A snail circumnavigates the world
By Vera Kostamo

Explorer Yevgeny Shkaruba, the skipper of the yacht Juliet, has circumnavigated the world in five years aboard his ship. He is also an artist, a blacksmith and an experienced seafarer. Some people compare him with Peter the Great because Shkaruba invited Norwegian specialists to help build a Pomor schooner in Arkhangelsk. Others believe he resembles the stalker from the novel by the Brothers Strugatsky, and that he shows people the sea and its unique wild and untamed essence.

Shkaruba compares his journeys with those of a snail who slowly explores the world but who prefers to stay inside a warm and cozy home when a storm arrives. So, here is his story.

An unexpected around-the-world trip

My father was a yachter and took me for races when I was about 6 years old. When I turned 10, I enrolled at the yachting club.

My around-the-world trip was a pure coincidence; I had no ambitious plan. We traveled, simply sailed the Pacific Ocean, we wanted to visit New Zealand and to round Cape Horn. But our ship was dismasted, and I realized that it might reach the end of its tether, and that it was time to go home. Then it occurred to me that, if we came back, it would basically be an around-the-world trip. This is when the bell rang for the first time.

It took us five years to visit 66 countries and five continents and to navigate the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific and Indian oceans. On April 17, 2015, we arrived in Marmaris, Turkey, ending our epic 65,163-mile voyage that involved 188 seafarers.

How a person changes

I train people, members of the Seafarers club, who join me at different stages of the trip. We sail a preset distance. There are no tourists aboard; everyone works and learns the basics of seafaring.

An office worker comes from Moscow and becomes a helmsman right away. He faces the ocean with its creatures, the stars above and the horizon dead ahead. It is interesting to watch and feel how a person changes because his obviously happy mood is contagious.

City people are often unable to realize the implications of being at sea. This special world demands attention and respect, but not everyone is ready for it

People should always be afraid; I feel uneasy when no one but me feels fear. A person who is not scared can make mistakes and underestimate the extent of the danger.

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©From Evgeny Shkaruba’s personal archive
Any old woman knows

You can see many graves along the shores of Lake Teletskoye, but there are few graves on the White Sea coast. People who live along the coast for a long time gain knowledge. They learn all the time, and the world unlocks its mysteries to them, depending on how much these people know.

A skydivers' experience is measured by the number of jumps. Our experience is based on the number of nautical miles traveled, the number of night hours and, I would add, sea voyages

Terminology comes first. Why do we call this item what it is? It is one thing when they tell you an unfamiliar name, but if they discuss the origin, the situation changes.

Pomor terminology is genuine. I am fascinated with the North and Pomorye because the first Russian seafaring culture evolved here. Any old local woman living by the sea knows this terminology; this entire culture is vibrantly alive here.

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©From Evgeny Shkaruba’s personal archive
Wooden architecture of the north

The Pomor Karbas (Fishing Boat) was the first project in the White Sea region. People build these sturdy boats with an ancient process that survives to this day. The Karbas is the only class of Pomor ship that's still used.

Viktor Kuznetsov, an expert from the village of Leshukonskoye, built the Karbas. They used to order many Karbas ships not too long ago. However, the last clients will soon disappear, and this experience will become history. Soviet-era specialists used to describe wooden northern architecture in their books. But no one ever talks about Karbas fishing boats, Shnyaka sea-going ships and schooners.

There are no blueprints because this knowledge was passed from expert to apprentice. This is terrible: the last experts are still here, but we don't even have any decent photos showing how the ships are made

While working on our project, we decided to build a two-mast Karbas. We found a model of it at a regional history museum. According to tradition, ship-owners used to order a scale model of their ship and donate it to a church. They believed this would convince the Almighty to keep an eye on the real ship.

The ship builder and I built the Karbas and recorded the process with photo and video cameras. It took us two weeks to reach the Solovetsky Islands aboard this Karbas. We released a documentary on the project and received the Russian Geographical Society's Crystal Compass award in the Viewers' Choice category. To me, this is the most important and objective category. This year, we are planning to sail it down the North Dvina River.


In 2015, we sailed the White Sea for the first time, after circumnavigating the world. This came as an amazing discovery; everything was so interesting. Modern yachters found it important to see our White Sea regions where people still built Karbas fishing boats. Before 2015, they could see a different seafaring culture. Many countries now build ships for the tourist industry alone. But Norway, for example, prefers to make its own fishing boats for catching cod. The Norwegians continue to restore old ships and to build new ones using up-to-date technologies, such as coatings and impregnating substances. This is development, not just a reenactment. So we asked the Norwegians to help us with our next Pomor Schooner project.

We chose a classic Pomor ship and decided to add some new functions to it. The new ship will have a lot of interior space; this is very important for northern voyages. The ship will have four compartments accommodating two people each, modern navigation systems and an engine. It will feature as many amenities as possible so crew members can dry wet clothes and be warm and comfortable inside, like snails in their winter dwellings.

Эксперты на Новой Земле, изучающие медведей, наблюдали редкое явление – бора
©RIA Novosti.Vera Kostamo

People are interested in the north, even though this interest will never surpass Turkey and its beaches. However, interest continues to grow. Our new ship could become a popular way to promote northern sea voyages.

This is not meant to replace new ships and plastic yachts, but Arkhangelsk needs to retain a solid foundation. What will happen if we deprive this city of its maritime history and culture, and what people's mentality is based on?

Apart from building the ship, we'll record the processes and the entire production chain. We'll show all the construction steps, and we also want to invite volunteers.

Dead or alive at sea

The sea is a world unto itself. The term "ship underway" means a ship is no longer anchored or tied to a pier. It is sailing between two coasts. When the ship is no longer tied to land, and when it drifts in unstable waters, its status changes. This is like flying.

The crew is in limbo before dropping anchor again.

The sea can be a very terrifying element. It's good when a small storm breaks out, and when the ocean shows its formidable essence. Modern city people may not experience many risky or extreme sensations in their everyday lives

The sea also rids people of all superfluous things that they want to discard. For example, a person can forget his own telephone number in just a few days.

My idea of seafaring is that I'm like a snail slowly creeping along. Some people sail different kinds of ships, including techy carbon boats with minimal amenities; but everything is modern and fast. A snail's journey is like going from one "state of matter" to another. It's warm inside, we can watch a movie, read a book, talk to a friend or take a nap. But once on deck, you can see gray waves like wolves swarming all around the ship. A storm is raging, and someone is standing watch all wet. These two worlds are something different: the outer world is mysterious, unpredictable and full of anxiety and fear; and the inner world gives you a feeling of calm.