Sail Russia - yes it's now becoming possible

Volga River castle -photo by James Blair, National Geographic
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A favourite activity of many cruising sailors in the Mediterranean is to lay the mast along the deck and embark on an adventure through the waterways of Europe.

Now this may be possible in Russia, following amendments to the Russian Inland Water Transport Code signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and posted on the Kremlin website on Thursday.


The amendments were previously approved by both houses of Russia's parliament.

The amendments allow navigation of foreign-flagged vessels in the Russian inland waterways for sporting, cultural and recreational purposes, if they carry no more than 18 people on board, including no more than 12 passengers. Navigation will be carried out in accordance with the regulations set by the Russian government.

The crews of foreign-flagged ships must have all necessary documentation confirming the vessel's type and designation and the right to sail under the flag of the country they are registered in.

All foreign-flagged ships are subject to compulsory pilotage in Russian inland waterways, unless otherwise stipulated in Russia's international treaties. This may prove to be expensive, but it remains to be seen how quickly and easily 'international treaties' can be put in place in your home country.

Sailing boat on the Volga - but all local
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The Act instituting a ban on allowing foreign-registered vessels to enter Russia’s waterways was passed by Stalin in 1936. The Act was amended slightly to allow foreign vessels to transit the 30 mile canal from Vyborg to the Saimaa Lake in Finland or to be able to reach some inland ports, such as Kaliningrad.

Kizhi Island in Lake Onega
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Any requests, however, to take a yacht through the extensive inland waterway system were almost invariably turned down.

Almost. A few exceptions have been made over the years and some foreign yachts have somehow managed to sail through the Baltic Sea to St Petersburg and then down canals and the Volga River via Moscow to the Black Sea.

Volga River scene
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This new move would make Russia’s waterways a lure for the cruising sailor and the increase in tourism would boost local economies.

However, deputy Transport Minister Viktor Olersky says it will take a few years to see the impact.

Volga River and its lakes and canals, now transited by tourist ships, but rarely a yacht
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