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Selva and Phoenix on Solovki. Sports for Real Seals
Where do real water animals dwell? The very real water animals dwell where there is the real surf. Preferably, the surf of an ocean. But, as there is a problem with oceans in Russia, or, to be more exact, we have only one - the Arctic Ocean, we shall have to either go somewhere very far from our historical motherland, to the places that have an ocean, or turn into a frozen water animal, the author of the article being one of such creatures.

Well, where do we have the best surfs? Of course, we can go to the Black Sea or to the Caspian Sea, but there are rather few places for a real entertainment in the area of our (Russian) frontier waters. As to the Baltic Sea, you will never see a worthy storm there. However there is one nook, where storms are in fact a normal thing. This is the White Sea.

It is easy to get to the White Sea: from St. Pete to Belomorsk or Kem, and from Moscow to Arkhangelsk. Then, everything is very simple. You just go out to the sea shore. If you do not know, where it is, you can always either ask anybody or just listen. Usually, one can hear the noise of the sea. The noise of the very surf that we need, by the way. If you have come to the sea shore, it is worth assembling and inflating a boat. This is a kind of an exam for water animals. If you have assembled and inflated it, you can bring it onto the sea. If it is floating, then you have inflated it in the correct way.

If it is sinking, start everything anew. Do this until you are sure that everything is O.K. with the boat.

After that, you can get on the boat. By the way, I recommend removing thwarts (aqua benches among the common people). You will not need them, if you want to become a real water animal. As I have already mentioned, real water animals sit on the bottom of the boat. This contingency is caused by the fact that there is the so-called centre of gravity, which must be shifted lower. Though each beginner water animal has the right of trying to sit on the thwart-bench, speeding up with the full throttle. You can send me descriptions of your impressions of the trip.

After that, a moment of no small importance comes. If your thought has been that you can already start the engine and set off like a rocket - you are mistaken. The main thing to do before getting off is TO TIE UP EVERYTHING. Everything that can stir or move inside the boat. Besides, all things have to be tied in such a way as to evenly distribute the load in the boat. For want of habit, it is rather difficult to do, but you will manage that after several attempts.

Here the so-called gimmicks, or ruses start. I advise you to fasten your knapsacks with clasps (not the military ones). And fasten them tight, so that they do not shift in the process of entertainment and do not interfere with your enjoyment. Spare petrol cans must be fastened in the same manner, if you plan to take them.

After that, you will have to learn a strange word, bowline. This strange word means just a simplest knot to tie up a water animal. Bowline is a simple NON-STRETCHED loop. One should tie oneself up, leaving some free room (between your body and the loop).

This is done to prevent the boat from going too far from its owner IN CASE you suddenly FALL OUT of the boat. Because you will not feel very well without the boat in water.

Besides, you cannot swim for a long time in cold water. The last thing you have to do before starting the engine is to insert a release. If it is not provided for by the design of your engine, you must invent it. It is needed for the boat to stop in time, if you part with it in the process of enjoyment. Now you may start the engine and set off

So, starting our voyage

Every water animal has a voyage of its own. Therefore, I can tell you only about my voyage.

I get up early in the morning. You would not say that I pack slowly, but I definitely do it without haste. You have to think through and remember every trifle - THERE it will be late to recall or think. Everything.

No laughing here. If you are going to go for a real storm, prepare as for the last trip. Anything can happen Especially if you go too far from the shore. And I like it only this way. Perhaps someone prefers catching the wave of the surf - this is pleasant, too, but I like it when a real storm is around you. And the shore, if any, can be hardly seen far away.

And the storm has its own peculiarities - of course, surf is good, but it is transient. If the wind changes its direction, the surf is over. The storm is a horse of another color. You have to catch it. You have to chase it. If you want to feel the storm, an unforgettable race is awaiting you!

I am fortunate - I have a base on the Solovki islands. So I can leave them 50 to 60 kilometers behind me in any direction. And all the same, it is a great luck to catch a real storm.

In the morning, when the sun is rising, you go out to the Zayatskiye islands. They had been considered the Solovki's port from time immemorial. Now everything has changed, and ships come straight to the Greater Solovki; however, if you want to catch the weather, it is better to observe it from Zayatskiye.

You are waiting not just for a strong wind. Besides, you also have to understand, and sometimes simply to feel in which direction the wind is going to change. And where it will go. If you guess it, you can speed off.

I have put on my clothes, tied up and fastened everything that I can without haste. Got on the boat. Checked whether everything is in its place. Especially the spare parts and accessories for the engine, because the engine in a storm is your life. And, having packed, we set off

It is not an easy thing to chase a storm.

Often you have to overcome more than a score of kilometers to get to a site of a real storm. It is good when you go with the waves. It is worse when you meet them frontally, seeing the bow of the boat fold. The impression is like the boat is going to simply burst from the impact. But we have to give the Badger's boat its due - it absorbs the punches. The waves gush over. You hit a wave, and get lost under it. It just floods you. The release valve cannot handle it. You are sitting in a pool. In a deep pool, to be more exact. The mate on the bow is also getting his share of extreme. His place is on the much hit. For we are racing along at the top speed. I am sitting near the engine; I am O.K., whereas he is literally beaten on the floor of the boat. After 5 or 6 hours of the race I cannot straighten myself up, and what are his feelings?

We speed along to the north of the Greater Solovetsky Island. In our estimate, when we get to the place, the Real Big Strong Storm will be there.

We have to bypass Solovki on the east. Everything would be O.K., unless the Muksalomsky reef was there. The space is not so large, just a couple of kilometers in length.

However, we are overcoming it for a long time and at the breaking point. It is very shallow - it's a reef. Zheka (my mate) is sitting, hanging from the bow and looking at the sea bottom. Planet-size stones all around. The stream is wild in this place. The engine is constantly working at a slow speed, in order not to leave behind the screw, as it seems we have stopped. Zheka takes the oars frequently. Then, I lean over the stern and look at the screw. Gathering seaweeds all the time. An attempt to lift the engine in order to remove them results in the boat being pulled back. And even if one of us is oaring and the engine is running at a slow speed, all the same we are moving like tired turtles.

It takes us about an hour to pass the reef. Tired and, besides, hungry we are - too much effort it takes. And we have not reached our destination, the storm, yet. On the more or less smooth water (the waves are not higher than half a meter and always beating on the board) we get to Rebolda, the north-eastern end of Solovki. Behind it are the open sea, and - our long-awaited Big Strong Storm.

In Rebolda (where a seasonal settlement of seaweed workers is) we go to the shore, have our meal and fill the tank to the full.

We do everything as quick as we can - we have to seize the moment. The seaweed workers warn us that it beats for real in the place we are heading for. They are not going there today on their long longboats (the old tub tested by time, by the way!!!) - The Storm is Big and Stro-ongBut, it is what we want!

We go to the north. The storm can be seen from a long distance. Surf all over the sea.

The wave is short here - it beats from everywhere. We are going at the top speed - Zheka is thrown from one end to another and I am beaten. I am in a better position, sitting on the life jacket - at any rate, my ass feels more comfortable, sorry. And Zheka has to put it on. He has much more chances of falling out from the boat as compared to me. With your head you understand that if you are thrown out from the boat, or if we turn over - God forbid! - We're done for. People from the Ministry of Emergency Situations joke that the best life jacket in the White Sea waters is a stone with a rope on your neck. The temperature of water is not higher than 10 degrees. One would survive not more than twenty minutes in such water. Therefore, its better, if all happens in a second. We are approaching the storm. According to forecasts (and they have not deceived us this time), the force is five. Though, who knows, what force it has here. We only know that tourists are not taken to the sea today (the Emergency Ministry has forbidden), and not a single ship has left the haven of Solovki. We are the only imbeciles. To tell you the truth, the Emergency Ministry (good guys!) have promised to monitor us from all their posts, but if anything happens, they will have no time in any case. So, this is just for moral support.

Entering the storm.

I do not know about the wind force, but the Big Storm is quite Strong. The height of the decuman wave (you know, such a thing really exists, not only in the Aivazovsky's painting) is up to 5-6 meters. When you are sitting on the bottom of a boat, you feel a small insect. During our first trips, when we were just getting used to this kind of entertainment, it was a bit frightening. Adrenalin fell from our teeth. Now we are used to this. We have enough time to watch the beauty of the storm and to handle the boat. And the beauty is of the wildest nature! It is only during such moments that you feel that you are A HUMAN BEING! A human being enjoying the force of nature. The waves are high, visibility nil. When you sore to the wave crest, there is no time to admire the scenery. The main thing is to throttle back to the minimum in time the moment you leave the crest. Otherwise, the engine will suck air and can die out. But this is the Great Moment.

We must dwell on this in greater detail. Firstly, you must accurately estimate the wave entrance angle. I cannot explain how this is done. You do it somehow instinctively, automatically. When you enter the storm, the bow faces the wave. Therefore, when you climb the wave, you get the complete power of the engine. Then, there is the moment of breaking away. You sharply throttle back (the main thing is not to stop the engine!!!) and the moment of free-flier operation comes. If you have found the right angle and throttled back in due time (not earlier and not later), you fly from the crest a distance of up to six boat lengths! This is a kind of kef you cannot describe in words. You should feel it.

It is especially pleasant, if you have managed to enter the said decuman wave. The entire storm is beneath you. You are flying like a stormy petrel, who, as is known, has its reasons to look for the storm. The impression is that the storm itself gets still. You fly just about 10 meters, or 18 at the most, but you get such a charge that it seems as if electric current circulates through your veins, not blood. If you have estimated everything correctly, you will land on water smoothly and without complications. If you have not, the bow meets the wave and folds (a very unpleasant moment), as a result, you are completely in water, you lose speed, can turn over, and there are a lot of other unwanted things.

Another thing is to leave the storm.

Generally speaking, you must always enter a storm "frontally". In order to use the entire power of the engine. If you try to "catch up" with the storm, water beats against your back, and the engine "loses", it has not enough power. And when we speak about an exit from the storm, it is better when it beats just against the stern. By the way, a pleasant sight, too. Has a relaxing effect. The storm itself is moving at a certain speed, too. And when you leave it, the impression is as if a wall of water several meters high is hanging over you all the time, incessantly. And often you are unable to outrun it. You are just going, constantly trying to catch up with the crest of the wave moving before you.

But if you manage to catch up, a phenomenon starts that I call 'techno surfing'. Here, the main thing is to feel the engine. If you are lucky, you can go for a long time on the crest of the wave. I succeeded in doing that for five or six minutes at a time. After that, you will fall down all the same - for the wave is not even. But you have a feeling of absolute harmony with the sea! The sea is strong and powerful, but it cannot do anything to you - you have learnt its laws and rules, you have SADDLED THE STORM! There is nothing more to tell. You are just staying with the storm for as long as you have enough strength and petrol. And you come back to the shore tired and worn out, with pain all over your body, but pleased and happy.

So, if you have enough courage, cheek and fortune - come to the Solovki and catch Her Majesty the STORM

By Oleg Kodola, the author of the article on the testing of the PHOENIX PTS 120 boat equipped with the Selva Naxos 15M outboard engine, a full member of the Geographical Society.

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