Day 18 – Part 1 – Tallinn to St Petersburg

Tallinn to Vergi, Estonia

Stamp, stamp

Our first priority of the day was to clear out of the EU.  This entailed queueing up outside the immigration and customs portacabin on the dock at the marina.  This needed all crew to be with the captain when passports were checked, and then only the captain going into the office with the crew list and official boat papers.  Lots of stamping, signing, stamping, and signing ensued.

Finally by midday we were ready to leave.  A slight debacle with one of the mooring ropes tying itself back onto the mooring ring, meant less than a clean exit – but we managed to recover in order to moor up at the fuelling dock in good order.  

Diesel head

Unfortunately Suzanne got a face full of diesel, as the pump needed Andrew to push a button to start it on land, and the nozzle had been left on automatic, unbeknown to us.  15 gallons in, to the tank not Suzanne,  and we finally were on our way out of the EU.

Sails away

Just our luck, another race was on just outside the harbour.  Safely skirted with set off under sail but with the wind behind us, progress was slow, so we started to motor sail.  After an hour or so, we decided to goose wing using our spinnaker pole, and making a good 5 – 6 knots under sail.  

So it was that a stream of rally yachts sailed out of Tallinn, heading towards Russia.  We had been given a timeframe in which to arrive at Kronstat, where we were to clear customs and immigration.  The slower boats, ourselves included, therefore headed off first.  The faster boats had a leisurely extra day in Tallinn.

Around 11am our GPS decided to die on us, never to reappear for the rest of our trip.  Luckily Andrew’s tablet and our chart plotter gave us two alternatives.  Still, annoying.

Pizza night

We opted not to do an overnight sail, and instead pulled into a tiny harbour, Vergi, the last one available to us in Estonia that would give us easy access to the fairway we must follow into Russia.  We spent a pleasant evening having home made pizza on one of the other yachts, and Suzanne made a mango and passion fruit mousse on the go, to take as our contribution. A boozy late night ensued.

It was a beautiful little harbour, but had the worst insect headcount of anywhere we’d encountered so far.  And they were vicious – if you were Andrew.  Bites came up the size of golf balls.  

Daily stats

We had a good days’ run of 55 miles, in just under 9 hours, averaging just under 6 and a half knots.  We sailed for 5 hours, and used 3 gallons of fuel.

We’ve no map for this leg, or the next – as we didn’t like to use any data while we were in Russia – no idea what the roaming fees would be – so didn’t even try! So if you’re interested, please do check it out via google!

You can hear more about our journey out of Estonia and our thoughts on Tallinn in Episodes 24 and 25 of our ‘2 in a Boat’ podcast.

Day 17 – we’ve got ourselves a convoy

We left Dihrami as a three boat convoy, slipping lines at 0900 ish and motoring out into the bright Estonian sunshine.  The journey was to be straightforward, with no shallow bits, no rocks to hit and no fog.  Unfortunately no wind either. 

Mains were raised, motoring cones hoisted and onwards we chugged.  Another Rally yacht proposed a lunch spot, but on investigating the water was algae ridden and foul, and there were a disturbing number of wrecks on the shoreline and in the hidden depths.  A nice idea but the Baltic seems to be full of algal bloom this year. 

 A little later, and within a few hours of Tallinn the wind filled in, and sails billowed out as we tried to get at least a few hours of sailing in; but it was not to be.  It veered and with such a header all we could do was fire up the iron topsail i.e the engine and motor once more.  

The entry into Top Marina, host for the sailing events of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, is easy, even with a plump gentleman falling off a paddleboard right in front of us, plenty of room to take evasive action and slide into the Marina.  

Another stern mooring buoy.  But this time we were prepared.  Suzanne hooked it like a pro, walked it to the back as Andrew took in the stern line then walked casually to the front and handed the bowline to Rally control who hooked us on.  Fantastic.  If Carlsberg made berthings they’d make them like this.  A slight rejig of the stern line to straighten the boat up and we were in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city!  

Time to stock up in the fantastic supermarket, carry out some much-needed maintenance, enjoy a crew dinner in the town centre, and visit the seaplane museum!

Our daily stats

We managed a measily one hour of sailing, one of motoring and 5 and half motor sailing, using 5 gallons of fuel. We were underway for 7 and half hours, making 45 nautical miles, averaging over 6 knots. At least the sun was shining!

You can hear about this sail and more in Episode 23 of our podcast ‘2 in a boat’

Day 16 – crazy channels and buoy hopping

Damp start

A beautiful eery damp fog hung thick in the air as we prepared to slip our berth in Kuressaare.  It was more than an early morning mist, although the hour was relatively early – 6am.

Our exhilarating entry the previous day was replaced by a painstaking crawl, as we buoy hopped through the narrow, narrow channel towards the open sea.  

Hitting Estonia

Things did not go according to plan.  The gaps in the buoys widened and the fog thickened to the extent that we couldn’t see the next one, even with Suzanne on look out at the bow.  Andrew reduced speed to a crawl and became concerned he was wandering off course.  He looked behind to confirm that he was indeed veering off to the left, a fact which was further confirmed as the depth sounder dropped to zero and all forward progress stopped with a shuddering bang as we hit a small piece of Estonia 1.9m underwater. 

It is said there are two types of sailor in the Baltic Sea; those who have run aground and those who are about to.  We are now firmly in the former.  Serious concern was expressed by Suzanne at the amount of water on the cabin floor until she realised it smelled of jasmine green tea and was accompanied by smashed biscuits.  Yes, the only casualty was the tea, biscuits and Andrew’s dented pride.  

The yacht behind us was slightly alarmed by the sight of us reversing rapidly out of the mist in front of them.  They thought perhaps we’d decided to return to the safety and sanctuary of the marina.  We radioed to say what had happened and they pressed on, taking the lead.

This is more like it

By nineish the mist had lifted to a beautiful day.  For only the second time bikinis and bare chest were in order.   Now this is what this trip was supposed to be like!  Watching as we past beautiful wooded Baltic islands, the sun beating down, and lying on the cushions in bikini and sun cream.

After lunch both yachts entered the narrow channels, called “leads”, but what we would know as “swatches” or “terrifying shallow small channels”.  Marked by buoys these must be followed religiously, i.e. praying, as we had already found out.  Rocks, looking deceptively like seals, would appear close to the boat.  We were thankful for our electronic charts and the Estonian buoyage.

Flash in the pan

Early afternoon we took the decision to press on further than anticipated.  To keep us fortified for the extra hours, Suzanne went below and baked a lemon drizzle cake, using our new measuring jug bought on Visby, and halving Mary Berry’s famous recipe, substituting milk (which we didn’t have) with hot water.  It was something of a triumph – moist, delicious and very lemony!  Let’s hope it isn’t a ‘flash in the pan’!  

Late afternoon the wind was finally in the right direction to allow us to swift off the engine, and  round off the day with a two hour reach into harbour at Dihrami, a beautiful small Estonian harbour, where we met up with another rally yacht. The harbour master helped us with our lines, and we handed over 25 euros for the night. There was a great looking fish restaurant over looking the sea beside his office.

A short walk through the fragrant pine forest brought us to a Hansel and Gretel shop, where we bought a couple of beers and Magnum ice creams.  The ice creams were eaten by the time we reached the beach, to watch the sunset over Crystelle Venture and drink our beers (Mexican lager imported from the UK..).  The day was rounded off with drinks on the other rally yacht, and sharing Suzanne’s cake.

Our daily stats

We took 14 and a half hours to make 92 nautical miles, averaging 6.3 notes. We sailed for 2, motor sailed for 10 and the rest was motoring in and out of the harbours. We used 10 gallons of fuel.

You can hear more about our travels in Estonia in episode 24 – Talking in Tallinn – of our 2 in a boat podcast. Due to go live on 8 September 2019.

Day 15 – the best of the two halves

Cow staring

It was with only the slightest hangover that hung over Suzanne as we started out from Ventspils at 7am.  She stayed up long enough on deck to bring in the fenders and stow the ropes, take a good long stare at the blue and white cow at the harbour entrance, and then disappeared back to bed.

Out of the breakwater, and with a favourable west north westerly wind Andrew put the sails up, turned off the engine, and looked forward to enjoying a fast close reach towards our day’s destination – the marina at Kuressaare.  

Raising the Estonian courtesy flag

Blistering

Not only was the wind favourable, so was the weather with the temperature gauge already at 24 degrees at 8am.  It was going to be blistering day on both counts – sailing and sunbathing.

Yes another day, another country – and another first time visit not only to Estonia, but also to its largest island, Saaremaa.  With speeds averaging just over 6 knots, it wasn’t long before we could see Latvia behind us and Saaremaa in front.  

Extraordinary

By quarter to 4 we were making preparations to enter the extremely tight and long lead channel into Kuressaare.  Any straying out of the channel could have calamitous consequences.  The channel was intermittently flanked by rocks and grassy knolls on which sea birds were rearing their screeching young. 

 Kuressare is the capital of Saaremaa and the marina must be one of the most spectacularly appointed ones.  It is overlooked by the largest medieval moated castle in the Baltic – and it is beautifully maintained and the grounds manicured.  It made an already interesting and nerve wracking entrance, even more extraordinary.

Kuressare is twinned with Ronne on Bornholm, and about the same size.  Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore, but what we did see has definitely whetted our appetite for a return visit.

An old pro

Today was the day to try out our new boating hook to pick up a stern buoy.  The harbour master was already waiting for us on the pontoon and pointed at the allotted buoy.  Suzanne stood sentry like on the bow, hook poised and looked like an old-hand, capturing the buoy on the first go.  Bow lines were passed to the helpers on shore and Andrew used the winched stern line to manoeuvre us close enough to the jetty to give us access.  Boom, done and dusted by 5pm.

It was then a small matter of paying our 25 euros to the harbour master, who presented us with the flashiest and smartest of town literature and map.  While Andrew had a shower, Suzanne took the opportunity to try out the harbour bar, and was joined by our rally cruising companions.

Tired, tired, tired

Another boat from the rally had preceded us to the marina, and booked us  all in for a meal at a restaurant overlooking the castle, by the side of the moat. After aperitif on their boat, we took the short stroll to our restaurant, and after an hour’s wait for the food, we enjoyed some amazing local fish and specialities.  

Over dinner we discussed the various strategies that were being adopted to get to our final destination Tallin.  The other boat decided to have a shorter day the next day, and a longer one afterwards.  We opted, with our current sailing companions, to break it into to equal days – and around midnight made a decision on our destination and departure time – 6am.  Quick look at the charts and weather, and it was off to bed.  Tired as tired can be.

Our leg stats

We took 10 hours to make 62 nautical miles, averaging 6.2 knots, not bad considering 8 of those hours were under sail. We used only 2 engine hours and 2 gallons of fuel.

You can hear more about our impressions of sailing in Estonia in Episode 23 of our ‘2 in a boat’ podcast due to launch on 8 September 2019.

Day 14 – A sail of two halves

Cunning plan

While the rest of the rally set sail for the island of Gotska Sandon to view seals and lighthouses, we chose another new country and the prospect of raising a new courtesy flag.  Hopefully without any smelly seals. 

A cunning plan that would break the leg to Tallin, Estonia into 4 bite size chunks, two legs to our new destination, and two to Tallin – a new country and more of Estonia to explore.  No overnight sailing, just long day sails with a bit of time to explore at each new port.  What’s not to like?

Sailing Gotland

We were rafted three deep, so after a bit of boat shuffling, we were alongside to fill up with water and hand in our harbour cards.  We set off at lunchtime, and ate as we went.   For our first leg we decided to break our journey in Farosund, the water that divides Gotland from the island of Faro.  

Can you spot Crystelle Venture berthed in Visby?

We managed some sailing up the coast of this limestone island, covered in pine trees, and seemingly sparsely populated once we had left the historic city of Visby behind.  There was only one incongruous area, as the landscape of limestone rock falls continued on our starboard side.  What we thought was an out of place and uncharacteristic city with high rises, turned out to be a massive silo complex for what we guessed must be a cement factory.  After all, Gotland produces mortar to send to other cities around the world to repair their ancient limestone monuments and cathedrals, as well as cement.

Leaving Visby

Sleeping like logs

After several hours we started to follow the buoyed channel into Farosund, as night started to fall.  There are three perfectly good harbours, but we chose to anchor, for the first time on this trip, just to the west of the town.  It was a beautiful quiet spot and we slept like logs, especially after the bouncy nights in Visby – the middle boat of rafting does seem to get the worst berthing experience.

Off at dawn

Up and off at 5am the next day, as our destination was an hour ahead, and with over 80 nautical miles to go, we knew it would take us a good 14 – 16 hours.  As we past the small town of Farosund dwarfed by the bright yellow ferries that connect the two islands of Gotland and Faro, we noticed another of our rally yachts popping out from one of the harbours.  We streamed past the two small bird covered islands in the middle of the channel and then were out into the east sea.

Ghost ship

Around lunchtime we found ourselves in thick fog, and could no longer see the other boat we were travelling with, apart from the odd ghostly appearance off to our starboard bow.  We both kept a good look out and, luckily, there were no other passing ships to avoid. After 2 hours we came back into sunshine.

It was around this point that Suzanne discovered that we didn’t have a full set of Baltic flags.  Latvia was missing.  Discussion ensued on how a makeshift courtesy flag could be fashioned out of other flags, masking tape and colouring pens.  In the end, rather than cause any kind of diplomatic incident with a badly drawn flag, we opted to go without.

Ventspil’s cow fascination

The closest port in Latvia is Ventaspil, a commercial port with oil, coal and ferry terminals.  We called ahead and were immediately given clearance to enter.  An incongruous Greek striped cow stared at us from the breakwater as we entered the outer harbour, and then made way along the starboard side towards the entrance to the fishing and yacht harbour.  

Paint donation

We had prepared ourselves for a bow to and pick up a stern buoy berth – and had got out and set up the new hook we had bought at the chandlery in Bornholm.  However as we turned the corner into the marina we saw to our dismay that the other yacht was moored up against the wall, with old tyres against it.

Marina at Ventspils – Crystelle Venture hiding way at the back from yet another concrete cow

We did a quick rejig of ropes and fenders and the harbour master helped us to tie up.  Unfortunately we hadn’t realised that the tyres were tied on with steel rope, that scraped away more grey paint.  Another small donation to a Baltic country.

While Andrew went for a shower, Suzanne went up to pay for our night’s stay and to practice the little Latvian she’d picked up from google translate.  She likes to think it was appreciated.  At 25 euros it was one of our more expensive stays, however electricity, showers and waters were included – so probably worked out much the same.  

Exploring Ventaspil

We walked up into the old town for dinner, to a restaurant the harbour master had recommended, and in the brochure he had given us was shown to be number one in some local award.  We walked through broad streets with pretty parks, cobbled streets with old wooden houses and ancient doors, and finally found a busy restaurant, with outside seating that was clearly full and very popular.

Ventspils
We’re in Ventspils, so it must be another cow

The waitress spoke perfect english and explained we’d have to wait for a table – which we were more than happy to do.  We perused the menu while we waited, and were impressed by the prices.  We took a punt on a Latvian sparkling wine, 10 euros a bottle, and it turned out to be so decent, we had a second.  Unfortunately, when we checked the label, only for sale in Latvia – and the shop was shut when we walked back to the marina. Probably a good thing, as we have to reduce our alcohol on board before we enter Russia. 

The food was tasty, the portions generous. For the four of us, with a starter and a main, two bottles of fizz, and a cup of mint tea – the bill came to just over 70 euros.  Bargain – we like Latvia!

Latvian starter

Over dinner we discussed our strategy for the next leg of our journey – a respectable departure time of 7am agreed.  We then pottered through more of the old town, which was almost deserted – perhaps not surprising in a country of less than 2 million people – and the only noise was that of youngsters on whiney mopeds – in stark contrast to the boom of the Harley Davidsons on Bornholm.  Finally we took the riverside walk back to our marina, marvelling at the giant cow en route, and enjoyed a comfortable night dockside.

Settling down for the night in Ventspils, Latvia

Our leg stats

Visby to Farosund was just under 7 hours underway, making 38 nautical miles, an average 5.4 knots. Farosund to Ventspils was a longer 13 hour sail of 86 nautical miles, with an average speed of 6.6 knots. A total of just under 16 engine hours in total. So our time to get from Gotland to Latvia was around 20 hours of sailing.

You can hear more about our time in Latvia in episode 22 ‘Loving Latvia’ of our ‘2 in a boat’ podcast, due to go live on 1 September 2019.

Episode 21 hears us chewing the fat on Bornholm and Visby.

2 in a boat – our podcast!

2 in a boat is our podcast that brings you the sailing and travel world of Suzanne and Andrew on their aged yacht Crystelle Venture.

Join us

You’ll join us along the way as we prepare for our longest sail yet, from Dartmouth, UK to St Petersburg, Russia. Our route takes us across the North Sea and around the Baltic this summer, a round trip of about 3000 nautical miles.

With a fab intro music written by our talented nephew, Joseph Turner, and artwork by our equally talented daughter, Jessica Caballero – it’s something of a family affair.

The novice and the old salt

The novice and the old salt. All the gear and no idea? What on earth (or on water) could go wrong…? You’ll have to tune in each week to find out how we’re getting on. It’s available from all good podcast sites, Apple Podcasts, Google podcasts, Anchor, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket casts, Overcast, and Radio Public, so hopefully one of those will do it for you!

Crystelle Venture at Darthaven Marina, Kingswear, Devon

We’ll link to each episode as it goes live here, and if there are any show notes, we’ll include them here too.

We’ve now decided to publish our podcasts on a Sunday and a Wednesday – around 6am. So don’t forget to check for new episodes!

Please let us know which is your favourite episode and if you have any questions you’d like us to answer in podcast.

Episode 1 A week to go

Live date: Sunday 16 June

Recorded: Saturday 10 June

Join us on a wet Saturday drive down to the boat – with a rather reluctant Andrew behind the wheel.

Episode 2 – The night before departure

Live Date: Thursday 20 June

Recorded: Sunday 16 June

Join us on a wet and windy Sunday evening in the saloon of Crystelle Venture – slightly tired after all our preparations, and excited too to be setting off next day.

Episode 3 – Dartmouth to Portland

Live Date: Sunday 23 June

Recorded: Monday 17 June

Finally, we are off! Not to France, but the first leg of our journey along the southern coast of England.

Bonus Episode -3a – In the boat from Dartmouth to Portland

Live Date: Tuesday 25 June

Recorded: Monday 17 June

Warts and all live recording of our time sailing across Lyme Bay to Portland. Ever wondered what goes on during those long hours in a small cockpit on a yacht? Now’s your chance to eavesdrop and find out what Andrew and Suzanne get up to!

Episode 4 – Enroute from Portland

Live Date: Friday 28 June

Recorded: Wednesday 19 June

Join Andrew and Suzanne as they podcast from Crystelle Venture as they sail from Portland towards Dunkirk. 

Episode 5 – Why we dove into Dover

Live Date: Monday 1 July

Recorded: Thursday 20 June

So last episode we were on our way to Dunkirk.  But did we get there? Find out in this episode of Two in a Boat.

Episode 6 – Departing Dover

Live Date: Wednesday 3 July

Recorded: Friday 21 June

Finally ‘Two in a Boat’ are set to sail to France.  Just where will they end up this time? 

Episode 7 – Footfall in France

Live Date: Sunday 7 July

Recorded: Friday 21 June

Finally Suzanne, Andrew and Crystelle Venture make footfall in France.  But how did the channel crossing go?  Was it all plain sailing?  Download this latest podcast to hear how it all went.

Bonus episode – 7a – Deceptive Dunkirk

Live Date: Wednesday 10 July

Recorded: Saturday 22 June

Enjoy this bonus episode with our sailors first morning off on the other side of the channel.  Join them as they discuss the delights of Dunkirk and bothersome Belgians.  

Episode 8 – Adieu Dunkirk

Live date: 14 July

Join Suzanne and Andrew in the cockpit of Crystelle Venture as they motor sail from Dunkirk.  Does what happened in Dunkirk stay in Dunkirk?  Listen in to find out.

Episode 9 – Chatting in Cadzand

Live date: 17 July

A week after setting off from Dartmouth, where have 2 in a Boat found themselves?  Find out as they chat in Cadzand.  

Episode 10 – Decisions, Decisions

Live date: 21 July

Wind shift not in your favour?  You have three options – which one are you going to choose?  Listen in as our 2 in a Boat, Suzanne and Andrew, sail up the Dutch coast.

Episode 11 – Submarines, boarders and concrete sheep

Live date: 24 July

Just where have our 2 in a boat washed up now?  They’ve spotted submarines, been boarded by the Dutch authorities, and now want to buy concrete sheep.  Listen in to find out what on earth/on sea, has been going on.

Episode 12 – Slow is pro

Live date: 28 July

Settled into their island berth Suzanne and Andrew discuss the various tactics to mooring up in a box berth, being the only Brits in the village and other such nonsense.  

Episode 13 – Casting my account to Neptune

Live date: 31 July

A hard day and night’s sail and our 2 in a boat are reliving the tale.  Just who gave their account to Neptune, and just what did it consist of?  Find out in today’s episode of 2 in a boat.

Episode 14 – Beating the boat from Borkum

Live date: 4 August

Learn about beating, VMG, and horny Borkum in today’s new podcast from 2 in a boat.

Episode 15 – Borkum, bikes and boys

Live date: 7 August

At last our 2 intrepid sailors have made their way to the gateway to the river Elbe and the prospect of the Kiel canal looms.  But what are our 2 in a boat talking about?  Borkum, bikes and boys! Listen in to hear about their journey from Borkum to Cuxhaven, and all manner of other discussions.

Episode 16 – Cracking the canal

Live date: 11 August

Today is the day our 2 in a boat face one of their biggest fears, and most anticipated parts of their journey to the Baltic – going into the Keil canal (NOK).  Find out how they got on in today’s episode.

Episode 17 – Happy in Heiligenhafen

Live date: 14 August

Join our two jolly sailors as they celebrate crossing the canal, and their tricky entry into heavenly Heiligenhaven.

Episode 18 – Fingers crossed (we don’t hit the bridge)

Live date: 18 August

Fearless?  I don’t think so.  Hear about Andrew’s fear of bridges and bears as they arrive into Warnemunde, the starting point for their Baltic rally.  

Episode 19 – Blowing old boots to Bornholm

Live date: 21 August

Today we find our 2 in a boat preparing for the first official leg in their Baltic rally – from Warnemunde, Germany to Bornholm, Denmark.  What have they done in the past few days and what are their thoughts on the rally?  Join them on Crystelle Venture to catch up with our 2 in a boat.

Episode 20 – Sunshine on a cloudy day

Live date: 25 August

Join Suzanne and Andrew, newly landed on the island of Bornholm in Denmark after their overnight sail from Germany.

Episode 21 – Bandidos, hoards and painted stones

Live date: 28 August

Our Baltic wanderers talk about the first two islands they’ve visited on their trip, Bornholm in Denmark and Gotland in Sweden.

Episode 22 – Loving Latvia

Live date: 1 September

Our 2 in a boat make an unscheduled stop in Lativa – and love it!  Find out how our intrepid Baltic explorers got on in one of the smallest Baltic countries.

Episode 23 – Talking in Tallinn

Live date: 8 September

This episode finds our 2 in a boat talking tales of travel in Estonia, as they find themselves in the capital city, Tallinn.

Episode 24 – Thoughts on Tallinn

Live Date: 11 September

Our 2 in a boat are all Tallinn’d out!  Hear them chat about their time in the Estonian capital – we’re talking showers, submarines, and chandleries of course!

Episode 25 – How we almost joined the Russian navy

Live date: 15 September

Our haphazard sailors almost join the Russian navy, are boarded by sniffer dogs and eventually find themselves in St Petersburg. 

Episode 26 – Tall tales of Russian sailing

Live date: 18 September

Talking fried egg sandwiches, touring St Petersburg and the terror of anchoring at night

Episode 27 – Where the devil does his washing up

Live date: 22 September

Time for our 2 in a boat to start recycling their Scandinavian jokes.  When and where will it finish?!

Episode 28 – In search of vikings

Live date: 25 September

Join our 2 in their cockpit as they’re under sail making 7 knots and looking for Vikings.

Episode 29 – Think we’ve found our viking!

Live date: 29 September

Our two touch bottom, again, visit the old capital Turku, and discuss cake gate. Find out how and why in today’s episode.