Sozopol, Bulgaria: Saving the best for last

Photo: Sozopol, Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Credit: Lisa Borre.
A windy day in the picturesque town of Sozopol. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

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?”

We back-tracked to Burgas by taking the convenient bus which leaves every half-hour from the tree-lined square in Sozopol. Burgas itself is a nice city, like Varna but smaller. From Burgas, we rented a car for two days so we could explore the coast and visit towns we missed by boat. We were also glad to have a car to make our way through the commercial docks to the Burgas Yacht Club which was hosting an international youth sailing regatta. We had seen the lasers, optimists and other one-design classes on the water two days before. They had to cancel the regatta early due to the weather, so the teams from Turkey and Greece were packing up their gear while the race committee finalized the results. We were glad we pushed on to Sozopol after watching the local yachts surge on their moorings and the Black Sea rollers crash into the large breakwater, sending spray over the top of the two-story high cement wall. We would not have felt comfortable here in such conditions.

Back in Sozopol, we could watch the wind and waves batter the coast from the relative comfort of one of the many restaurants perched on the cliffs above the beach. The tourist season was beginning to trail off here and the summer heat wave finally broke for good. We took long walks through the windy, narrow streets in the historic section of town, admiring the classic Black Sea-style (Ottoman) architecture. The choice for food, including delicious white feta-like cheese and tasty fish dishes, reminded us that we were not far from the influences of Mediterranean Turkey and Greece.

We waited a day longer than several other yachts before heading south. We had the most experience with the large swell that hangs around after wind events on the Black Sea and knew what a difference a day makes. With reports of 5 meter seas at the entrance to the Bosphorus, we were in no hurry to arrive there in such conditions. The shipping traffic is enough for our nerves to handle. On Tuesday, 14 September, we departed for Igneada, Turkey with a brief stop in Tsarevo to clear-out of Bulgaria. After spending six days in Sozopol, we agreed with Hristo that this is the nicest harbor in Bulgaria. We were glad we saved the best for last.