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Russia - Next Stop in our Voyage around the Black Sea

By Sue Richards last modified Apr 28, 2010 01:27 PM

Published: 2010-04-28 13:27:36
Countries: Russia

For previous reports by Snow White of her Black Sea Voyage and time spent in Georgia see here.

15.7.2009

We continue our voyage around the Black Sea and sail 220 miles from the port of Batumi (Georgia) to the Russian port of Sochi. There is Abkhazia in between but we continue without stopping as the entire country, including its port of Suchumi, is known to be extremely dangerous.

Arrival in Russia

After 36 hours of very hard trip against the wind and 4m waves we started approaching the Russian coast. When we were 12 miles from shore, I reported by VHF to the Coast Guard. We communicated in Russian. For 30 minutes I was questioned, why are we going to Sochi? Where are we going? What we are going to do? and for how long are we staying? Five miles from the port I reported to Channel 14 traffic control at the port and the same questions were asked.

Exactly at midnight after sailing in strong winds to the port of Sochi, we looked forward to a quiet night, and some sleep. All of a sudden I was called by the operator through VHF and was told to leave the port because customs was closed at night and we must standby till morning outside the port! There were 3m high waves, so I refused and insisted that we stay in port. After about 10 minutes of negotiations, we were allowed to anchor up inside the port. Although we rocked all night it was better than outside.

Clearing in requires an Agent

At 0700 we called on the VHF and again had to go through 30 minutes of questioning. At 0800, yet again, the same procedure. Eventually I was told that we must hire an agent who will take care of our check-in at the price of 300 USD. I refused, of course, and insisted that I arranged check-in myself. I was told that it can’t be done without an agent. So we stayed at anchor calling on the VHF every hour asking for navigation to the customs dock and to do the check-in. I was told constantly that only an agent can do this.

High Fees

At 1800 I had to call the agent and negotiated with him a price of 100 EUR. At 1900 I was asked to navigate to the customs dock. There were 2 members of the Coastguard, 2 civilians and my agent. Custom officers checked our visas and our agent was allowed to come on board. We found out that there is much more to pay. One night in the harbor at high concrete piers without water and power would cost 150 EUR per day. The fee was 100 EUR for customs and 100 EUR for the agent. So if we were in port for 2 nights we would have to pay 500 EUR!

Visa for one port only

On top of everything we learnt that when we sail from one port we need to check-out and our visa will be cancelled. So in the event we wanted to sail to another Russian port, we would have to proceed 12 miles into international waters, cross rate to the second port and return 12 miles to shore. Then you use an agent again, and again you complete the whole check-in comedy - including getting new visas. After this information I asked the agent to immediately leave the boat as I had decided to leave the country.

The situation however got complicated as the agent had already exhibited some evidence in the port. I had to therefore pay 40 EUR for these documents, and yet I insisted that we must arrange staying at anchor inside the port. It was 2100 and there was already a big strong storm. After about 10 phone calls to the border guards, traffic control, and perhaps even Putin, we got the permission to stand on the anchor inside the port.

Departure from Russia

We waited 'til the morning and at 1000, when the storm had calmed down, sailed away from the port of Sochi and from Russia.

During our 2 days anchored up in the port, not one Russian boat crew said hello. I tried to wave at them as I needed to get some information and assistance, but everyone would just sail around with no response whatsoever. Our original plan to sail along the Russian coast, check out the Sea of Azov and then continue to Ukraine has therefore changed.

We are sailing away from Russia, where old laws, bureaucracy and senseless regulation still dominate. We know for sure that we will never return to this country and we want to give some good advice to anyone who is considering a trip to Russia - "Forget it".

Miro
SY Snow White

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