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The Russian Experience

The ARC Baltic arrival into Russia on Friday 26th July saw a busy day as the fleet cleared in at Krondshtadt. It was a long day of paperwork checks, boat inspections, and visits from the sniffer dogs, but crews took the formalities in their stride, “The customs officials were so nice we couldn’t believe it!” said Philip of Kleopatra. On board family boat Selkie, “The sniffer dog was more interested in Rory’s cheerios than anything else!” Once all cleared in, boats filled up with fuel after their light wind trip from Tallinn; Carol from Frannie B remarked that, thankfully, “The guy on the fuel dock speaks perfect English and at 49 rubles a litre the fuel is about half the price we’re used to!”

Featuring several large boats in the ARC Baltic fleet, Sapphire and Inflagranti were cleared in but will be staying at the Krondshtadt as their mast height is too great to clear the bridge into St Petersburg. The remainder of the fleet paraded through to the Center River Yacht Club arriving to be greeted with a Russian wedding in full swing. Shower cards and power cables where the most important for many of the crews but once the essentials were sorted, they could not wait to head off and explore the secrets of St Petersburg. There was a great buzz of excitement and the feeling of arriving in Russia on a cruising boat was obviously a special achievement and indeed one of the main reasons many joined the ARC Baltic cruise.

On Saturday, crews ventured for a tour of the world famous Winter Palace, led by Slatvana, one of the administrators. The tour began with an official welcome in the palace’s stunning theatre, where Rally Control continued the tradition of presenting a flag in recognition of the museums hospitality, feeling privileged to enjoy a private tour as just a small number of the museums’ 3.5 Million annual visitors.  Amongst the State Hermitage Museum’s collection are works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro, numerous canvasses by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin and several sculptures by Rodin. The collection is both enormous and diverse and is an essential stop for all those interested in art and history. The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you'd seen them all; with just a day to explore, crews were thankful for Slatvana’s guidance.

The weekend exploring St. Petersburg continued with, visiting the ornate Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood for the obligatory photo opp with the colourful turrets and trips to the ballet and the opera. On Sunday, crews took a bus ride to the Peterhof Palace and gardens – dubbed the “Russian Versailles”. Previously the royal summer palace of Tsars past, it is set in beautiful gardens with the most amazing fountain systems driven by pressure from lakes on higher ground behind the palace and guides Vika, Marsha and Irena provided an insightful commentary of Russian history. Their stories of the past were told along the way and included how much Russia has changed since the Soviet Union days, and the resulting impact on the different groups of society.  It was very humbling to hear of the hardships and sufferings that occurred to grandparents and parents of the guides. A reminder that it really was not that long ago, that Russian people were not allowed to talk of foreign place never mind visit them.

From the historic to the modern, also on Sunday crews gathered to see Russia’s marine forces take part in ‘Navy Day’ showing the pride of the military. A parade through the rivers around the 42 islands of St Petersburg caused traffic mayhem as the bridges all had to be open for the vessels to pass, but was quite a sight for participants to see.

Sunday evening was a night on the town once again with ballets, opera and a fantastic folk show with traditional costume dancers and singers displaying love stories - a treat for all, especially Steve from Bolero who found himself on stage! After the shows, many then ventured off into the city streets to find restaurants before retiring for the night.

With so much excitement, and a rather noisy nightclub in close proximity to the marina, several boats have opted to head to the tranquillity of Finnish waters early and will start to make their way to Helsinki.  The fleet have two options of checking into Finland; Hapsaari island, a small harbour with basically a customs dock and an anchorage or Sveaborg just outside Helsinki. If Hapsaari island is the choice it gives an opportunity to explore the many anchorages and hidden gems along the coast line en route to Helsinki.

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