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By No owner — last modified Jul 10, 2017 07:10 PM

 Russia - Profile

Facts

  • The break-up of the Soviet Union has radically altered the cruising picture in both the Baltic and Black Sea. Unfortunately, while the countries themselves have undergone a profound process of liberalisation, rules affecting the movement of foreign vessels have seen only a limited relaxation compared to the Soviet past. In this respect Russia is the worst culprit and formalities for visiting yachts are just as cumbersome as in the past. Foreign vessels, and their crews, continue to be viewed with a high degree of suspicion and the officials one has to deal with can be just as difficult and unpleasant as their Soviet predecessors. After an initial outburst of interest, the number of cruising boats visiting Russia has levelled off as sailors realise that visiting Russia on their own boat is perhaps not worth all the aggravation.
  • Since the beginning of June 2012, it is now permitted for foreign vessels the cruise all of Russia's inland waterways - in theory! The details are still being worked out and all the officals involved informed. No special permit is required but one crew member has to be a Russian speaker. On some sections of waterway a pilot is necessary.
  • Even if not always rigidly enforced, many of the restrictions introduced during the Soviet era have remained basically unchanged, so one should not expect the same kind of freedom of movement as is enjoyed by land tourists. Although foreign yachts can now enter Russian coastal waters, obtaining visas and permission for entry remains complicated. An invitation from an authorised body, such as a yacht club, is essential. Russian consulates will issue visas for all those named in the invitation with dates of birth and passport numbers for the period and the ports stated in the invitation. A vessel which takes shelter or stops in a port not specified in the visa can expect difficulties. (There are three Russian ports in the Eastern part of the Gulf of Finland which can be visited by foreign boats. It is enough to specify St.Petersburg in your visa to be able to visit the other two).
  • The lack of adequate facilities for visiting boats, unnecessarily complicated and time consuming formalities, difficult officials and the distinct feeling that many Russians regard foreigners as nothing more than a convenient source of cash, should make anyone planning a visit to Russia consider seriously if the effort is really worth it.
  • Should the situation improve, from the cruising point of view, Russia has three main areas which can be visited, all very different in their own ways.
  • The Black Sea coast is now very much diminished following the independence of Georgia and Ukraine. The Black Sea ports, none of which are recognised Ports of Entry for yachts (they are commercial POE), discourage visits by foreign private yachts by obstructive bureaucracy and extremely high harbour charges. It is advisable to remain well clear of Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea. Since 2014, it is also now advisable to also avoid the Crimea. No foreign yachts have reported visiting here in recent years. What little information there is about these ports can be found in the RCCPF files in publications
  • The main attraction on the Baltic coast is the historic city of St Petersburg, built on the banks of the River Neva and considered the most beautiful Russian city. The sea area between St Petersburg and Kronstadt, inside a man-made seawall, is a popular cruising area for Russian sailors. A highly enjoyable detour can now be made into the Finnish Saimaa Canal which gives access to Saimaa Lake, but whose entrance was barred in the past to foreign vessels. These restrictions have now been lifted by the Russian authorities. The Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad has been open to tourists since 1991, a small region of Russia squeezed between Lithuania and Poland and separated from the rest of Russia.
  • The Far East is more remote and less accessible to cruising yachts, as several sensitive areas are closed to foreign shipping. Weather considerations would probably deter most cruising yachts from sailing to the Arctic ports, which involves a long detour around the whole of Norway.
  • The best facilities for foreign boats is at the St Petersburg Central River Yacht Club. There are two YCs that claim to be the oldest YC in Russia, namely: Sea YC and Central River YC. The Central River YC is the biggest in Russia, it has the easiest access from the sea and is closer to the city centre.
  • Yacht building is gathering pace as there is a great demand for cruising boats. Although not up to western standards, repair facilities are good, as local mechanics are used to improvising when spares are not available. The situation regarding marine supplies and spares is gradually improving. Ordering essential spares from abroad and clearing them through customs can take a very long time.
  • Provisioning can be quite difficult as the yacht clubs are often out of town. There is usually a good selection of fresh produce which is better quality in the markets than in the large stores. Water is readily available, but the quality is sometimes questionable, so it should be treated; bottled water is widely available. Fuel is difficult to obtain, so it is best to order some via a yacht club or agency. There are two regular floating fuel stations at the River YC (of which one is a very modern one).

Weather

The climate varies greatly in this vast country, from the subtropical in the southern republics to Arctic conditions in the northern regions. Conditions along the coasts are less harsh although even in the Baltic, winters can be very cold with freezing temperatures for several months. Summer weather in the Baltic is very pleasant with white nights in June and good sailing breezes. Winters along the Black Sea coast are milder, and the summers are very hot; because the Black Sea is virtually landlocked, the winds alternate between land and sea breezes.

Russia Weather Forecast

For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.

Main Ports

Foreign vessels are only allowed to visit ports which are listed on the visa or official invitation. Only the most important ports of entry are listed here, although it may be possible to obtain permission to visit other ports as well.

One needs to apply for a double entry business visa to visit both Kaliningrad and St.Petersburg or/and other Russian Ports.

Authorities in Moscow have agreed some relaxation and visiting yachts are now permitted to proceed to the Central River Yacht Cluyb after clearing Customs and Immigration. Yachts are still not permitted to go to other marinas nor elsewhere.

Baltic: Kaliningrad * , Kronstadt * , St Petersburg * , Vyborg *

Black Sea: Novorossiysk * , Sochi * , Tuapse *

Far East: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky *

Sea of Azov: Taganrog *

Sea of Japan: Nakhodka *

* indicates port of entry

Share |
Alex
Alex says:
Jun 25, 2017 07:33 PM

I live in the Far Eastern Russian port of PetropavlovskKamchatskiy- placed at Kamchatka peninsula. And I have assisted two Swiss yachts this year. Coming here is not so difficult as it looks. If you want to discover Russia in the Far East coast - contact me. I help you with anything. And I'm owner of 30' sailing yacht.

Krille
Krille says:
Sep 09, 2014 08:18 PM

I have been following John´s travel through Russian canals and I fully agree with Tainui, those are fantastic waters to sail on. I really appreciate the positive attitude that Tainuis´ crew had towards sailing in Russia and Russia itself. A huge obstacle seems to be the Russian-speaking pilot that is required to be on each boat.
I sailed through those canals from the Baltic Sea to the Black sea in a small Swedish boat in 1993. Me and my wife were planning to sail to the Mediterranean Sea. Since I was married to Russian and had travelled a lot through Russia, I decided to take the Soviet canal way to the Mediterranean. The bureaucracy during those times experienced some kind of vacuum as the country was evolving from Soviet Union to Russia. As we found out, there was no permission to get from any authority. I thank the russian sailors I met who helped us with information about the canals.
On our boat, the mast is 10meters high and we sailed maybe half of the route. We only brought down the mast when going trough St Petersburg and the first 20km.
I agree with John about the fact that Volga/Don is full of attractions with its size, culture and that it works like a life source in Russia. This quote perfectly presents my impression of the Volga.

"Of the Volga-Don trip I can only say that as an Australian I found every day a quite magical experience. What wonderful rivers they are! The endless secluded anchorages, vast inland seas, rich forested shores, sparkling onion dome churches, fascinating commercial shipping, the warmth and friendliness of the local people – all are a delight. After 40 years of ocean voyaging I am finding my search for novelty less often requited, but this Russian voyage has been wonderful - life-changing even."

I agree that a Russian-speaking person aboard is necessary when locking and meeting authorities. To know Russian in Russia is the basis to feel the happiness and to get something in exchange in all that happens along the way.
We never had any large expenses, it was easy to dock and we met alot of nice people (except once), and never had to pay any bribes. Sometimes we had problems buying fuel along the way, but it always got sorted out with time. This issue is probably getting better with time. I really hope these canals are visited by many and some day will become a natural way for people who want to sail to the south or north through Europe. I look forward to getting more information about the experiences of Tainui and other sailors that have sailed through Russia!

Christer E
S/Y Afrodite, homeport Norrtälje situated in Stockholm Archipelago
English version about the trip. http://oakmountain.eu/Ryss-resa-eng.htm
Mail: ce-boatmail@tele2.se

john vallentine
john vallentine says:
Mar 22, 2014 11:17 PM

Cruising down the Volga from White Sea to Black Sea. Australian yacht Tainui has just completed this journey, from Archangel'sk to Rostov-on-Don. This is the first time a foreign-flagged yacht has been allowed into the Volga-Don waterway system. For details, check out www.tainui.org, or our article in OCC Flying Fish 2013/2. This journey is now definitely do-able.

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