Russian traces the historic route to Sitka on an inflatable sailboat

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Through Garland Kennedy, Daily Sitka Sentry

Updated: September 17, 2019 Posted: September 9, 2019

SITKA – Russian adventurer Anatoly Kazakevich sailed into town on a double-hull inflatable sailboat on Monday morning, completing the last leg of an 8,000-mile journey to Sitka from the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

Kazakevich and his crew, which numbered between two and six along the route, last year sailed the inflatable catamaran Iskatel across the North Pacific Ocean to Homer, Alaska. After wintering in south-central waters, Iskatel (meaning “seeker”) brought Kazakevich to Sitka this week to mark the completion of its Baikal-Alaska expedition.

Kazakevich described his trip as an “historical geography expedition”. He added that “before us, no one has done this (route) for 150 years”.

The colonial journeys of Russian explorers in the 18th and 19th centuries inspired the Kazakevich expedition. Many places in Alaska still bear the names of these Russians. Baranof Island itself keeps the name of Russian America Company agent Alexander Baranof. Gavan, as in Gavan Hill, means harbor, and Starrigavan translates to “old harbor”. Medvejie, like in Lake Medvejie, is bear in Russian. Sitka was once called the New Archangel when the city was the capital of Russian America.

Unlike the large heavy sailing ships of the 1800s, the Iskatel operates on a combination of two outboard motors and four Latin sails. The crew are housed in a tent that spans the twin hulls of the 40-foot inflatable ship.

Unlike historical explorers, Kazakevich was aided by electronic maps and GPS navigation devices. He said the catamaran was operating normally at around 10 knots, but had reached an exceptional speed of 18 knots in a strong wind near False Pass.

The Iskatel crew began the expedition with a crossing of Lake Baikal, one of the largest lakes on Earth, and from there followed the winding river systems of Eastern Siberia to the Sea of Okhotsk. The crew even carried the boat over mountain passes.

Despite the ongoing political disagreements between Moscow and Washington, Kazakevich believes that ordinary citizens of Russia and the United States have a lot in common.

“I think the people in Russia, Siberia in particular, and Alaska are very, very similar,” Kazakevich said, observing that Alaskans and Siberians highly value hunting, fishing and the wilderness. . He told the Sentinel that the Iskatel odyssey had no political motive except for his belief that Americans and Russians can live side by side without a problem.

Kazakevich reported that his reception in American cities has been positive. He said Americans from Nome to Homer in Sitka have been “very friendly”.

The first Sitkan Kazakevich encountered upon arriving in Sitka waters was Jeff Moebus, who lives on his sailboat in Eliason Harbor. The two met when Kazakevich docked his ship in the bunk next to Moebus’.

Moebus, who was in the military during the Cold War, attributes the tension between the United States and Russia to Moscow and Washington.

“It has nothing to do with Sitka or Irkutsk,” he said.

Kazakevich especially thanked the University of Alaska, Southeast, which offered to store the catamaran during the winter. That kind of help will be central to Kazakevich’s plans for the return trip he plans for mid-May next year. It could turn out to be a group endeavor or a crossing by a flotilla of sailboats, he said.

Kazakevich said that “we can invite people on board, sail together next year (to Irkutsk) from Sitka on two, three or five boats together”. He hopes the Americans will accompany him on the return trip and has offered to help him organize the visas. The trip will last all summer.

Kazakevich’s contact details can be found on his website, en.baikal-alaska.ru. He said he also plans to release a documentary film and a book about his trip.

Kazakevich noted that although the trip is over for now, “for everyone (involved) this expedition has changed lives.” He hopes the Americans and Russians can find common ground and told the Sentinel that “when we have a connection, people to people, we don’t need politics.”

He said he planned to visit other places in Alaska by plane before returning to Russia for the winter.

Of Sitka’s Daily Sentry via Associated Press.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the name of its author.


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