Gyatso sailed down the Bosphorus today, returning to Istanbul 111 days after setting out on a voyage around the Black Sea. We visited five of the six countries during our 2,118 mile counter-clockwise circumnavigation, including Turkey, Georgia, the Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. Russian officials could not give us adequate assurances regarding clearance procedures, so we made a 330 mile offshore passage from Georgia to the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine to avoid entering Russian waters. It was a real disappointment not to be able to visit the site of the next winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
We met friendly people and were welcomed with warm hospitality along the way — the only exception was encountering the occasional Soviet-style government officials in Ukraine and in Georgia. Contrary to published guides about the Black Sea, we found it teaming with life. Dolphins and porpoises made regular appearances in our bow wave. We also met with many experts and scientists about the environmental conditions and were encouraged to learn of some signs of improvement to this highly degraded ecosystem. Continue reading Istanbul, Turkey: Black Sea Circumnavigation Completed→
We cleared out of Bulgaria in Tsarevo, arriving in Igneada, Turkey well before sunset. Having heard mixed reviews about whether Turkish authorities would allow us to remain in the harbor or require us to proceed to Istanbul for clearance formalities, we were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the officials who stopped by in a coast guard rib shortly after we anchored. The explained what we already knew: “Igneada is no longer a port of entry.” They asked for our passports and ship’s papers and gave us permission to stay in the harbor. In true Turkish fashion, one of the young men asked if we needed any supplies, “Water or bread? A weather report?” David answered, “We’re okay on supplies, but we miss olives!” They returned a short while later with our ship’s papers and a jar of black olives — a warm welcome back to Turkey. Continue reading Igneada, Turkey: Our final stop on the Black Sea and a warm welcome back to Turkey→
Shortly after arriving in the large but empty commercial harbor of Hopa, we had the Turkish Coast Guard stop by to check our papers and inquire of our plans. They notified the appropriate authorities on our behalf and arranged for the port management to fill our water tank. They also briefed us on the requirements for clearing out of Turkey and entering Georgia, a passage we planned to make on Sunday, 18 July, rather than tomorrow in hopes that the weather would improve. This is one of the rainiest parts of the Black Sea region, and the forecast was for rain and thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow. Continue reading Hopa, Turkey: An empty commercial port and a trucker’s border town→
The clouds began to build in the late afternoon, but the weather remained fair for our passage to Pazar today. We spotted a small waterspout to seaward, but it collapsed quickly into a rain cloud. Nevertheless, we were relieved once again to find a very good harbor at Pazar. We tied to the end of the fisherman’s quay and were greeted by the captain of the big fishing trawler nearby. He asked if we needed anything, so we asked if there was any water to fill our tank. Something must have been lost in the Turkish translation because he disappeared and returned with a dozen drinking water bottles. It was not exactly what we wanted, but a generous gift which we gladly accepted. Continue reading Pazar, Turkey: A double rainbow, cooler temperatures and another pleasant dinner ashore→
Minutes after stepping ashore in Rize’s fishing harbor surrounded by tidy new boathouses, Lisa was handed a cell phone. “Hello, Welcome to Rize!” said the mystery man. He continued in perfect English, “Is there anything you need?”
We both found Trabzon to be a very interesting city. A major stop on the Silk Road, it’s long history as a cultural melting pot is still evident today. Oddly enough, our first stop was to the Forum, a large, modern shopping mall complete with high-end, international chain stores, including a Migros supermarket, and with a mix of Iranian, Arab and local clientele. Likewise, the old bazaar quarter in the city center is packed with similar clientele, many of whom are women with colorful, silk headscarves shopping for fine jewelry, exotic fabrics, and designer clothes. They come to Turkey for a dose of Western culture in an slamic nation that is less traditional than their own. Continue reading Trabzon, Turkey: Ancient history meets modern culture→
We had a late start and a long day of motoring in flat calm conditions on the Black Sea with several harbors, both new and old, to survey along the way. This is why we were so relieved to find a new harbor in Akçakale, just five miles short of our intended destination of Akcaabat, as the sun sank over the horizon. We tied up to a large fishing trawler and were invited for dinner ashore, but we declined. It was early to bed for the crew of Gyatso. We wanted to get rested up for the final push to Trabzon tomorrow.
In contrast to our wonderful visit to Giresun, we faced a day of overcoming obstacles on the Black Sea today. It started when we went to retrieve our anchor and found it snagged on a line attached to the bottom. We launched the dinghy and managed to get it untangled after about an hour of effort. And then a large piece of plastic debris got wrapped around the propellor — it had been hiding out just below the surface, so we didn’t even see it — bringing Gyatso to a halt while were were on passage to Tirebolu. Luckily, the dinghy was still in the water, and once again, it was Rinky to the rescue. We managed to get the plastic sheeting untangled and continue on our way. Continue reading Tirebolu, Turkey: Celebrating Turkey’s annual harbor festival→
We had light winds and uncomfortable swell on the Black Sea today for our passage to Giresun. The swell was running so much that we actually bumped the sandy bottom at the silted entrance of one of the harbors we surveyed along the way. It made us all the more relieved to find the large and well protected harbor of Giresun waiting for us at the end of the day along with welcoming waves and helping hands of local sailors. Continue reading Giresun, Turkey: Cherries, hazelnuts, sunsets, sailing and new friends→