It's a changing world for those thinking of sailing over the horizon, particularly if you want to visit the northern hemisphere. In the last couple of weeks Greece has hiked its charges for visiting yachts dramatically, Cuba is holding out a real welcome flag to cruising sailors, and now the latest is that Russia is starting to recognise that 'yacht tourism' is a valuable commodity.
It's not much at the moment, but it's a beginning. Cruising sailors could soon be allowed to stay in Russia without a visa for up to three days, according to a bill being considered by the Russian government. Three days in the life of long range cruising sailors is like three minutes to themselves back home, but it might enable easier visits in the Black Sea region.
The bill, posted on the government legislative commission’s website in the last week, would let 'foreign tourists arriving to Russia on sports and recreational sailing ships' enter visa-free and stay for up to 72 hours.
Most sailors currently need a visa and an official invitation from an authorized body, such as a yacht club, to visit Russian ports. (Cruise ship passengers are already allowed to stay up to 72 hours without a visa - if they only disembark on official cruise tours and stay overnight on board the ship).
Russia’s Transport Ministry came up with the idea, the commission's statement said, in a bid to increase the number of 'yacht tourists' coming to Russia.
The commission said the change would attract tourists to more varied Russian regions, encouraging those ports to develop local infrastructure.
Not every port in Russia will be covered by the new law, however: the commission said it will make a list of port cities allowed to make the visa exemption, as well as a list of countries to whose citizens the bill applies.
Russia hosted the First International Yacht Festival in its southern Black Sea in June and July this year.