Cruising the Gulags

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In celebration of the founding of the Russian fleet by Peter the Great, The Dutch Coastal Cruising Association undertook a 4,800 European odyssey in 1994 that culminated in sailing the Russian inland waters between Archangel and the Baltic Sea. Fifteen sailboats hosted by the Archangel Yacht Club, became the first Western-flagged pleasure boats allowed on this militarily strategic waterway. The author crewed aboard Tiota and proudly flew the Stars and Stripes from her port spreader, heralding an American aboard. Whereas emerging New Russians viewed our fleet as a vanguard for future boat tourism, it seemed Old Russians made our voyage bureaucratically discouraging. Nowhere was this more evident than in the final passage along the River Neva through St. Petersburg. The rules stated that bridges could only open at night and sailboats could only sail during the day. A Russian Catch-22, with the winter ice steadily approaching.