RGS’s Circumnavigation Goes Through Suez Canal To Mediterranean Sea

Photo of the expedition participants
Photo of the expedition participants

The circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society left Egypt and passed through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. On the morning of June 17, the sailing ship of the Russian Ocean Way project anchored in the Turkish port of Marmaris. The crew shared with the readers of the website of the Russian Geographical Society their impressions of the voyage, which this time turned out to be not the easiest.

According to the head of the expedition, Evgeny Kovalevsky, immigration formalities had to be done literally "through tears" when leaving Egypt.

“Through tears, because the amount of fees for entry and exit from Egypt exceeded the amount of $3,000. This is approximately equal to the amount we paid for such formalities in all three years of the expedition in 32 countries and at more than 100 ports of call," Kovalevsky admitted.

On the morning of June 13, a pilot arrived on board the Russian sailing ship – a black-haired Egyptian with a full black beard. He guided the ship through the Suez Canal from the port of Ismailia to the Mediterranean Sea.

“The Suez Canal is not wide. On both sides, the desert presses settlements to the water. There is a railway on the left bank. Ferries cross the canal in several places. In some places, brave fishermen go boating without fear of being crushed. Traffic in the canal is active. Tankers, bulk carriers, and other large vessels pass us every few minutes. At 15:00, the pilot suggests stopping. The pilot’s boat approaches and picks him up. We are leaving Egypt," said Evgeny Kovalevsky.


Filip Alekseev, Evgeny Kovalevsky, and Stanislav Berezkin before leaving Egypt. Photos of the expedition participants.
Filip Alekseev, Evgeny Kovalevsky, and Stanislav Berezkin before leaving Egypt. Photos of the expedition participants.

About an hour later, the sailboat sailed into the open Mediterranean Sea. It was quite "stirring" to move at night: headwind rose, waves increased, pitching started. There are a lot of ships there, you need to keep an eye on the navigation signs. The watchmen must be extremely attentive. During the day on June 14, the Mediterranean Sea restrained its violent temper but by morning it was getting boisterous in earnest.

“The headwind increases to 15-20 knots. A wave of up to 1.5 m turns sailing into horse racing with obstacles. It is impossible to sleep: you get thrown you off the bed. Stas is getting seasick. It's getting cold. We keep watch in storm jackets," recalls Evgeny Kovalevsky.

Headwinds and waves do not allow the travelers to move directly to Marmaris. They have to set a course for the city of Göcek .

“Literally giving it our all to get back home. It has not been easy for all three years and it does not get any easier. The test of will, spirit, nerves, and motivation continues," Kovalevsky admitted.

The constant pitching is very tiring. A very uncomfortable wave format for the entire crew. The storm does not abate at night; the anchor was torn off the fastening. To secure it, Stanislav Berezkin, with safety line and with a high risk of falling overboard, makes his way to the bow of the ship, skinning his hands.

“We keep getting thrown off the beds. Stas threw the mattress on the floor in advance. I didn't have the strength; I lay down on the bed. And got immediately punished twice. A laptop falls off the shelf onto my leg. It hurts. Then I’m thrown off the bed and hit my shin against the base of the mast," Kovalevsky said.

And the next day, the waves continue to cascade 2-2.5 m high. The crew tries to steer the ship almost perpendicular to them, avoiding pitching. Sometimes the impact of the waves on the hull is as strong as if a 100-ton hammer was hitting it. It is only in the evening that it is possible to enter the shadow of Rhodes Island. The waves calm down there.

“On June 17, at 06:00, we approach the port of Marmaris, enter the harbor. Around us are the mountains. Sunrise. Beautiful. We drop the anchor. We hope to go through the formalities of entering Turkey before lunch," Kovalevsky said.


In the Mediterranean Sea. Photos of the expedition participants
In the Mediterranean Sea. Photos of the expedition participants

The journey continues. By mid-July, the circumnavigators hope to arrive in Novorossiysk. Then they’ll have to sail to the mouth of the Don and transfer to a small inflatable catamaran. The expedition will travel to Kronstadt on it. Along the way, meetings with the local population will take place in the cities of Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, Saratov, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, and others.

On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.


Aleksander Zhirnov