Russian catamaran crew plans return voyage from Sitka next year

By Garland Kennedy

Sitka Sentinel staff writer

Two years ago, a Russian-flagged inflatable catamaran sailed into Sitka, concluding a multi-year voyage from central Russia, through the Siberian river network, across the Bering Sea and along the Alaska coast.

The vessel's Siberia-based crew now plans to repeat the voyage in reverse next spring and summer.

Owner and captain of the Iskatel, Anatoly Kazakevich, said he had planned to begin the return trip last summer, but the pandemic sank those plans.

The Iskatel - which translates to English as "The Seeker" - arrived here in August 2019, after retracing the route taken by Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Once in Sitka, Kazakevich arranged to have his 40-foot inflatable stored until he had the chance to put it to sea again.

In a Zoom call late last month, Kazakevich said he and his crew plan to return to Sitka in the spring to make repairs on Iskatel and begin the long voyage back to Siberia.

"Two years ago, we finished ... and now we wait on two questions. First of all is COVID, questions with COVID, but I hope after winter in spring the situation will be better," Kazakevich said in the call from Irkutsk, in central Russia, about 4,200 air miles west of Sitka.

"And the second situation is a visa. Russia and the USA have a political problem with visas and we have a way to make a visa for next year, and I hope in the winter time we will do this. And in May or June we will come next year and prepare boat for organization expedition."

The initial voyage to Sitka took several years, and Kazakevich hopes next year to sail the first leg, about 900 miles, to Kodiak or Homer. But first, the boat needs some repairs after years on shore, exposed to the elements. The vessel is propelled by four sails and twin outboard engines. A large tent on the deck offers shelter to the crew.

He said the initial leg of the return voyage will be a good test to ensure the boat is ready for the Bering Sea.

"We have to prepare the catamaran, we have to buy new masts and do a lot of things. We have a big shadow for this. And after we replace and fix all problems, we have to test a way for 3,000 kilometers (almost 2,000 miles) ... because across the Bering Sea and across the Bering Strait is a difficult way and the catamaran has to be prepared excellently," Kazakevich said.

Last month, Iskatel crew member Andrey Gridnev was in Sitka to check on the condition of the vessel and make preliminary preparations for next summer. He was happy to say the vessel remains in decent condition.

"When I came down and checked out our boat ... in spite of all those years it looks great," Gridnev said.

Back in 2019, Gridnev crewed the catamaran from Whittier to Sitka on the final leg of the voyage. "This is his (Kazakevich's) life," he said. "My part was there in 2019 from Whittier right down to Sitka," Gridnev said.

He especially appreciated the help of Greg George, operations supervisor for the University of Alaska Southeast in Sitka. "We were in a worry, what's happening? ... He was taking care about the boat all these years," Gridnev said.

It sits today where it was pulled up on land in 2019, not far from the UAS boat ramp.

Tensions between the United States and Russia are high, and Kazakevich compared the political dynamic to a "glass wall" that separates neighbors.

"This wall is just in our mind, but we are neighbors and all people are interested and all people who live in Alaska are interested in how people live in Siberia," he said. "And people in Siberia are very interested in how people live in Alaska, they can communicate. We can exchange experiences and we can try to do something together."

He hopes that Alaskans will join him on his expedition next year.

"Next year, it's our plan in June and we will start and we hope maybe some people from Alaska will come into our crew and we will do an international crew, it will be more interesting," he said.

Looking back on his 2019 voyage, he most misses the people he encountered along the way, comparing them to a family.

"First of all, I think ... the people who live in this territory in the coastline, (and) on the rivers are a people who live with nature and they are a very open people and friendship of all people is good," he said.

After his return to Russia two years ago, he said, he made a number of presentations about his voyage and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kazakevich extended an invitation to anyone interested in the expedition.

"The Alaskan people are very friendly and it's very important that we know that Americans and people from Russia can trust each other and are friendly to each other. Come down to our place and we'll host you," he said.

More information on Kazakevich's adventures is available on


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