Like every arrival, this one has come as a complete surprise to us. A power boat was waiting off the yacht club to guide us in, and many willing hands pulled eagerly but unpredictably on our shorelines. But we got in before massive storm clouds dumped their contents on us.
We were met by the usual press contingent, an efficient and helpful club manager and the vice president of the Russian Yachting Federation. Maxine says I will have to get used to this, but for now we have lost one one of the pleasures of cruising – anonymity.
Interviews completed, we repaired to the club premises, where an informal reception had been arranged in our honour.
We had met Vladimir and his tiny home-built timber yacht in Ulyanov’sk. Travelling south also, he had arranged to wait for us off the yacht club so we could meet up for a gam in Tolyatti. He accompanied us into the marina, and he and his crew joined our little party for the evening meal. More of Vladimir anon.
The yacht club makes Sydney’s CYC look like a scout hall. I have not asked how it was funded. This is a major yachting centre and training of all olympic classes takes place in the large bay at the head of the locks. Overnight races are run throughout the summer. I cannot imagine a setting where local knowledge would be more important for race tacticians.
Showers, celebrations, sleep, handshakes, exchanges of fraternal goodwill and presentations of club T-shirts completed, we have just set off for the 4 mile trip to the dual locks in the barrage which contains the huge reservoir we have just crossed. Vladimir’s little boat, waiting for us outside the marina, looks a picture.
Next stop Samara, where I hope we can stop for a few days. I have to take the main alternator to an electrician to be tested. I think the diodes have blown. We are OK on our secondary alternator but running our fridge and other electrics is a big ask for its 55 ah output. If it croaks we always have our splendid Honda 1kW generator in reserve.
We are approaching what is known as The Big Bend. A cursory glance at a map will show why. Then our route turns SW towards the Volga-Don Canal, the Don and the Sea of Azov. But we still have 1,500 km to go before the mast goes up, the Chinese laundry comes in and Tainui becomes a sailing vessel once more. I can’t wait for that.