Please select your home edition
Edition
Musto 728x90 3

A Polar Odyssey with a difference

by Strana.ru/Sail-World Cruising on 3 Aug 2013
Polar Odyssey storm .. .
Here is a sailing club that must be like no other - yet they have existed for 30 years, building and sailing boats and sailing them around the world. Sailing boats like no other, sailors like no other.

Members of the Polar Odyssey sailing club have been making wooden sailing ships in Petrozavodsk for over 30 years.
Where is Petrozavodsk, you ask? Why it is in the Republic of Karelia, in Russia, east of St Petersburg.



For centuries, the coast dwellers from Karelia and Arkhangelsk were the masters of the seas – intrepid travelers that navigated uncharted waters to discover new shores. Yet, their achievements have since been mostly forgotten, lost to all but historians and boat enthusiasts.

It is these enthusiasts who now try to keep the glory days alive: they reconstruct historic ships based on old drawings and descriptions, and then test them out on the water, following in the footsteps of their predecessors.


'It is necessary to sail.' The Polar Odyssey sailing club from Petrozavodsk has been following this ancient mariners’ motto for 32 years now. Here, they build exact replicas of historic ships - to date, more than 30 schooners, kochs, frigates and old Slavonic sailing boats.

With the firm hand of the club’s founder and president, Victor Dmitriev, at the helm, Polar Odyssey ships have sailed no fewer than two dozen seas and three oceans.

How it all began:
In 1978, Victor, who was a senior researcher at a machine building institute at the time, managed to get his hands on an old boat with a 20 horsepower engine. The newly christened Polar Odyssey then took the captain, his family and three student sailors on their first voyage, from Petrozavodsk to Leningrad.

During the trip, Victor became convinced of the fact that the seafaring traditions were dying out, and swore to dedicate his life to the reconstruction of historic ships. So he set about getting a team of expert engineers and workers together (the club now has its own design bureau).

In 1987, the club finished its first reconstruction project – the koch Pomor – a boat powered manually with oars and a sail. The Pomor has traveled the northern sea routes, visited the shores of Scandinavia and even made it to Canada and Alaska.


'We didn't have any real kind of navigational equipment on the koch,' says Victor. 'We used a compass and the stars, just like in the olden days. Nothing could vex me after an experience like that, and I felt like I could navigate perfectly well in thick fog – I’d acquired a sixth sense of sorts. It really came in handy when I was sailing in the Mediterranean. And I can confidently navigate through the islands in the White Sea, even when there is practically zero visibility.'

From small ships to a drifting log cabin:
The dock masters at the Petrozavodsk Maritime Historical and Cultural Center are currently busy building new ships – a ‘lodya’ (an old Slavonic sailing boat like a Viking ship) and some kochs.

Victor draws attention to the lodya: 'She’s going to a priest in Tolyatti. As for the kochs, they’ve been earmarked for an expedition – they’re going to sail around the world northward. They’ll set off from Petrozavodsk, sail through the Sukhon and Dvina rivers, toward the White Sea and Solovki . From there, the boats will be delivered by train to Ust-Kut, before they head down the Lena River to Tiski and along the coast to Anadyr. We’ll be following the route set out by Semyon Dezhnyov [a famous Russian navigator and explorer of Siberia].'

The newly built koch boat differs from its predecessors in that it has a motor – just in case it is needed. Eight people can just about squeeze into the cabin, with another four on deck. It took the shipbuilders just three months to put the ship together; it took slightly longer for the lodya.

'Right now, we’re working on a prototype for a drifting station,' Victor says.

'It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable ice flows for research stations in the Arctic. The Americans put research platforms on icebreakers. But we’re building a small ship with materials that are not very magnetic, such as wood and composite materials. It’ll be a mini houseboat, a floating log cabin. We’re developing the kind of technology that will eventually be used in drifting stations – lightweight materials, a simplified hull shape and a lift motor.'

Maritime museum:
Victor revealed that the club turns into a yacht marina in the summer . 'Yachting isn’t particularly popular in Russia. A lot of people don’t even know what it is: they think it’s something that is ridiculously expensive, something for the likes of Mr. Abramovich. But that’s not the case. The word ‘ yachting’ actually comes from the Dutch and means ‘a boat for recreation’ – and that could mean anything from these gigantic yachts you see oligarchs in to tiny little boats,' he says.


The Polar Odyssey Maritime Museum resembles a big cabin, with brigantine sails on the table and ropes hanging from poles. The walls are adorned with stands, each of which is dedicated to a particular voyage: the Northern Sea routes and the Mediterranean; the journeys to Svalbard, Canada and Alaska.

There are maps, photos of sailors and people from distant lands, old navigational equipment and pieces of wrecked ships – the living and growing history of the Polar Odyssey.

There is another photo, one of Boris Yeltsin. It reads: 'I had a great time on the boat, taking in nature and going fishing – just like it was the first time I’d ever been sailing. A job well done by the coast dwellers. Let’s set out a route for them – Peter the Great and the voyage to the North Pole. There’s a need for it. I’ll give you a hand! Thanks! The President of the Russian Federation.'

In July 1997, Yeltsin took a tour aboard the St. Nicholas (a replica of a 17 th -century trading boat) during a trip to Kizhi.

The boat traveled to the local skerries, and the president did not move from the deck, attaching worms to the fish hook so his security guard could catch perches. They managed to catch about a dozen small ones.



For more information: http://polar-odyssey.org

First published in Russian in Strana.ru

Zhik ZKG 660x82Barz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best EyewearWildwind 2016 660x82

Related Articles

X-Yachts advisory board announces ambitious strategy plan
X-Yachts now has three unique and different ranges. All three lines will be further developed and refined. Catering for a complete cross section of sailors prioritising Superb Sailing Pleasure, X-Yachts now has three unique and different ranges. All three lines will be further developed and refined.
Posted on 24 Mar
South African sailors rescued off WA coast
Three South African sailors have been winched to safety in the remote Indian Ocean Three South African sailors have been winched to safety in the remote Indian Ocean, after their mast broke on the way to New Zealand. The stricken yacht was 1300km off the Australian mainland's most south westerly point. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says the men had been sailing from South Africa to New Zealand
Posted on 19 Mar
Securely moored to the quay, or cast adrift?
With boating, you have to cast the lines off in order to go and get into it. With boating, you have to cast the lines off in order to go and get into it. However, when it comes to your insurer, you kind of expect that they’re going to be as bound to you as the standing rigging is to the mast, the ring frames to the hull, or the engine mounts to the runners, and the propellers to the shafts, skegs and cutlass bearings. Whom would you rather be insured with?
Posted on 15 Mar
Clipper Race crew safety brief
Founder and Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has prepared the following safety update for all Clipper 2017-18 Race crew Ocean yacht racing has its risks. But by far the best way to minimise those risks is a culture of safety and constant vigilance amongst all ocean yachtsmen, including Clipper Race Crews. Staying safe must be a paranoia.
Posted on 14 Mar
Lisa Blair crosses Cape Horn on 50th day of Antarctic circumnavigation
Day 49 was marked with Lisa's first sighting of land - the snow capped mountains of Chile - since departing Albany Sydney-based sailor and adventurer Lisa Blair 32, has today reached 50 days at sea and successfully crossed Cape Horn in her attempt to be the first woman in history to circumnavigate Antarctica solo and unassisted.
Posted on 13 Mar
Thirteenth Blog from on board Perie Banou II
Well I am anchored off Jamestown Saint Helena. Good place to be. So it is. Jon is at St Helena in the Atlantic - British ilse after some of the French ones he has been to. He's off seeing the island and catching up with his friends from the little Swarbrick, Liberdade. As usual, full of beans and living life, remembering heaps and always factual, given how much he reads on board. Yet another great tale, so dive right in...
Posted on 9 Mar
Twelfth Blog from on board Perie Banou II
Jon's steady progress sees him arrives in St Helena in the South Atlantic I am on the ocean as I type. By the time you read I should be tied to a mooring Jamestown, British island of Saint Helena, South Atlantic. Since last writing it has been mild. Wind behind pushing me. My mainsail - always 1 reef & wee jib. Progress good and comfortable. One can get squalls, often more to the west than where I am. Night time squalls.
Posted on 2 Mar
Immortal
Take your mind back to a Russell Mulcahy film from 1986 called, Highlander. Take your mind back to a Russell Mulcahy film from 1986 called, Highlander. The former music video producer’s first feature film was a cult star before going on to become a wee bit immortal, as per its main characters. The principal thrust of it all was a gathering of immortal souls, and in the end, there could be only one.
Posted on 28 Feb
A rare opportunity to sail in Canada!
Sail the fabulous Vancouver Island, Georgia Straights and The Desolation Sound. Sail the fabulous Vancouver Island, Georgia Straights and The Desolation Sound. This area regarded as the greatest wilderness and picturesque area in the world is open to a 16 day cruise with Sailing Adventures.
Posted on 27 Feb
Eleventh Blog from on board Perie Banou II
'Perie Banou II' with me, are tracking well. Going north west to the British Island of Saint Helena Jon Sanders is well into his historic, record setting tenth circumnavigation and continues to see the wry in almost all the things he gets up to. St Helena is the next stop and the conditions are always a changing. Reason on for more of Jon's unique perspective of the world.
Posted on 25 Feb