Traveller's Notebook #4

Travel essays by Oleg Kolpashchikov,
President of White Cane NGO,
visually disabled person

Finland and Sweden on Vacation

I unwind the headphones provided yesterday by Malyshko. I asked Nastya Harlamtseva to reduce computer brightness so that the battery discharges more slowly. It takes a day of sailing to get to the nearest charge point. We sail to a Swedish city Sunsvall, go down south along the Gulf of Bothnia, leaving the northernmost point Oulu behind. And it turns out that the whole of Finland, or rather the whole Finnish stage, of The Spirit of Sails – 2016 is already behind.

The weather now is beautiful: the sun, the wind, the speed is about six knots. I’m sitting backwards in the cockpit. First I decided to print the notes downstairs but there is no splashing on the deck, calm sea is slightly waving … Great!

Last night it was a little tough: waving 2 meters, once the water even splashed into the cabin. But during the first anchoring in the Swedish port we dried our clothes, sleeping bags, emptied the water from under the floors, refreshed the catamaran and slightly warmed ourselves in the sauna. We can certainly ask Oscar who is now standing at the wheel opposite me what port it was. But I think its name is not so important to our history.

Finland met us – it turns out it was already a week and a half ago – with the rains. We planned that Vladimir Rudak would sail to Helsinki. To do this, Marat, the driver of the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Helsinki, brought him on purpose to a small yacht club in Tirmo. But in the morning when they arrived at the marina, the rain was pouring in buckets. We came to say hello to Volodya and his sister. Brief talks were held through the open window. It was decided that it’s not worth soaking all day. Volodya went back by car, we went on sailing.

Sailing to Helsinki lasted five hours. Of course, an hour later the sun came out and was shining all way through although the gadgets persistently predicted millimeters of rain hourly. We were very upset about Volodya, but the main thing is that he became sailor at the transition to Kronstadt.

Anchoring was carried out at night. Two years ago we already sailed here, we’re familiar with the marina, the city, and the center of Rossotrudnichestvo. We worried if anyone would come tomorrow to the presentation of the boat and the concert. In Finland, July is the best holiday season, no one responded to the invitation. And we were getting prepared.

But there is still a magical power of art and the power of magician musicians. They say one can’t recognize German when he goes mad with the drums. Volodya, too, is playing his deadly positive. No, positive is the wrong word. Volodya seems to know exactly that no matter who would be in the room and no matter how action had begun, the end would be a foregone one. And then, out of the hall, with not more than 20 people we hear the applause and cheers. Marc and myself, sitting on one side beat time with our hands on our knees. Mark shouts the refrain of the song North and makes it as devotedly as, apparently, German knocks on the drums.

Our fears were confirmed, only Sergey Medvedev with a colleague came to the boat. Sergey is the director of the market who was preparing the visit together with us. The center itself was being overhauled so we still had to find a building for the concert. We found both the premise and equipment. At the concert in the hall there were a few compatriots and employees of the center. German Naklonyaev tried the drum kit, a child roared in the hall, his mother quickly carried him away. One cord missing to connect Volodya. Marta is rushing after it. Women in the audience begin saying that the concert should have already begun. I go out on stage, telling about the expedition, some remember us since the meeting two years ago. Presence of Marc Aufrant is of some little help, foreigners always make a good influence on our people. The discussions are over, and Rudak together with German begin their performance. The room is not suitable for the concert. It is heard and the mood sinks completely.

But there is still a magical power of art and the power of magician musicians. They say one can’t recognize German when he “goes mad” with the drums. Volodya, too, is playing his deadly positive. No, “positive” is the wrong word. Volodya seems to know exactly that no matter who would be in the room and no matter how action had begun, the end would be a foregone one. And then, out of the hall, with not more than 20 people we hear the applause and cheers. Marc and myself, sitting on one side beat time with our hands on our knees. Mark shouts the refrain of the song North and makes it as devotedly as, apparently, German knocks on the drums.

After the concert we promptly say goodbye to Volodya and his sister, thank Sergey Medvedev and his colleagues for help. We raise anchor and sail forward to Turku. We decided not anchor on the way in Hanko, ahead of approaching bad weather. It would be great to slide into Turku prior to the onset of the storm and wait there.

We start in the evening of the fifth and on the sixth we’re already arriving in Turku. On the way we meet stone islands and good weather. In the heart of Turku there are no places, and we go back a little back to an island where we found out a small yacht club. We sail to the outer wall. The forest, the silence, the storm will be later. The marina is almost empty, and there is a good sauna where we often “lose” German.

We leave Turku after the 9th. There is time to see and explore the city and its surroundings. We’re only sorry that there’s no contact with either the Russians or the disabled. Plus, the prospect is not very bright. In Finland, in July, everyone is on vacation as in most European countries. For the Russian it’s a little strange that almost everything stops working during the summer. Strange and unusual.

It’s also unusual to write these lines at full speed. I asked Oscar about the speed, it turned out to be six knots and a half; the wind began to blow stronger from behind, but there are no waves. Nastya went to bed carefully pushing the bowl with cookies.

Should an artist be hungry? A real artist Boris Hohonov answers simply – No! Nastya and I imagined that only some three weeks later Boris will be sitting in my place at the desk where I’m writing and will be “getting loaded”. “Painting blind.” Unbelievable.

When we were returning to Turku, not that I could not believe that something would happen, there was just no hint that anything at all would happen in the humanitarian component of the project. Besides the change of crew and participants, nothing was expected.

The only gap was the call and visit of Sergey, the leader of the local «ABC» Russian-speaking organizations. He called by phone when we were entering the yacht club and asked whether it was true we’d come on the 9th. I replied that we would arrive in Turku 15 minutes later. We agreed that Sergey would drop in late in the afternoon.

A handsome young man of Petersburg origin examined the boat with interest. St. Petersburg origin immediately catches the eye. The man, in spite of the social status, quickly starts and is soon inspired. There comes out “geographical romanticism” inherent, according to my observation, more often to the Petersburgians out of the Russians. Sergey promised nothing much concerning the program in Turku. We agreed that on Saturday, July 9th we’d do a presentation on board the catamaran and a concert in the Russian center. With this he left. I stretched my hand for a goodbye and immediately put into Sergey’s hand a keychain of “the Sails” and “the Congress”. This technique was invented by Elena Kovaleva.

Next day began with morning rain. We had a late breakfast, I bravely decided to go and find the nearest store where you can buy an “unsoakable”. We ordered branded form for all the participants of the expedition through the Latvian colleagues, my large size wasn’t managed. An old jacket which I had bought in Hamburg began to “leak” before the first “Sails”.

In such small marinas a master is rarely at workplace. This time Grisha and I also seemed not to have luck. The premise is closed, rain is spitting. Just next to it a Finn is making himself busy either with a boat or a car.

Now we’re coming back to that great and exciting moment when everything suddenly begins to spin, to flourish, to make sense, there is a wealth of new meeting and acquaintances. I tell Grisha: Let’s come and find out about the store, perhaps he knows.” We come.. The man is kindly and actively involved in the conversation. One can recognize here this ability of yachters to actively help colleagues but only when it’s the case.

The man introduced himself «Juhani» and of course at first I did not remember his name. Finnish names must first be learned to understand and remember. Juhani is a deputy head of the local yacht club; to be more precise, as it is written in the signature of his email, “Vice Commander”. Juhani quickly called and showed two yacht shop on the map, explained how they could be reached using Grisha’s gadget. Then he quickly offered, if we were ready, to drive us to the city, as well, and bring us to the central store. I sent Grisha for Nastya and Lena so we could replenish provision in the center.

By the way I forgot to say that I continue writing about Turku in the evening in the main cabin. In the morning the laptop battery ran low, then there was waving at which the fingers fall into the wrong keys. We’ll be sailing to Sundsvall about another ten hours, ie overnight. We sail and help ourselves with the engine.

Zhenya Malyshko came down and said “the most important” news – she remembered the name of the lake between Estonia and Russia. Of course, this is Chudskoye Lake… We have all forgotten its name when today we were talking about Estonia. “Battle on the Ice”, remember.

We return to 7th July in Turku to Juhani. While Grisha was running back for the ladies on our boat, Juhani outlined the yacht club activities in Turku. They train Paralympians, mainly motor impaired, until then they hadn’t worked with the blind. I told him briefly about our inclusive regatta. Juhani passed to the details about the command Special Olympics which those days organized a training camp somewhere nearby. I perked up: all the days of this visit and the past one we never met any Finns with disabilities, and there was the first light of hope here. That would be great to meet the team, where can we find them? – I asked. And he calmly offered to move a couple of meters behind his car. There they were.

For non-experts I’d like to explain that the team of Special Olympics is usually a team consisting of people with mental disabilities and people – teachers without disabilities. Here we met with the Finnish “Good cause”! Good cause is an organization in the Verkh-Neyvinsk, a small village in the Sverdlovsk region headed by optimistic Vera Simakova. Vera is our partner in organization of the World Congress I for people with Disabilities in Yekaterinburg in 2017. I have had extensive relationship with the “good-causers”, with boys and girls with mental peculiarities. I know their heightened emotionality and desire to cuddle anyone heartily at every meeting.

Finnish “Good cause” was no exception. Athletes, as they are called in the team of mental “special persons”, gladly embraced me in turn. And then, together with the coach and the company, with the same pleasure and a little disbelief at what was happening, they accepted the invitation to come visit us on the catamaran in the evening of the next day at five o’clock.

That’s how life in Turku began “turning to face us” again. Getting into Juhani’s car with the ladies we sped up to the center shop. We were not very lucky with the jacket: there was neither the right color nor the right size, although even if we found a jacket satisfying these parameters we’d also hardly buy it. The price is too Finnish! Now I count on Stockholm. After the yachting store – beer and chips at the bar for me and Grisha and just shopping without dinner in a nearby store for Nastya and Lena. We met and went to the nearby supermarket to store some food. We still had some time left and I wanted to cook, slowly, something special. Of course, in Finland one should first of all pay attention to the fish. We approached a fish counter. At that moment, I heard Nastya talking to someone by phone in English, then she handed me the phone. In the cell, a little quivering adult male voice asked what marina we got into wanting to meet with us. I did not ask who it was, if they want to meet us it is enough to meet.

Further conversation reveals that we are both in the city center. It seemed to me that the man introduced himself as “Nicka”. Still, I’m not a specialist in their names. Later it turned out that he was Miko. Miko offers to meet in the hotel on the market square, the first word in the hotel name is “hamburger”. Agreed to meet in 15 minutes. I still need to pick the fish in the store. And with the Finnish names … I ask the seller to recommend fish for soup, local and, naturally, delicious fish. He recommends trout. Well, I can eat trout at home; I need something more locally juicy. Then the seller offers a fish and translates its name as pike. As far as I remember it’s shchiuka, and pike soup is not our favorite dish. Once again, the seller shows Lena and Grisha another fish and recommends it. Finnish name, no translation. Lena describes it as “Finnish herrings.” Relying on intuition, I decided to buy it. Grisha helps to bring the products with one hand and videotapes with the other. They took the fish an left the girls in the shop to buy the other food. We went to the square to look for a hotel. Coming to the reception we met Miko and Sari, a man and a woman, both middle-aged. Miko introduced himself as advisor of Mayor of Turku for Public and International Relations. Sari is as an employee of the same department. It turns out that Turku Mayor called from his vacation at the request of colleagues from Oulu administration and asked to find us and meet our expedition properly. Miko said that he and Sari have been looking for us since morning “with dogs” in the Turku marinas and yacht clubs, and that they managed to get our bodies only through a call to Moscow. That’s how I and Grisha found ourselves in a meeting with the staff of the City Hall.

Right then I think that I came out for a moment to ask about the catamaran yacht shop and am wearing, to put it mildly, more than unofficial sports clothes which I was wearing during the sailings in everyday activities and which had visible confirmation of these everyday activities.

Miko, in the meanwhile, is assessing different possibilities during our stay in Turku. On the island where we anchored, on Friday there will start the second oldest and, naturally, the first largest Finnish rock festival. Miko promised to try to organize the tickets for us. We had already talked about the festival, we tried to think about the visit, but there were two obstacles. The first – the price is 200 euro per person, and the second – all the tickets were sold out long ago. 35,000 people gather on the island for rock-and-roll hangout. Miko and Sari think about organizing city tours and a common dinner, constantly apologizing that they didn’t have enough time to prepare. And of course, the entire Finland is on vacation. We finish our beer, the ladies come from the shop, we agree to connect in the morning and specify the program.

Humanitarian dawn of the “Sails” in Turku has become the sunrise! We are on a small, slightly crazy rise. Life is blooming!

On the boat we cook the fish soup. Fish is recognized as grayling, a wonderful surprise. And, although I have never cooked grayling soup, something tells me that it will be ok. Mark and German went for a walk in Turku. Uldis got some news from work and decided to go early, right in the night. Instead of himself he calls his old and likewise our friend Janis Elerdsk from Liepaja in his car.

We strike the first balance. The idea of Around-the-world trip that, all the years of existence of “The Sails of spirit” was nothing more than words, becomes more and more real today. We discuss a possible vessel for world expedition. We understand that “Lover” is suitable but we can’t rebuild it for wheelchairs. And for the full inclusion it is important that those who “got involved” in the wheelchairs, could spend a week, two, three with us. We need another catamaran. We put these criteria of the new vessel together with Mark who’s back from Turku; it should also be suitable both for the blind and wheelchairs, as well as other categories. We also define the parameters for holding concerts and presentations on the new boat. “Lover” is in this regard, I repeat, an almost unique vessel with a large cockpit for meetings and sailings. Uldis records detailed information and promises to start working on proposals. The new proposal should be ready by the end of this expedition. Then the next year will be spent on construction or modification of the ship, and in 2018, we can start. Well, the new plan of the expedition, too, should be made.

In the meantime, we had the grayling soup and farewell toasts with the first relief of the sailors, with Edgar and Janis, who were with us for the first time and of course with Uldis Mezhulis, a man who, so to say, embodies the project from the sea side. At three in the morning, when the car arrives, Janis and Uldis promised to wake me for the farewell ceremony.

Sleeping in the cabin, I suddenly heard above my head the voice of Janis Elerdsk through the window. I go out on the deck in the night freshness, hugged Janis, poured him some coffee or tea, I do not remember now, and he went to wake his colleagues to prepare for the way home. Uldis goes around the boat with Janis, passes him the control, documents and important information. After that, Uldis leaves for Riga together with Edgar and Janis, and we begin the second stage.

On July 20th, at seven in the morning I’m writing these lines on the way to Stockholm. Now there is another participant on the boat, a 65-year-old teacher labor teacher in school for teenagers with disabilities Johannes Marseille. I think his name can be translated this way. He is a Dutchman with French roots. Vera Simakova acquainted me with him for inclusive collaborative activities in Sweden. During less than 24 hours of Johannes’s stay on board, we remembered the old days of separation to the “east and west”, evaluated the real political situation in the world, discussed the problems and inclusion of persons with disabilities, came up with activities for the congress in Yekaterinburg. Besides we came up with an inclusive sailing project on the Baltic Sea next year with joint sailing to the north of the Baltic in Oulu and an inclusive regatta, as well as a series of concerts there, on both sides of the Arctic Circle. We gave to Johannes beer, he treated me and Zhenya with ice cream. In general, a new old friend, there is nothing more to say.

Such people quickly enter the team so quickly like lifetime friends, with mutual understanding at one hint, and common themes, and willingness to do something together. These are the people we are looking for in the world; there should be more people like that, at least in sight.

On July 8th in Turku we sit with Grisha, discussing inclusion and its impact on others as he saw it and as he felt it on himself. Grisha has changed, it’s obvious: both the voice and the structure. It is evident that he feels newly well inside but cannot fully believe it. Once again we repeat that the project “The Sails of the spirit” combines and inactivates two work contexts. First is inclusion which constantly awakens new dormant forces of all participants, or, to be more precise, in all the participants. And the context of transition under sail, when in extreme survival, in joint dense living, only the right is born and survives. The wrong is immediately cut off.

Besides Grisha with his camera has introduced a new contextual influence. You always pull yourself when waking up, eating, speaking,. To behave in front of the camera properly or adequately, you try all the time to look and speak better than you can in real life. But then time passes and you forget about the camera; then again you come to your senses and you are reminded that you are constantly videotaped (especially if you let yourself a word or two, especially some swear words). You pull up yourself; you start again a good life, then forget again and then, finally, you get tired of it. You put up with yourself that you are now the most correct, the most cultured and the most natural, and it’s cool.

So, beside brilliant cooking and help in movements, Grisha has brought to the “Sails of spirit” the context of constant lookout, look from outside. Besides there is a context of living in a confined space in a small team, survival in the context of sea sailing, the overall work context to achieve the goals, context of creative realization of the activities onshore – and all this under the inclusion sauce. Dish from the three-star Michelin restaurant. You are both the chef and a part of the main treats.

I’m sitting at the table and writing, the wind is blowing in the back … At first it was, as usual, difficult to write, now it goes easier.

In the evening of July 8th, the team of Special Olympics headed by the coach Marie came on board. First, communication, as usual, went on difficult. We told about us, about the Congress, about inclusive regattas. We showed on the laptop a video about the regatta. Finnish friends and colleagues introduced themselves, said that they had recently participated in the Games in Los Angeles. Each of the athletes had had several medals. Marie shared the system of forming sailing teams in Special Olympics, told about the categories. The system is interesting, just a shame that the Paralympic competitions of Special Olympics and the usual Olympic games come separately from each other. Only in the morning we were complaining about it together with Johannes.

Then, in the evening of July, 8th, on the board, we had overcome the borders of official meeting by sharing tea. The guys brought and proudly put on the table general muffins, cakes, cookies. Our ladies made tea, and I took for a tour Johanna, as I understand, the mother of one of the athletes. Johanna, blindfolded boldly took to the grid and down into the boat. The atmosphere warmed, and I invited the team to participate in the transition from Turku on July, 10th. Surprisingly for the team and, I confess, rather unexpectedly for myself. Honestly, there was little hope, but this “honesty” would not work in the future.

The next day at 12 a.m., Sergey, the head of ABC, and the Redins couple, Denis and Veronica, also of Russian society, came to the boat. Besides, attention, there appeared the first fruit on the boat: a representative of the Finnish blind community. A seventeen-year-old girl Minya with the assistant Marie. When I greeted Marie I realized that the lady was also disabled.

I want to mention here such brave and curious people like Minya. She just came to an incomprehensible meeting with the blind sailors from Russia, Latvia and France. Most others really do not understand what to do in such meetings, what they can get there. In most organizations in the world, there’s no interest in such meetings! Therefore, there is triple importance in meetings with such ladies as Minya. I’m almost absolutely confident that in the future we can expect her on board for sailing or for an event. Minya plays the piano. It is a pity that this time we have not heard it but I respect Minya for the fact that we had walked together on the ship and that Grisha recorded it in the second movie about the expedition. Other characters of his second movie are Veronika and Denis Redin. Veronica works in Turku service, Denis is closer to economics. Denis comes from Miass, Chelyabinsk region, Veronica is from Karelia. Veronica came on board for the presentation, as usual, in a long dress and, despite this, went on a tour blindfolded. Grisha caught the moment when the family decided to sail with us, and put it in the movie. Grisha, you took the essence of “The Sails of spirit”, a spontaneous manifestation of the spirit, spontaneous freedom of your real desires, spontaneous adoption of new horizons of your life.

Meanwhile Marc packed up and went in taxi to the airport. Another week, even a little more, with the great Aufrant came to an end. I personally each time say goodbye to my friend more and more emotionally. Believe it or not, but now, when I’m writing I remembered it and felt a slight fluid pressure in the eyes. However, I am particularly proud of this friendship and appreciate it. Marc flew to Paris. Sergei was very surprised: how did he manage it alone, unaccompanied. Marc, in turn, was very surprised that he was not fed on the way from Helsinki to Paris and revealed it in the sms on arrival. I strongly recommend reading an interview with Marc in the latest issue of The Inclusive. I devoured it on board the plane from Moscow to Chita when perusing a new issue.

Marc left and new members came to us: a trio Intuition Plus. There now, as Artem Mamylin who remained “onshore” in the expedition, likes to say, the trio “Intuition” left us but how much experience and cases with them, how many new things did they discover for themselves and for us! It all started with a concert in the ABC Palace of Culture as someone called the cultural center to Sergei’s joy. It turned out that, in addition to many activities and clubs they have their own rock band in the center, in which incidentally, Denis and his wife Veronica take part. Denis quickly set up the equipment for the trio. But there was a surprise. German Naklonyaev had to go back by bus which had brought the trio, but after three hours after the driver has had a rest. So German noticed musician drums in the closet. Let me remind you that the German drums on everything that comes his way, and even with hands and feet at the bus stop, he once even drummed with two white canes on the pavement, and that wasn’t bad. And so this German who always gets lost somewhere, as Pushkin’s German who cannot appear at midnight, this German spotted the drums. Well, there was nothing else to do: at the behest of providence a trio gradually turned into a quartet.

The trio’s repertoire was indeed not so very suitable for this configuration but when Sergey Parahin began to play the guitar and the three began to sing, German quietly and stealthily entered. In general, these four “made” our audience, the few who came on Saturday in good weather at the ABC center. In general, the center, besides its “soulfulness”, surprised us with some particularly healthy and active youth environment. It was started by Elena, the center founder, Sergey and the team continued it. Thank you and another nod of respect for your deeds!

Yes, probably through Turku we have for the first time seen Finland with its pretty well-established cultural, social and business life, with its open, easy communication, friendly people. Sergey from Petersburg called Turku “the Finnish Petersburg”, as a former capital, a cultural center, a city of people with live communication.

What else do we remember about Turku? Of course, acceptance by local authorities headed by Miko and Sari, a joint dinner at the hotel with brief information about the economy, social and cultural life of the city and a guided tour with the guide Antonina in the afternoon. During the dinner Miko solemnly handed us tickets for rock ‘n’ roll festival, our happiness had no end. We, in our turn, handed our souvenirs, magazines, presentations and said goodbye until the next meetings which are not far off in Turku. Next year, Finnish stage is finishing in Turku and Vladimir Rudak can participate in the next rock festival. In general, I think there can be so much more than anywhere else and more than is dreamed of.

On the last night we were joined by the “new” old Captain Roberts who is now flashing before my eyes changing the tack, and a new Latvian sailor Oscar. There immediately appeared a joke that Lover has won an Oscar this year. The night accident I’d like to note is me and Grisha being attacked by a mosquitoes gang fed by the members of the island rock festival…

The next morning we were waiting for the guests. They promised rain, and it was raining in the morning. But everyone came, both the Redins and five members of the «Special Olympics» team.

Ours, too, were assembled, there were ten of us for the first time, and with the guests we were in 17 and we moved to the north towards Pori. The happy Redins and the Finns had “The Sails of the spirit” buckwheat of the Kurgan meat-packing plant for breakfast. The Finns did not know what it was; the Redins were trying to explain because the Finns do not often identify buckwheat as food. Then acquaintance with the catamaran, first cautious for the captain and the others, then everyone got accustomed. It cleared up and, of course, most of them accommodated themselves in front on the grid, naturally with tea and coffee from Nastya and Lena. And of course in the afternoon the first marine concert: a trio that was reduced to a duo consisting of two Sergeys: Burlakov from Tver and Parahin from Sergiev Posad.

About Burlakov later, right now about Sergey Parahin…

We got to know each other in the orphanage for deaf-blind children, after our first Spirit Sails voyage with Sergey Burlakov. That was another Burlakov, not the person who has just sung on deck. Sergey is totally blind, he teaches blind children music and navigation. After Croatia I returned to the orphanage and showed the video on Croatian stage of Spirit Sales. Sergey wanted to join us without hesitating, then I didn’t believe him: many people come up to me and say so. I thought Sergey’s character would not suit the project, he is a modest and educated man, he wouldn’t break the ice. However, lastyearhestubbornly invaded our Turkish expedition (in a good sense), he sang in Antalya Russian center, he also sang at an inclusive party in the central hotel of Northern Cyprus. HeeventookhistriototheWhiteCaneholiday officially prohibited in Moscow, but privately supported (including law forces), with demonstration from the Kremlin wall. Sergey organized his trio for the first Russian open sailing championship and brought with him a blind girl, Lena Pisareva, to learn how to haul sheets in the race.

And now Sergey takes his trio abroad. To say honestly I didn’t believe that, until the moment I saw them leaving a public taxi in Abo. What’s more, Sergey and his colleagues themselves organized almost all the trips; such is the sense of Spirit Sails and all other activities of Belaya Trost. That’s why, 40 minutes before our farewell in Oulu Lena Pisareva wrote: “Now I’m so easy outgoing!”

That day Sergey Parakhnin played guitar, while Sergey Burlakov sang along. Our Finnish friends also joined in, when they heard Million alych roz famous all over the world. Iona the athlete and I shyly pat each other on the shoulders and kneesin time with the chorus of Alla Pugacheva’s hit; the singer helped us a lot in the Finnish land.

The Redins couple explored the ship, getting acquainted with everyone. Veronica and Johanna tried to cut Latvian bread blindfolded. Oscar had brought half a loaf as big as a washing machine lid. It seems that the Redins’ delight will bring them to the Spirit Sails, and they will go to the next expedition with us. Veronica phoned her relatives in Oulu and asked them to meet us and help when necessary. A team of special Olympians enjoyed music and sea landscapes. Roberts allowed them all to drag the sails up and down, to and fro. We did not reach Pori, we bid farewell in a city whose name means something like “The New Mountains”, that is, kind of Finnish Novgorod. There Sergey picked the Redins up with his auto and saw us off with a parcel of Finnish apples. After hugs and farewells the team of special Olympians left along the wharf, carefully and nicely at the same time. We thanked them with “Kiitos”.

Meantime I am writing on the boat on July 23, in the morning. We are already heading for Latvian Ventspils from Stockholm. The weather is sunny and a bit windy, we have turned on the motor, the riggings are squeaking, staysail rope weakens and tightens but everything is very comfortable.

We have already passed Stockholm, while in my memories I haven’t reached even Finnish Oulu. I want to describe everything hotfoot, however sometimes there is little time, sometimes, even if I am ready, there is stormy weather, waves or even events… It’s something that interferes every time. So I am sorry, and I’ll try to catch up.

On July 10 we started moving towards Vaasa with the trio, a small port north of Oulu. In Vaasa we needed to put Grisha off for his train, he had a ticket for the morning of July, 13. Easier said than done… It was Grisha who, as young people say, turned us on with his uniquesuitability for our project and our team. He is like the god Shiva with his six hands: two of them cooking and laying the table, the other two steering the yacht and blind people on the shore, while the third pair are filming all this for the posterity. Phrases like “coffee a la Glyantsa” or “pasta a la Glyantsa” emerged in our company.

Sergey Burlakov, member of Intuitsia trio, is another treasure for Spirit Sails team. As I first saw an application for Spirit Sails from Sergey Burlakov on Facebook, I was surprised, to put it mild. It was Sergey Burlakov with whom we created the project in 2011. Now Sergey is busy raising Paralympicmovementin Donetsk People’s Republic, thus, he is finished with sails, so why then would he decide to enter once again? The answer was simple, this was a visually impaired friend and colleague of Sergey Parakhnin from Tver bearing the same name with Sergey Burlakov. Sergey Burlakov sings in the trio and makes music covers, but the things he does in the sea deeply amazed Glyantsev and me.

Burlakov has long been a member of blind society, so he is used to commenting everything around him. But… the way he does it! Standing by him, you are literally dying from emotion and esthetic ecstasy. Billions of words to describe the color of clouds, the sea, the sun, the sunset… Sergey never gets tired, the landscapes just shower, he himself get amazed and speaks to the public nonstop, indefatigably. Sergey has clouds like pillars, water like glycerol… It’s always so: surprised or with an amazing metaphor or hyperbole. Grisha attaches a microphone to Sergey. First he is afraid he wouldn’t cope with the microphone. Not in the least, nothing can stop him, he still has images showering at rapid-fire pace.

We have decided not to enter Vaasa, we were warned there is a lot of stones there, plus a turn for about 20 miles,we will lose about half a day for both directions. We have found a yacht club on the island which name we were still trying to memorize two days after we had pulled out: Klobbskat. We entered by night. At the window of a closed restaurant we saw a Finnish man sleeping, he didn’t answer to our knocks. Zillions of mosquitoes. In the evening – a farewell concert on honor of Glyantsa. The concert was accompanied by dances. Glyantsa crashed out first and thoroughly. Inthemorningwefoundtheislandmayor,he helped us to find a key from shower that washeaven-sent. Glyantsa found no bus to Vaasa, but he found a car going his way. We said good-bye,suddenly finding no proper words. Seems something missed in our farewell,but it is probably not true. Then we got his message from the railway station, everything went alright, then it was the last vide oprobably finished in Paris where Grisha went from Finland.

Finally we leave the island for Oulu. For most of participantsof Spirit Sails,Brussels and Paris, at most Stockholm is suitable from our whole expedition. Only Eugenia Malyshko and I appreciate the North, appreciate the extreme point of our route. In the north it is Oulu. Neither Eugenia nor I were there but we know for sure that in Oulu it will be cool and that sailing is also a common skill in these parts of the world. Now I know – Eugenia and I were not mistaken. Then we were moving under sail and Eugenia by trains.

On our way we are trying to solve plenty of problems ashore. Multimobility School, a project shared with Megafon, Institute for management and design and Russian State Social University starts in September, so now crowd funding is open. International round table on implementation of Convention on rights of persons with disabilities together with Rosa Luxemburg Foundationand Sverdlovsk library for blind people will take place in Yekaterinburg mid-September. Together with Thomas Kraus and government of Sverdlosk region we are opening enrolment for the Congress. On September 17 we have another inclusive race with yacht club Komatek, on the same day our Good Thing starts in the festival “Inclusive Art”. In September in Yekaterinburg we will establish the first audio tactile schemes of the city. And events in 15 European cities waiting for us in the expedition.

Thanks God, we have our native Wi-Fi router with Finnish map and Internet. Thanks God, Artyom Mamylin and other members of The White Cane are ashore.Thanks God, this time we’ve got a helping hand from our group of partners from Rosatom. Thanks God, we have friends like Zara Ajiimyan, who within 24 h corrects the mistakes of the previous designers, prepares new patches and sends them with Eugenia Malyshko. Thanks God, we are moving towards the far north of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia with the best team in the world. Before a call to the Northern port we pass the northernmost point of our route, to the North of 65thparallel. We align a board in the brand clothes, we take photos, videos, then the gong sounds.

We turn to the south-east and enter Oulu where we have a place reserved in the port, right by the market place. I all but forgot that we had a short stop in the sea to bathe before taking the photo. The water was surprisingly sweet and warm, naturally by northern standards: we were only 150 kmaway from the Polar circle. First Lena Pisareva hesitated for quite a while whether to bathe or not, then she hesitated for quite a while whether to leave the water.

Thus we have landed in Oulu, with the immediate surprise. The city is very much alive, with folks all over the square, with songs, music and all that with excellent weather. We have never seen livelier cities in Finland, all the others are calmer, to put it mildly. Apparently, combination of the North and the good weather in short summer left dome traces in Northern Finnish souls and they started singing.

Veronica’s half cousin from Abo is the first to come on board. Her name is Yulia, she comes on board with her three little children and her goddaughter. Yulia is actively involved at once, literally becomes a team member and helps with everything: to go to the market, to take diesel fuel at the gas station, to find information about the shops in the Internet, to invite Russian-speaking elite to our events. Then it turns out that Julia served in the army in Finland above the Arctic Circle in the rangers’ part. A sort of forest commandos.

I want to say at once, Thank you, Julia, thank you and your goddaughter, that on the day of departure from Oulu her second blueberry pie in life was baked and brought hot on board. Goddaughter finished 4th grade in Kostomuksha and is now on vacation in Finland. First she behaved timidly on the boat, then catching me in the kitchen said with aspiration: Your boat is very beautiful. What is the goddaughter’s name? I asked Robert and Lena. Robert brought information from Lena: goddaughter’s name is Arina. I suppose Arina will soon appear either on board our boat or on board another boat.

The next in the life of “The spirit of Sails” in Oulu is Michael with diplomatic surname Chicherin. He’s an interpreter from Finnish whom our partners had asked to help us in Oulu. Misha came by train from Helsinki. We get acquainted. The next day, Michael helps to meet Malyshko off the train, we walk together, prepare lunches and dinners on board. And of course the evening concerts with dancing, applause from the coast and the neighboring yachts.

The soup in the evening was prepared from whitefish and char purchased in the market 200 meters from the parking.

In the evening we meet in Oulu area a wheelchair group and invite them to the event and congress. We live on boat in the center of the city and it’s cool! In general coolness is always present in yachting. It is in how you move in your house between cities and merge in them, become their part immediately after mooring. And although the house does not seem to change, the jetty, yacht clubs, showers on the beach, restaurants and nearby stores – all are different, other. And your house quickly becomes part of the other. A magical experience!

Following Misha Chicherin who quickly and efficiently merged with the team, the day after there appeared a local Finnish girl named Outi working in the information department of our Rosatom partners. Outi corresponded with us long before the visit so she is up to date with our activities and quickly incorporated into our lives: helped arrange a yacht, included into a local music festival our trio Intuition. As a child, Outi like most Finns went sailing, and it is felt even in her voice.

A blind singer of Irish ballads Anna Fomina also kept her promise, she arrived in Oulu by train. In the penultimate evening Anna participates in the gala concert on board the Lover which was given for passers-by, for sailors on neighboring yachts which have already become friends.

Before arrival of Anna we went on a tour of Oulu which is rich on events, business, architecture and other sightseeing. Oulu, according to various estimates, is the third city in Finland with the port, production of tar, fishermen, the hockey team (repeated champion of Finland), the central library, and even a sailboat of Alexander I which is still used by tourists today.

After the tour is lunch with Outi and Piar – representative of the City Hall responsible for External Relations of the city administration. After lunch, discussion and introduction to the city social life in a round table format that Piar held with our participation. The most important part of the round table was a video message from a girl named Eovrita. Eovrita comes from Oulu, she’s a blind owner of clothing factory now living in Malta, and to be more precise, moving at the moment with her husband on a yacht somewhere in France. In the video Eovrita talks about herself, her work in blind, greets everyone. I hear in her voice – this is the right person, again we found what we’re looking for all the time, again we found extrability. Eovrita explains in detail how she selects colors for the new collection of clothes with help of her assistant. I understand it so much! Even at the beginning of “White cane” I had to choose all logos and images related to our work myself relying on the voice and intonation of surrounding people.

We take Eovrita’s video, exchange contacts, agree on information exchange. Administration officials apologize for the fact that a few of those who we need gathered here, the reason is the same: vacations. We assert them: we find what we need and thank the hosting side for it. The more so that this is only the first acquaintance, and I believe extensive links are ahead.

Then comes our last day in Oulu. Lena Pisareva is in a trance, she’s almost crying, so imbued with life on the boat, concerts, sailing. She eats pasta which she would have never done onshore. She does not believe her luck saying: What good did I do in life to live so as I’m now spending time.

Lena is a totally blind singer from Tver, with a beautiful voice and manner of speaking. I’m sure that her image has many beautiful pitches. I mean external image. Lena is modest open at the same time. But now Lena is in trance even more: she is as outraged inside as Sergey Burlakov. He is very intelligent and it’s in his blood. But even this highest level of intelligence does not help hide the discontent. Sergey imbued with the sea, sails and sailings, life on the boat, concerts on board and his inner outrage is fair and to the point. He is bit confused with his own inner outrage. There’s no need to be embarrassed, it is important to transfer this discontent in the energy of creation that to live as many days of the year as possible in this bright way.

On the last day, a trio concert is scheduled on the main square. According to the forecast, it will either rain or not, it’s unclear. In the morning it broke out and calmed down, it began to dry out. The guys gathered and moved things from the boat in the hotel. Only the guitars were left. We begin preparing to go to the center, Mikhail and Yulia come with Arina. Misha has a jacket on, Julia and Arina are clad in ranger-like unsoakable jackets. We’re moving to the center.

Another weather will not come, the concert will not be canceled, the mood is up, upset only by parting to come soon. From the central scene trio name sounds a bit ridiculous in Finnish manner. Then the trio sang Vysotsky and, of course, “Million of scarlet roses”. Finnish friends in the square applauded, despite the rain and bad weather. It seized Julia’s breath. We are all excited, we are together near the Arctic Circle walking, singing, dancing, talking, doing something useful and international.

After the concert, a short lunch together in the market, in the cafe where they fry local trout and whitefish. Only Malyshko has a meat dish. I tape to a blind radio last comments of the trio. We feel joy and sadness at the same time when approaching the catamaran and hearing how Mikhail invites the trio to visit in Helsinki. They quietly accept the invitation and discuss where you can come take a walk on the week-end. I immediately advise to plan a concert somewhere. Then Lena utters a phrase for which such projects as The Sails of spirit are started: Now I do feel light of foot!

We climb aboard, say goodbye. Anna, Sergey, Lena and Misha … Each of them went now in all directions: to the station or to the hotel.

We said goodbyw to Yulya and Arina while in the square after the concert. To Outi- on board before the concert. We kept souvenirs and sweets. We have the remaining part of Arina’s blueberry pie. We have in our souls confidence that we want to return to this city and continue its investigation. To continue discovering its values for ourselves and for others.

Finland, good-bye!

In updated crew we move to Sweden, to the south. Stockholm is almost 600 miles away. Interesting now to remember how I and Uldis planned route on the map and now it is in fact traversed. This is the same as plans realized in practice. Very interesting. Sweden is a natural and it can be said for many a social paradise. I am for the first time in this country. I wonder how the outer view will be compared to the concrete experience of the stay. We do not have much time for this country and we need to go a great distance from Oulu to Stockholm. Nearly 600 miles … There is one more pleasant task: we have agreed with Johannes Marcel, our new Swedish friend, to go along on a catamaran for several days. With Johannes introduced us by Vera Simakova, for which a separate, additional respect to her. During the preparation Vera was strongly trying to making sure that we met. Now it is clear that intuition has not deceived the experienced social integrator. Meeting point with Johannes in Suntsvall was reached in two steps: we stopped for domestic bathing pause in a small yacht club on the east side of the Swedish kingdom. Weather and wind are favorable to us, and we reached Suntsvall in two steps of about 200 miles. We went into this, in my opinion, industrial town in the morning at sunrise. Industrial enterprisesб houses on the slopes, high bridges under which our ship with a 20-meter mast passes easily. Empty deserted morning port. We “clean feathers” and wait for Johannes. He appears by noon. We say hello, he goes for a welcome ice cream, we prepare lunch, eat it and depart. And somehow immediately Johannes is in the team: no awkwardness, no lapping movements and combinations of words. He is already helping with sails in gloves. He is already on the bench next to me and we begin to discuss absolutely all topics which are countless.

Now we’re approaching Ventspils and Robert saw a ship from Murmansk. “Northern Land”, Oscar and Robert pronounce the name of the ship. And then I, Johannes and other members of the team headed for Stockholm and were together for more than 200 miles. Johannes works as labor teacher at a school for the disabled in a small Swedish town. He himself is a Hollander and his wife is from Slovakia. Johannes made musical instruments himself, he is an experienced sailor and an extremely pleasant person to talk to, of respectable age and in good physical and above all psychological form.

The following morning I and Johannes begin to discuss possible routes for next year. I remember that I had already written about him above in notes on Finland. Johannes has wonderful communication skills: three languages, as is usual in the Europeans: Swedish, Dutch and English. Johannes shares his idea of the Congress in Yekaterinburg. He suggests making wooden parts for each member with the hook so at the end all together they could make a big circle, catching one another on the hook. We develop the idea together and understand that these things, pre-prepared, half of the participants will be able to assemble for themselves during registration, sign and use as a kind of ID at the Congress.

The most remarkable moment of transition is the morning of entrance to Stockholm through the famous archipelago. It’s early in the morning, we go sailing where the passage between the islands is wider, where the nearest shore is 20 meters away. When the wind hides the island from us we go slowly for three to four knots, and there is gentle sailing silence around. As we pass another islet, the wind blows, and we go at six knots with boiling astern and wind noise in the ears. Weather in the morning is sunny and warm, the island covered with pines and colorful small houses. On the rocks sit the birds. Stones are white with bird gatherings, rare morning boat sail against us. With the day coming, sailing on our way increases, there are ferries and cruise ships hurrying to Finland. We are in a real sailing paradise!

On the archipelago the Swedes themselves live and relax in the summer, of course moving in boats, mostly sailing. Closer to the capital port traffic increases dramatically, we pass the city fortress, the channel is narrow. Robert says he has never been behind the wheel in such traffic. Johannes conducts entrance in Stockholm, shows where to pass and turn. Takes my photo in the same place where he had taken a photo of Vera Simakova when they went on a sailboat last year. He sends the photo to Vera. We anchor in a marina in the city center, near the sea museum. The marina is crowded, many yachts for parking, brave master chases away a large Danish sailing vessel.

Welcome to Stockholm!

There’s a slight difficulty in leaving the catamaran: the pier is too low and the gangway angle will be too high. More like trampoline than gangway. Lena, labor teacher Johannes, Robert, Oscar and Janis make an original gangway from improvised means, something like such a platform on the pontoon with the angle available for descending with a cane. The construction resembles a wooden roller coaster in the yard, and the gangway is now parallel with the board. Everything is ready and now it is really a welcome to Stockholm!

A brave master comes, and Johannes tells him about our project. The master is really interested in the particulars, I asked him about handicapped sailors. He said they have no such men in the port but recommended the places where they may be. Our partners from Rosatom arrange for a meeting with the city’s ombudsman for rights of the handicapped next day. They are coming to the boat in the afternoon with a representative of city administration. We are engaged in house cleaning, replenishment of provisions, dinner cooking. There comes a mail from a man named Glen who writes that he’s part of the «Handicat» fund board and tomorrow he’s going to visit the ship. I’m merrily apprehensive of the last three letters of the Fund name. I do not stop thinking that this is about home cats. I almost wrote back to Glen: How many cats are ready to visit our ship with you? I tell the name to Johannes, he finds on the Internet, too, the sites of organizations offering cats for rent.

Thank God in the morning we enter the right name and get an answer – it is the sailors with special health potential and cat is not “cat”, it’s the first three letters of the word “catamaran”. Cool! When Glen appeared on the boat the day after he quite a fun when we told him who we were expecting.

In the evening the girls had quite a rare opportunity in this journey to go for a walk in the city. Yanis goes with them. I and Johannes stay on the boat and talk, talk, talk… discussing politics, the disabled, the environment. One story for example from Johannes. He does a lot of sailing with different people; one of his friends works in the crematorium. And that’s when I start to doubt that our nature is so much we polluted that Johannes suddenly and gently tells me the story of how his crematorium friend once complained to him that before, in good years, after burning there remained about a liter of ashes of each person. And the ashes, to put it mildly, were regular. Now the ash quantity has increased almost two-fold, and because of different non-inflammable additions, it became terribly toxic.

That is the reality now! Nothing can be helped about it!

The next day, on July 22nd, it was only yesterday, in the morning we visited the shop to upgrade the yacht clothing. That same day, linger as Johannes did, we made a tour of Stockholm for him blindfold. When my new friend understood that he could not slip away and he’d have to go blindfold he beat me jestingly. And so the two of us, he blindfold, move along the summer Stockholm, studying the curbs. First I come with a cane, Johannes holding my shoulder. We meet on the road a group of drummers, Lena and Robert who followed us and shot us on the camera then said it was a parade of firefighters. We pass through the narrow passages near entrances to some houses. Our guards told afterwards that at this point a man in a wheelchair went of the store and saw two blind squeezing between the passage and the parked bus and closing his mouth, he apparently told himself in Swedish: Oh my God. Johannes, first stiff and a little shaky inside as usual, then becomes more relaxed. Oh, how fine he will feel then! I give him a cane, and he begins to explore the city with it. We also touch it; there are shop glass windows, we find scarce stone walls. Johannes traditionally gets in a state that comes after the fear – he begins to hear city environment, he goes into another world, and at this point we remove bandage from this happy man. We promptly catch a taxi and go to the yacht club. Johannes tells an Iranian cabbie about his unique excursion experience. The taxi driver answers that his Iranian brother-in-law is also blind and that he worked in Tehran at the telephone exchange.

We get unloaded in the port and soon the guests come on board the catamaran. The first is the magic and amazing Glen from “Handicat”.

Right at this moment, we’re anchoring at the yacht club in Ventspils in a quiet Latvian evening. Silence all around. The yacht club where during the first Baltic voyage we had been left alone for the night on a catamaran without the crew. Lena and Artem were checking mooring lines all night in stormy weather. Oscar shared Latvian internet and I got in touch with old friends. Among them is Nastya Proskuryakova, a blind friend from Venstpils which shared a lot with us. Tomorrow we will meet with Nastya, Constantine and Tatyana, her parents. In the air is the silence and the smell of our diesel. Yanis already jumped onto the dock. Nastya is couching in the corner of the cockpit.

The final meeting on the catamaran in the Swedish capital was more than good. Glen got into our subject at once and after briefly listening to the idea of a joint voyage on the Baltic Sea next year began actively developing it. After Glen came ombudspersons for rights of the disabled in Stockholm and the Swiss Bern «Riitta-Leena Karlsson» and Miriam Gras. After a brief acquaintance Rita agrees to go on a tour with blindfolded with Zhenya Malyshko. Glen talks with Johannes. Standing around a common round table in the cockpit we discuss still the same issues; employment and independence of people with disabilities. Swedish social paradise but with a sting such as paid public toilets for everyone. I told him about our journey, about those whom we meet on the way. After the story about Oulu Rita confesses that she is from these places. It will be a double pleasure to hold an inclusive conference sailing in the north of the Gulf of Bothnia.

“Inclusive Baltic Sailing Congress” – the name comes from Johannes. Glen begins outlining project structure; Rita assures that at the verbal support level all is settled. We agree to discuss this topic in the postal correspondence. Glen talks about his yachting with his wife who had recovered from a back injury only 18 years later, also through the sail. Miriam says that in Switzerland, the issue of public toilets free visiting is solved by free access to toilets of all food establishments. Besides Miriam said that this year it had rained a lot of so the mountains are streaming of water and stones in Switzerland. Miriam complains of her poor English, she’s helped by her daughter with whom she is on vacation in Stockholm. We thank Miriam and Rita for having sacrificed vacation time and come to the meeting. We took a photo at the pictures with invitation to the Congress and said goodbye and see you soon.

Glen still lingers, telling the story about how he served on a radar point in the early 90’s with a Soviet officer, and after a night of transformation with a Russian army officer. I admire straight into Glen’s face that fate has brought us together with him. This is a man with whom it is difficult to part. But we do it, and after about an hour parting is much harder with Johannes, he goes to the station to take the train. Yes, three days with the labor teacher passed as a life.

Now we have Pasha Chegvintsev on board, another participant from Yekaterinburg, from our dear Medical College. Pasha helps to dismantle the super-gallery built by Johannes.

…We are pulling out heading to Ventspils.

Sometime later we got a message from Johannes that he was late for a minute, while the train was late for two minutes. He was happy greeting us.

Good-bye Scandinavia! We are moving forward.

Oleg Kolpashchikov

25/07/2016, Ventspils

Special thanks to Victoria Valeryevna Arsentyeva for editing, and Tamara Agafonycheva for translating the text into English.

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