In April 2018, a few months before the start of the World Cup in Russia, English journalist John Boyle decided to take his motor yacht Princess V39 for a big trip on the Baltic Sea. The trip was planned to culminate in a visit to St. Petersburg.
On his way from Falmouth, Boyle was shooting a video diary. After editing in February 2019, the material collected became a small multi-episode film, published on the Motor Boat & Yachting Youtube Channel. We tell you about the main discoveries of the British journalist.
Working horse Princess V39 Cecienne.
Before we start the story of the Baltic «round» the world, we can't help but say a few words about the model of the boat on which Boyle was travelling.
The youngest model in the range of sports yachts (Class V) of the English shipyard Princess Yachts - the original Princess V39 - was born in 1994. Since then, the model has been restyled several times. It acquired its current look in 2012.
The updated 12.98-metre V39 was premiered on the London Bowl Show. The popularity of the boat was unprecedented. By May 2014, 130 hulls had already been sold, a record number for yachts of this class. The 100th anniversary hull was completed in early March of the same year.
«One of the indisputable advantages of the Princess V39 is its lightweight body, made with new vacuum forming technology and the use of high quality resins. This technology is used to create the flagship models of the Princess shipyard and provides increased strength of the hull structure with a light weight, which not only reduces fuel consumption, but also increases the service life of the hull of the yacht, - explain»representatives of Nordmarine company, a Princess dealer in Russia.
Maximum width of the boat is 3.81 meters. On the lower deck there are two living quarters for four, a small cabin, a galley and a shower.
The boat has a sediment of 0.56 meters, which makes it possible to walk on rivers and not to be afraid of shallow waters.
A pair of Volvo D6-330 DP engines with 330 horsepower accelerates the V39 to 39 knots. The cruising speed of the boat is 29 knots.
For a journey through the cold Baltic, Boyle supplied the Cecienne with a self-contained Eberspacher heater, the benefits of which he was able to fully appreciate during the early rises: the presence of a timer allowed the boat to warm up when the alarm went off.
The Unknown Baltica
The route to St. Petersburg came out this way: Falmut (England) - Kiel Canal - Neustadt in Holstein (Germany) - Wismar - Warnemünde - Fortress Island Christiansø (Denmark), one of the most important places in the world...the first sea fortresses in the Baltic Kalmar (Sweden) - Sandvik - Visby - Roomassaare (Estonia) - Tallinn - Vergi - St. Petersburg (Russia).
«After three days of trouble-free sailing on the calm water along the Dutch coast, it was the Kiel Canal that seemed to us the beginning of a real adventure," Boyle recalled. - It's the gateway to the Baltic, a 60-mile crossing surrounded by German villages».
Until now the Baltic was a white spot for me on the world map, I knew nothing about it.
Meanwhile, as many as nine countries have access to the Baltic Sea. Try to list them all without looking at the map! According to Stefan Wilms, a Princess dealer in Neustadt, the «Baltic Sea is not so much a sea as a tiny shallow ocean, where the wind can lift steep, hard, short waves that do not look like waves in any other ocean on Earth.
Boyle was not quite right when he thought the adventure began at Kiel Canal. All the main adventures were still ahead of us.
This mysterious Estonia
The main concern of travelers was fuel. Random harbours with diesel refueling were scattered along their route, but will they work at this time when the Baltic season is just opening? The transition from Visby in Sweden to Roomassaare Marina (Saaremaa, Estonia) should have used up almost all the fuel.
«The approach to Roomassaare was confusing. The maps showed a well-defined channel, but we couldn't find a single buoy, not even on the radar. Since we had come all the way down here in the fog, we started torturing our equipment in search of an answer to the question, "Are you sure that's where we went? It was only when the radar caught the clear shape of the breakwater that we were sure we were on the right track. Once in the marina, we stood optimistically at the fuel column just to find that there was no sign of life around us, not even a contact number to contact the port master.
But luck was on our side again. I noticed a man working on the mast, told him about our problem, and he called a petrol station, which turns out to also supply the marina with fuel. And although the gas station at the marina was not supposed to open until a couple of weeks later, someone brought us a diesel by car.
While we were waiting, I asked people at the marina about the canal buoys, to which I was reasonably told that the buoys for the winter are cleaned because of ice. When we went out to sea again, we saw a boat with the buoys in place.
Our newly acquired friends asked us about our plans.
When I explained that the end point of our journey was St. Petersburg, they asked: Do you have a gun?
And when I said no, they just shook their head. They said you would need guns, because otherwise you would not get out of there - your boat would just be stolen.
Coupled with the recent deterioration in Russian-British relations and the fears that St Petersburg was run by the Russian Mafia, it didn't sound very reassuring».
From Roomassaare, the British left for Tallinn, moored in the Old Town Marina. Excursion through medieval centre of Tallinn exceeded travelers' expectations. However, it was decided to go to St. Petersburg not from the Estonian capital, but from a small place called Verga.
Problems began on the way to the marina of Verga: the Cecienne propellers had an unplanned acquaintance with the sandbank. But the main surprise was waiting for travelers on the shore.
Don't believe the loci.
According to the loci, located near Tallinn Verga, it is an excellent «marina for yachts travelling from Estonia to St. Petersburg and back, where you can fill up your fuel and eat in a small restaurant. The berth has everything you need to connect the boat to the water supply and the onshore power grid.
Sounded like a great plan, but there wasn't really a soul in the marina.
Travellers noticed the absence of any boats in the sea even during the previous long transition from Sweden to Estonia, but apparently did not attach importance to it. As it turned out, it was for nothing.
Hopes for fuel had vanished into thin air with the morning mist. The problem was that the boat did not have enough fuel to cross to St. Petersburg. In addition, according to the forecast, the weather should have gone bad soon. The weather in the Baltics is changing rapidly, and by the time the British boat crew was standing in Estonia, they had many chances to see it. There was no doubt that the forecast was correct. So the final transition to Russia had to be postponed.
Due to the storm and lack of fuel, the boat had to stand in an empty marina for four days. And, if the weather by the sea could only passively wait, the problem with the engine power people could only solve themselves. Fortunately, they managed to do it - again there was a good «Samaritan,»who drove fuel in cans. True, not free at all.
«I have never been so happy to pay an exorbitant price for diesel fuel. cash», of course.
«By dawn, the fog had cleared, the sun was out, and the sea had calmed down. We checked the progress of the Cecienne after meeting the sandbank and found no sign of any damage to the propeller. We spent four nights at this remote Estonian outpost, where the only human beings we saw were border guards and our refueler. At last we can leave! Peter, wait!
Getting a Russian visa is not an easy process. It is described in detail in the Imray Baltic guide. The main problem with obtaining a Russian visa is that you need to report in person to the embassy in London or Manchester so that they can take your fingerprints. It is quite difficult if you live in Cornwall».
Guests from far away
Vladimir Ivankiv, Chairman of the International Committee of the St. Petersburg Sailing Union, was the sponsor of the arrival of the British-flagged boat to St. Petersburg. Ivankiv was the author of the Russian section of the Baltic guide, produced by Imray. He sent travelers detailed instructions, which they had to follow as soon as they set foot on Russian soil. Cecienne came to Russia through a checkpoint near Fort Konstantin «in Kronstadt».
The English Princess was the first foreign vessel to arrive in the Russian northern capital in 2018.
Travellers stand in the marina of St Petersburg's Central River Yacht Club in front of the new «Gazprom Arena, which»opened in late April 2017.
In St. Petersburg a yacht was also waiting for a boat filling station closed for the winter, but this time the problem was solved differently. With the help of Vladimir Ivankiv the crew received special permission to use the boat in the city centre to use the filling station for local passenger transport.
This gave the group a unique opportunity to walk under bridges and see the city from the water.
On the shore of the British guests were waiting for a traditional visit to St. Petersburg Palace Square, the Hermitage and the Peter and Paul Fortress.
In addition, the team decided to look into the artillery museum to see live «cars and guns, which had previously only been seen in the news about Russian military parades.
«For a man who's caught the Cold War era, it's really a living story you can touch with your hand»," said the impressed Boyle.
The way back. The Other Baltic
But the team decided to admire the nature of the Gulf of Finland skerries on the way home in Finnish national parks.
On the way back, the British were particularly impressed by the natural beauty and wealth of wildlife of the Archipelago Sea with its huge number of rocky islands. The narrow passageways between the islands are well marked but difficult to navigate. «This is without a doubt the most delightful cruising destination I have ever explored. It's a place to get tired of," Boyle»admired. The first stop at the Archipelago Sea was Kumlinge Island.
«I fell in love with the Archipelago Sea Islands. They're beautiful. We decided to donate some planned stops in Sweden and spend more time exploring the Archipelago Sea. On our last day in the Archipelago we simply anchored in a completely deserted place. Enjoying steaks and a mirror-like water surface. No matter what part of the Baltic Sea you are in, there are good transport hubs everywhere. The Baltics is a great yachting destination and I will definitely come back here,"»was Boyle's verdict.