Day 115 – If this had not been so remote, it would have been a paddling destination – 24 June

Day 115. 24th of June. Belomorsk to the eastern most Kuzova Archipelago, just across from the Solovki archipelago. 53.2 km, 7.6 km/hr average speed.

The sun has turned and we have only 98 days left.

And today was a good one. We had a late start (1140) as the wind was forecast to fall during the day.

It was no problem and we paddled 53 km in four legs with good speed.

We were curious about the paddling conditions and “landscape” of the White Sea. We were pleasantly surprised, it’s a “skjærgård” type of seascape with many small and larger rocky islands. Not entirely unlike Bohuslän.

On a day like today finding good landing places are no problem. With more wind it pays off to study Google Earth. Some, but far from all, islands have small sandy coves typically on their south western side. If this had not been so remote, it would have been a paddling destination.

We had planned for a shorter day, but we opted for one last leg to be in position for a three hour crossing once the weather permits. The forecast is not 100% and also varying quite a lot from update to update (they come twice a day)

Tonight’s update says a wet and windy morning, an even more windy day, and then favorable conditions in the late afternoon. But today weather and wind were significantly better than forecast. We look forward to Solovki and hope for the same better than forecast weather tomorrow.

 

Day 114 – We are as good to go as we will be for our last paddling stage in Russia – 23 June

Day 114. 23 June. Midsummer in Belomorsk. No paddling. Waiting out gale force winds.

Doing some shopping. Wisiting a hardware store, noting that the selection was good and that it was more oriented towards repairing things compared to Norway. Labour is cheaper here.

After yesterday’s vegetarian dinner (boiled potatoes, tomato and cucumber), we indulged in one last dinner at the Pomorskoye restaurant at Gandvik hotel.

We also did some planning for the crossing to the Solovki archipelago.

Tomorrow we start on the about 90 km paddle to Solovetskij. We expect to use about 36 hours as weather permits. Late evening and early morning looks best windwise. It’s daylight 24 hours so we are free to choose our timing. We’ll go out and see what we can do, lots of small islands on the way if we need to pause.

Even FSB has wished us good luck and safe paddling.

We are as good to go as we will be for our last paddling stage in Russia.

And there is only 99 days left!

Day 113 – They were concerned about our unhealthy lifestyle – 22 June

Day 113. 22nd of June. No paddling. Waiting for weather at Gostevoy Dom Starchina.

According to the weather forecast we won’t get across to Silovetskij until Monday, and we have ample time, so today and tomorrow we’ll wait out a gale force weather system here in Belomorsk.

We started the day in Russian fashion with pancakes which we made in the communal kitchen of the camp.

We used our own frying pan, since there was none in the kitchen.

It turned out that the lack of frying pans was by design. No frying, only cooking allowed.

By the time we understood this, the pancakes were done…

But boiled eggs tomorrow.

As we were lingering in the dining room after breakfast, drinking coffee and watching the rain, we caught the interest of two other guests; Vitaly and Marks, both from Petrozavodsk.

We explained our project and they invited us to share a meal. It was cucumber and tomato salad, potatoes cooked for 12 minutes in a plastic bag in the micro oven, and a small bottle of “Golden Chicken” vodka.

They explained that they had seen us drink a beer and eat some potato chips last night, and they were concerned about our unhealthy lifestyle. Tomatoes, cucumber and potatoes cooked with the peel on, is much more healthy.

And the vodka? Russian tradition.

Day 112 – They want us to report our position every day – 21 June

Day 112. 21st of June. At sea level and in salt water again (OK. Brackish) From just before lock 19 to Gostevoy Dom Starchina, Belomorsk. 5.0 km, 5.8 km/hr average speed.

We got up at 0900, after having talked into the night yesterday. We had coffee with Chris and Oleg, then we packed the boats alongside Silvertärnan. Not so easy in 5 m/s winds. But not a big problem either, we should just paddle 5 km so it was OK to pack the “left overs” on deck and stuff some into the cockpit.

As we were preparing our border guard friends from yesterday came again. This time it was about us. They want us to report our position every day. So that is what we will do, coverage permitting, hopefully.

Then at about 1100, we started for lock 19, and went through without any issues.

Next we sailed with Silvertärnan to an abandoned and derelict fishing harbor, but with a quay alongside which Silvertärnan could moor.

Chris again took command of the kitchen. Whether it was a late breakfast or an early lunch, it was the last time we had the luxury of eating at Silvertärnan.

We took our time, but not too long, Silvertärnan was bound for Solovetskij and planned to get there this evening.

So we bid good bye to our friends Chris and Oleg and paddled off toward a shorside cabin resort called “Starchina”, very conveniently located for kayakers.

We used the good weather to do some boat maintenance, and then set out to do some shopping in town.

But just as we came to town at about 1700 the shops started to close and the one Cafe we found as well.

The problem was a power outage, so nothing could be cooked and nothing paid as the teller machines did not work either.

We tried a short walk to the railway station, hoping that would be some kind of a (electrified) center.

Not so. Just the a small station building and a very long Murmansk bound train calling.

It was a bit surprising, we have been paddling along the railway line for some days, and generally what appeared to be the best maintained and central parts of villages along the line is in the vicinity of the railway Station.

We kept walking and crossed the river Vyg. There things ran normally, either the electricity had come back or the other bank of Vyg has more stable supply.

We had dinner at the same place as yesterday, with a number of the same guests, strengthening our impression that the dining options in Belomorsk are limited.

But one good restaurant in a town of 13,000 isn’t that bad.

We will stay two nights.

Weather forecast says we cannot paddle to Solovetskij before Sunday, so better wait here than on some tiny island in the White Sea without cell phone coverage to keep FSB at ease.

Also it is OK to have some small breathing space between the chapters of our “adventure”. And since we have progressed quicker through the interior waterway than our (conservative) plan, we have time to spare.

Day 111 – We will miss the comfort, seamanship, cooking and most of all the company of Chris and Oleg on Silvertärna – 20 June

Update day 111. 20th of June. From lock 14 to just before the last lock (19).

No paddling, just lock after lock after bridge in persistent, insistent rain, but spent in good company.

After lock 18 we thought we were clear to go through lock 19 and into the salt water of the White Sea.

But not so fast, the lock was closed the lights were red. Between lock 18 and 19 is the border control/hand over from the interior water ways to the offshore authorities.

So we had to do a 180 degree turn, moor the boats and kayaks and find the relevant office.

After two visits and numerous copies, we thought it was OK and Oleg got us a taxi to town, to do shopping and eat dinner at the Pomorskoje restaurant.

Oleg helped us order and then insisted on going back with the groceries and fix some diesel for Silvertärna along the way.

When he came back he explained that necessary paperwork for hand over of the kayakers from the interior waterways to the open sea authorities had not been done, and that they (FSB) were waiting for us.

It took some time, herring, one glass of vodka and some really delicious halibut, before we understood that they were waiting for us, not at the office, but in the foyer of the restaurant.

We went out without further delay.

After polite greetings and photographing of the relevant pages in our passports, the issue was settled and they wished us good onward journey.

Soon after we called it a day in town and went back to the boat for one last night.

Tomorrow we will part ways after lock 19. Silvertärna will continue to Silovetskij, we will paddle into Belomorsk and stay another two nights resupplying and waiting on safe paddling weather.

We will miss the comfort, seamanship, cooking and most of all the company of Chris and Oleg on Silvertärna.

Long may their big jib draw!

Day 110 – We did our first – and probably last – day with 8 km average speed – 19 June

Day 110. 19th of June. From lock 11 to lock 14. 45 km, 8.0 km/hr average speed.

We are going “downhill”, and just after the locks/dams we had following current, but most of the day we paddled in two open lakes, one 30 km long and one 15 km long. We kept Silvertärnan waiting a little at both end points, but with lightly loaded boats only light headwinds and knowing someone was waiting, we did our first – and probably last – day with 8 km average speed.

It is a comfortable life. We combined passing locks 12 and 13 with lunch on Silvertärnan. Stein served “Real Turmat”. The verdict was good, but not as good as Chris cooking!

Today it will not be cooking, but grilling. Stein and Chris are at it now after we had an evening dip in the Belomor Canal.

Tomorrow the locks come with little separation, six locks in 20 km, so we will not paddle, but sail through on Silvertärnan.

It will be the end of one month in freshwater!

Captain Chris is looking for crew for his continued trip from Kirkenes down along the Norwegian coast

Over the last few days we have enjoyed the hospitality, comfort and good kitchen of Silvertärnan.

We will part company in Belomorsk on Thursday the 21st of June. Then the good ship Silvertärnan, a Hanse 385, will sail on to Silovetskij, then Arkhangelsk, and to Kirkenes in Norway.

Captain Christoph (Gassmann) is looking for crew for his continued trip from Kirkenes down along the Norwegian coast. He plans to go slow and enjoy the trip and adventure.

He plans to be in Kirkenes primo July (weather Permitting)

Anyone interested to join can learn more about Silvertärnan and contact Christoph on facebook

The FB page is Silvertaernas way

Day 109 – The locks here are double with a height difference of more than 10 meters combined – 18 June

Day 109. 18th of June. From a lighthouse in the middle of Lake Vyg to just beyond lock 11. 32 km, 7.8 km/hr average speed.

We are traveling along the Belomor Canal, in good comfort and the  good company of captain and crew (Oleg) on Silvertärnan.

After a long breakfast with eggs and the rest of pasta from yesterday, we got in the boats about 1030 and paddled off towards lock 10. A little beyond half way Silvertärnan overtook us and she had to wait a bit for us to catch up at the lock at about 1500 hrs.

The locks here are double with a height difference of more than 10 meters combined. We have double checked and the max height of the Canal is 102 meters, and 12 locks from there to the White Sea.

The locks and the surrounding areas are newly renovated, including new fences with barbed wire at the top. Buildings are newly renovated and painted as well. So the Canal is being invested in. Still there isn’t a lot of traffic. We have just seen two commercial ships for three days. And besides that only Silvertärnan.

Passage through the locks is smooth, guards are friendly, and it takes about 30 to 45 minutes per lock.

The distance between lock 10 and 11 is short so we towed the boats.

Tomorrow we plan to paddle a 35 km long lake to lock twelve, then tow five kilometer to lock 13. Day after tomorrow is an 18 km paddle to lock 14, and from there we plan to tow through the last six locks.

The hospitality of Captain Christoph makes this a smooth passage, and staying at anchor in the middle of the lakes almost eliminates the mosquitoes. Again we are in luck!

PS!
As dinner was getting ready the ship VOLGO-BALT 210 just passed, taking the count of commercial ships to three.

By the way, dinner tonight is tuna rolls for starters and saffron risotto for mains, and still some apple pie left for dessert! We could get used to this 🙂

Day 108 – Again the captain transformed into a chef and we had a tasty and solid pasta stew – 17 June

Day 108. 17th of June. 52.5 km, 7.7 km/hr average speed.

From lock 9 to a lighthouse in the middle of the lake, 30 km from lock 10.

It is hard to believe it is no more than a month since we were celebrating 17th of May at the Norwegian Consulate in St Petersburg, so much has happened, and so many impressions to digest since then.

With the boats only half loaded and no wind we made good speed. 8.4 km/hr average for the first two and a half hours. The next leg went a little slower but we just managed to beat Silvertärna to our agreed anchor place for the night.

Unfortunately we missed a rendezvous with the four Finnish paddlers. They had chosen a different path around a big island. It would have meant 10 km extra for us, and 63 km is a bit too much. A pity all the same.

Again the captain transformed into a chef and we had a tasty and solid pasta stew. Stein and Erling dug in.

Today we will call it a day a bit earlier and tomorrow we will hopefully pass through locks 10 and 11. ETA Belomorsk is Wednesday evening or Thursday lunchtime. Weather and Channel authorities Permitting.

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