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→
Date: 9/8/2010 Distance: 39 nm Sailed from: Sveti Vlas and Burgas, Bulgaria Lat: 42°25.2’N Long: 27°41.3’E
We both instantly liked Sozopol and were glad we ended up here to wait-out the first gale of the season. Several yachts had attempted to outrun the gale by sailing south today, but wind and rough seas on-the-nose pushed them back to this protected harbor with its modern marina and sturdy sea walls. Soon after checking-in at the marina office, David found Hristo on Alexandrina, his Greek fishing boat which he uses for day charters. He served as the Bulgarian point-man for the KAYRA Black Sea Rallies, and we had been corresponding with him by email before our arrival. A quiet and friendly Bulgarian and former race skipper, he knows more about yachting in Bulgaria than anyone. He also served as David’s informal consultant during several Bulgarian wine tastings onboard Gyatso. David was quick to justify extending his research beyond what was needed for updating pilotage information: “Is there a better way to pass the time while riding out a gale?” Continue reading Sozopol, Bulgaria: Saving the best for last→
We moored in the modern Dinevi Marina at the seaside resort of Sveti Vlas which appears to have sprung-up out of nowhere on a smaller scale and in the style of places we found along the Costa del Sol in Spain. Brand-new restaurants and apartment blocks sit on the southern shoulder of the Balkan Mountains. The development borders the marina basin which has plenty of space for visiting yachts, as well as day and weekly charter boats available. The resort was fairly empty during mid-week in September, but we could tell that it was a busy place in the high season. Continue reading Sveti Vlas, Burgas Bay, Bulgaria: A quick stop in a Spanish-style resort→
We departed Balchik after lunch with a brief stop to see the marina in the Golden Sands beach resort before arriving at the Varna Yacht Club. Except for freshly painted bright graffiti on the seawall, the harbor doesn’t seem to have changed much in the 10 years since our guidebook was published. Volen, the son of the same Bulgarian sailor who helped us in Balchik, helped us when we arrived in Varna even though his parents had rushed to the hospital because his mother had injured her hand. He and his grandfather moved their smaller yacht into a tight space to make room for us alongside the wall in the inner basin where we had protection from the wash of passing pilot boats and freighters in this busy commercial port. We expressed our appreciation with a Gyatso t-shirt, and he returned awhile later with a gift of some delicious homemade quince jam — what a treat! Continue reading Varna, Bulgaria: Soaking up the energy of a vibrant city→
Date: 9/3/2010 Distance: 65 nm Sailed from: Eforie Nord and Mangalia, Romania Lat: 43°24.2’N Long: 28°09.7’E
Pulling alongside a large tug in the dark of night at the commercial dock in Balchik, we had low expectations for a positive experience with Bulgarian entrance formalities. Our guidebooks indicated that they only process foreign yachts on Mon-Fri from 9-5. It was now 8:45 on Friday night.
After setting out this morning, we realized that there was no way we were going to make it to Balchik before 5:00 p.m. We also needed to stop briefly in Mangalia, Romania to clear-out. It was a beautiful day on the Black Sea, and even though the wind was not strong enough to speed us along the 65-mile passage, it was just enough to keep us stable in the cross-swell left-over from the wind of the previous few days. It was such a pleasant sail, we gave up trying to arrive before sunset. Continue reading Balchik, Bulgaria: A Black Sea resort fit for royalty and full of pleasant surprises→