Fedor Konyukhov

A letter of acknowledgment

Last week Fedor Konyukhov had successfully reached the Humboldt Current. Fedor and his ocean row boat Tourgoyak had departed the coast of Chile and passed the continental shelf.  For us, his land team, this meant it was time leave this wonderful country as well. The month that we spent in Chile was full of dynamic and unpredictable events. These events mark the closing of another chapter of the trans-pacific rowing expedition.

The next chapter is entirely up to Fedor and the Tourgoyak to write along with Mother Nature. We hope that they will do it successfully, but more importantly, safely; so we can join them in Australia at the finish line of the expedition. Prior to flying to Chile we had no idea what to expect. We had no experience whatsoever in what goes into getting ready for a trans-pacific crossing: South America to Australia on a row boat. So, in a way, Chile was our terra incognita. There were a lot of pressing questions before our arrival to the county. Would Tourgoyak reach the port Valparaiso in container in one piece; and would we have any difficulties with the Chilean custom services in receiving the boat. The biggest question yet was would the maritime authorities of Chile give Fedor permission to leave the country on such an unusual vessel for a Pacific crossing. We had to figure out which yacht club would allow us to dock Tourgoyak before the start. All of these unknowns made us full of worry and anticipation before our arrival to Chile. Now, though, looking back at how everything worked itself out we are in awe at how helpful and accommodating this country and her people have been to us.

Back in June, our friend and manager Simon Chalk presented us with a book by a British ocean rower Jim Shekhdar who attempted to start from Chile on his trans-pacific crossing in the year of 2000. Simon strongly recommends us to become familiar with it and the reasons why the Chilean maritime authorities refused to let Shekhdar leave the country. In the end, he had to move the start of his expedition to Ilo, Peru. Upon reading the book we learned that Shekhdar arrived to Chile only a month prior to a start, and then proceeded to get the green light from the Armada de Chile to leave the country on his rowing boat. We decided to take a different approach and contacted the Chilean authorities before leaving Russia for Chile. In September 2013 we asked three large governmental entities to help us with approaching Chilean maritime authorities.  Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Russian Geographical Society, and the Russian Embassy in Chile we started working on the logistics of getting Tourgoyak not only to arrive in Chile, but more importantly, to leave Chile. The following three months were spent working on meeting all of the requirements from the Chilean Navy (Armada de Chile). Then in December we had the honor of meeting officials from the Chilean Navy. At this meeting we were informed that to get final approval for Fedor to leave the waters of Chile the boat would have to undergo a thorough inspection. To read more about the meeting with Armada de Chile click here.  

A seemingly simple task of leaving a country on a row boat to cross the ocean turned out to be not so simple. The number of people who aided this project is truly amazing. The list of acknowledgment to those who supported the project is extensive: from the top governmental officials of both Russia and Chile, longtime friends who joined us from Russia and England, to the new friends we’ve made in Chile. These are the people whose work and contributions made it possible for Fedor to embark on his ten year dream:

Michail Orlovetz, an ambassador of the Russian Federation in Chile and Constantin Leekurtzev, a consul of the Russian Federation in Chile. Without their participation in dialog with the Armada de Chile, we can say with certainty that Fedor wouldn’t be able to start from Chile. 

Artur Chilingarov, Vice-President of the Russian Geographical Society, who has been overseeing the trans-pacific crossing project from the moment a design of Tourgoyak boat was only an idea. 

Juan Eduardo Eguiguren, an ambassador of Chile in Russia. Back in Moscow we had a few meetings with Mr. Eguiguren. His availability and willingness to help is greatly appreciated.  

Ricardo Velasquez, from the DIRECTEMAR (Directorate of Maritime Safety, Security and Operations). His active involvement and support played an important role in our project. 

Taras Nechiporenko, a trading advisor for the Russian Embassy in Chile. His help in finding solutions, obtaining equipment to resolve technical problems on Tourgoyak and his personal delivery of the new accumulators from Santiago to Concon was truly a project-saving contribution.  

Francisco Jofre Lopez, a manager of “Club de Yates Higuerillas”, Concon, Chile.  It was our immense luck or God’s providence, or both, that Mr. Lopez, his yacht club and people who work there became interested in our project and decided to host our team and Tourgoyak. The Higuerillas yacht club is beautiful, safe, friendly, professional and extremely well equipped. We strongly recommend to anyone who travels along the South America to visit and stay at this yacht club. In addition, the Hiquerillas can be an ideal place to start any future trans-pacific crossings. 

Nadezda Kuznetsova and Alexsandra Balakireva, co-owners of a tour company “Alsur Travelling” for their excellent help in all of the logistics of getting to Chile, accommodating our large group on land, and resolving thousands of big and small problems: from buying a specific type of a rope to interpreting at our meeting with the top officials of Chile de Armada.

Ekaterina Kolupaeva, a director of the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Chile, for organizing an official meeting with the Russian population, and giving Fedor and our entire group a heart-felt welcome.

Alan Toscano, a custom agent from TIF Logistics who went above and beyond in retrieving Tourgoyak from a container amongst thousands of other containers at Valparaiso port. It was late November and the country of Chile was still experiencing the effects of the national strike of the municipal workers. The container with our row boat arrived right when the port’s employees decided to join in with the rest of the country in demanding better wages, pensions and quality of life in general. We were faced with the prospect of waiting for 10 days while the port deals with the strike and its aftermath. Alan was able to organize a speedy custom service for our boat just a few hours prior to the closure of the port. He was also able to sign the papers for temporary import on Tourgoyak, so we didn’t have to pay the taxes and other fees associated with the imported items.      

Ekaterina Fedoseeva, who organized news coverage of our project by almost all Chilean TV channels. Thanks to her efforts and connections, the Tourgoyak became known in many large media centers. This greatly helped us with resolving many administrative questions.

Jose Luis Fernandez, the owner of “Cheli” (Beneteau 43 Oceanis). He agreed to venture out 45 miles in to the ocean to locate and tow Tourgoyak back to Higuerillas yacht club. “Cheli” reached Tourgoyak after only 8 hours and sailed another 10 hours bringing the boat and Fedor back to shore.  Jose didn’t accept any monetary payment for helping us. He’s convinced that helping each other is what sailors and sea adventurers should do.

 Jose Alvarado and Pablo Maldonado from “Electricidad y Electronica” company. Their hard non-stop work of 30 hours resulted in a complete makeover of the Tourgoyak’s battery system. Their willingness to help on the eve of Christmas holidays and their professionalism meant that Tourgoyak was ready to get back to the ocean in top shape. We greatly appreciated their dedication to craftsmanship and support for our project.   

Andres Heine Lorenzen for providing us with apartments within walking distance of the yacht club. There was something very special about being able to see our boat from the living room of our apartment.

Oleg Sirotin, Sergey Eremenko and Vladimir Kuksov, our sponsors and supporters of this transpacific crossing. We hope you know that Fedor will always be very grateful that you decided to believe in his dream and support the expedition financially.

And to all our new friends that we have made in Chile, we want to express our deepest thanks and warm gratitude.

The country of Chile was very welcoming to us and we hope someday to be back with a new and exciting project.

Project manager - Oscar Konyukhov

Translated by Tatiana Koreski