Sailing through Russia

Travel tale and Sailing Guide

Sailing through Russia; From the Arctic to the Black Sea 

This is a richly illustrated book describing s/y Tainui’s groundbreaking journey. It is a laconic and amusing account of a 3,000 mile adventure by two intrepid sailors through a vast landscape, giving unique insights into a Russia which has for so long been inaccessible to foreigners.

Detailed descriptions of the villages and cities which lie along the banks of the mighty Volga and Don Rivers are accompanied by 340 colour pictures and navigational charts. The appendix contains an historical overview of the Volga watershed, together with geological and botanical notes and much practical information for cruising yachtsmen venturing into Russian waters.

“Sailing Through Russia” is at the same time a personal account of the crew’s trials and tribulations en route. It also provides a very detailed cruising guide for adventurous yachtsmen who may follow in their footsteps. It describes candidly the difficulties and triumphs, both personal and bureaucratic, which the crew faced along the way.

Skipper John Vallentine is an Australian doctor who has sailed for most of his life. But he was new to Russia and his frequent exasperation, bewilderment and frustration, couched in wry, light-hearted prose, are clearly evident. If John initiated the trip however, it was Maxine who made it happen. Her struggles with the complexities of Russian bureaucracy were at times gargantuan but always successful. As John says, she was by turns QC, arbitrator, administrator and seductress.  Originally from the Netherlands, Maxine began sailing before she could walk. A lawyer by training and fluent in Russian, Maxine is a long-term Moscow resident who used to work in the media.

The book is partly based on John’s award-winning blog, for which he won the Cruising Association’s 2014 Lacy Award. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the Volga River. As a cruising guide it is unique, unlikely to be superseded for many years.

If you are tired of crowded anchorages, well-worn paths and expensive marinas, if you dream of exploring remote places, then Russia offers an almost unimaginable wealth of rarely visited cruising grounds.

Russian inland waterways

Since May 2012, the Russian Federation has been granting foreign foreign pleasure-craft access to its vast internal waterways of Central Russia. While entry can be made from the Arctic via Archangelsk or from the Black Sea via Azov, most cruising yachts are likely to choose the Baltic approach, clearing into Russia at St Petersburg.

Russian bureaucracy

Russian bureaucracy has always had a well-earned reputation for obfuscation, unpredictability and complexity, but if you use a good agent, it is not intimidating You will not encounter insoluble administrative problems. In Russia everything always gets solved, one way or the other. It’s no better or worse than some other far more popular but difficult cruising destinations. We encountered no corruption. The whole process was greatly facilitated by the expert services of Vladimir Ivankiv, who represents the OCC, RCC and the Cruising Association, in St Petersburg. Although we entered the country in Arkhangel’sk using a local agent, it was Vladimir who got us through the general Volga bureaucracy all the way down to the Black Sea. You will need to make contact with him well in advance of your planned arrival, for advice about visa and customs protocols.

Wherever you go and how long you stay in Russia, you can be assured of a cruising experience unlike any other. Don’t let the formalities deter you, Russia will welcome you as no other country!

Blue Dove

In the meantime Tainui has been sold by John. He then bought Blue Dove, a Rival 34 which he found too small and then flogged her last year to Maxine. Maxine has taken Blue Dove from Falmouth where she wintered to Amsterdam where John joined her for the journey back to Russia. Max always wanted to go to Saint-Petersburg. We’ve had beautiful warm weather but predominantly with easterlies but we did make it. Blue Dove is now in Priozersk in Lake Ladoga. John has returned home to Australia. Come October Maxine will return to Blue Dove. Depending on the weather, perhaps there is a bit more sailing. Otherwise she will be hauled out and winter in Russia

BD in Valaam (see blog)