We have just tied up at Archangel’sk customs wharf after a long trip upstream against a 4 knot current. Low wooded shores, tea-coloured water, sand flats and only an occasional commercial ship. Clearly we are the first and only cruising yacht to have arrived this year. A ferry boat blew its siren, people waved and workmen at the customs wharf – a huge shipping wharf with tyre fenders 6 feet in diameter – took our lines and welcomed us warmly.
After a fast 12 hour sail to the pilot station at the fairway buoy we had sat for 3 hours on a glassy sea, awaiting permission to enter the Dvina River. Russia Coast Guard seemed finally to have accepted that we exist and they kindly gave us bearings, range and crossover instructions all the way up.
The sun is shining and it is warm. As always, it is very strange and exciting to arrive in a new port after time at sea. Even if the travails are not of themselves newsworthy. Maxine warned me to expect major uniformed officialdom for our entrance formalities. In the meantime we wolf down fat omlettes with mushrooms and sip rum with lime juice.
Arrival formalities turned out to be surprisingly uneventful. Certainly easier than Brazil, Cuba or Svalbard I must say. It helps to have a shipping agent here and I am happy to recommend ours, Yury Klyutkin, for future visitors.
Customs have granted us permission to keep Tainui in Russian waters for 4 months (longer than my business visa). We are assured that our entrance to the Belomorsk Canal should be hassle-free, although time will tell. Two further very friendly and helpful contacts here are Alex Galitsky and Sasha Laschenko, local sailors warmly recommended by Barry Woodhouse (UK) and also Vladimir Ivankiv (St Petersburg).
Archangel’sk sits on a flat island among many others in the Dvina River estuary. The trip up from the river mouth is long and tortuous. It is essential to run with the 4 knot tide (which we didn’t).