The Isle of the Tsar of Russia

The slow stuttering trip out of the current and into the island’s lee took less time than it seemed it should because of the back current. Dutch had held to a dogged steady pace, stroke after slow stroke, swimming out in front of the Zodiac. Without warning, the boat had run right up over his shoulder, as the wind, in concert with the current, exerted a suctioning pull back into the lee of the island. I had replaced the wetsuit gloves on my hands, and, as with the water-filled dry suit, they responded warmly to the insulating properties of only a thin layer of liquid.

I was not warm, but I had feelings to my body. We pulled Dutch aboard as the Zodiac moved sideways toward the cove, which served as the innermost point of the lee of the island. Waves pounded onto the small rocks, appearing to run in on swells only four to five feet in elevation. I looked up at the small chunk of water-isolated land. It was a kidney shaped piece of rock about eight hundred feet high. The only landing spot possible, at the base of the cliff, was a narrow cove the boat was being sucked into. Huge pines appeared to cover the flat top of the quarter mile wide body of gray rock, high above.

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