Balaklava, Ukraine: Resting up in a protected natural harbor

Photo: Gyatso in Balaclava, Ukraine. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Gyatso berthed at the Golden Symbol Marina in Balaklava, Ukraine. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Date: 8/3/2010
Distance: 37 nm
Sailed from: Yalta, Ukraine
Lat: 44° 30.1’N
Long: 33° 35.9’E

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.