True, Lenin was born here, but today Tainui is the big news. Do not miss Ulyanov’sk Prime Time TV tonight. We have had film crews on board all morning and Tainui will be the talk of the town.
Inside the big mole barrier is an all weather harbour. We tied up yesterday afternoon at a long, deserted wharf and settled into the now familiar session of toasts, good cheer and assertions of eternal brotherhood with sailors from the tiny yacht club. It was Navy Day. Little children clambered over the boat and explored Tainui’s secret interstices while we gravely accepted a Russian Navy Ensign, a Ulyanov’sk Yacht Club pennant, 4 smoked fish and a bottle of ethyene glycol-like home brew.
Ulyanov’sk is a Two Move Town (see Belyzorsk post). Not long after we had tied up we were asked to move 50 metres along the wharf. We dutifully did so. An hour later we were told that we could not lie alongside this wharf without paying dues usually owed by large cruise ships.
We had to move again, to raft alongside a home-built power boat on the opposite side of the channel 4 metres away. I could not see the logic of this and refused. Maxine and the children had by now removed themselves to a watering hole in a converted shipping container (the yacht club) and I was alone.
There was no wind and I could have done this manoeuver alone without starting the engine. But as is so often the case in Russia I found myself surrounded by willing helpers shouting orders at one another, letting go mooring lines and pulling in all directions at once. Tainui was adrift before I noticed it. All went well in the end, but with any sort of breeze things might have gone awry.
I have not yet learned how to exert my authority in these situations. As skipper I expect people around me to wait expectantly for instructions. I like to speak in a quiet but authoritative way, without ambiguity, so that no one panics and everyone knows his or her job. That never works in Russia. And barking out orders seems to be a waste of time too. It all comes from their overweaning desire to help, to act preemptively and to take charge. It does not occur to them that we managed to get the boat here from Sydney without them, barely bruised.
After the 4 metre move had been completed and my crew had returned, I asked Maxine to tell the by now vodka-raddled crowd in the cockpit that instructions about mooring lines were mine and mine alone. There was much apologising, more toasts to brotherhood across the seas, and all was well. Until next time.
Tainui was the first foreign yacht the club had seen and we were treated like royalty. The evening ended in a candle-lit open shelter among the trees, where we ate shashlik, sipped tea and swore eternal brotherhood.
This morning the TV crews arrived and we were unable to depart until 2pm despite all our best efforts. Ulyanov’sk was a memorable stop for Tainui and, with obvious caveats, this harbour is to be recommended to future yachts.