She is a non-descript little thing – sad and neglected. Built in Poland – 30 feet long, thick monohull fiberglass, aluminum mast, stainless rigging – early 70’s technology – the interior a near wreck. None of the instruments work, the ports removed and the openings covered with masking tape. I cant pronounce her name – printed in Cyrillic script across her sides – but one of the words means “Innocent”. Her story is incredible.
Three adventurers – a professional sailor, a curious youth, and a priest (Russian Orthodox) – set out to sail her from Kamchatka (Siberia) to the United States across the Bering Sea down the wild coast of Alaska and British Columbia. They intended to explore the coast to Panama, transit the ditch and continue around the world in a missionary way, relying on the largess of Russian Orthodox enclaves. The boat was outfitted, banners were printed and flown, and early one day, amid suitable fanfare and blessing, she sailed away into the murk off Petropavlovsk bound for the Aleutians. They made it as far as Tacoma, Washington where the priest begged off lest he die in the attempt, captain and crew drifting back to the mother land. She lay abandoned in a marina in Tacoma.
Enter the Elders. Three stalwart Russian men from the local parish agreed to take her on as the Orthodox network hummed with news of a free sailboat. Sasha, Roman and Viktor recognized a great opportunity to use the boat for a youth sailing program associated with the church camp on Hood Canal in Western Washington. They could pick up the boat, accomplish the necessary repairs and upgrades, sail her to Pleasant Harbor and teach the kids. No problem – except they don’t know how to sail.
An acquaintance, in their eyes I now became sailing instructor and rigger. They expected more than invited me to join them at the marina curious to see their treasure. We pulled the sails from the bags and found two new, never been used jibs. The new sail inventory stopped there however, and the main was loose, baggy and blown out by Alaskan gales – sail number RUS 019. At the dock, we hoisted the sails, made sure all lines were snarl-free, checked the keel bolts and standing rigging, and started the engine. Russians know a thing or two about diesels and the little engine fired and ran smooth. It was so quiet, I had to ask twice if it was even running.
We set sail on the lake and tacked our way into a light southwest breeze. The little boat sailed well with no bad habits or evident structural weakness. Each of the elders took a turn at the helm as we discussed sailing, pollution, politics, American corporate culture, plans for the boat and drank several liters of strong hoppy beer. We jibed adagio, stress free, downwind – spinnaker handling put off to another day.
With their thick accents, Sasha, Roman and Viktor cannot avoid questions about their nationality. They take absolute hilarious delight in telling people they are crew from a Russian submarine just come ashore to purchase supplies. But across from their destination marina on Hood Canal is Naval Station Kitsap-Bangor, site of a US Navy Trident nuclear submarine base and the associated black machine gun toting security RIB’s. A 30 foot sloop with Russian sail numbers bobbing around full of Russian jokers near a top secret USN submarine base, what could possibly go wrong?
There is racing aplenty in France as the Tour de France Voile 2016 got started in earnest. The first event of coastal and in-shore races has been run with Team Lorina Limonade jumping to a quick lead. Sailed in lithe, athletic little one-design Diam 24’s, the Tour is a humbling leveler with the great Bernard Stamm and Erwin Le Roux placing in the middle of the pack.
And finally, the Quebec-St Malo transatlantic race started today with Oman Sail crossing tacks with the giant Spindrift 2 and four of the Multi50’s stepping off across the Altantic. Tracking isnt up yet, but will be available here. You can also find more about this iconic and quintessential French race at https://transatquebecstmalo.com/en/news/