through Russia's inland waterways
Travel tale & cruising guide:
Sailing through Russia;
From the Arctic to the Black Sea (2016)
By John Vallentine & Maxine Maters
and published by its authors
340 full colour pictures
Click here to find out where to buy the book
In 2012 Russia began opening its vast network of inland waterways to foreign pleasure craft. A year later, Australian yacht Tainui became the first foreign-flagged vessel to traverse Russia's Volga and Don Rivers from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
This richly illustrated book describes 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, and a 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 As a cruising guide it is unique, unlikely to be superseded for many years.
Why sail in Russia?
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.
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 Archangel'sk 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 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 Akhangelsk for which we used a local agent, we used Ivankiv to get us through the locks 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!