2012 Sailing to Russia

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To enter Russia we first had to clear Finnish customs in Haapaasri, a small Finnish island group about 10 miles from the line of buoys marking Russian waters.  It is a former fishing village and was once a thriving community, but is now only holiday homes and the (very friendly) customs station.
We met two Dutch boats there, Blue Passion and Oberon, and spent the next ten days together.  Robe for Blue Passion is seen here with Neil at the East end of Haapaasari.
It is 90 miles through Russian waters, past several military islands.  Stopping is prohibited, and it is required to follow the defined sea-lane.
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Our main problem sailing into Russia was a bureaucratic need to be at the St Petersburg customs dock at 1100.  We left Haapsaari in plenty time, but had good winds and could have arrived by 0600 so had problems slowing down.
Here we are reefed down to sail slowly as we enter the giant flood protection  gate at  Kronstadt, about 15 miles West of customs.  We had to share the narrow channel with a few cruise ships and others.
The area was one of Russia's main defences against the warlike Swedes of a few hundred years ago, and it littered with abandoned forts built in the shallow water.
Inside was very busy, with ships, military boats and several high speed ferries like this one passing closely.  Most of the area is shallow, so ships have to stay in narrow channels.  Visibility was poor, and only a few of the dozen high speed ferries had AIS transponders, so we found it disconcerting when one passed each side, close to us at 33 knots.

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A few patrol boats looked us over, and this submarine came quite close.
Our attempts at checking i by radio in accordance with the rules were mostly ignored, perhaps because our agent, Vladimir Ivankiv, had advised them of our detailed plans and schedule.

Vladimir met us at customs, which was VERY helpful.  He makes his living assisting visiting yachts, and we recommend him highly (vladimir@sailrussia.spb.ru  )
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Practicalities of sailing to Russia
Following notes are based on our 2012 experience, and are worth what you paid for them.
It is not as difficult to sail to St Petersburg as many sailors seem to think.  Going deeper into Russia is more complicated,  and requires a LOT of paperwork.  There are plans afoot to simplify this at the time of writing.
To sail to St Petersburg, first, you need an invitation to visit from an authorised Russian.   These can be found on the web for a fee, but few of the agencies know how to handle itinerant sailors living on their boat.  The best approach is to have Vladimir  invite you  His fee was about 25 Euros each.
It is best, but not essential, to apply for a visa from you home country.  We had to have one of the crew personally present all the forms, passports etc at the Russian consulate in Montreal.  The forms are available on the web.
It is easy to obtain a visa for a month, so we applied for 30 days, although we wished to stay only about 10 days.  This covers most variations of schedules under sail.
The consulate kept our passports etc for a week or so, then our crew member picked them up, with visas glued in place.
It is necessary to cross into Russian waters between buoys 15 and 16 just East of Haapaasari (or other Finnish customs post) , and to check in with the Russian Coastguard by VHF.  They may or may not reply.
You must follow the shipping lane on the chart, and check in again with "Graneet" when passing Fort Konsantin, on Krohnstadt island.. 
You must arrive at the St Petersburg customs dock and check in.  Recommended to arrive between 1100 and 2000.  Best is to hire Vladimir to meet you and follow his advice.
The dock is not very easy to find if you follow some of the published descriptions.  If you plot this LatLong on your chart, it will be clear.
The mid point of the yacht dock is at 59 deg 55 m 28.0.3 sec North   030 deg 14 min 17.22 sec East