We had one day of non-westerly winds to clear out of St Petersburg across the shallow Nevskaya Guba, through the storm surge barrier at Kotlin Island and onwards. The wind was light and fickle for most of the day and necessitated repeated deployments of the spinnaker in various configurations.
Then after a prolonged calm the wind strengthened from the south and we made it to Bukta Dubkovaya.
Bukta Dubkovaya is a modern leisure development with a harbour and a number of holiday chalets styled “Norway Park” set in an attractive bay surrounded by pine forest. We spent two nights there, walking along the beaches, relaxing and enjoying the quiet after St Petersburg.
The staff were very friendly and we exchanged gifts before departure. We received ours in a bag celebrating Putin’s airborne troop deployments – “Nobody but Putin!”
From Bukta Dubkovaya we had an easy sail to the town of Primorsk.
The harbour has new pontoons and we learnt that some boat owners from St Petersburg are keeping their boats here as it is cheaper.
A friendly local told us we were the first foreign boat to visit. Surely not true, but a rare-enough event for someone to summon a posse of border control people to study our papers at length and ask us why we were here.
A notable landmark is the Finnish Lutheran church of 1904. Once it had a thriving congregation and a magnificent organ. Now it has apartments in an upper floor and a museum of ‘local lore’ on the ground floor, which we visited. Much of the museum is given over to the various military actions that had taken place, although there were some old Finnish newspaper reports.
There were lots of supermarkets with a good supply of basics and shelves of alcohol.
Nearby is Russia’s largest oil exporting terminal, replacing the one at Ventspils in now independent Latvia.
From Primorsk we had an excellent 29nm sail to Vyborg (pronounced Veeborg). The first part was up the beautiful wooded Primorsk channel in a light but good breeze.
Then we rounded Vikhrehov Island for the narrow twisting and turning channel between Krepysh and Vysotskiy islands and onwards to Vyborg.
Here we had thunder showers and hail. It was still only 6°C and this in June! (We hear it is 27°C in Southern England and Ynskje is feeling very envious.)
In Vyborg we berthed close to the ancient castle at the berths on the left in this aerial photo. The castle and the clock tower are the most striking features but both were shrouded for restoration during our visit. Vyborg is the second Russian city on the Baltic coast. It first became Russian when Peter the Great drove out the Swedes in the Great Northern War in 1710. A century later it became Finnish until it was held briefly by the Russians 1939-1943. Finally, Finland ceded it to Russia in 1947.
The Finnish heritage is everywhere, with many fine Art Nouveau buildings. In its day it must have been a jewel of a city. After the Soviets took over, they eliminated any remaining Fins and badly neglected the buildings. Now restoration is underway – a slow work in progress. In the central area there are whole rows of buildings still derelict, probably as they were at the end of the Russian-Finnish war, while others are gradually being restored.
We loved the surprisingly modern-looking library, designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 1935. It features 57 cone-shaped openings in the roof, giving the reading areas a good diffused light.
From Vyborg we will enter the Saimaa canal and cross into Finland. More news from there.