A Voyage around the Baltic in 2011

Published 11 years ago, updated 5 years ago

St Petersburg, Russia

These notes are from a voyage around the Baltic in a 10m Nauticat, Kiitaja, in 2011.


The maximum stay is 4 weeks and specific dates are fixed in advance: you can arrive on any day within that period, but must clear out before the end of the period. So leave plenty of time to get to the jumping-off point (normally Helsinki) with time in hand.

Medical: you must have medical insurance valid in Russia: check this carefully as written proof is likely to be required. Consider being vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis, which is prevalent in the Baltic. Lyme disease is also prevalent, but cannot be vaccinated against: symptoms are similar to flu and if untreated can become chronic and dangerous.

Paperwork: you must have a berthing reservation & a voucher for the boat and a visa for each crew member. Take 5 photocopies of all official documents (they may be retained), including passport, boat registration, medical insurance certificate & crew list (same list as for Schengen). Take 5 copies of all the standard documents such as VHF licence (ship & operator).

Berthing reservation voucher: contact Mr Vladimir Ivankiv well in advance (at least 2 months). He is a long-standing active yachtsman and a number of years ago gave up his day job as a civil engineer and now arranges paperwork for visiting yachts full-time. His contact details (correct in 2011) are [email protected] (with a copy to [email protected] in case of internal email problems); mobile +7 (921) 9325831; Uchenbnyj Per.6-2-56, 194354 St Petersburg, Russia. He charges a modest 30 euros per person, with payment being made by Swift bank transfer.

He needs the following information:

  • earliest arrival date
  • latest departure date: this can be no more than one month after arrival; you can arrive & leave any time between these 2 dates
  • full names as on passports
  • dates of birth
  • passport numbers
  • nationalities
  • mobile number
  • boat’s name
  • LOA
  • beam
  • draft
  • registration number
  • colour of hull
  • sail number
  • callsign
  • engine type & number
  • home port

He then emails you the Tourist Voucher and Tourist Confirmation Document & makes the booking at a yacht club (either Central River YV or Krestovski YC).

Visa application process: Once you have these, you and each crew member can start the visa application process: the visa is obtained from M/S VF Services (UK) Ltd, 15-27 Gee St, London EC1V 3RD, [email protected], http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk. A tourist visa is valid for 1 month and must be valid for specified dates. If visiting both St Petersburg & Kaliningrad, you need a double visa. Need confirmation (voucher for) of a berthing reservation at a nominated yacht harbour for the same period as the visa. Print the visa application from http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk & send; allow 2 weeks. The passport must be valid for 6 months after the visit ends.

Need for completion of online form:

  • passport details
  • details of all educational establishments attended, except high school: name, course of study, address, phone no, dates of admission & graduation (assume not primary or secondary schools): the addresses must be valid ie incl postcode
  • route of a journey (points of destination): ie where staying
  • date of entry & departure (<= 1 month)
  • name, address & phone no of person or hotel in Russia where staying
  • list of all countries visited in the last 10yr with dates
  • last 2 places worked: name, address, your position, phone number, your bossÕ surname, dates of joining & resignation

During completion of the form, which must be done online:

  • do not use any punctuation, incl commas; leave spaces between words instead
  • phone numbers must have no international dialling codes and no spaces or brackets
  • duration of visa: 1M
  • type of entry: single entry
  • educational establishments: or enter DID NOT STUDY in one or both
  • Russian institution to be visited: the yacht club where berth booked
  • Route of Journey: the towns to be visited
  • Plan to stay with: the yacht club where berth booked
  • Medical insurance: tick Yes, then enter eg Policy Document
  • Current occupation: Retired is fine

Once completed online, download & print the form; glue the passport photo to it; date & sign it.

  • Send the form to VFS Services UK Ltd, PO Box 64391, London EH1 1NJ, with:
  • postal order (not cheque) for £83.80 (standard service) payable to RNT Limited
  • passport
  • tourist voucher
  • tourist confirmation document
  • if unemployed, company director, working from home or self-employed: need bank statements for last 3 months showing a current balance of £100 per day for the duration of the visit
  • copy of medical insurance policy document (it is not clear whether this is needed but send it anyway).

Approaching Russia

Ice may persist in the northern and eastern parts of the Baltic as late as early May: any earlier than that, consult one of the ice report maps available on the Internet.

You must clear out from the previous country and get the Customs paperwork. Tell Customs that you are going to Russia so need all the relevant paperwork: this must include 5 copies of the crew list, stamped by Customs.

Do not expect any commercial traffic to give way at all to a small vessel, whether sailing or motoring. You have no rights of way whatsoever.

Text Mr Ivankiv when leaving the previous country & ask him to confirm where you should clear Russian Customs: it may be at the Customs berth in St Petersburg or in Fort Konstantin, Kronshtadt (59° 59.38 N 29° 42.31E). Give your ETA.

As you cross the Russian border, call “Russian Coastguard” on Ch16 or 74. Give the name of the boat, callsign, position (lat & long), course, speed, destination and number of persons on board (Mr Ivankiv will have given them the required information in advance so they should know about you). They may or may not speak English. You may then be boarded at any time for inspection of documents. From then on you must stay within a marked channel: it is absolutely forbidden for a foreign boat to stray more than 2M (preferably 1M) out of marked channels. You may see Russian ships cutting corners: don’t be tempted.

Be prepared to be called on Ch16 at intervals by the Russian Coastguard, asking for your position, course and speed.

At St Petersburgskiy buoy call “Granit” (pronounced Graneet) on Ch06: give boat name and ETA at St Petersburg customs.

At Kronshtadt the chart may show a second channel, south of the main channel, through the causeway from the shore north to Kronshtadt, but the gap through the causeway no longer exists and you must take the main channel (about 100m wide) and share it with the heavy ship traffic. I approached at night, aiming for the lights of the second channel: they turned out to be lights on lorries filling it in!

Abeam of Kronshtadt text Vladimir Ivankiv: give your ETA at St Petersburg Customs (if possible, he will meet you there: that would be extremely helpful, since none of Border Control, Customs and Immigration speak any English).

You must proceed by the designated channel to the Customs berth (which also serves Immigration and Border Control) and is a crumbling jetty with few attachment points for mooring lines and shallow depths due to rubble. Do not be tempted to go on further, to the cruise ship mooring place: the jetty is far too high to get onto and there are no ladders; also you are likely to become the meat in a sandwich.

Details of the approach, assuming clearing Customs in St Petersburg:

At buoy 15 (60° 13.50 N 27° 27.50 E) go S of Sommers Is; follow the S edge of the eastbound shipping lane to the St Petersburgskiy fairway buoy (60° 01.60 N 29° 26.00 E).

NB: to the N of buoy 14 and the S of buoy 15 there are prohibited fishing areas.

Note also that some prohibited areas are shown as Minefield (Active), with the remark that anchoring is not recommended: apparently, they are not kidding! Stick to the channel.

From Kronshtadt take the deep sea channel (Morskoy Kanal) to buoy 33 (59° 55.17N 30° 00.60 E) then 060° to the second fairway buoy (59° 56.60N 30° 06.40E), then well-buoyed channel steer 115° to the big imposing building decorated with metal plates, with a vessel sitting on the golden globe on top of the spire. Berth alongside the low quay, running NE-SW, about 50m long (59° 55.43N 30° 14.30E): double fenders are advised due to heavy wash; the NE end shallows considerably; long ropes are needed as there are few attachment points.

The Baltic is not tidal, but depths can change by up to a metre due to wind effects.

Arrival at St Petersburg

You absolutely must stay at the Customs berth until cleared: do not attempt to pass Go, or you are likely to lose considerably more than £200!

If you have not arranged for Vladimir Ivankiv to meet you at the Customs berth, you must have a Russian speaker on board: none of the officials will speak any English and the many forms are of course, only in Russian.

If a cruise ship is in when you arrive, put the kettle on: you will wait for several hours while the passengers are cleared.

Border Control will look round the boat, counting bodies, then leave.

The skipper then goes to Customs & Immigration (and Mr Ivankiv) with the passports for all the crew, first to Customs (where Mr Ivankiv’s assistance in completing the vast paperwork is essential), then, after about an hour of form-filling, to Immigration, where you do it all again.

The forms include the Passenger Customs Declaration: you must ensure you get blank copies (one per person), which are submitted when you clear out of Russia. On these blank forms, declare the “transport unit” “Direction of transportation” as being “reexportation”.

Having been cleared in, Mr Ivankiv drives round to the marina and you motor round, deviating not a jot from the channel: he then persuades the marina staff that you actually do have a booking and arranges your berth. Now is the time to discuss with him any tickets for opera, ballet, shows etc. you want, or arrange for him to drive you around the city for a day’s tour: make sure you understand what arrangements he would like for payment. He has a wealth of information on Russia and St Petersburg and speaks excellent English.

Central River YC is 59° 57.90N 30° 14.40E

Krestovski YC is 59° 57.90N 30° 14.90E

Now is also the time to discuss with him the arrangements needed if someone is joining or leaving by plane: it is possible, but be prepared to spend half a day filling in paperwork.

If intending to stay in Russia for more than 3 days plus an adjacent weekend, your visa must be registered: the method of doing this and where it can be done are subject to change and Mr Ivankiv will advise. This is not necessary if you are staying in a hotel (the hotel will do this for you) or if you have entered through Customs and Immigration at the Sea Terminal and are berthed at a designated yacht club, so does not normally apply to visitors by yacht; but it will apply to anyone who arrives by plane and stays on board during their visit.

Also get Mr Ivankiv to confirm the arrangements for paying the marina: how much and in what currency. There are cash machines which take credit & debit cards, but of course, only give out roubles. It’s probably not wise to bring dollars in, just in case it is considered illegal, even though payment in dollars may be suggested.

While in Russia

Do not drink the water: advice from the locals is that the water has a high content of heavy metals and unless you have been drinking it since birth can be dangerous. Advice is to boil water before drinking, but that does not remove the heavy metal content, only the (sometimes high concentration of) bacteria, so best is to only drink bottled water, from commercially labelled bottles (never from unlabelled bottles, eg in restaurants).

Do not carry passports on you in case of theft: but you must carry a photocopy.

Black waste must not be discharged within Russian waters, although this does not seem to be enforced. But don’t try it in a marina!

Neither Calor Gas nor Camping Gaz seems to be obtainable. It is possible to get diesel, at much better prices than in Helsinki, but this must be organised through the locals and payment may be requested in roubles, dollars or euros: ask first.

St Petersburg is fascinating and I found it completely safe, including a memorable evening in a bar which turned out to be the local Hells Angels bikers’ chapter hang-out: they drove their bikes into the bar, up the ramp which I had naively assumed was for wheelchairs! They turned out to be very interested in discussing England & Europe: several of them spoke fair English and we had a whale of a time.

The architecture is well worth the visit: a guidebook is essential. There is a good metro service (but while sitting on the tube, don’t look people in the eye: they get very uncomfortable – memories of oppression live on) and the city is easily accessible from the marina.

Restaurants are generally good and you may find English spoken. I found one with a balalaika player who was superb: he played folk music and classical, including Scott Joplin and Bach cello suites. I mentioned seeing Rimsky-Korsakov’s statue, whereupon he played the Flight of the Bumble Bee! Up to speed!!! He turned out to be a soloist with the Russian National Balalaika Orchestra.

Central St Petersburg is now a tourist trap, but worth a visit: there seem to be no restrictions on wandering around off the beaten track and locals are generally very interested to hear English spoken.

Leaving Russia

It is wise to notify Customs in advance of the date and time of your intention to clear out of Russia: to allow time for all the paperwork before they close, aim to arrive at Customs on or before 1300.

When leaving St Petersburg, after clearing out of Customs and Immigration at the Sea Terminal, yachts should again contact GRANIT on Ch06 when passing Kronshtadt and report the vessel’s name, last port (St Petersburg) and next port.

Alan Wilson

SY Kiitaja

Related to following destinations: , , ,

You must Login or Register to submit comments.

  1. May 2, 2019 at 10:39 PM
    Lynda Lim says:

    Apr 27, 2019 11:53 AM

    Alan, thanks very much for the detailed advice; more daunting than anticipated. Do you happen to know of any good pilot books and or articles on sailing the east coast of the Baltic? Thanks, John