Adventurers have sailed or paddled before to Homer in boats and kayaks, finishing arduous journeys across thousands of miles. Last week, a pair of Russian explorers retraced the route of early Siberian explorers from Lake Baikal to Alaska, but with a modern twist, traveling in an ocean class, inflatable catamaran sailboat — the first crossing by such a craft.
“When people see us in an inflatable — this is crazy,” said Anatoly Kazakevich.
Last week, Kazakevich arrived in Homer with fellow sailor Anna Vazhenina, finishing an 8,500-mile, two-year journey over lakes, down rivers and across the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea from Siberia to Alaska. Kazakevich and Vazhenina arrived Aug. 26, and pulled their 40-foot motor and sailboat, Iskatel, out of the Homer Harbor last Thursday, Aug. 30. The couple spoke with the Homer News in an interview last Thursday at K-Bay Caffe.
The Baikal-Alaska Expedition started in 2017, and traveled from Irkutsk to Petropavlosk-Kamchastky. Starting in June 2018, they sailed to Alaska from Kamchatka — the region of Homer’s Russian sister city, Yelizovo — landing in Nome, and making their way down the coast and around the Alaska Peninsula up to Cook Inlet and Homer. Along the way other adventurers joined them.
The expedition leader, Kazakevich has worked in adventure tourism in the Lake Baikal region with an agency, Baikalov. A journalist, Vazhenina wrote about the trip, updating followers on social media about the expedition. Kazakevich had the idea to let the world know about the recreational opportunities of the Irkutsk region by going where Siberians had gone before.
“We decide to explore outside. I thought about before people,” Kazakevich said. “We decided let’s try to do this.”
With its shallow draft, Iskatel could sail down small lakes and streams. When the waterway ended, the ship’s two big pontoons were deflated, and its structure disassembled and packed into a crate small enough to fit on a medium-sized truck. Kazakevich said they had to make two such crossings over mountain passes. A big, pyramid shaped tent on the deck slept six crew.
While challenging, Kazakevich said the trip to Alaska wasn’t scary. He said many people have a narrow idea of risk, believing for anything more than 200 miles, “They think that it’s too far, it’s dangerous.”
Using modern technology like Iridium satellite phones and GPS navigational systems, the expedition crew did not push the weather. The worst seas they saw were 12-foot waves. Twice they misread the tides and got stuck. Vazhenina checked in daily. She also posted to the expedition’s Facebook page. They also filmed the expedition for a video production.
“Many of our friends like us,” Vazhenina said. “I think it will be interesting for people to see these places. … For me, Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
In Alaska, the Russians found a warm reception.
“All people maybe don’t like Russian politicians, but like Russian people,” Kazakevich said.
He said when he came to Alaska, he kept running into places named after Russians, and even Irkutsk people, like Bechevin Bay near False Pass.
“You meet a lot of different people whose parents or grandparents were Russian,” he said.
Last Friday, Kazakevich and Vazhenina left Homer to tour Alaska, with visits to Anchorage and Denali National Park. They will fly back to Russia. As for Iskatel, they would like to see some American adventurers borrow the boat and take her back to Russia. They would have to have sailing experience, be able to communicate and work together, and be resourceful and able to make repairs on their own.
“I’m ready to give this boat to some crazy people to bring it to Russia,” Kazakevich said. “We don’t know if we find these people or not. … I think Americans will have different experience of Russia than us.”
Anyone interested in continuing Iskatel’s journey can email Kazakevich or Vazhenina at email@example.com. For more information on the expedition, visit http://en.baikal-alaska.ru.