Could Edward Snowden sail a yacht from Russia to Venezuela?

A chartered flight that flew exclusively in international airspace between Russia and Venezuela is estimated to cost $250,000.

The reason it’s so expensive is that the trip is extremely difficult, at the edge of the range of a Gulfstream G550. Apparently, it’s not even possible to do it and meet reserve fuel requirements. There are supposedly to be places the plane could stop for fuel, and have some chance of success.

That 250k price tag assumes an owner of one of these aircraft is willing to take the risk at all. According to this source, 250k is close to the sticker price for such a trip normally.

Anyways, another thing that costs approximately 250k is a brand new, high end, ocean going yacht about 40 feet long. The people helping Snowden could purchase a used yacht of the appropriate size for a tiny fraction of that cost, and load it up with enough food and supplies for the journey. He’d leave in the summertime, possibly, and sail through the arctic on a great circle route past Scandinavia, and so forth, remaining in international waters. Legally, the yacht would be registered in either Russia or Venezuela.

I’ve never sailed on the ocean, merely freshwater lakes, and I’m not certain how practical this journey would be. Late summer/early Fall, when the arctic ice has melted happens to be hurricane season. Also, I’m not certain if enough of the ice does melt for such a trip to be made in this type of boat. He might have to take a route that went through the Mediterranean. Apparently, the Strait of Gibraltar is considered international waters. An ocean going yacht with a keel that is able to right itself after being knocked down in a storm is slow, with the longer ones being faster but requiring more crew.

I’m sure some of the members here do have such sailing experience, and can tell me the chance he could make such a journey without having to stop anywhere along the way due to a breakdown or running out of supplies.

Although, even if that happened, couldn’t he send an encrypted message to his supporters and have supplies brought via another boat to a rendevouz point in the ocean somewhere?

And second, there must be legal buffs who can tell me if the United States could legally stop him on the journey. Furthermore, since yachts are so slow, they could readily stop him with a warship and place him under arrest, legal or not. How would the appropriate Federal courts view this kind of arrest?

As per the second question: the US has arrested people it wanted badly enough in Italian airspace. Why would it be any different in international waters?

He could go from the Pacific Coast of Russia and then around Cape Horn. He could also go east of NZ and Australia and then south and west and around the Cape of Good Hope. These routes would be navigationally very hard (the Capes are hell) in a yacht but would keep him in international waters at all times.

He could go from Murmansk which is ice free year round but he would have to pass through Scandinavian waters.

People sail around the world solo without stopping in races all the time, and plenty have done it in yachts no bigger than 40 feet. Obviously he could suffer breakdowns and illness and accident but these journeys are entirely plausible if hazardous possibilities.

I won’t comment on whether the US could legally stop him. I don’t doubt the US might stop him, and I don’t doubt they could do so if they knew he was doing it.

If Russia sent him on his way and if (if) they kept the whole thing quiet it could be that the US would never come to hear about the journey. I don’t know if Norway has any regular program of stopping and searching private yachts coming through their waters. They may well not.

Once he was through into the Atlantic international waters, there is no regular program of stopping and searching yachts as far as I know.

So it is entirely conceivable he could just sail out of Murmansk and not touch land or make contact with anyone till he makes landfall in Venezuala.

They would be better off sending him on a Russian naval boat or on a plane with Putin, rather than on a tiny yacht. We’re talking about a country that was willing to twist arms across Europe to stop the diplomatic aircraft of a foreign head of state in direct violation of everything that international law stands for.

And, of course, I’m sure there are enough sources here there and everywhere that it would not be a secret. The USA could just use the excuse “we got a tip a small ship smuggling drugs was in the neighbourhood”. Once they arrest the guy, who’s going to do anything about it?

A Russian cargo ship seems like the easiest way to get Snowden to Venezuela. Preferably a ship that delivers cargo there routinely. Cargo ships sometimes take passengers. They should have a spare bunk.

That’s assuming they could get him on the ship without any intelligence services knowing about it.

Far, far easier to just sneak him out of the country on a private plane and be in Venezuela before the US knows he left Russia. If they don’t tell anybody he’s on a plane, who will take action? Just a hop from Moscow to say the Canary Islands, a refueling at Tenerife, then on to Caracas. By the time the Feds notice that he’s gone, he’s landed.

And many experienced sailors have died attempting solo circumnavigation.

The Russians could simply put him on a submarine.

I’m sure the US could board a private yacht in international waters and get a fugitive if they wished. I’m guessing they’d rather he just quietly disappeared and was never heard from again. They have to say they’re interested in prosecuting him, but I bet the US government would prefer the issue fade away. (as it seems to be doing).

[li]Put him aboard a small ocean going vessel and the US will just make it disappear. No public trial. No muss. No fuss. But the US would never have the opportunity to interrogate him. Plausible deniability.[/li][li]Put him aboard a cargo ship and the ship could still just disappear, despite its size and track-ability. The ocean is a mighty big place and unknown weather is known to just come out of nowhere. Plausible deniability.[/li][li]Put him aboard a military vessel (above or below water) and risk the apprehension, even anger, of countries along the route. It’s all about perception. Not a good move politically for Russia in the near-term. Probably very expensive.[/li][li]Put him aboard an aircraft, and as others have stated, he could be there before the US knew he ever left.[/li][/ul]
I’ll take the last option for $200, Alex.

The conclusions drawn in this thread (Can a wealthy criminal live with impunity on the high seas?) seemed to be more or less that if they want you bad enough and they have the opportunity to arrest you, they will without too much regards to the niceties of international law. That includes seizing people sailing under flags of convenience in international waters and even abducting people from countries without the consent of their governments. Furthermore, there is legal precedent that says that even arrests that are clearly illegal under international law don’t affect the domestic legal proceedings.

So, with regards to Edward’s grand yacht adventure, it’s just a matter of whether the US is willing to deal with the diplomatic unpleasantness from the government of whatever country the yacht is sailing under. I’m not so sure that there’d be significantly more diplomatic fallout from grabbing him off a Russian-flagged yacht in international waters than there would be from intercepting his plane, even if it were in the airspace of a cooperative country. So why bother?

Put him on a Союз flight …

Snowden is 30 years old and can expect to live to about 75 or so, another 45 years. During this period there are going to be several regime changes in Venezuela–some of them friendly to the U.S. I think this is the primary reason he decided to stay in Russia.

That was then and this is now. And was a race.

You could look at the Vendée round the world race. If you want a smaller boat try the Global Ocean Race. They will take a Class 40. Races like these have a high attrition rate - the Vendée boats are ridiculously lightweight, massively overpowered, and do break.

If you want to make it round, and are not racing, look at the legion of solo round the world sailors. Jessica Watson comes to mind.

The single biggest risk seems to be UFOs (unidentified floating objects) of which the oceans are sadly filled. A shipping container may barely float, and be essentially invisible. Hitting one of them makes for a very bad day.
The thing about a sailing boat, is that there is no reason it needs to be solo. A plane trip has a crew, so why not a boat? Snowden’s problem will be that if the USA wants him they will use enough surveillance to have a very good idea where he is and what he is doing. Then it is a matter of picking him up at a convenient time.

The Vendee was the race Pete Goss was sailing solo, when he made it through a hurricane, then turned around and went back in to save a French sailor, thus missing the chance to win. All it takes is one decent storm…
Great book about the race.

What kind of “yacht” do you get for $250k? Sail or diesel? Can he sail or is he hiring a crew? And a forty-footer on the North Atlantic? He’s an egotistical jerk who doesn’t think anything through before doing it so I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried, but that trip is simply unwise.

It would have to be sail - diesel takes refueling. I suppose you could hug the shore as long as you stayed in International waters. I see that there are a fair number of large trawlers and other industrial vessels berthed in Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky that could definitely manage a cruise to the Panama Canal, I don’t know if they check passports of crew on the way through but then a short cruise south to Venezuela and he is ‘home’, or doubling the cape and up from the south to Venezuela. [Not to mention that they used to have sub pens there, no idea if they are still there or not after seeing the ruin of the Great Northern Fleet :frowning:

[I know they were the Great Evil Empire of my youth, but I about cried when I saw the ruins at the piers.:(]

Snowden has alluded to releasing insurance files that are to be made public if he’s ever disappeared in a suspicious way. Whether it’s true or not, it should be enough to at least give the US pause over authorizing an extra-judicial killing.

Norwegian territorial waters extend quite a bit north of our shore. The government apparently wants to not get on the bad side of the US enough not to grant him political asylum, despite idealogical pressure from inside. (Since China is still pissed at us we have enough diplomatic crises on our plate for the moment.) Whether it would go far enough in the other direction to intercept the ship is an open question, though probably yes. He’s a divisive figure here, but I imagine the people in power are pretty firmly on one side.

**Could Edward Snowden sail a yacht from Russia to Venezuela? **

He could, but it’ll be hard to do from the shallow grave somewhere in the vast expanse of Russia that he will soon find himself in the minute he is of no more use.