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.

Day 12 – Sugar, speed and sailing

Our speed potential

At 0900 we listened as rally control gave out instructions for today’s departure from Warnemunde over channel 77. The planned noon departure had been put back to a suggested 1400 – 1500 due to the wind strength and speed of the 15 boats in our rally flotilla, suggesting we’d arrive too soon.  We’re not really used to sailing too quick, so were a bit concerned that they’d overestimated our speed potential.  How wrong we were.

We pottered about getting our usual jobs done, flask of soup, flask of hot water, smoked salmon sandwiches, biscuits, fruit, Doritos, orange squash, and a couple of posh pot noodles. Suzanne had also bought fresh croissants for breakfast, and a marzipan Ritter Sport for Andrew, to keep him going during the early hours.

Jerry can man can’t

About 2pm we pushed back from our berth, hit nothing (which is good as people were watching this time) and set off for the fuel barge. We arrived at the same time as a jerry with a can.  He was really helpful, called on the intercom and refuelling man arrived by bicycle about 5 minutes later.  

Embarrassingly he was refused service – as it is ‘verboten’ to walk around the harbour with fuel cans on show.  “Ridiculous” jerry can man said to us (through clenched teeth) “verboten is the most used phrase in German.  Of course it is very important that things should be verboten” and chuckled (or grimaced, I’m not quite sure) .  

We inquired could we fill them on our boat and deliver them to his boat but refuelling man clarified that he could have his diesel if his cans were in bags, a bit like having alcohol but only if it’s in a brown paper bag.  We furnished him with two “bags for life” and he could now legally buy diesel and walk back to his boat.

On leaving the fuel berth we headed out of the marina, slowly, sorting ropes and fenders knowing that once we were in the maelstrom of surf outside such things would be difficult.  We discovered our imaginary seals were also real at this point.  How embarrassing. (Listen to our podcast to hear more on that subject!)

A Crystelle Venture record

Outside the breakwater things got a bit more serious.  Force 6* onshore wind was whipping up some wicked waves and we set off on a wet, bumpy reach to our first turning point.  This was supposed to take seven hours but we made it in five.  We ducked inshore of the wind farm following most of the other ARC Baltic boats.  The waves weren’t huge but they were big enough to give us a non-tidal assisted Crystelle Venture record of 10.4 Knots momentary surfing speed.  

Proudly flying the Danish courtesy flag (along with our own and that of the Cruising Association)

The waves subsided, night gathered and now Andrew’s watch began.  During the night the boat was barrelling along, with speeds of between 6 and 9 knots.  At one point Andrew considered reducing sail area to slow down as the boat was quite twitchy above 8 knots and it was difficult to get the autohelm to steer a good course.  Sustained by a bar of Ritter sport chocolate (marzipan), packet of choccy biscuits, tomato soup, four slices of bread, a penguin and turkish delight Andrew saw the night through.

watching the sun go down over the Baltic sea

Early the next day, 0700 we reached Bornholm, Denmark, standing off the harbour entrance at Ronne and waiting for permission to enter.  Once the harbour radio operator woke up we were allowed in, berthing snugly against an Oyster 575 who had tailed us by a couple of miles all the way from Warnemunde but passed us at about 0500.

Checking in with the harbourmaster at Ronne on Bornholm

Follow that boat!

To keep tabs on all the boats in the Baltic rally, each boat has been kitted out with a Yellow Brick tracking device. You can follow the Arc Baltic from their pages, or even download the Yellow Brick app. It gives updates refreshed every 4 hours. You can also still view our progress on AIS.

Our daily stats

110 miles in 16 hours, a serious sugar headache and a couple of days to explore the Danish Island of Bornholm!

*Force 6 is 30 knots, 35mph, try sticking your arm out of a car window at 35mph, that’s how strong the wind is.  Don’t put it out too far though, and certainly not your head…that is dangerous.

Day 11 – getting to our Baltic rally start point

Heiligenhafen to Warnemunde (for Rostock)

We left Heiligenhafen after a delicious, but odd, veggie breakfast.  Two still warm bread rolls each, Irish butter and slices of brie, mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes and assorted dips in a waterside bakery next to the marina.  Hearty fare worthy of the epic to come. 

It was a gusty F4 – 5  as we slipped out of our box berth and pointed the stem towards open sea again.  Except this time it’s not that open.  We were nestled just north of the Fehmarn bridge, a 22m high span that we had to negotiate through with our 17.5m mast. 

There should be loads of clearance, but in a moment of false jeopardy worthy of a TV documentary Andrew still couldn’t watch and steered through looking at the floor and crossing his fingers.  Of course we were fine.  We didn’t come to a crashing halt or cause irreparable damage to the historic monument.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


After the bridge the sea calmed down and with the yankee on one side and staysail on the other we made good progress for a couple of hours – this couldn’t last. 

The sea became as confused and uncomfortable as a pensioner’s driving.  The rain came pouring down and Suzanne disappeared below; there’s no point in two pissed wet through travellers.  Andrew started the engine because he’s impatient and was fed up of wallowing around downwind and a couple of hours later we arrived in Rostock.

Seriously, can we please just have some decent sailing weather…


Suzanne bossed the box berth, getting the ropes on first time and berthing in record time.  Andrew got it in the berth nearly straight and only donated a small amount of gelcoat to the glorious German nation.

Crystelle Venture in her box berth at Warnemunde

We’re here, at the start of the Rally, and we’ve a few make and mend days before we set off on Tuesday.  Time to service the engine, wash the boat and polish out the scratches… (think we might need more than a few days to get those scratches out…)

Our daily stats

7 hours for 44 Nautical miles, which averages over 6 knots.  Nearly our shortest trip but fastest speed.