Like all of the reservoirs, Tsimlyansk is an imposing body of water. A wonderful place to sail, if you had a mast. But if there is any breeze, motoring in shallow waters with steep chop and no steadying sail is quite tedious.
The river below Lock 13 is quite beautiful, with rolling hills to the west and low green islets and reed beds on the eastern shore. We anchored, swam and wolfed down one of Rosie’s splendid meals before retiring for the night. Such is the endless struggle of remote exploration.
Out on the reservoir we found secure anchorage the next evening at an open roadstead in company with a dozen northbound freighters and oil tankers waiting to enter the river system. The wind was rising and a 25-28 knot breeze was forecast for the following day. A small fishing boat stopped by to give us fish as, with some trepidation, we set out for a slow bash south.
Our track was initially a bit exposed but later in the day we were able to tuck in below the windward cliffs on the eastern shore and we followed them all the way down to Volgodonsk. Cows came down to the water to drink and swim (udderstroke?).
Maxine did a memorable and spectacular backflip over the side (degree of difficulty 4.2) while collecting a bucket of water. The moment lives only in memory but there is photographic proof of herself and bucket in the briny.
Tsimlyansk Reservoir, created by a barrage across the Don River at Volgodonsk, is the gateway to both the Don and the Volga Rivers. In any other part of the world I would expect to see little sailing boats everywhere but here there are none. Indeed, in the last week we have only seen one pleasure craft, a Russian motor boat on delivery from Yaroslavl down to Rostov-on-Don.
At dusk we reached the imposing Volgodonsk lighthouse, where Alexey Chirkin, the yacht club director, had kindly arranged for a local yacht to lead us in to the yacht club. It is a shallow final approach and despite guidance we ran aground twice (gently, in soft mud) as we crept into the snug creek. The paper and electronic charts are all wrong about depths in the harbour and it is all much shallower than stated.
Sadly Jenny Wren, our expert if anxious navigator and helmsperson, leaves us shortly to start a new adventure in Jordan. Her dry humour and her gentle, contemplative demeanor will be missed by all, especially her adoring father.
We are now encountering a series of rather sad Lasts. Tsimlyansk was our final reservoir and now we have just 180 river km and 5 more locks before Rostov-on-Don. Looking back on this journey of ours I find there is too much to hold in my mind at once. It has been an unimaginably rich and rewarding experience. My overriding memory is of the warmth, generosity and friendliness of the wonderful people we have met along the way. Finding perspective will require space and time.