Archangel’sk

We have arrived. As we entered the town harbour at 8 pm, little yachts sailed over to welcome us and guide us to the tiny, ramshackle yacht club. Our new Muscovite crew Pavel and Max took our lines and a familiar contact (Sasha Laschenko) stopped by to welcome us. With little delay we repaired to the bar at the grand, monstrous Meridien Hotel. Then, after an interesting pork with fetta sauce, came deepest sleep.

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The trip up river had taken us through forest, godown villages, industrial estates and log rafts. Endless crossover leads, back transits and unidentifiable navigation marks. After Poland, Lithuania and Latvia the parade of crumbling, deserted factories and rusty, purposeful vessels of all sizes and shapes was not unfamiliar and quite lovely. The contrast with Scandinavian neatness and chocolate box photogenicity is absurd. Now it is warm (24 degrees in the cabin), calm and sunny, with bumble bees, birdsong, flowers and rich smells (clearly we have grown used to those in Tainui’s cabin).

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Archangel’sk Yacht Club is a collection of small boats in a tiny estuary in town. Some purposeful quarter tonners; ambitious, coarse-welded steel 22 footers; indescribable plywood creations; a huge and very desirable two storey timber houseboat, and two small, rusty steamers. Cheerful sailors stop by to chat. We seem to be something of a talking point.

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\Sasha Laschenko stopped by again. A local construction engineer, Sasha sailed with Barry Woodhouse in Aenigma in 2000. Today he and his wife Anna have organised for us a tour of architectural sites in Archangel’sk. Tomorow we will get diesel, food, heaps of antifreeze concentrate and (most importantly) vodka. We hope to leave for the world-heritage listed Solovetsky Islands on the top of the tide on Monday. It is a 24 hour trip across the White Sea. Back into the freeze but and I am looking forward to it.

On board, the interpersonal dynamics are interesting. The boys, as we call them, are enthusiastic, wide-eyed, easygoing and adaptable. They are both IT experts from Moscow. Shaven-headed Max has a 35 foot yacht. He is quiet and loves his cognac. Paul is less experienced but smart as paint and eager to learn. They have been invaluable contacts in Russia, organising charts, Russian VHF radios and the like.

Crew outside Archangel'sk Yacht Club

Crew outside Archangel’sk Yacht Club

It shouldn’t be too crowded on board, once we get going. Maxine and Paul speak English but Max, the sailor, has almost none. So conversations are usually in loud Russian with much laughter and gesticulation meaningless to me, or in English, when Max is totally left out. It wouldn’t work on a Hobart race but here, with goodwill, it is much fun.

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