Gerze, Turkey: Passing an invisible threshold on the Black Sea

Photo: Dolphins in the Black Sea. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Two of the many dolphins we have seen along the southern Black Sea coast. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Date: 6/19/2010
Distance: 15 nm
Sailed from: Sinop
Lat: 41° 48.0’N
Long: 35° 12.2’E

We didn’t know what we might find when arriving in Gerze’s harbor just before sunset this evening. The most recent guidebook we have onboard is 10-years out-of-date, and we didn’t have any notes about it from other cruisers who have visited the Black Sea in recent years. What we found was another excellent harbor in scenic surroundings. We also found what seemed like everyone in town out enjoying Saturday evening on the water. Boys were jumping off the high pier in the center of the harbor and showing off for the families out for a stroll along the waterfront. Men were fishing off the outer breakwater or from small boats just outside the harbor entrance. Several quayside bars, cafes and tea gardens were doing a booming business.

We had a long, hot day and decided to anchor out in the middle of the harbor for the night. We relaxed and watched the shoreside activities from the cockpit. When we went ashore the following morning, the town was very quiet. We admired the well-tended gardens but noticed that many of the homes and apartments must be used as holiday homes because they didn’t have that year-around lived in look. Even the busy daily market was closed for the day. We did find some shops open, and a friendly fisherman introduced us to the harbormaster who was at his home and not in the office on Sunday morning. We gathered the information needed to update the cruising guide and were underway again just after lunch.

From the vantage point of the sea, the stretch of coastline from Gerze to the east reminded us of the landscape we have seen in parts of Indonesia — the island of Sumatra in particular — with weathered volcanic hillsides covered with a lush patchwork of golden and green farm fields and forests. This is the beginning of the tobacco growing region of Turkey which slowly gives way to hazelnuts and then tea further to the east. It also marked the beginning of another stretch of the coast where dolphin sightings were frequent.

After leaving Sinop and waving goodbye to the last of the handful of cruising yachts we have seen thus far, we felt as if we had crossed an invisible threshold. None of the others planned to cruise further east. Several used it as outbound point for a round-trip along the Turkish coast. A few yachts departed for Ukraine to the north, and one planned to leave their yacht in this area and to rent a car for further travel inland. In some cases, people don’t take their yachts further east because of restrictions placed on them by their insurance companies. Others have heard that the best way to see the Turkish coast of the Eastern Black Sea is by car, since the coastal highway is a dominant feature of the landscape anyway. No one we have met planned to visit Georgia or Russia. We’ve heard there are Dutch-, Swiss-, and New Zealand-flagged yachts to the east of us, so maybe we’ll see them at some point.