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Hyde Sails 2023 Wuzzos - LEADERBOARD

Rethinking Baltic Cruising

by Andrew Curtain 23 Dec 2022 14:22 UTC
Russian territory of Kalinigrad sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania is to be avoided © Google

OCC Roving Rear Commodore Andrew Curtain, s/v PILGRIM SOUL, reflects on avoiding Russian waters and savouring the Scandinavian Baltic.

Many years ago, when I started cruising, it was not lost on me that there was a couple of us 18-year-olds aboard with the remaining complement made up of what seemed to be ancient veterans. With no autopilots then, crews were larger. I have since learned that these old timers were younger than I am now. This brings me to this year's dilemma. I have no 18-year-old students and no matter how willing, my usual sailing companions are advancing in years on a parallel course to mine. When one needed major surgery for a gall bladder abscess and the other ear surgery that precluded flying, plans had to be revised. Sailing this year was confined to Sweden's West Coast and Northern Denmark. Don't misunderstand. The West Coast of Sweden ranks amongst the world's best cruising grounds offering testing pilotage, superb scenery, healthy food, usually in summer settled weather, little tide, and also relatively inexpensive marinas and excellent boatyards. Indeed, the whole Baltic region could be described as such.

We had planned to visit the Baltic south coast. Germany, Poland, and the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad. If members are planning a Baltic cruise next summer, it should not include Russian waters. The UK government and US State Department have both advised against travel for security reasons. I would add that practicalities such as restricted travel in and out of that country, probably no yacht insurance and credit cards not working have to be a further deterrent. Most cruise lines have canceled visits to Russia and the authorities have closed the Saima Canal which allows access through Russia to the Finnish lakes. While it is certain that none of us will be visiting Russia in the near future, I say all this with a reason. Kaliningrad has its territorial boundary like anywhere else but its maritime frontier extends further out and might be in the path of a yacht traveling from Poland to the Baltic states. Russian patrol vessels are frequently seen within the maritime boundary area well outside the 12-mile territorial limits. In better days, we encountered one which came close, ignored VHF, but shouted at us in Russian by loud hailer. We shifted course northwards and they went away. Don't expect a polite welcome and plan your course well outside the area and whatever you do, don't take photographs. The territorial limits and maritime boundaries are shown in the link.

We are rethinking next year's cruise and welcome meeting members, existing and prospective. Russia apart, the whole area is a wonderful cruising ground. For those planning, I would recommend the German NV charts for the area and charts for all the countries can be bought in folio form online. I am happy to help and advise. Please don't just rely on plotters for the more difficult pilotage. I use paper charts with the route marked by a highlight pen. Many cruising yachts choose to navigate the Gota Canal one way sailing around the south of Sweden the other. Opinions differ and are respected but my preference is to transit the Gotal canal system from West to East. The industrial locks at western Trollhatten do most of the raising and descent is much gentler in the ancient locks further east. The prevailing wind is southwest so transit of the lakes is easier. I am biased. On one miserable occasion, going westward on the large Lake Vänern, we achieved 1-knot headway against very short steep seas in just a force 5 SW wind.

I make my annual suggestion to join the local lifeboat rescue organisation. I belong to the Swedish rescue service the Sjöräddningssällskapet or SSRS which seems to have reciprocity with its neighbours. They offer a very welcome free rescue service to members.

Also, the Swedish Cruising Association, SKK is worth joining. Membership is very reasonable and they offer a wide range of services including use of their own mooring buoys in attractive areas.

If any member is planning a visit to the area, I would be more than happy to talk about charts, pilot books, marinas, and boatyards. I hope that many choose to go and I look forward to meeting you.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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