After sailing overnight from Odessa, we entered the Danube River Delta at Sulina to clear into Romania. Even on a calm day like the one we had, a big swell piles up at the mouth of the Danube where brown river water, having traveled thousands of miles through Europe, mixes with the blue-green water of the Black Sea. We tied up for two nights along the cement quay and moments later, the harbormaster arrived with border officials and asked David to come ashore for clearance procedures. After our dealings with officials in the Ukraine, Lisa was surprised when David returned less than 30 minutes later and talked about how courteous and professional the officials were. All ships entering this branch of the Danube must stop and clear-in at Sulina before continuing upstream. Continue reading Sulina, Romania: A trip up the Danube→
The crews of Gyatso and Makani, the German-flagged yacht we’d been traveling with since Balaklava, awoke in the early morning hours as the northeast wind began to build, putting both yachts on a lee shore in an exposed anchorage at the eastern tip of Dzharylgach Island. Just as we were deciding whether to get underway before the anchorage became untenable, we noticed movement on Makani’s decks. Felix and Monika were on deck and had turned their running lights on. We had just decided to do the same and followed them out of the anchorage and around the sand spit which forms the end of the barrier island at 2:10 a.m. in total darkness. Continue reading Odessa: Life in the fast lane at our last Ukrainian port→
The weather was favorable for us to make a slight detour into the lagoon behind Dzharylgach Island to visit the summer resort of Skadovsk, and its commercial harbor which had a favorable write-up in the previous Black Sea cruising guide. To make a long story short, we spent several hours dealing with local officials scrutinizing our ship’s papers, approved crew list, transit log, etc. For some reason, it is always a female officer in high heels that gets bent out of shape. This one found a “big problem” with the way the officials in Yevpatoria processed our paperwork, so she confiscated our transit permit and issued us a new one after an hour-long wait. In doing so, she undid the permit we received to proceed to Odessa and changed it to Kherson, a port we might have visited if we had time and weather permitted, but this was unlikely. Continue reading Skadovsk & Dzharylgach Island: An unsettled night at anchor becomes a pleasant nighttime sail→
We were glad we went to bed early last night because the wind came up from the northeast early this morning. We waited until the sun rose before weighing anchor as the seas in the exposed harbor began to build. The crew of Makani did the same, and we spent a pleasant day alternating between sailing, motor sailing and motoring in their company once again. They called us on the VHF radio to tell us they had received a Navtex message about live firing exercises in the area which we appreciated because our message did not come through until later that day. They set a course to avoid the area, and we followed in their wake. For the first time in Ukranian waters, we heard a call on the radio from the mysterious Lebed (Ukrainian coast guard). They were calling Makani for a position update, so we asked them to relay our position as well. Continue reading Chornomorske, Ukraine: An enjoyable day sailing in the company of another yacht→
One trick for finding a good sailing breeze is to take on a full load of diesel fuel which is exactly what we did at the convenient fuel dock in Balaklava, the first we had seen on the Black Sea since leaving Istanbul. We then motored in calm seas the short distance to Sevastapol for a quick “drop by” to see the harbor entrances there before raising the main, rolling out the Yankee and having a lovely sail the rest of the way in fair winds and gentle following seas. With a coastal current, we were making a decent 6.5 to 7.5 knots considering the amount of algae and barnacles beginning to accumulate on our hull. We anchored next to our new friends on Makani who had sailed from Sevastopol that day. Continue reading Yevpatoria, Ukraine: Anchored off another Black Sea summer resort→
We left Yalta as instructed before sunrise on Tuesday morning and had a calm passage along some of the most stunning coastline we have ever seen. Steep rocky cliffs stretched for 20 miles. Fancy resorts and famous sites, including the Swallow’s Nest and the site of the Yalta Conference at the end of WWII, could all be seen from the three-mile distance we were required to keep in order to avoid a restricted zone. A Ukrainian naval vessel shadowed us along the shore near the President’s summer residence, perhaps making sure we did not enter the restricted area. We arrived in the beautiful natural harbor in Balaklava and found a real marina with floating pontoons surrounded by the ruins of an ancient Genoese castle and walls. Marina staff were on-hand to help us tie-up and plug-in — a rarity in the Black Sea.
Balaklava is where the Crimean War was fought and where the Charge of the Light Brigade took place, made famous by a poem which David began to recite from memory upon entering the harbor. The sheltered harbor is also where the Soviet nuclear submarine fleet was kept. Large tunnels built into the rocky hillside are now open to the public as a museum. We docked across the harbor from one which looks quite popular judging by the number of tour buses. Balaklava was mobbed during the day with mostly Russian and Ukrainian tourists who came to spend a day on the water aboard one of the many tour boats based in the harbor.
We stayed a week in Balaklava and were joined for a few days by Makani, the German-flagged yacht which we also saw in Poti, Georgia with friendly owners Felix and Monika onboard. The same weather which caused the heatwave in Moscow brought hotter than normal temperatures to the Crimea during our visit. Even the water temperatures were hovering at 30ºC, so we tried to find shade and catch-up on rest. We tackled a few boat maintenance and repair projects in the spirit of the cruising sailor’s motto, “It’s all about fixing your boat in beautiful and exotic places!” We did manage a day-trip into Sevastapol — a harbor we had been advised to visit by land rather than with our own yacht. We also took the opportunity to stock-up on Ukrainian champagne since the wine store was conveniently located across from the entrance to the marina, and our supply was completely depleted after our ordeal with clearing into this former Soviet republic.
Arriving just after dark, we couldn’t get any English-speaking replies to our calls asking for permission to enter Yalta harbor, so we took the previous night’s instruction from the Coast Guard as approval and entered the commercial harbor first. Although it is listed as the preferred port of entry in the pilot book, it looked dark and deserted to us except for two small tankers and a few local yachts moored inside with no space for us. Continue reading Yalta: Stiletto heels, sharky agents and mobs of tourists on holiday — welcome to Ukraine!→
As we neared the end of a long, Black Sea passage and entered Ukrainian territorial waters, we began to call the Ukrainian Coast Guard at 12 miles out. Their VHF radio call sign is “Lebed” which means swan in Russian. No answer. We tried again at five miles out but could only hear Ukrainian and Russian being spoken on the radio. David’s Russian was coming back to him after our time in Georgia, but it was not enough to handle radio communications. Continue reading Feodosia: No gift from the gods for us→
After clearing out of Hopa, Turkey this morning, we carefully steered around the “prohibited zone” extending from the Turkish/Georgia border out 12 miles to international waters on passage to Batumi, Georgia. It was a 24 mile detour which we had been instructed to take by the Turkish Coast Guard but didn’t mind because we had a nice breeze for sailing most of the way. Afternoon rain showers moved in and the wind dropped and then shifted to the south, so we dropped the mainsail and turned on the engine as we made our final turn toward the Georgian coast. Continue reading Batumi: Welcome to Georgia!→