ANTON  KROTOV Practice of Free Travels or Free Travels in Practice (In English) : , 1995-2007
: (), () ., 2007-08.
11.11.2008 . 93.000.












Railways and auto-roads cover only the 1\4 part of Russia. To get to the other 3\4 part people travel by air. But that is rather expensive and is unromantic. Goods are transported by water( in winter- by ice). The main way of getting to the places, which are difficult of access, at summer is water-hike (moving by sea- or river-boats). It is also called The third kind of hitch-hiking.

Water-hike is very old method of traveling. More then 2500 years ago the biblical prophet Iona came to the agreement with the captain and tried to sail to Farsis.

But when the storm had happened, water-hiker-looser was thrown out the boat and then was swallowed by a very big fish. He spent 3 days in the stomach of that fish and returned home by Fish-Hiking. The well-known traveler and writer Lenart Mery was luckier when in 1970s he made several trips by water-hike. He passed The North Sea Lane and other sea lanes. Then he even wrote some books about his trips. In 1990s L. Mery became the president of Estonia and gave up traveling.

Coal, petrol, salt, cement, cars and other goods at summer are delivered to the northern settlements by sea and by rivers. The same way may use a traveler. When you go there you have to know: 1) Your starting point, 2) period of navigation, 3) regularity of traffic 4) How long the trip will take.

The main is to find your starting port. As a rule it is the crossing point of river-, sea-lanes with railway or auto road. It is much easier to return back: you just must find any boat, which goes to the more inhabited places and try to sail. The biggest sea ports are navigable all the year round even in the northern part of Russia (Dudinka, Murmansk, and Magadan). The other ports are navigable only at summer. From July to September practically all port are navigable. There are no cargo boats time-tables, but intensity of sailing. For example from Magadan to Vladivostok, Nahodka or Vanino goes 1-3 boats a week. From Nahodka to Kamchatka boats go once a week, to Pevek- once a month. From Murmansk to Dudinka boats go 1-2 times a month, to Hatanga (Taimir) only 1-2 times a year. Youd better know the intensity of sailing before your departure to avoid yourself of waiting a boat for several months.

Sea boats pass 300-500km a day. River boats as a rule pass 300-100km and less.

To sail by a cargo boat you need: a) To know that the boat arrived, b) to get to the port territory an aboard, c) to come to an agreement with the captain, d) not to be bored aboard. So, each port has its controller's office, where you can know where the boats will go within the next few days. There is a fine point. If the boat is been unloading, often it is impossible to know where it will go. But when the loading begins, - you can be sure that the destination point is specified.

That is why you have to visit controller's office regularly, even several times a day, till youll know, which boat will go, where you need. Small landing stages have no controller's office, so you must keep watch over the landing stages thoroughly, the time of appearance of needing boat you may find out by talking to inhabitants. Loading and unloading can last for several hours or several days. Dont miss your boat.

As you find needing boat, you must get aboard. Many ports have boundary control and are guarded. Then, you may: 1) persuade a security guard to let you in. 2) find a hole in the fence (every long fence have holes), location of a hole you may find out by talking to security guard or port workers. 3) to get a permit in a permission office. There are also unguarded ports.

On Russian sea ways only a captain can let you in. There is always a sailor on duty aboard, but he cant let you in without permission of captain. Be urgent and demand a meeting with captain. People transportation by cargo boats is not forbidden in Russia. For example, such way use expeditors, but they pay for it. Transporting people boat cant have any damages. So, for cargo boat with goods with mass about 3000 tons some surplus 100 kilograms are really mere trifle. Biggest boats can transport 50000 tons- it is 600000 times bigger then a mans mass. It is clear that transporting of water hiker must be free. But we must eat. Captain may ask you for money for your feeding or you can buy much food yourself. If you have not much money, you can suggest your help- your unqualified and free work will be very useful. So, go to the captain and be sure of yourself. The only reason to refuse you is if there are too many people aboard. And the reason is not the mass of passengers but the number of rescue facilities. It is very important at long sea trip, but on river barge it may play no role. If you are aboard- you may be happy. It is good if you have a work, but it cant be full-time. Just sleep, read, write letters, eat. And dont forget to return home before the navigation ends.


Andrey and I sailed from Irkutsk to Handiga (more then 600 km) 6 days on a following barge. Transportation was free, but we had bought food. The only thing that really complicated the trip was a truck with 140 boxes of VODKA, so all the crew and some passengers drunk hard. When we tried to return home from Magadan we sailed to Vanino on a cargo boat. Searching for boat and waiting for it lasted for 4 days. The trip itself lasted for 3 days. One day we stayed in Vanino bay, waiting when our berth would be free. Transporting was free, but we paid for food. To know more read our book All over Russia by hitch- hike.

S. Lekay and O. Smirnova for 28days sailed from Kisangani to Kinshasa(Kongo-Zair). The analogous trip made Moscow traveler Zinchenko, but in reverse direction. There were some cases of trans-continental water-hike. A. Vorov(PLHH) and his companion M. Dutkevich while finishing round-the-world hitch-hike trip AutoColumb sailed across atlantics moving from Buenos-Aires (Argentina) to Europe in 1993. The sea trip lasted for 2 weeks.

In 2002 V. Shanin sailed from Ecuador to St. Pitersburg on banana- cargo boat. He was also finishing his round-the-world trip. The well-known traveler V. Nesnin, Who walks always barefoot, used international water-hike several times. For example he succeed in sailing from New Zealand to USA.


Unfortunately, free international sea trips are not well investigated. There is a point of view that a passport of a sailor can help with this. Also it is possible to find a following yacht. However, there were too few cases of international water-hike, so that dont expect it really helps you. When a boat is unloading-loading you must get a permission of captain, of port agent, of freighter on the other coast of an ocean, you also need to have an entry visa to delivery country. It is too hard to come to an agreement with everybody and to get visa. It is much easier and faster to earn money for the airplane ticket and fly by regular airplane, than wait for a long time at remote ports searching for international ship, and it is unlikely that youd be boarded.

There is a regular passenger water traffic in Russia on big rivers and lakes. Passenger boats go according to the time-table. But from the soviet times till today intensity of traffic and the number of lines evenly decrease each year. There are only few of them now-a-days. Only grate Russian rivers (Ob, Irtysh, Lena, Yenisei, Angara) have passenger traffic. Traveler may buy a ticket, to maintain our dying river traffic. But if you dont have enough money go on a board and come to an agreement with captain, accounting for your traveling nature. You may show your Road Paper if you have it. Captain will probably let you in. There were regular ocean lines formerly, which moved people from Vladivostok to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky for example, but all they are abolished now. Ocean passengers now travel by cargo boats inhabiting not only all the cabins and sick-bays, but even all but latrines. Most of such passengers pay some money to captain, but free traveler may come to an agreement with captain and sail without paying anything. As a rule food is provided, so that you may pay for it (not much) or fulfill some work.

There are no international passenger ships. Its impossible to sail to America, Brazil, India or Tahiti by a regular passenger ship. There are only rare cruise liners for bourgeois (very expensive, even more expensive than airplane, and no one knows how to get in them).

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