Cruising the Gulags – Noteable New Book
History buffs should be sure to snatch up this gem of an account that reviews logs from a 1994 journey around Scandinavia, over the North Cape and through inland Russia. Cruising aboard the Dutch yacht Tiota, a 38’ Ohlsonn, author Michael L. Frankel gives a charming personal account of his cultural encounters en route with rare photos of northern Scandinavian, Russian and Estonian ports of call. In celebration of the founding of the Russian fleet by Peter the Great, a Dutch rally of 15 yachts were the first Western-flagged pleasure boats allowed on this strategic waterway in the new, post-USSR era.
Frankel, a cruising veteran, is the author of several other sailing accounts: Endless Summer, Dreaming of Columbus, and Gently with the Tides; and is also a former editor of Living Aboard magazine. As the only American participant in the rally, he witnessed the clash of the emerging “New Russia” and those who celebrated the Western visitors, and the “Old Russia,” a bureaucratically discouraging lot. A frustrating example is the account of the final passage along the River Neva through St. Petersburg. According to waterway rules, yachts on the river were forbidden to sail at night but paradoxically, to ease daytime roadway congestion, bridges were only opened at night.
Frankel explores both the sport of sailing as well as the spirit of a rally, “from sailing in bitter arctic waters to dealing with mechanical failures; from relishing the beauty of rugged coastlines and fjords to meeting and living with like-minded sailing friends; from experiencing tourism from the vantage of an ancient city dock to observing contrasts between old and new cultures and getting in touch with rich maritime history.” His account holds the rare picture of a culture in transition alongside a sailor’s vision of the cruising lifestyle with the encouragement, “Go slow and taste the culture. That was what this voyage was all about.” n