Thursday, November 18, 2010
Posted: 11/17/2010 02:34:01 PM PST
Updated: 11/17/2010 05:03:17 PM PST
ALAMEDA -- She'd conquered the Northwest Passage during the summer, one of the most dangerous sailing routes in the world, considered a watery Everest. Yet deep trouble loomed large when she hit the Bering Sea.
Solanus, a 48-foot yawl sailing under the Polish flag with a seasoned three-member crew out of the Yacht Club of Poland on a year-and-a-half-long expedition, ran into a series of fierce and bitter storms in October, chilling Solanus to her steel ribs, roughing her up with gale-force gusts up to 50 knots and waves so fierce the masts were touching the water. She lost her electrical systems, engines and even GPS.
"We still had the stars, though, and we could navigate like the old days," her captain, Bronislaw Radlinski, said Tuesday through an interpreter, happy to be enjoying a sparkling, clear day in the Bay Area while the boat was docked at a guest berth in an Alameda marina, not even halfway through her global journey.
"It's really a treat to have Solanus visiting here," said Chris Owczarek, vice commodore of the San Francisco chapter of the Yacht Club of Poland, which meets in Alameda -- one of only a handful of chapters around the world. The local club is hosting the crew as they clean the boat, make some repairs and collect supplies for their next leg toward South America. They plan to head out today.
Owczarek served as interpreter Tuesday, filling in the gaps of the crew's spotty English, and helping them out withother tasks.
"My job today is tracking down a laundromat for them," he said. "We have a small Polish sailing community here, but everyone is trying to help them out with different needs, even taking them sightseeing in San Francisco."
The original Yacht Club of Poland was founded after World War I when Poland had regained its rights to the sea, Owczarek said. There are about 18 smaller chapters in Poland, one in London, and another in Germany. The San Francisco chapter formed in 2001. There are currently about 26 members.
The local sailing community also stepped up to help the adventurers, Owczarek said. The Oakland Yacht Club offered a guest berth for the Solanus when she arrived last Sunday, and the Encinal Yacht Club provided accommodations for a reception.
Part of the expedition's mission is to visit various Polish communities around the world, Radlinski said. But there's another reason too. "We like to sail," he said.
Solanus had been prepped for the trip during the past couple of years. Her bright-red hull with yellow trim is made of steel -- wood or fiberglass would never have made it through the icy conditions in the Northern Passage, Owczarek said. She set sail from Gdansk May 16 with a main crew of three seasoned, hearty sailors: Radlinski, who is 59, Roman Nowak, 61, and Witold Kantak, 71, all tanned with deep creases around their eyes from squinting at shining seas. They've added crew members along the way -- Jarek Pietras, 30, is on board now -- and they hope others will join various legs of the trip.
Today, they'll head to Los Angeles, then make a stop in San Diego, then Acapulco. "We have to be in Chile by the end of January, to catch the weather window to go around the Horn," Radlinski said. They plan to return to Poland in August.
To learn more about Solanus' expedition, visit www.solanus.bydgostia.org.pl The site is in Polish, but online translator functions can help decipher the text.
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Posted by Voyage Adviser at 10:47 AM