Volga-Balt Waterway

IMG_3275It is a long climb from Vytegra. The locks here are industrial in size and purpose. The feeling of private privilege we felt in the Belomorsk Canal has gone,  replaced by a realisation that we are now only a tiny, irritating part of a huge commercial process. One that has been going on for millenia.

The locks are very efficiently run. VHF instructions are clear (if incomprehensible) and concise (if incomprehensible). We share locks with huge vessels. At the top we join the parade of ships carrying lumber, gas and other bulk loads between St Petersburg and the Volga.

We follow Marshall Zhukov out of the last lock, into the basin where ghostly ships lie at anchor, waiting for their turn to descend.


Marshall Zhukov at the top of Vytegra Lock chain















I find myself jumping for my camera each time a ship passes, wide-eyed while knowing that I am not Cartier-Bresson or Adams. Indeed, the photos take themselves.

The waterway is well buoyed. It is a long 2 day journey through to White Lake.

Early on, we are surrounded by hills covered with deciduous forest and fields of lupins, but the channel then becomes narrow, muddy and claustrophobic. The word Conradian comes to mind.


Our second day was hot and still. Tainui was repeatedly attacked by marauding bands of march flies. Anyone watching Tainui would have thought we were members of Tourettes Anonymous. Our conversations are interspersed with sudden flings of limbs and shouted expletives.

The caramel river is peaceful but we were glad when those flies went home at dusk. We anchored outside the channel and listened to evening birdsong. An occasional freighter passed but otherwise we were quite alone.

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