Not without challenges

It was a very long day for West and Jeff (long night for myself). I received a call around 12:30 am from West. He explained they had begun to encounter extremely strong wind gusts. He wanted me to check the wind reports to see when the strong gusts would let up. The plan, as in the past, would be to stop, sit out the winds, and then start up again when they die down. After reviewing the wind report, it was established that it would maintain it's currents trend until Tuesday! So, at 3:00 am, it was decided they would continue on, slowly. They would paddle, stop to rest when fatigued, then start up again, as they can. West said the plan was to stop about 5 miles above the dam, get some sleep and cross the dam in the morning during the daylight and after rest. I stayed up and cancelled the hotel for tonight and moved it to tomorrow and Sunday night. We discussed that their safety came first. West has always maintained, safety first, expedition second.

In the morning, first thing I always do, is check the spot tracker. I see they are still moving, all appears as it should. I watched throughout the day, expecting them to stop above the dam as discussed overnight. To my surprise, they pushed on. I thought maybe the winds had let up but, after checking the report, found they had not. I eventually received a call. West told me they would be at the dam in two hours. They were going to cross the dam tonight. I re-made the hotel reservations. Quickly, I had to get my contacts back in place for today. I emailed Alexei and Ilya. Despite Alexei getting ready for some training he had to do, both were ready to go. Alexei came up with a "Plan B", which was really good, just not what West and Jeff wanted to do. Alexei was away from his computer but Ilya had been on the phone with him and he was on his way to meet the team. In two hours, just as predicted, the team made it to the dam. It's about 9:00 pm. (I was actually amazed). West called. Our contact wasn't there. He said they were going to sleep on an island and meet up with Alexei tomorrow. I told him "no", I had a hotel lined up (for the 2nd time) and we weren't going to change the plan. Alexei had just missed them and was on his way. They were going to stay put. What I wasn't aware of, but extremely impressed with, was that Alexei was on his SUP in the middle of the Volga River hoping to paddle to the dam with West and Jeff, but missed them. He was fighting the same winds on his board. It took him a little while to get to his take out point, get in his car and get to the team. I spoke with him (he was ON the river and answered his phone) and he assured me he would be there...what a great help he was! In addition, I was emailing Ilya and his response was quick and extremely helpful! So...the boys sat tight. Unfortunately, the police did not like them to sit tight on the dam. They were asking them to move on despite their explanations that Alexei was on his way. Eventually, Alexei spoke with the police and assured them he was moments away. The police were very nice and just doing their job. Of course, they would not allow any pictures to be taken.

Alexei got there and got the boats loaded up. His friend, Paul, showed up and assisted. Since Alexei will be doing some training, Paul is going to store the boats and get the boys back to the dam to take off on Sunday. The ate a very late dinner (1 am), took their showers and were starting to get ready for sleep, after being up since 2:00 am for an early start. They are staying in a Hampton Inn, which West indicated was very nice and modern. Super clean. Tomorrow, they are going to tour Volgograd with Ilya, who works with the tourism bureau, get some rest and resupply. As with the entire expedition, everyone is ready and willing to go above and beyond for anything our team needs. At the tail end of the day, I received a message from my friend Stanislav that he sees (and was very excited) to see they boys made it to the dam. He has communciated with Alexei through social media and confirmed what we found out, he's just a nice guy.

Hopefully, pictures are being uploaded and sent soon. It's been a while...

--Barbara

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