Day 20: Leaving St Petersburg

We’d had a late night and a long day – metro tour, bike tour, dinner out, final provisioning shop, then the usual pre-departure checks and preparations before bed.  So a 5.30am start wasn’t particularly welcome.  Still it wasn’t raining, and most of the other boats were also up and at ‘em – so we were in good company.

The first three hours were the schlep back up the fairway from the yacht club to check back out of Russia at Kronstad.   No sniffer dogs, just a man with a camcorder recording his search, a quick passport check and we had 15 minutes to leave our berth.

Again we had to stick to the traffic separation scheme, and in a convoy of yachts we made good progress, with a helpful wind, making an average of 7 knots on a beam reach.  There was some chop and a few waters off the bows, but generally it was a good sailing day.

That said, it was very windy and cold.  Suzanne spent most of the day at a 45 degree angle in the saloon and galley – trying to cook or to eat what she’d made.  From fried egg sandwiches in the morning, to fresh baked cheese baguettes and soup for lunch, and asparagus risotto with homemade apple, blueberry and cherry crumble and custard – we were well nourished on this long leg.

The water in the measuring jug (bought in Visby) says it all…

We crossed the Finnish/Russian border around 9pm, and duly raised and lowered our courtesy flags.  We regretted that we hadn’t recordings of all the appropriate national anthems to play at this particular point.  Now safely back into EU waters, we could switch our mobile devices back on and use our mobile data roaming, without fear of breaking our bank accounts.  

Putting up the yellow Q flag and the Finnish flag

Our plan was to find an anchorage close to Hapasaari, the customs and immigration point, a small island in the Gulf of Finland, and the most tick ridden place in the whole country.  We were advised they were only open from 8am to 8pm, and not knowing the rock strewn area, thought that as we would now start to experience real night darkness, it was probably the most sensible option.  It also meant we could keep taking advantage of the favourable wind and sail all the way (and keeping our incredibly cheap Russian fuel for as long as possible!)

Bit fresh up on deck

Our plan was thwarted, when a message came through to say customs were expecting all 15 yachts to check in that night.  So we turned on our engine, to try and get to the island before night set in.  It was not to be.  We arrived with our navigation lights on and with difficulty picking out the guiding withies and buoys.  Luckily most of the rally yachts were already at anchor, and these provided a useful guide to the direction in which we should head.

We waited our turn to dock and handed the lines to the two waiting officials.  Our papers and passports were taken away to the office, and returned about 10 minutes later, along with a free gift of two glasses cleaners.  No, I don’t know either.  Perhaps it was an oblique reference to our berthing style – although we’d done it fairly smartly?  Who knows.  But I wish I’d used mine immediately.

After leaving the berth we then set about trying to find a suitable anchorage in the pitch dark – and our first starlit night of our whole trip in the Baltic.  Sailing at night plays with your sense of depth – making it really difficult to judge just how far away you are from another boat or boulder.  Anchoring means trying to find somewhere not too deep, so you don’t have to put out miles of anchor chain, and also in the right kind of sea bed, so you don’t get stuck.

We had two aborted attempts to anchor – one we realised there was a rock looming, the second because we realised we were directly over a cable.  We moved around and tried to moor near the customs pontoon – but they were having nothing of it – shinning torches directly at us.  

As we looked for other options, the customs launch came straight for us, and we thought we were going to be boarded, but we think that once they saw the boat name, they realised we had checked in.  We’d forgotten to take down our yellow Q flag, that indicates you still have to clear customs.  Doh!

Past midnight, tired and just a little rattled, we finally found a spot, dropped anchor and set our anchor alarm.  Andrew slept in the saloon in case there were any problems in the night.  In fact, there were none – the boat barely moved.  However the closeness of the rocks and boats surrounding us when we awoke next morning were a bit of a shock!

Welcome to Finland – land of lakes, ferns – and rocks!

Our daily stats

No map again for this leg, but it was a long one! 102 nautical miles, which we sailed, and sailed and sailed – and only 4 engine hours.  

You can hear us chew the fat on this journey in Episode 26 ‘Tall tales of Russian sailing’ in our ‘2 in a boat’ podcast.

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