids are no more sophisticated than your average coast-hopping cruiser. He has radar and a GPS, but the GPS won't be interfaced with the autopilot, and he won't even be using it for waypoint navigation, just position fixing. "I still use conventional navigation methods," he says. "I wouldn't want to rely on electronic aids."
For food, he'll depend almost entirely on large quantities of cereals, dried milk, canned butter, packet and canned soup, rice and noodles, and the ingredients for home-baked bread, all stowed in the cavernous stowage compartment forward of the wheelhouse. He won't carry fruit or vegetables, at least for more than a few days after his rare stopovers, but he will have a plentiful supply of multivitamins. Nor will he be eating seafood. "I did try flying fish on my earlier trips, but the smell and blood put me off," he says. "I haven't caught any fish since." For liquid refreshment he'll rely on his desalinator to keep the 95-gallon water tank topped off.
Cowper's latest voyage will test his ability to bear solitude, but he's confident he won't be bored, even if he does get stuck in the ice for long periods. There's always work to do on the boat, and even after he's caught up with all his chores, including writing narrative and conventional ship's logs, he'll get plenty of exercise. "In the ice I will go for walks, perhaps dig a trench around the boat to ease the pressure, or make wind breaks," he explains. "It's important always to be active, however useless the activity."
Here's hoping the encore performance, whose progress is now in the hands of the ice gods, is anything but useless.
Alex McMullen is a freelance writer and photographer living in England.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.