Chris wrote to me expressing the hope that my crew would instill in me some much needed feminine sensibility. Now, after 3 days of constant bullying, the girls have managed to discover the warm, sensitive inner self I knew I always had.
Anchored below Stalin’s magnificent Lock 13, the girls have gone shopping and I find myself splendidly alone on the boat and able to do important bloke’s things without tedious workshops, planning meetings and debates about attitude, respect, consideration and the like. Wiring in new sockets for the multitude of chargers and adapters needed by our iPads, iPods, iPhones, VHF radios and cameras requires none of that. Only logical thinking, problem-solving and occasional brute force. With Tristan and Isolde up loud it is such a joy.
For 3 days we have meandered between grassy shores, reed beds and islets along Stalin’s pride, the Volga-Don Canal. The breeze has been gentle and warm. As background there are wide fields of wheat, low hills, arachnid power line towers and occasional drab villages and towns. Built by German prisoners of war in the late forties, this canal has become a vital commercial link between the Volga, the Caspian and the Black Seas. Huge oil tankers and bulk carriers glide smoothly along the narrow waterway all day and night, sometimes with only a metre or two to spare, giving us new meaning to the concept of close quarters navigation. It is surprising how blase you get after a day or two of this.
The gorgeous girls have gone ashore to cater for Rosie’s lavish menus over the next few days, Jenny’s fresh vegetable obsession, Maxine’s desperate white wine requirements and my shamefully modest needs. Ahead of Tainui lies the lock’s splendid, intaglioed neoclassical arch and to port, an imposing monument to those who fought and died in The Great Patriotic War. Children are fishing on the shore and there is a gentle breeze. Things couldn’t get much better.
We have ahead of us just a few kilometres of channel before we reach the River Don. From there it is 90 miles across the large, shallow Tsimlyansk Reservoir to Volgadonsk, whose local yacht club eagerly awaits Tainui’s arrival. And from Volgadonsk we have another 125 miles of Don River before the Sea of Azov. The end is getting near and I have very mixed feelings about that.
We are hoping the Don flows quietly for us.