The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Q&A: Circumnavigation Of Scandinavia Via The White Sea

Question: Do you know if it’s possible to circumnavigate Scandinavia via Holland, the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg, the Belomorsk Canal, the White Sea, the Norwegian Coast, returning to Holland?

Answer: It has been done. I think the UK Cruising Association did a cruise in company that way some years ago. The tricky bit is the Russian canal. From what I understand it is important to have a Russian with you who can manage things and it is better if several boats travel in company. I understand that that part of Russia can still be pretty wild, with graft (bribes) and stealing. The rest of the cruise should be fairly straight forward.

Update: John Vallentine successfully undertook a voyage through Russia in 2014.

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Just refreshing the information about circumnavigation of Scandinavia and sailing in the Russian inland waterways system.
As it is said in the post, it was done by the UK Cruising Association at the end of the 90s. It was during the end of Yeltsin’s government and the Russian administration was easier.
But since 2001, the Poutine government has reinforced the law. And sailing thru the Inland waterways system is strictly forbidden.
In 2009 with Chamade, we sailed from the White Sea to St Petersburg, thru the Belomorsk Canal. It took us 14 months to get the authorization. In fact, a special decree from the Russian government signed by the Prime Minister Vladimir Poutine himself. Of course our project to take with us transplanted people from Switzerland and to meet Russian transplanted people to make some support for the organ’s gift helped us to get this really special decree, as does our forum for transplantation we organised in St Petersburg in cooperation with the Russian Red Cross, with meetings between Russian and Swiss surgeons.
What we discovered was a really fabulous area, nice nature and landscape, and last but not least, really nice and warm welcome from the population, even if sometimes the paperwork was harassing. But we never had to pay bribes. Just to cooperate with Russian rules which are done for cargo and not for a sailing yacht!
For the future we have heard that the idea to open the inland waterway system, from St Petersburg to Lake Onega, and maybe further to Moscow or the White Sea is (slowly) going on. Maybe it will be done in 2 or 3 years.
But for the moment, the only way to sail thru the Belomorsk Canal (except our very special permit) is to put your boat under Russian flag, which is possible.
Contact Vladimir Ivankiv in St Petersburg. He is very helpful, even if your idea is only to sail to St Petersburg from Finland.

And you can find information, pictures and video about our trip on our website (click english flag to get translation)
Sorry for my bad English…
Bon vent

Daria Blackwell

Jarlath Cunane and crew from Ireland did this trip in 2012. He wrote about it in the OCC publication Flying Fish (2013/1 p.86-99).