Saturday, August 11, 2007


When i arrive at the Carnarvon Yacht Club marina, the rowing boat Rus is still on its trailer. Three tall blond chaps are standing about, engaged in a quiet discussion in Russian. I walk over and introduce myself to the interpreter.

"Mark!" he says. "How the hell are you?" Sensing my bafflement, he continues. "Kirill," he says, nodding. I nod back, with absolutely no recollection or recognition. "Friend of Jules," Kirill continues. "We met at your exhibition at the Blender."

Like a drunken redneck discharging both barrels at a nadger of ducks without first loading the cartridges, something clicks. Kirill. The exhibition. We talked about motorcycles. I remember. "What are you doing up here?" he asks. What is anybody doing up here? What is he doing up here? What are we both doing up here, what are these Russian twins and their unlikely rowboat doing up here? It is a deeply disturbing philosophical question. I shrug.

Sergey and Alexander Sinelnik are what you might call professional adventurers. Each year, it seems, they embark on some random, ill-advised and ludicrous expedition in an attempt to cover some part of the globe by one improbable means or another. It might be the deserts of the Middle East on giant three-wheeled motorcycles. Or crossing the Caspian Sea on a replica Russian Ark, wearing heavy suits of armour. Or circumnavigating the globe on Urals, which are a sort of old and heavy Russian version of the Harley Davidson. In between their rambling adventures, they paint. They are both accomplished artists. And build boats. The kind of people who make me wonder: what am i doing with my life?

Sergey and Alexander are in Carnarvon, with the resolute intention of rowing the Indian Ocean to Africa. Or Mauritius. Or the Seychelles. Depending where the currents take them. The twins are going with the flow, in what looks like a yellow submarine. Are they on drugs?

Kirill speaks to them in Russian, translating my incredulity. They seem quite relaxed about their enterprise, as if spending four months in a rowboat on the high seas, eating dehydrated food and manufacturing their own drinking water whilst hauling their genetically identical asses across to Africa in a series of three hour shifts around the clock, using nothing other than their bare hands and strength of will, were little more than a quiet means of getting away from it all. A bit of a boating holiday.

What's that on their t-shirts?" i ask. The pair have 'Night Wolves, Russia' emblazoned across their chests, and also along the prow of the boat, alongside their sponsors logos in Cyrillic script. "Oh, that's the motorcycle gang they belong to in Moscow," explains Kirill.

Of course it is. It seems the Night Wolves began in 1983. "First illegal concerts of forbidden by state authorities rock bands took place. People of all USSR, named "lubers" visited Moscow, trying to crash Rock-Culture, which was "anti-sovietic" at that time. Mass fights followed almost each of them. Exactly, at that time, a prototype of Night Wolves was created, people on bikes, as a power, defending the musicians. A lot of interesting might be said about that time, but so this page would be too large."

Then, in 1988: "After severe natural selection, a group of people, cultivating a philosophy of man of Freedom, the symbol of which was the Bike, was finally formed." (

Crazy motherfuckers, defending the musicians and disturbing the peace. More about the Night Wolves later. Meanwhile ...

We put the trailer in the water. The launch of the Rus is a slapstick comedy, recorded for posterity on video by Kirill. The boat nearly falls off the trailer, but as Sergey and i struggle to hold it upright, Alexander quickly and expertly secures a line through a cleat on the bow, and we push the Rus down off its trailer and out into the harbour. Somehow, the line slips free, leaving Alexander holding a rope attached to nothing but fresh air, as the boat is unintentionally cast off into the drink.

We stand staring at one another. Alexander dives in and swims towards the vessel, leaving his shoes bobbing in the muddied water at the base of the boat ramp.

Thus the twins prepare to embark on their four-month nautical odyssey. In their rowboat 'Rus', the ancient name for Russia, with its Russian flags - blessed by an orthodox Russian priest before their last doomed attempt from Carnarvon in April, 2005. On the last trip, their water-making apparatus broke down after twenty four days at sea. Unfortunately they were beyond the fuel range of the aircraft able to drop the spare parts off to them, so they were rescued by a passing tanker and brought home. This time they have two water making machines. And about ten pairs of oars, just in case.

Follow the crazy Ruskis progress here.

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