Sailing on Russian tall ships

Last year, I sailed twice on Kruzenshern, the first time as a trainee, the second time to instruct. It was a long-held little girl’s dream after I had been on Kruzenshtern as a child, taken by my father who was an avid yachtie.

Groups are mostly Russian with a few Germans thrown in who join Kruzenshtern since she used to be a German ship. A challenge for me being Dutch and having to teach in Russian. Peter the Great took the Dutch language with him when he introduced sailing terminology into Russian. For me and endless source of confusion. Some meanings got lost or changed in translation. So originally Dutch words may mean something completely different in Russia.

This year, I’ll be taking a group of 12 men onto Mir, a Polish built tall-ship. Yes, only men, because there is only one hut available with 12 bunks. For women, there are other legs available on Mir

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Yacht Russia

The editor of sailing magazine Yacht Russia wrote this amazing article about our trip. It is in Russian. But the automatic translation works reasonably well.

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Arthur Beale

Cruising guide & travel tale is available through Arthur Beale in London (UK).

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Cruising guide and travel take “Sailing through Russia” is now also for sale through Bookharbour in the UK.


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Simplified visa regime for Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad is back on the map! Most useful for a sailor. Let’s hope that this part of the Baltic gets less deserted!

Kaliningrad Cathedral

Kaliningrad Cathedral

Starting from July 1, 2019, nationals of 53 foreign States may be granted an e-visa to enter the Russian Federation through the border crossing points, located on the territory of the Kaliningrad region.

•An e-visa is issued within 4 calendar days, including week-ends and bank holidays.

• There is no need for any invitations or confirmations. Just fill in the application form on the website

• There is no need to waste your free time or working hours to visit the consular agency during its business hours. The website works 24/7.

• You do not need to pay for anything to obtain an e-visa.

The list of foreign states whose nationals can apply for E-visa:

Austria, Andorra, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Vatican, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Qatar, Cyprus, China (including Taiwan), The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Philippines, Finland, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, Japan.

The validity period of an electronic visa is 30 days from the date of issue, the duration of stay may not exceed 8 days. An electronic visa is free of charge.

Electronic visas issued for the visit to Kaliningrad are valid only for entry into the Russian Federation and exit from the Russian Federation only at authorized border crossing points:

– in Kaliningrad / Khrabrovo Airport;

– at the seaport «Kaliningrad»: parts of the city in Kaliningrad, Baltiysk and Svetliy;

– on the border crossing: «Bagrationovsk», «Gusev», «Mamonovo (Grzechotki)», «Mamonovo (Gronovo)», «Morskoe», «Pogranichny», «Sovetsk», «Chernyshevskoye»;

– on the railway network: “Mamonovo”, “Sovetsk”.

E-visas can be of the following categories only: ordinary business visa (purpose of journey is business), ordinary tourist visa (purpose of journey is tourism), and ordinary humanitarian visa (purposes of journey are sports, cultural, scientific and technological ties). If the purpose of your journey to the Russian Federation does not correspond to any of the above, you should apply for a traditional (non electronic) visa at a diplomatic mission or consular office of the Russian Federation

Foreign citizens who have arrived to the Russian Federation with e-visas have the right to freedom of movement within the territory of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation which they entered, with the exception of territories, organizations and facilities, to enter which a special permission is required in accordance with federal laws of the Russian Federation.

Foreign citizens should leave the territory of the Russian Federation only through checkpoints of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation which they entered.

You can fill in an application form for an e-visa on this website not earlier than 20 days and no later than 4 days before the intended date of entry into the Russian Federation.

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After Saint-Petersburg, City Marina in Tallinn is a breath of fresh air. The marina captain is expecting me. Last year he did not speak Russian, not even when I asked him. This year he fortunately does. Makes the conversation a whole lot more fluent. He makes my day when he tells me that I can have my Russian gas bottles filled in Tallinn. There apparently is a place that will do that.

I sailed into Tallinn, damaged as usual. Those 40+ knots of wind smashed my elbow which I did not immediately notice. Off watch however I was in so much pain, there was no sleeping without some serious painkillers. Iain, my wonderful crew – and doctor – reckoned a piece of bone got chipped of, hence the violent reaction. He stuffed me full of paracetamol with codeine and dragged me off to this most wonderful restaurant. A worthy end to our trip from Russia.


As usual Blue Dove is the smallest boat in port

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Leaving Russia

Four more days in SPB, in Krestovskiy Marina. It is the usual with not terribly clean facilities and no water to bunker. But it had shore power and friendly marina people. It’s a tad far from the centre but so is any other marina here. At least it is quiet unlike the opposite River Marina. The closest restaurant, called Sunday, is next to the marina and the food is good. You’ll like especially it if you are into bling and cosmetic surgery.

First Bridget left for home, then Dirk too. Iain would stay on for the sailing to Tallinn. He even went shopping to make us a stew that would keep us going during our 175-ish nm. Wonderful to have crew with initiative and energy. In the meantime I had my laptop repaired which had packed in just as we were to leave Priozersk. Typical! The engine still needed servicing and so there were a few more things to do before we could leave.

Vladimir Ivankiv – our agent – dropped in for a chat. Was good to seeing him again. I mentioned that I would not mind to crew on boats that go through the Russian waterways. I don’t want to do more of it on my own boat. Skippering and tourleadering was perhaps a bit much.

Last evening for our departure, Russian Sergey arrived from Finland on his very well kitted out motor-sailor. Not my type of boat but you’ll be warm and comfortable in a gale. I think our pilot would agree. So many Russians winter their boat in Finland. Clearly they have never been to the great city of Priozersk. But if you insist on a heated hangar for your boat…..

Checking out of Russia (in Kronshtadt) was painless. They do go through the boat with cameras and film everything. As they did when we arrived last year. But all in a friendly and courteous manner. We were done in 30 minutes. Unlike in Azov, all those years ago.

Our sailing to Tallinn was both stormy and foggy. I might now finally remember what 20 m/s is in knots. Arriving in Tallinn in the dark was rather special. We had to wait for a ferry before we could go in. The ferry arrived as a spooky apparition out of the fog. The fog though was no match though for the bright harbour lights

Tallinn Port

Tallinn Port

Departing Kronshtadt

Departing Kronshtadt

Such A Beautiful Hydrofoil

Such a beautiful hydrofoil


Fog. But at least the gale had died down

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Neva river

A very talkative cab driver drove Bridget & Iain the next morning to the station from where they took the train back to SPB. They will do some more sightseeing whilst Dirk and I will sail Blue Dove down through the river Neva towards SPB. And they’ll join us again for the night when we will be going through the bridges. Talkative cab driver turned out to be most useful. He drove me round to get the gas bottles filled (I have Russian gas bottles). He did talk the ears off my head but the job got done. The only bridge across the Neva river that needs opening for us (Kuzminskiy Bridge) is free in weekends so we had to wait a day.

Next morning, we dieseled up and left to catch the bridge at 13.30. Beautiful day without any noticeable wind. The river current is very strong and at some point we were doing 10knots! We went through Kuzminskiy bridge together with a gigantic icebreaker which would also be going through the SPB bridges that same night. Impressive ship that!

We parked the boat in y/c Vostochniy, a poor excuse for a marina. Only one pontoon had shore-power, no water, no showers and this all for the grand sum of 2000₽ for 24 hours. Since we were only going to stay until that evening, I thought that was a bit steep. Marched up to the management to complain but only beat them down to 1300₽. Would avoid the marina but it is a useful spot just before or after having gone through the SPB bridges. At least it had a decent restaurant, tad simple decor but good wholesome Georgian cuisine washed down with pomegranate wine. This is where Iain and Bridget joined us again. And where the pilot came on board too. Pilots are mandatory to sail through the open SPB bridges at night. This year the pilot fees have increased enormously, especially for foreign-flagged boats. I almost decided to take the mast down and go through during the day – almost for free.

Going the other way, from the sea through the SPB bridges towards Ladoga takes a long time because of the current against you. After such a long night you may want to get some sleep first. If you are ok with a bomb site, marina Vostochniy is just the place to be. Perhaps we were too early in the season. Tying up somewhere along the river embankment is a definite no-no as I experienced last year. I was telephone-bombed to get me going again.

The pilot came on board shortly after midnight, the silent type, who climbed onboard without so much as an hello and/or introduction. He then announced we would not get going before 02.30 am. So there we sat in a tiny saloon in the dark (no shore-power and no wind) with a very uncommunicative pilot even in his own language. I was the only one who could talk to him. Drawing him out of his shell was difficult. We did coax a few stories and a smile out of him but he was hard work. He used to be a captain on a river cruise ship before he retrained as a pilot. Apparently you need to do 35 crossings through Saint-Petersburg as a trainee pilot before you get your initial license. Then you are only allowed to pilot cargo ships through. After a few more years, you finally receive your full license when you can pilot all classes of ships. So we sat there and waited. Getting a drink to break the ice of awkwardness was not an option either because we still had to sail. Drinking and sailing not allowed here. It was a relief to be finally on our way. At least the boat was warm as toast. With new gas bottles and a new washer, the heater was performing well. Pilot would therefore not come out of the companion way because he was insufficiently dressed. May not have realised that small sailing yachts generally do not have heated bridges. Ah, well!

The trip through the bridges was fabulous! All buildings along the Neva are lit. One goes through in a long convoy of ships each with their own imposed pilot who all communicate in their typical pilot ways over the radio. We arrived in Krestovskiy marina opposite of where we stayed last year. Less thumping noise from the next door restaurant and less current. After a last whisky, time for a well-deserved coma.

Thanks Bridget and Iain for the pictures!

Blue Dove waiting to go through the bridges

Blue Dove waiting to go through the bridges.

Boat View

Boat ViewBoat ViewBoat View

Boat ViewBoat ViewBoat ViewBoat ViewBoat View

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Koshkinskiy Farwater

Unfortunately we had to turn down the invitation to join the monks at breakfast. This decision was aided by my dislike of the ubiquitous porridge. But we also had a 12-hour sail ahead of us and I want to arrive in daylight. I had noticed that not all navigational marks had been returned yet to the water and was not sure either about whether they would be lit. I was also worried about lack of gas and the cold during our trip. I had two people on board who are – to putting it mildly – very indifferent to sailing and had only joined for their parters’ sake who happen to love sailing. At the other end of the trip I had to find a hotel too for Bridget & Iain because Blue Dove is just very small.

Iain and Bridget are a couple from the UK. They have their own – much bigger – boat which even has a microwave. I mean, really! Iain is the sailor of the two. Bridget just tolerates the misery in silence. Whereas Dirk complains often and loudly. However they both appreciated this bit of Russian world which they would not have seen without Blue Dove.

Anyway I needn’t have worried about anything. We set off with two reefs in the main and raced down south. The sun was out and warmed us in the cockpit. Down below Dirk & Bridget slept through the day ensconced in their sleeping bags. And Bridget cooked us a splendid meal on what I thought was the last remaining gas. By the time we got to the start of the Neva and the end of our day’s journey, the wind had died down and we motored into this lovely marina called “Koshkinskiy Farwater” ( When we passed a good-looking bar/ restaurant on the way in, cheers went up. As it turned out with a chef who really goes the extra mile. The marina also has very comfortable hotel-cabins where Bridget & Iain spent the night. All in all a great end to a wonderful sailing day.


The marina has diesel and petrol too

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Bye Priozersk, hello again Konevets!

Trust me to open the sailing season with the coldest weather imaginable. And again with snow! And this after a few days sightseeing in SPB in lovely warm weather. We watched the military parade rehearsal on Palace Sq, kulich getting blessed in the maritime cathedral in Kronstadt and the start of Easter service in the St-Isaac Cathedral, all in shirt-sleeves.Military Vehicles

This morning though Dirk and I – with our friends Iain and Bridget from the UK – set off from Priozersk in the snow for a short fast cold sail down to the island of Konevets which is only 20nm south. It was however just glorious not in the least hindered by hailstones in my coffee.

I was sorry to say goodbye to Priozersk with the marina and the hotel/restaurant and all the lovely and helpful people who looked after Blue Dove and me. I hope to come back to Ladoga in a boat – not foreign- flagged though. The endless reporting about what we are, where we are, what the draft of the boat is, the height of the freeboard, whether the boat has sailing restriction, etc, drives me mad. I’m being told that Russian sailors don’t have to do this. Next time, I’ll find (not sure yet how) a Russian-flagged yacht to rent and – hopefully – experience some less frequent radio exchange. By the way, in the end the marina facilitated water. They just organised a 5km long hose.


Arriving in Konevets, the security guard recognised me from last year. He called Father Alexander who allowed us to stay. The good news is that the big hotel had been refurbished and was open for business. I’m very grateful. Because there is still no shore power and it was going to be another very cold night. Fortunately (not) we’ve also ran out of gas. I’ve been unable to buy new gas without a 50km drive because Priozersk does not sell gas and/or bottles. Without gas and/of without shore power, the boat cannot be heated. But in the hotel we are warm and comfy in a room with heating and an en-suite. Tomorrow though is going to be a long and cold sail. We’ve got 60nm to go to Schlisselburg.

Konevets hasn’t been exactly hibernating this winter. Old buildings have been restored, new building have been built. The island visitors now stay in the newly restored “White Hotel” whilst the 19 resident monks have moved into the “Red Hotel”. The Red Hotel was a ramshackle wooden house where John and I stayed last year. I hope for the monks well-being that they also have done up the Red Hotel.

One of the resident monks was happy to show us round. Turned out he was a bit of a sailor himself! The new two dining rooms of the monastery on the first floor of the main building look lovely with bright red carpets, long wooden tables and benches and cast-iron chandeliers. The ground floor will be entirely taken up with the kitchens and bakery to feed the ever-growing stream of pilgrims and other visitors. The port is being enlarged to accommodate 3-deck river cruise ships. One of the builders was Portugese. He spoke Russian without an accent. Was rather jealous. The White Hotel

The White Hotel

Konevets Monastery

Konevets Monastery

Konevets Marina

Konevets Marina


Note to sailors: the entrance to the marina is south-facing and a bit tricky to see from a distance. But it’s more or less in front of the monastery. The harbour is not (yet) on the charts. No shore power, no water, no showers or other modcons when we were there. We paid 4000₽ for a basic room, but no mooring fees were charged.

For more info on Konevets and monastery, see:

Skipper doing the dishes after dinner

Skipper doing the dishes after dinner

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