Saturday 5 July 2008

Early am 5th July Nome with what passes in America for coffee

Strange – eerie? – feeling. I remember vividly looking at Nome on google earth in Sydney what seems now only yesterday yet so far in the past it has no time frame. I remember my feelings at the time – this tiny spot so far away – a harbour – Berri still on her mooring at RANSA – so far to go, so much preparation, perseverance, patience and persistence to get there – such a thoroughly uncompromising task to get Berri here and this is only the beginning. And here we most definitely – yet somehow unbelievably – are. On Independence Day – seems fitting.

I sat in Breakers Bar on Front Street as the festivities went on outside – long, narrow dark bar receding into the murky cigarette smoky distance, Mr Zappa and the Grateful Dead on NPR loud in the background, a bunch of goldpanners, construction workers and locals spread along the bar drinking the most amazing concoctions. Ice, cranberry and Vodka with a side shot of Crown whisky is one I remember. I felt as if I belonged – yet the signpost outside the Nugget a few doors away said Sydney 7181 miles (easily the furthest away of all the names). Tony, the barman, had a cookpot behind the bar and he opened it up and put a big black lump about a foot long onto a huge cutting board and started to carve it. My July 4th brisket, said he – would you like a plate? Would I??! How much is it? Against the law to sell it in here – I’m giving it away…so I got a paper plate with slices of marinated sugar glazed brisket, cooked overnight, with crisp bread and a mix of beans and onion. One of the best meals I have ever experienced – washed down with Alaskan Amber. A feeling of something achieved yet the usual apprehension that the Examiner still lurks and we’re really only at the start line. Can’t ever escape that except by getting on with the job. Just needed Marvin along to park the amazing collection of hard country vehicles outside and tell me that his b.t.s.o.a.p. was wasted in Nome and did I have a real job for him?

On which: today is back on the gearbox problem. It’s a linkage problem, I think – doesn’t always seem to engage properly so I will try to dismantle it all again and adjust it – almost impossible to get to the business end of the Morse cable that moves the gear lever but I gotta do it somehow. McQ and K having their usual morning sleep in and will probably appear around lunchtime and start on the other jobs.

Still too much ice up north and we have been strongly advised by the locals who know that we should not leave until it is open at Point Barrow so we will stay here until that happens. So – out of this expensive hotel and into a B & B if it looks like more than a few days.

I’ve absolutely had it with Xsatusa and their Iridium vouchers. Too long a story for now but I will one day publish the series of emails since April – farcical and funny except that our safety could have depended on the service working properly. I intend to abandon the NL200 voucher that cost me $155 for cheap calls in Alaska and Canada yet doesn’t work – despite early assurances that it would – from a boat off the coast. Xsat refuse to credit the other voucher with equivalent value and I don’t have the emotional fortitude to take them on. Carla, bless her, had a go and they are now apparently refusing to take her calls or answer her emails. Back to my more expensive but reliable Cable and Wireless service based in Port Stanley from here onwards when we can’t reach sailmail on the HF (or SSB, as it’s referred to here).

More later.