In 40 years of sailing Tainui has been blessed by regular crew, family and friends, who all seem to want to come back for more. Crew requirements for the Russia journey were stringent however – fluency in Russian, ICC and CEVNI licensing, navigational skill, freedom to commit to 4 months aboard, and a sanguine attitude to the whole plan falling through in Archangel’sk were Tainui to be refused entry into Russia. Not to mention enthusiasm and a patient forbearance with my idiosyncracies.
So last year I placed a notice on one of the crew finder websites, not hopeful of finding anyone, let alone the right person. I described the boat and her skipper as honestly as I could, then set out the requirements listed above. One more essential was added to the list – “must love Mozart and Schubert”.
The following day I received a brief note from a Dutch woman living in Moscow. Her reply – “And what about Shostakovitch?” I knew I was on a winner.
This was 8 months before we set out from Tromso. A long email correspondence followed, during which Maxine’s interest in the journey, her practical approach to the bureaucratic hurdles we faced, her pursuit of the necessary approvals from Russian authorities, her humour and her optimism confirmed my initial assessment.
Maxine has now joined Tainui. Funny, but I feel I already know her well and there is no awkwardness. She brought her de facto with her, to check out both Tainui and me. There was immediate rapport. Dirk flew back to London reasonably happy I think, that his partner would be safe enough in Tainui till he joined the boat later, in Cherepovets.
It will be apparent to readers of this website that Maxine was an absolute treasure in Tainui. She is a fine seaperson. I doubt the journey could been possible without her unassailable optimism, her irrepressible humour, her patience, her competence and her understanding of the foibles of Russian bureaucracy. The qualities excuse completely her irritating failure to get seasick and her daily need to eat stodgy lumps of a building material she calls “grits”. She swims daily in any water at any temperature (which is tedious) and drinks a great deal of alcohol (which is wonderful). Without Max’s fluent Russian, her advocacy skills, her successfully flirtatious way with bureaucrats and her navigational abilities, Tainui’s trip down the Volga would have been so much more difficult (and boring).
Over the years I have come across many boats who regularly seek crew over the internet. One high latitude hermit has had 23 successive female crew members, none of whom came back for a second trip. Internet dating is not something I have ever previously contemplated or, until this trip, needed. I doubt I would do it again, but on this occasion I can say it was a great success.