Day 19 – Part 2 – The day we joined the Russian navy

Vergi to St Petersburg

We didn’t rush this morning to get away, as we knew that there was no point getting into Kronstad early. Besides we had sore heads and Andrew massive bites to nurse.  We finally got away around 11ish, and set off motor sailing on a carefully followed track to avoid slipping into a military zone.

Kronstadt is a town and naval base on Kotlin Island, just west of St. Petersburg, Russia, where we needed to gain clearance to enter Russia. (It is also spelt Kronshtadt.)

It was at this point on our journey that the GPS above our companion way in the cockpit and also displayed by our chart table decided not to work, forever.  Unfortunate as this was the one Suzanne used to write our log and to keep track of our mileage.  So she used the time to ‘de-soil’ her herbs, as the advice had been no soil to be taken into Russia!

de-soiled herbs means dirty fingers!

Our aim was to get to Kronstadt for noon the next day, and with a lot of miles to get under our belt, within a restricted fairway, we settled into some decent sailing making between 4 -6 knots.

Crystelle Venture making her way to Russia

Around 5pm we crossed the border into Russia, and raised our courtesy flag.  Our journey was then made up of a mixture of sailing and motor sailing.  Andrew took the night watch until around 3,30am when Suzanne came up to take over.  

Raising our Russian courtesy flag and our Q flag

Around 4 in the morning, some of the faster  yachts started to over take us, one by one.  And at 5am the sun came up.  Suzanne put on some home made croissants, but managed to burn them.

On watch, with the yacht motor sailing and on auto pilot, and the wind in a steady position, there isn’t too much to do, other than look out for other marine traffic, and avoid it if there is any likelihood of a collision.  

Our track was alongside the main fairway for large container, bulk carrier and cruise ships – but far enough out that we didn’t cross paths.  At various intervals there would be channels leading into it from either Russia or Sweden – and it was those that you mainly had to keep an eye out for.

At 7 am Suzanne had just done one of her periodic sweeps of the sea, looking ahead, behind and to the sides – with nothing untoward, and settled back to loading up photos onto her laptop.  A strange noise made her turn to look behind – and there was a surfaced submarine!  It gave her such a fright that she called down to Andrew, who was still resting, to say that a submarine had surfaced behind the boat!!

Clearly it hadn’t, in only a 100 feet of water – and another yacht later confirmed they had watched it move across to be behind us.  Still at that point in time, it felt like it had!  And thinking back, Suzanne had spotted a strange looking craft close to the coast, but unable to make out what it was, had dismissed it as some kind of fishing vessel.

Little did we know at this stage that this was not going to be our only encounter with this submarine.

After this we noticed a number of large naval vessels at anchor in the distance.  Over the next few hours, they formed up and appeared to be practicing their display for Naval Day on 28 July.  We watched as they manoeuvred and two large white launches with what appeared to senior naval officers in white uniforms and lots of gold braid raced up at 30 plus knots we guessed to inspect them.

As the fleet came closer, we watched as they rounded a buoy, and headed off back up in the opposite direction.  We could see the sailors standing to attention in their white uniforms on each ship, and  hear them as they sang and cheered.  It was pretty cool to witness.

We had slowed our pace to be able to watch and take photos, and we now continued on our final miles into Kronstadt.

As we were in the final lead up to Kronstadt we called Graneet on the radio, as instructed, to let them know of our arrival, but without success.  By this time we had been caught up by one of the American yachts.  As we approached the gateway into Kronstadt we heard a message on the radio for the two yachts approaching, but without giving any instruction.  We tried calling again.  We then heard a message from Radio 1, naming us and the other yacht. We tried calling radio 9, Graneet and our rally control – without success.  

At this point we looked behind us and realised that the naval fleet we had past earlier practising their display were now in a convoy and closing in on us at a great rate of notes, clearly heading into St Petersburg as well.  We radio’d again and said we were moving out of the way of the fleet.

At this point one of the two white launches we had seen early came racing at over 30 knots towards us, looking as if it might ram us.  As it approached, one of the officers ran up to the podium on the side, and using the microphone on its stand, hailed us in Russian.  Andrew responded with ‘niet’ i.e no.  What he was saying no to Suzanne still isn’t sure. But if it was to say no, I don’t speak Russian – clearly that wasn’t true – because he’d just answered in Russian (he can actually say 3 words) and if the chap had been asking us to move the boat, then clearly it wasn’t the right answer.  Some gesticulation went on, and Andrew moved the boat further out of the way.  The launch then raced across to the American boat, clearly to have the same kind of none conversation.

We then sat back and enjoyed the fleet passing with our submarine taking up the rear.  Once clear we continued into Kronstadt and the fun of clearing immigration and customs.

So the German boat full of Swiss seemed to have rattled customs.  They had prescription drugs they wanted to declare, but the sniffer dog had been put on the boat before they were allowed off the boat to declare – and so a Mexican stand off ensued for the next 6 hours.    As a result we had two sniffer dogs, one for customs, one for immigration, as well as a search by two uniformed men which seemed to be a half hour english language lesson.  All passports and ship paperwork duly checked and stamped, we were free, after about an hour – to head on into St Petersburg.

It takes 3 hours from Kronstadt to head up the fairway to St Petersburg.  On our way in, guess what – the fleet passed us on their way back out!  An even closer encounter than the first two times that day!

We weren’t prepared for the Jetson style hydrofoils ploughing their way to and fro on the fairway, making at least 30 knots, but unnervingly leaving no real wake. 

We dodged men fishing in inflatables right in the fairway, and just as we approached the new bridge to make our final few hundred metres into the yacht club, the leading buoys seemed to disappear. 

We then noticed that they were off to the left, making a big kink.  This was different to what was on the chart, and that we had been told – and we quickly debated and decided to follow the buoys as we saw them – ie swing to the left and then back through the buoys under the bridge.  This worked fine, but we were then presented with a load of buoys that were missing – the channel supposed to lead us to the club.  We found out later how lucky we were.  Others had missed the kink to the left, ploughed straight on and grounded – about 6 in all – so half the fleet (as the 2 larger yachts couldn’t fit into St Petersburg).

We went straight to the fuel barge and filled up with 165 litres of fuel.  At a third of the prices of the UK – it would have been crazy not to.

getting fuel in St Petersburg

So it was that finally, at 5pm the day after we set off, we berthed by stern buoy at the Central City Marina amid all the sun, noise and chaos of St Petersburgers at play in the water.

Daily stats

We were underway for 30 hours, making 131 nautical miles, sailing for 7 hours, motor sailing for 16 and motoring for 7.  We used 12 gallons of fuel and 23 engine hours.

The map of our journey is an approximation, as we don’t have the actual AIS captured for the trip.

You can hear us talking about our entry into Russia on our podcast ‘2 in a Boat’ episode 25 ‘How we almost joined the Russian navy’.

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.