First route St:Petersburg - Volga

St Petersburg
We started 17 june -93, a week prior to the Midsummer celebrations, and sailed through Åland and the Finnish archipelagos and got to Kotka. That year the summer came late so the weather was cold and wet. We got a real good wind form Kotka as our journey to Russia began. At the border of the Russian territorial waters we met a coastguard boat. We were not registered by any authority, I only had a three month tourism visa. Our destination in St Petersburg was a small yacht club called Strelna. We told the coastguard that the club was awaiting us and that this information had not yet reached the authorities. After 1,5 hours of discussion they let us go as we promised dearly and honorably to register ourselves as soon as we got to the customs, if not the coast guard would fin them. (Our improvisation had now begun). The customs took us some 15minutes to get past and we headed for the Strelna yacht club.
The markings of Russia had been both good and detailed, but in later years both colors and sometimes even some beacons were missing. Our description to Strelna was:
Go back to the fairway from the big port, and after 2 kilometers turn left. You should after a while see a building in aluminum and a chimney that forms a leading line, when there is about one kilometer left one should see two markings at the harbor which leads you to the fairway and finally to the Strelna yacht club. The trip went well, but I recommend people who travel between Kronstadt and St Petersburg to travel with someone with local knowledge.

At Strelna we were met by my father in law who had much experience with sail racing in Russia and who had many contacts in the yacht club. Now the preparation work for the journey through the river systems began. Russian sailors told me that the depth I always at least 4 meters and that all bridges were at least 14 meters tall (with exceptions for the moveable bridges). Maps and such could be bought from the Ministry of the Russian river Fleet. In many places in Russia, people do things by themselves, which was the case here where there was a sailmaker shop. I bought a new mainsail for 1200kronor or converted for 200 US dollars.

Travel with or without mast?
One of the sailers, Anatoly Kanovalov, an old sea wolf who had spent his lifetime sail racing and traveling the canals, who also stitched our sail, told us the following:
The water stream through St Petersburg has the speed of about 4-5 knots and the bridges in the inner city are only 5 meters tall but moveable. There are eight bridges of this type and they are only open at night time when heavy traffic passes through.
We decided to remove our mast and travel during the calm day through St Petersburg. Just after St Petersburg there is a large footbridge, perfect for putting the mast back in its place (as mast cranes are scarce). The rest of the 3600km to the Black Sea is bridge free, with only one bridge at the Don River. We saved that problem for later. As we were going on our own, Anatoly arranged a crew list with stamps from the Strelna Yacht Club. This would save us time if we ran into authorities (never used) After a week of planning everything seemed to be in place, but we still had some questions circulating our heads (how to use the floodgates, if is there anywhere to get supplies amongst the way, what if the stream is faster than 5knots etc.).

Oresjek, Nöteborg, Schussenburg, Petrokrepost

The Saturday of 10th of July we brought down our mast and went along the Neva under all of St Petersburg's bridges

…………………The first mast removal

The Neva River is 74 kilometers long, and about 30 kilometers of those are urbanized. After 45kilometers there is a smaller part of the Neva called Ivanovsky Rapids. The stream had the speed of 5 knots, which was the fastest of the canal system. In other words; if we made past the rapids, the rest of the journey should not be a problem. We successfully passed the rapids.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .Passing the Winter Palace.


Some history about the Neva River
By the end of the Neva river we reached Schlisselburg, or in Swedish, Nöteborg. The history of the forts begins in 1323 when it was built by the Novgorodians to defend the inlet of the Neva. It was at first built in wood and was named Oreshek (nut). During a siege by the Swedes the fort was destroyed with only the stone towers still standing. It was then rebuilt with stone. By the year 1611 the Swedes successfully occupied the fort after 2 months of siege and named it; Nöteborg. About 100 years later during The Great Northern War Peter the Great reoccupied it and said; "That was a hard nut to crack". The name was again changed but this time to the Schlussenburg (the Key city). Today it is called Petrokrepost. During the 19th century the fort was converted to a prison. It was at this place that Alexander Ulianov, brother to Lenin, was executed after a failed assassination attempt on the Tsar Alexander II.
After passing the Petrokrepost we arrived at the lake of Ladoga. We passed the southern part of the lake to sail for the Svir River. This took us a day and a night.


Locks in Volga-Balt


After the Ladoga the 224kilometres long Svir River begins. After half a day of sailing it was time to pass through our first lock. I had never done this before and the 10m high doors looked a bit threatening. We asked a larger ship to help us an they agreed and contacted the lock guard. He said that there would be no problem as long as we paid the fee. We paid half a dollar (the fee was based on weight) and got instructions to follow the larger ships and to put our boat at the very back of the lock. It all went well, but one should be very careful when going behind large ships as their propellers make big whirlpools behind them in the floodgate. The time was close to midnight and we were happy to have passed the lock without any mishaps. During the journey we established a tradition of celebrating every long distance accomplished, or any progress with a sandwich and something drinkable. It was surprisingly often we had something to celebrate, but after this passing the vodka tasted even better.


Onega - the junction to the Arctic Ocean.
Onea is a lake that works like a junction for people who want to travel to the White Sea to the north. Both Ladoga and Onega are interesting to sail, there are archipelagos, islands and beaches. There is the Valam Monastery, the Kirshi Island with an architect museum and wooden houses from northern Russia. We did not do any major trips, we wanted to go south towards the Mediterranean Sea.

The Volga - Baltic canal - One of Stalin's labor camps for political prisoners.
Right in the middle of the Russian wastelands there is this swamp area. In this swamp area Stalin built a canal junction between Onega and Volga, all built by hand (not by Stalins hand). This area is all flat and the water is as still as it can be because of the lack of natural stream. During the summers it gets really moist with more than 30 degrees at night. This is an excellent environment for mosquitoes and other insects that like to hunt warmblooded animals or us. The length of the channel is only 368kilometres, but it took us five days to get past the swamp.

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