Istanbul, Turkey: Black Sea Circumnavigation Completed

Photo: Bridge over the Bosphorus near Istanbul, Turkey.
We had a beautiful, clear day in September for our trip down the Bosphorus from the Black Sea to Istanbul. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Date: 9/16/2010
Distance: 18 nm
Sailed from: Poyraz, Turkey
Lat: 40°58.3’N
Long: 29°02.1’E

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.

It was an arduous voyage at times, but not because of the notorious Black Sea storms. Other than relatively short-lived severe thunderstorms and high wind events, the gales occur primarily during winter months. By keeping a close eye on the weather and with the abundance of protected harbors, especially along the exposed Turkish coast, we managed to avoid getting caught out in bad weather most of the time.

The sweltering summer heat sapped our energy. We deployed our sun awnings more frequently than we expected and felt lucky to be near the sea. We limited our travel to inland destinations, in part because of the heat and humidity, but also because of the huge task of gathering pilotage information for the updated cruising guide, a task which took much more effort than we anticipated.

The lack of wind along the Turkish coast in June and early July required more motoring days than we would like, but in comparison, it was not much different than our experience in Spain and Italy during the months of July and August. It is somewhat more frustrating on the Black Sea because the persistent swell seemed to indicate that the wind was blowing somewhere not too far away.

We were awed by the sheer beauty of the mountainous Black Sea Coastline in Eastern Turkey, especially near the border with Georgia, on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine, and in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria. We were mesmerized by the long stretches of sandy beach on either side of the Bosphorus, stretching along the western shore of the Black Sea to Odessa, and along the shore of the 80-mile long sand spit known as Dzharylgach Island in the Ukraine. It was off this coast that we experienced the most glorious sailing conditions of the summer.

Like others, we had the kind of experiences that come with the territory when you get off-the-beaten path, some of which are captured in these logbook pages. We certainly had no shortage of precious moments that will last in our memory well beyond the 2010 sailing season.