From Russia with Love…

3900 plus sea miles and counting since our departure April 19, 2009 from Seattle, WA…we delighted in SE Alaska’s beautiful Inside Passage, survived the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea & the Aleutians which, by the way has the worst weather in the world – i.e. fog, wind, and rain. We finally completed the crossing of the Pacific ocean and made landfall in Petropavlovsk, Russia…what a long eccentric trip it’s been!

Some highlights leading up to our arrival in Russia:

Kiska, AK –

We encounter the worst seas the first 12 hours after we leave Adak. The seas were only 10-12 feet high but, short, choppy and confused, a washing machine effect. There was some discussion about turning around but the decision was made to forge ahead. We needed to get further west moving away from the Aleutians which have notoriously vicious wind, currents and tides. We arrive in a nice calm anchorage off Kiska late the next day. Much to our surprise, there were two small sailboats and a large (175ft) fish processing ship anchored there as well. We set off in our dinghies and went ashore to rummage through more WWII wreckage. Aside from the two-man Japanese submarine that was pretty well persevered and some narrow tunnels, we found lots of bits and pieces of rusty, mangled metal about, old war material.

A late night fishing trip undertaken by San Souci’s crew proved fruitful. They caught and fought and nearly lost the inflatable tender to a 270+lb halibut! Ken’s blog is a must-read to get the full story. David, whom we met in Adak, was on the fish processing ship as a certified pilot and went on the fishing excursion. He took the fish back to his ship, cleaned and filleted it and gave each of us about 40lbs. of fresh halibut! It was not easy to get this fish as our tenders were secured and we were soon leaving the anchorage. Each boat pulled up to the stern of the ship with a boat hook in hand, grabbed a line with a bucket attached that contained the nicely packaged fish, a packet of wasabi powder and a couple bottles of Korean alcohol equivalent to moonshine (19.8% proof)…hot dog! (Notice the fish carcass to the left in photo below)

Attu, AK

– We got smacked leaving Kiska on the front end steep out of control seas influenced by adverse current and wind. However, the next morning was met with clearing skies, calmer seas and glorious sunshine. A welcomed surprise as we can count on one hand…okay, three fingers how many sunny days we’ve had in the last month. We anchored in Casco Bay just in view of the lonely U.S. Coast Guard Station, a real outpost on the far western Aleutians. Well, Braun couldn’t stand that the fellas on ‘Sans Souci’ had caught some fish…prize size, no less…so, the tender came down, rods & reels, bait & gaff were all loaded on the ‘Mini Pearl’ and Braun & Wayne were off; the ladies lounged on the foredeck reading and basking in the sunshine and Kell was catching up on his sleep before his ceremonious “dip” in the Bering Sea…last chance! It was a memorable day…the boys bagged a 40lb cod; grilled steaks & halibut ceviche was on the menu capped off by a sunset, note the emphasis on sun!!

Things were looking up…the weather was forecasted as favorable for our 3 ½ day passage across the remaining part of the Pacific to Russia. Before we set off late the next day, we went on shore and were met by Brad the Exec Officer, one of the 20 men that work the Loran CG Station there at Attu. He took us on a tour of the area and to view the beautiful titanium Peace Monument honoring all those who died in the Aleutian Campaign. Anchors up at 1830, course plotted for due west, next stop…Russia.

Petropavlosk, Russia

– It’s a funny thing cruising so far west that it becomes east! We crossed the International Date Line and not much further we entered Russian waters. The Captain remarked that I should watch my “chatter” on the radio…big brother would be listening! The seas were eerily calm the entire passage. We seldom saw the wind rise past 15 knots, light swells and some occasional fog…it was remarkable. The Russian language piped up on VHF 16 about 100 miles from the coast…hmmm…Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

We arrive sometime after dawn but we’re asked to slow down as customs & immigrations were not ready to receive us yet even though we had made arrangements months in advance…no matter, we circled some 12 miles out. Finally, we are asked to proceed to the harbor. Petropavlovsk, named after St. Peter & St. Paul (pop. 200,000) is an industrial port surrounded by lush mountains and volcanoes located on the Kamchatka Peninsula. We happen to arrive on Sunday, July 26th, ‘Navy Day’. We were instructed to tie up near two old Navy destroyer type ships that are open to the public for the day.

Crewmates – Kell, Wayne & Pat as we enter Petropavlosk

Once again, we are rafted up three deep, to our Nordhavn buddies…not an ideal situation but there was little we could do about it. There seemed as much fanfare about the three American flagged boats as there was for the Russian Navy ships. The customs/immigration boarding party – 6 in all came on board, umpteen paperwork (40+ pages!) was passed around…for example, a “de-RAT –ization certificate” , stamps were flying…and, finally – we were cleared. The men went one way…I did say Navy ships were open and, the women went to the open market. Lack of sleep couldn’t keep us from setting out to explore…some observations – Russians are friendly, very few speak English, they are allowed to have open bottles of beer in public…”Coke-cola or, beer?”…which might explain why so friendlyJ, they seem to all fear the police, the buildings are as you expect – drab & dilapidated…a little paint would go along way here, tight jeans are a universal fashion statement, there’s little or no automation, and they think all Americans are rich…basically the people were great.

Suffice to say, we’re thrilled that we made it this far but, we have our sights on Japan! Weather Bob says it’s time to go…and, go we will. We plan to set off tomorrow, July 30th once we’ve cleared and completed the paperwork cha-cha. We have another 1100+ miles to go til Hokaido and we hope to at least stop on the way and anchor somewhere in the Kuril Islands.

All and all, entire GSSR fleet is thrilled that we’ve made it this far and, with relatively few issues!

So…for now…sayonara!

Tina & Braun

3 thoughts on “From Russia with Love…”

  1. Carol Georgelas

    Hey Tina and Braun! You can’t imagine how impressed I am with your courage to sail in those waters. Thank you so much for the detailed descriptions and photos. I forward your email on to Tim and Tony so they can read about your amazing adventures. Good luck and take care of yourselves. I can’t wait for you to get to Japan, too! Carol

  2. Sonaia Hermida

    Braun & Tina,

    It is with great happiness and relief that we receive the news that you have reached Japan safe and well, despite some injuries along the way.
    You MUST be thrilled with your achievements and now looking forward to just enjoy Japan even though you still have 800 miles or so to cover before reaching your target.
    We couldn’t be more proud of you for your courage and determination.

    Please pass on our congratulation to your crew too!
    Sonaia, Chris & Tootsy

    Ps- Braun, don’t you look happy holding that fish? GREAT SMILE! 🙂

Comments are closed.