DIVE PRACTICUM – Dive student Karson Winslow hands a discarded garden hose to SCUBA instructor Haleigh Damron, standing on the dock, at Crescent Harbor this afternoon. The University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus Dive Team is clearing trash from the harbor floor under floats 5, 6 and 7 as part of their instruction. Fourteen student divers are taking part this year. This is the fifth year the dive team has volunteered to clean up Sitka harbors. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Russian Sailor Plans for Voyage Home

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 Alaskan 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, told the Sentinel he had planned to begin the return trip in the summer of 2020, but the pandemic threw a wrench in his 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 here until he had the chance to put it to sea again.

In a Zoom call with the Sentinel on Friday, Kazakevich said he and his crew plan to return in the spring to make repairs on Iskatel and begin the long voyage back to Siberia.

“Two years ago, we finished Baikal-Alaska in Sitka, 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. “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.”

Bill Foster checks out the 40-foot Russian-flagged catamaran that’s been hauled out near the UAS parking lot for the past two years. The pandemic put a halt to the international sailing trip, but the skipper is hopeful about resuming the adventure in the spring. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

He and his crew made the initial voyage over several years, and in 2022 Kazakevich hopes to sail about 2,500 kilometers 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 is a good test, 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 week, Iskatel crew member Andrey Gridnev was in Sitka to check on the state of the vessel and make preliminary preparations for the summer. He was happy to say the vessel remains in decent condition.

“When I came down and checked out our boat, the floating boat, in spite of all those years it looks great. It’s in great shape,” 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 and stuff,” he said. “We were just joined to the expedition, to the crews on some certain parts of the trip. 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.

“We were in a worry, what’s happening? And Greg George, he works for Alaska University (UAS). Really, really great thanks and appreciation for him and his help. He was taking care about the boat all these years,” Gridnev reported.

The boat remains today where it was pulled up onto 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 is the people and the people who live in this territory in the coastline, in 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 https://en.baikal-alaska.ru/.


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April 2004

Photo caption: Sitka High students in the guitar music class gather in the hall before the school’s spring concert. The concert was dedicated to music instructor Brad Howey, who taught more than 1,000 Sitka High students from 1993 to 2004. From left are Kristina Bidwell, Rachel Ulrich, Mitch Rusk, Nicholas Mitchell, Eris Weis and Joey Metz.


April 1974

The Fair Deal Association of Sealaska shareholders selected Nelson Frank as their candidate for the Sealaska Board of Directors at the ANB Hall Thursday.


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