tiistai 25. kesäkuuta 2013

June 24th 2013

On Lake Onega

On the 20th of June, we departed from Valaam late in the afternoon and
motored through the night to the entry of the River Svir. We motored along
the river till we came to the Lodeynopolsky bridge. There we anchored and
waited for a few hours for the bridge to be opened for us. After the
bridge, we motored till midnight when we finally arrived at the first lock
of the passage.

For each boat, there was only one hook on the wall to which to attach the
boat but due to lack of information, this was something we did not know in
advance. During the hassle when all the boats were inside the lock trying
to attach themselves the best they knew how, we failed to attach our boat
properly and when the water level started to rise, our dinghy was rubbing
against the lock wall. We tried to push the boat away from the wall but
the force of the water pouring into the lock was overpowering.
Luckily, both we and the dinghy survived the ordeal.

The next day, we entered the second lock in broad daylight which always
makes things easier. This time, we also knew what to do, and everything
went smoothly as planned.

Late in the evening on the 23rd, we anchored near Cape BesovNos on Lake
Onega. We collected drift wood on the beach, built a huge bonfire and had
a BBQ that lasted till the wee hours of the morning. After just a few
hours of sleep, it was time to wake up again and, dead beat, we continued
our passage to Petrozavodsk on the opposite side of the lake.

June 20th 2013

Holy Visits

We stayed in Schliesselburg till the following evening. Some of the
regatta participants played tug-of-war and volleyball on the beach, or
sang songs of the sea solo or in chorus while others (= Pekka) spent the
day repairing their outboard engines. We left Schliesselburg around 6 p.m.
and motored through the nightless night to the Konevets Island.

On the way, we crossed a border that no longer exists i.e. the border
between Finland and the Soviet Union that was still there until the Second
World War. When Finland lost the so-called Winter War, we also lost, among
other territories, the northern part of Lake Ladoga, including both the
Konevets (Konevitsa) and Valaam (Valamo) Islands.

The next morning, at 3.35 a.m. to be exact, we anchored in front of the
Konevets monastery, and went to bed. A few hours later, far too early to
my liking, we were called on the VHF and told to move our boat because a
big vessel was on her way to the anchorage. After weighing and dropping
our anchor once again, we dinghied ashore where the rest of the RusArc
participants were already waiting to be taken on an excursion of the
Konevets monastery.

On the shore, we learned that Greek Catholic religion requires a woman to
cover her head with a scarf and to wear a skirt in a church or, as in this
case, at a monastery. It appeared that I was not the first woman visiting
the island without a skirt as there were several boxes full of pieces of
cloth of different patterns and sizes which could be made into a skirt. I
picked a blue one to match my jeans. I can't say that I looked very
stylish but then, I seldom do.

We admired the renovated church on the ground floor and were saddened by
the condition of the church premises above it. After the Second World War,
the monastery had fallen into the hands of the Soviet Army and had been
mistreated for several decades. Humidity and neglect had taken its awful
toll but, thankfully, there was a major restoration project going on.
Although the old church was in a bad state, we could still enjoy its
superb acoustics when two of the monastic monks sang for us.

Around 3 p.m. we weighed anchor again, without catching a glimpse of the
big vessel for which we had made room in the morning, and departed from Konevets.

By 9 p.m. all twelve RusArc vessels had gathered in front of another
monastery island, namely Valaam and, headed by Peter the First, motored
into a bay where the boats were tied up in groups of four, along three
sides of a jetty.

The next morning, I went for a walk on the island. Initially, we were supposed
to go together but Pekka had a meeting with Daniel, Head of RusArc, about
our NEP permit which has so far gone through seven ministries
successfully!!!, and so I ended up going on my own.

As we had visited the monasteries of Konevets and Valaam one after
another, I could not help comparing them. Although both islands are lush
and beautiful, the Konevets monastery was my absolute favourite of the
two, due to its more rustic feel, the lack of the thousands of tourists
that crowded the Valamo monastery, and maybe also because of the cows,
goats, and piglets that seemed to be an integral part of the everyday life
on the Konevets Island!

June 18th 2013

Leaving St. Petersburg

We spent our last day strolling in the centre of St. Petersburg which is
one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world. We had never been to
St. Petersburg before but, back in the 1970's and 80's, we had visited
Leningrad a few times and although they are one and the same city, there
is a huge difference between the two of them, and at least on the surface,
a very positive one.

The easiest way to travel between the marina and the city centre was the
metro. One ticket, or actually a token, cost a mere 56 Euro cents and
allowed you to go anywhere you wanted or spend the whole day travelling
underground if you so wished. The stations were beautifully decorated and
immaculate, no trash or a single graffiti was to be seen. It was as if you
were in a museum rather than in a tube station. Believe it or not, the
photo below was not taken in the Hermitage Art Museum but inside the
Admiralty Metro Station.

We left the Krestovsky marina around midnight on the 17th. We had two
young men onboard with us, Sergey who had volunteered to help us while we
were in St. Petersburg, and Kostja who was a photographer from Siberia
studying photojournalism in St. Petersburg. They would both come with us
to Schliesselburg which was our first stop along the route to Archangel.

The start of the regatta was rather entertaining, at least for the many
photographers and journalists who had come to see us off. The leading boat
of the fleet, namely the Russian  Peter the First, fell victim to the
marina's vicious current and after leaving her berth turned sideways and
was soon leaning heavily against the pontoon.

 For a while, it seemed as if the current had made up its mind to keep the 
boat there for the rest ofthe evening but finally, assisted by about a dozen people,
Peter the First managed to free herself from the grip of the current. Henceforth
everything went according to plan, one boat after another left her berth
and headed for the Neva River, each accompanied by a pilot.

The fleet motored through St. Petersburg until early morning. Although
motoring throughout the night was tiring it was certainly a night to
remember. The view from the river was absolutely breathtaking with gilded
cupolas of magnificent orthodox churches silhouetting against the skyline,
and beautiful old buildings lit up on the river banks.

A total of eleven bridges had to be opened for us before we got to Lake
Ladoga. Every once and a while we had to stop and wait for a bridge to be
opened or a big ship to pass us on the narrow river but on the whole, the
passage went smoothly.

sunnuntai 16. kesäkuuta 2013

June 15th 2013

Saint Petersburg

59° 57,982' N, 30° 14,671' E

We spent two nights in Kotka just waiting for the time to pass so that we could continue our journey to Russia as our visas would not be valid until the 14th. We were supposed to be in St. Petersburg as early as possible on the 14th because we were expected to take part in a sailing parade on the Neva River in the heart of St. Petersburg.

If someone had told me a year ago that this summer we would be taking part in a Russian regatta, I wouldn't have believed him. But here we are at the Krestovskiy Yacht Club in St. Petersburg as one of about a dozen participants in the International Ecological Regatta Adventure Race 80dg2013, organised by RusArc. According to the regatta's brochureWe are about to embark on a marvellous cruise in the inland waters of Russia surrounded by its original culture and traditions. We are going to see ancient orthodox churches made by Russian craftsmen. Furthermore, we are going to sail on the biggest lakes in Europe, become familiar with Northern Russian heritage and explore the Barents Sea behind 80°N latitude. This exciting adventure will provide us with a new amazing emotional experience under the Arctic sun.

The regatta starts from St. Petersburg and continues to Shlisselburg, the Konevets Island, the Valaam Island, Kizhi, through the Belomorsko-Baltyisky Channel also know as the Stalin Channel, and the Solovetsky Archipelago, and ends in Archangel on the White Sea.

The reason why we are here now is that, after careful consideration, we came to the conclusion that by far the best way to obtain the necessary permits we'll be needing to sail the Northern Sea Route i.e. the Northeast Passage, was through the Russian organisation RusArc.

We checked out of Finland on the 13th and after only about two hours we were in Russian waters. According to the Finnish customs and immigration officer, crossing the Russian border shouldn't cause us any problems although our visas were not yet in force. In the evening, a Russian coast guard vessel called us on VHF asking who we were and where we were going but thankfully nothing about visas. After being told that s/y Sarema was on her way to St. Petersburg, they wished us a good voyage.

Just before 5 a.m. we arrived in the new Port of Entry for St. Petersburg located in Kronhstadt. I must confess that I had been (and actually still am) a bit apprehensive about Russian bureaucracy which has a special reputation but our first ever face-to-face encounter with a Russian bureaucrat was more than pleasant. The nice lady from Immigration checked us in Russia without any hassle. She also told us that the customs officials would not come to work until nine o'clock which allowed us to take a well deserved nap.

After customs clearance, carried out by four officers and a friendly Labrador, we sailed straight to the Neva River where the rest of the regatta boats were already parading for the good people of St. Petersburg.

Tomorrow night, we'll leave St. Petersburg. The time may seem a bit strange but there is a perfectly good explanation for this. The only way to enter Lake Ladoga from St. Petersburg is through the city which means that all the bridges along the route must be opened for us. We are already looking forward to this grand spectacle!

tiistai 11. kesäkuuta 2013

June 11th 2013

Departing from Turku

The two weeks we stayed on the River Aura passed far too quickly. Pekka had to work hard on the boat to get her ready for our possibly rough summer sailing while my priority was to spend as much time as possible with our family and friends.

Alex and the Frog

Vida and the Magic Pond

When it was time to leave, I felt downright miserable. But 'A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do' and so, on the 9th of June, we bid farewell to our friends who had come to the river bank to see us off.

We then motored only for a few hundred meters to the other side of the river and tied up alongside Inga Lill, a beautiful 34 metre galeas built in Finland in 1948, where our children, their families and more friends were waiting for us. We were greeted by a moving trumpet solo, and after a few speeches, dozens of hugs, kisses, and tears, we finally departed from Turku.

Inga Lill escorted us all the way to the Airisto from where we continued to the Torasviken Bay in Nauvo. There, we dropped anchor and spent the evening with our friends and ex-neighbours from Turku.

Next morning, we woke up to a cold and rainy day which made it easier for us to continue our voyage. We weighed anchor and headed for Kotka to check us out of Finland.