Gladlee of Guernsey

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The Black Sea Story


After bringing the boat from Barcelona to Kemer in the summer of 2001 and taking up full time liveaboard cruising we had decided to venture into the Black Sea for our first full year out.  At that time we had not started our Diary so this part of our history is to be told more in a “Story” format.

The cruising season in the Black Sea is quite short due to inclement weather. The real maximum is from the middle of June through to the middle of September. This in effect gave us plenty of time to do a little exploring in the Aegean before heading up to Istanbul and the Black Sea.  We had left Kemer, as was to become usual, at the beginning of April 2002 and headed for Kekova Roads, the normal first stop after Kemer.

 Taşlik Burnu – South of Kemer

Everything at this point is new to Ron, every place we go to is new, the sailing experiences are new and it is pretty well Ron’s learning curve for the future. Mainly of course learning how to sniff out the bars that show English Premiership Football (Soccer to the colonials).

Apart from spending the mandatory week in Kekova we then pressed on to the Aegean by the usual route of Kaş, Fethiye, Goçek and its many bays and anchorages, Marmaris, Bozuk Buku, Datça, Knidos and eventually on to the new marina on the Greek island of Kos arriving there on the 29th April.

The weather so far has been fairly kind to us and the worst we have had is probably the last couple of hours just before arriving in Kekova Roads.

Our plan now is to do a sort of circle of the Aegean, heading over to the West side then up to the North coast before heading into the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. And so, on the 1st May we head off after having had a great time in Kos, replenished the stocks, mostly beer but also some fuel.

Our first venture to the Aegean, this year at least, sees us heading off for the island of Kalimnos, just a few miles Northwest of Kos where we anchor on the west side at Emborios. Eventually that is, as the anchoring is a little difficult as the bottom is like concrete. From Kalimnos a little further north to the island of Patmos which puts us nicely ready for a fairly long hop to Mykonos. A nice early start from Patmos with not too much wind about but of course now is the time for the Aegean weather god to rear its ugly head. By mid day we have 25 knots of wind, on the nose of course, big seas and are making about  1 knot.  Detour called for.  The nearest place available is the tiny, and I do mean tiny island of Dhenousa. We find the anchorage in the middle of the afternoon which turns out to be a little haven. However, 4 days later with a howling wind still blowing, the stocks running low and the wind having come round so that the swell is now entering the anchorage, we decide the only thing to do is head for Amorgos. The problem is we want to eventually go Northwest and Amorgos is South. Oh well! Safety first.   After a couple of days in Amorgos we feel the time is right to head out so on the 10th May we poke our noses out to check out the conditions. Water climbing up the sail and 30 knots soon tells us to turn round which we do and re-anchor at Amorgos. At least Ron can have his birthday on the 11th going to a nice restaurant. On the 12th we head out again and this time find a flat calm. What a difference two days can make.

Onwards now to Mykonos and then on to the island of Evvia which is a long island off the East coast of mainland Greece. We have decided to go through the inside route to try and avoid any weather. The first day of course the wind gets up so we stay at anchor at Nisos Xero but do manage to have a nice walk ashore. Onwards then and we anchor at a place called Voufalo which turns out to be not very nice when the wind gets up so we head a little further to Aliverion or Karastos and manage to find an alongside place on the town wall.  The next day we are heading for the narrowest part between the island and the mainland where we have to go through the bridge at Khalkis.  This is a real funny place as it has as many as seven tides a day and no one can explain it.  The only problem we have is that the bridge only opens at slack water nearest to midnight. We pay our fee and wait. Literally at midnight things start to happen so despite not getting any warning off we go through the bridge trying to find an anchorage at night.   After a few hours sleep we head off for a small town called Limni which has been recommended to us by Hans from S/Y Tunnix. His comment was that the harbour was cosy. We would call it tiny. It was however well worth the problem of finding the entrance so stayed here a couple of days.

Limni Harbour -  Narrow

……and shallow

And so… onwards. Next stop once we are outside of Evvia Island is Skiathos in the Northern Sporades. Although a bit of a tourist trap we did enjoy the place and found an excellent restaurant here.  On again as far north as we could go virtually saw us arrive at “Khalkidiki” or the three fingers pointing into the Aegean from the top. First stop was Port Koufos which is a major fishing port. Did manage to find some peace and quiet in the south of the bay. One of the fingers Akti is designated as a religious retreat and there are somewhere in the region of 500 monasteries on the peninsula. Most of these are built in such locations that the mind reels.


Monasteries on Akti


The strange thing is that until recently no females of any kind were allowed to land on the peninsula and this included all animals.  Now it is just human females that are not allowed to land.  Funny lot.

From here we went on to Limnos and then finally to the Dardanelles, the entrance to the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul.  Our first stop is in Canakkale, back in Turkey again and we are learning about the currents in both the Dardanelles and what is to come in the Bosphorus.  Stay close to the edge and you lessen the current. Trying to miss all the rocks of course.  On from here with a quick stop in Lapseki Harbour (see the note later)  and on to Kemer. No not that Kemer but a little fishing village where we anchored off.

We stopped in a few places in the Sea of Marmara but none more impressive that Saraylar. Saraylar is on the actual Island of Marmara which is famous for quarrying Marble and we were taken on a free tour of the quarry by a friendly barman. The main sight is the outer breakwaters of the harbour which are all made of marble. has to be the only harbour in the world with this. Also had bags of salad and vegetables left at the boat while we were away by the locals.  From here it was back to work and crossing the main shipping lane to get to Atakoy Marina just south of Istanbul.  This was where we would get the necessary visa for Ukraine and check out of Turkey.

Saraylar Marble Quarry

 The block of marble is 8 feet high

NOTE:  During this trip the Football World Cup was taking place.  Despite all our travelling we only missed two of the whole series of games which was something like China v Spain or Saudi Arabia against Japan. It was helped of course by the fact that Turkey did so well in getting to 3rd place overall and must have been watched by 95% of the Turkish population.

We stayed in Istanbul for 10 days which allowed us to get our Ukrainian Visa, medical insurance etc and also to do lots of site seeing.


The Grand Bazaar

The Blue Mosque


A re-used Medusa Head inside the Ancient Cisterns

The Bosphorus from Topkapi palace

So, all is done and we are ready for the off. It is about five miles to the bottom of the Bosphorus and then about ten miles to get to the top. Never anywhere in the world have we seen so much boat traffic. Hong Kong may beat it but we haven’t seen that. The traffic problem is made worse by the fact that against the current we are doing about 1 knot. Slowly, slowly we forged our way ahead into areas where the current was less but then we would find new areas just as bad or worse. At one point we had about a 50,000 ton ship pass us on the inside track.  By the time we got to our anchorage at Poyraz at the East side of the top we had actually done over 30 nautical miles instead of 15 because of the current. Poyraz was just fine and we met up with Mike and Roz from S/Y Solaria to have a beer or two with.

Topkapi palace from the Bosphorus

A Windy Bosphorus

When we checked out of Istanbul we had 48 hours to leave Turkey. Sounds fine – one day up the Bosphorus and one day across the Black Sea to Igneada, the last port in Turkey before getting to Bulgaria. No one really put the weather into the equation. We left Poyraz but within a couple of hours the sea was so rough we had to turn round and six hours later resumed our anchorage feeling definitely the worse for wear.  So time to try a new method. Have a rest then leave and do an overnight crossing when the wind should be calm. After a fairly rough start we got our wish and arrived safely in Igneada at 0915 the next morning, 22nd June. 

One of the great things about Turkey in the Black Sea is that there are lots of big harbours that are virtually unused.  This meant that we could anchor in the middle and hopefully avoid any of the bureaucrats around. Not to be. Later in the afternoon we had a knock on the hull and the Gendarme have arrived having first commandeered a fishing boat and  kids to row it. They eventually accepted that we were OK but would not allow us to go ashore unless we had “The Ministers” permission. We took this to mean the Harbourmaster in our cavalier fashion and duly went off to find him. Unfortunately he was out of office so we hitch-hiked into the nearby town to try and change a gas bottle and also to watch the latest World Cup game. Our trip back to the harbour was by means of a lift from the local ambulance. This time we managed to find the Harbourmaster who told us to ignore everything that the Gendarme had said and were we ready to go to the wedding. Wedding – what wedding you may well ask. Can we at least go and change first – no need you look just fine. And so into the Harbourmasters car and off we go to the Bridegroom’s house for a meal and Raki, the local Turkish “Firewater”. After this we are invited round to the village square for the evening festivities, a few beers and throw some money at the Bride and Groom – a lovely couple too they were. Another day of rest, well get rid of the hangover anyway, a few beers with the Manager of the Fishing Cooperative (who can’t speak any English) and we are ready for the off.

We are now at something like 96 hours since checking out of Istanbul but the Harbourmaster wants us to stay the next day and go “musseling” with him. We have to decline – Bulgaria is calling.

At this point we have met up with S/Y Riduna who have arrived from Poyraz and the following morning we both set off for Bourgas, our port of entry in Bulgaria. Actually we try Sozopol but they refuse us entry and we have to go to the major harbour at Bourgas. Very nice harbourmaster allocates us the Coaling Jetty to wait at and within two minutes both ourselves and Riduna are black. After a shift change and a replacement ‘nice’ harbourmaster we are allowed to move to a decent berth as we now have to wait overnight as it is too late to move out. We do find a nice restaurant though in town and all systems are duly refreshed.

The next day we head off for Sozopol while Riduna are heading for Nessabar.  We get into Sozopol this time with no problem having shown our nice new cruising permit. The problem is where to dock and we finish up rafting on a derelict fishing boat. But joy of joy, Sozopol turns out to be the wholesale/retail wine capital of Bulgaria and we find some astonishingly good wines for about 50 pence a bottle. Needless to say we top well up. Sozopol is a bit of a tourist town for the locals so there is plenty to see, do and eat. The natives are also very friendly and love to see foreign boats there. We also meet up with Hristo, who has travelled down from Varna and Julie knows him from her previous trip here some years ago. Hristo is big in Bulgarian sailing circles. He very kindly lends us his van and his brother to take us to fill our gas bottle. This is something new for us but works very well.

Gladlee and Fishing Boats – Sozopol

The Bulgarian Navy – Sozopol

From Sozopol we headed onto Nessabar only to find Riduna still there. They had picked up a fishing line in Igneada and realised that they had some damage to repair. The Nessabar Yacht Club had found someone to do the job for them. We duly rafted on them only to realise that they would leave before us so we decided to change round places. That was the start of the next problem for Riduna as thy hit the rock in the middle of the channel that is clearly marked on all the charts. No damage done however and all is well.  Nessabar again is ‘Tourist Town’ so there are things to see and do.

Tourist Julie

Typical building style in Old Bulgaria

From Nessabar we headed to  Pomerie which was really just around the corner. The reason for this was to meet up with the “Filotilla”.  This was meant to be the Flotilla but the dodgers were printed wrong.  This was a group of about 12 boats who had got together to cruise the Black Sea in company. Basically in lieu of the Black Sea Rally which was not being held this year. We knew a number of the boats so thought we would go and socialise a little.  We were of course to meet up with the Filotilla on a number of occasions in the next few weeks.

Next thing we had to do was to head back to Bourgas to check out and retrieve our paperwork which had been left with them. Despite all the worries of not finding the right place, them not finding our papers everything worked out just fine. The problem was that we had to leave Bourgas immediately and could only go to another Port of Entry. The nearest was Varna which was still too far for that day not having been able to clear until about 10.30am.  Ourselves and Riduna decided to head for Byala about half way to Varna and do a little illegal entry.  Anchoring in the middle of the harbour with engine bits displayed around the cockpit was the plan but in the end no-one was bothered about us except the fishermen who all waved.

Next day we headed for Varna and tied up alongside a self build banana in the Varna Yacht Club. Riduna have decided to re-join the Filotilla for now and have therefore berthed on the outside of the YC wall where everyone is due in a couple of days.

Varna turns out to be quite a nice place, good shopping, market etc but one to be careful of pickpockets.


Varna Cathedral

Gladlee, the Banana Boat and the Filotilla

Time to move on. It’s now the 5th July already and we have lots to do yet. Check out of Varna and head for Balchik, the northernmost Port of Entry in Bulgaria. Yet again we as an individual boat have a bit more paperwork than the filotilla but it presents no problem and we find the officials mostly very friendly. Balchik is a nice place to visit. A small town once the summer residence of Queen Sophia of Romania (it is still in Bulgaria). Her legacy are some beautiful gardens well worth the visit. Even on a roasting hot day.

Queen Sophia (Julie actually)

Ron and a well deserved Beer

The next day, 8th July, we check out of Balchik and say goodbye to Bulgaria – at least that’s the plan. We get very nicely to Cape Kavarna, take a look round the corner and decide we don’t want any of that. it is blowing a hooley and it looks awful. The problem is where to go. it is about 10 miles back to the nearest town and nothing in between. We then see a small fishing boat under the cliffs of the Cape and head towards him. Absolutely incredible – no wind, calm seas and perfect anchoring place. We even snorkel for Julies dinner – fresh mussels on every rock.

Next day we head off and it is still rough round the corner but we press on. An uncomfortable day but we arrive in Mangalia in Romania mid afternoon. We of course have to go to the Customs Quay which turns out to be on the scrap metal quay. No sign of an office or any officials until a fishing boat captain and his son come and show us the way. Once we get there everyone is very friendly – they think the Filotilla has arrived so confusion reigns until we sign language that we are on our own. Once done we head for the inner harbour which is all set up for the Filotilla arriving the next day. We of course sneak in and avail ourselves of their facilities and security. We have no choice actually – we are ordered to go there.  The Filotilla arrives the next day and we are christened “The Pirates” but all in fun. The Filotilla then invites us to go along on their planned trip to Bucharest with them and we gladly accept.

Arrival at Mangalia

Ceaucescu’s Palace (The biggest folly ever)

Ceaucescu’s (think that’s how to spell it) is absolutely huge. Tourists are now allowed to go round parts of it and some parts are used for Educational Seminars etc. There is one room alone in the palace which has over 5,000 light bulbs. This was done when the normal person in Romania couldn’t even buy one.

Gladlee and the Filotilla at Dinner in Bucharest

Good friends Ray & Hazel (Triton) (posing as usual!!)

And so Mangalia and Bucharest were done and we were heading to the place we had really looked forward to, the Danube River Delta.  We started out late morning for an overnight trip and the weather was for once kind to us. The entrance channel for the river starts about ten miles offshore because of all the shoaling but good old GPS put us right on the mark and we entered Sulina Channel at about 0800 and tied up alongside the Free Trade Zone in Sulina at 10.00.   The one thing we found here is that the authorities never take very long to find you and within 15 to 20 minutes we had the usual gaggle of officials on board. All done and dusted within half an hour including the Free Trade Zone guy who wanted about 30 US Dollars for our mooring fee. Basically told him to get off the boat and we left but he did stay and wave us off so we don’t think he was too upset.  Having done the overnight trip we now just found the first anchorage available, of which there are many.

The Danube Entrance Channel

Our First Danube Anchorage

The Danube is very much a working river although nowadays not so busy because of the new canal direct to Constanza, the main port.  There are however lots of old tributaries and oxbows that allow you to get away from the mainstream and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place.

The next few days saw us just tootling around enjoying the quiet and the vast range of birds about the place. Julie managed to clock 57 different species within the week.

The next major thing was for us to go up the city of Tulcea, still in Romania so that we could check out as our next bit of the Danube was the Ukrainian bit.  This proved to be not quite so easy. Tulcea is a major working area and there was nowhere really to anchor. We went on a bit to the boatyard where the Filotilla was due the next day but this confused the issue even more. The filotilla had cancelled but not everyone knew about it. Basically we finished up rafted on an accommodation barge and walked into town to find the necessary officials. Eventually having found the Harbourmasters office an official was designated to us who stayed with us until everything was completed. A really nice guy who went out of his way for us.


A Working River

Alongside the Accommodation Barge in Tulcea, Romania

Yet again we come across the same problem. We have checked out of Romania, have to leave the country (officially) but it is too far to go to arrive in the Ukraine. So head on a little bit and round the corner onto the main tributary and anchor in a very nice remote little protected bay.  Totally ignore the two guys who start shouting at us a little later mostly because they don’t have a boat to get to us.  Next day sees us moving down river to Izmail, our Port of Entry into the Ukraine. Checking in proves to be a little pricey as we find out that we have to have an agent. Not something we have ever done before. But no choice. Only the agents can accept money. We do however find a nice agent who explains that payment is based on the volume of the boat and if we would like to “re-do” our crew list with new details he will come back shortly. Immediately we shrink Gladlee to the minimum volume to qualify us for the lowest payment and all is well. The agent is then ours and takes us away on a guided tour of the town and to the grocery store. All turns out very nicely.

We spend a few more days in the Danube but time marches on and we have to get a move on.  We are now coming to the difficult bit – getting out of the Danube. The whole area is continuously shoaling and every year the channels have to be moved. We are going to exit at Ust Dunaysk and have decided that we will anchor there overnight. In the end we get through the first part of the channel and raft up on an old hulk of a merchant ship. About the most secure location around and deep enough water for us.

The only problem that day was the officials calling by asking why we had not checked in. Where we asked, and why.  We appeared to be in the middle of nowhere.  No they replied this is Port Ust Dunaysk stressing the Port bit.  Also when I say “calling by” they tried to arrive onboard a tug boat which was about three times the size of us. We refused to let them come near us after the first time the tug touched us so eventually they had to clamber over the old hulk we had tied to.  A couple of beers later and all was well. Besides it was Julie’s Birthday the next day and we had to have a celebratory dinner that night. The next day was going to be a long one.


Bad Weather on the Danube 

Rafted at (Port) Ust Dunaysk

An early start the next morning sees us trying, unsuccessfully at first to find the channel to deep water. Despite having the Pilot Book we go aground twice while searching for the channel. Eventually with much determination we find the channel and we are off heading for Odessa. This is probably our longest one day passage and we clocked 88 miles before arriving at 22.00.  Odessa is a large harbour so we didn’t think we would have much of a problem and as it turns out apart from the confusion of so many navigation lights we found the TCF Nautical Club very easily.

Odessa turns out to be a wonderful city. The filotilla have arrived and everyone is staying  around for a good few days.  Gladlee invites everyone around for drinks to repay the courtesies shown to us.  We buy cheap Champagne, have champagne and smoked salmon breakfasts, go to the markets and lo and behold find Port – yes the drinking kind of Port, actually made in the Ukraine.

The Filotilla in a Cats Cradle

Drinks on Gladlee

The Potemkin Steps

View from the top of the Steps

After almost a week in Odessa it is time to move on.  This time we have our friends Hazel and Ray on S/Y Triton for company as they have decided to leave the filotilla as they need to be back in Istanbul, a little earlier (as we do). Our route takes us to a couple of fairly exposed anchorages then to the Naval town of Chernomoskaye. Triton has arrived before us and have been invited to anchor inside the Naval Harbour rather than in the exposed bay. We needless to say join them. People can be so nice.  One of the problems here is that the harbour is full of “Medusas” – the local (and very large) jellyfish.  A peaceful night weatherwise but the band and disco blaring out from the quay about 200 metres away meant it was anything but quiet – but the music was good! Next stop for us is Yevpatoria – a story in itself.  We, that is Triton and ourselves,  are stopped on the way by the Lebed (Coastguard) who eventually manage to let us know in broken English that we are heading into a Firing Exercise and we should stop. We do.  A little later we are entering Yevpatoria and the local TV station has a boat out to meet us. They think we are the Black Sea Rally whom they have confused the Filotilla for. In fact the filotilla have decided not to come here at all. No sooner are we alongside than the camera and interviewer are in our faces.  Hazel was obviously the most photogenic and she duly appeared on Ukrainian News that evening which we had managed to tune into on our TV.

Onward yet again and on to our last port of call before heading back to Turkey, Sevastopol.  The history of this place is significant with the Crimean Wars and also the fact that even though it is in the Ukraine it is predominantly a Russian City.  We have been in touch with friends Jay and Linda on Helles Belles who have “booked us in” to the Russian Navy Yacht Club.  Now this might sound “Grande” but ourselves and Triton were on a rickety wooden jetty in a not too salubrious club. The people however were just the best. Nothing was too much trouble for us. It truly did make our stay in Sevastopol so much better.

We hired a car and driver for a day (USD50) and ourselves and Triton went exploring. Down to Balaclava and all the history that denotes then on to the Messandra Winery. This is the place they make the Port:  and Sherry and Madeira and lots of other things. Needless to say we buy lots as it is about a dollar a bottle.  We have also met up with a Astro- Physicist at the yacht club who has invited us to the Crimea Observatory where he works. We eventually find it and are treated to a view of the Sun and solar flares through his special telescope then later in the evening to some twin stars through another scope.  In the meantime an old lady has offered us hospitality and we have tea and cakes in her house there.  It really was a very special time for us.

Russian navy YC – Sevastopol

Typical Russian Statuary (about 300 feet high)

A Twister seen from Sevastopol Market

The route to town from the YC

Our Black Sea trip could almost end here, as this was our last place before heading back to Turkey. Of course much of our trip then was still in the Black Sea as we headed along the Turkish coast back to Istanbul.  This part of the story though very nearly had a calamitous ending.  The trip from Sevastopol to Sinop in Turkey was going to be an overnight of about 200 miles. We had checked the weather forecast and were due for a Northeast force 3-4 so felt fairly confident setting off in company with Triton.  A few thunderstorms didn’t put us off too much on the first day and during the night but the next day was something else. Instead of Northeast winds we had Southwest winds blowing at over 35 knots. We also had 5 metre (17 foot) seas to contend with.  About lunchtime on the second day we very nearly had a “knockdown” with Gladlee going over by about 80 degrees before shrugging off the deluge and righting herself.  Our timing now meant that we could not get to Sinop before dark so diverted a little to the anchorage of Akliman where we arrived just before 1800.  Triton had been worried about us as they could not contact us by VHF (we could hear them) but Riduna who were in the anchorage at Akliman relayed.  After we anchored, Riduna then did themselves proud by picking us up and taking us to them for champagne and a hot meal. Never has a basic beef stew tasted so good.  Triton, a bigger boat than us had made it to Sinop where we tied up with them a couple of days later.

The next couple of weeks were spent going slowly along the Turkish coast heading back towards Istanbul.  We had to be there by about the 24th August so that we could fly home for Ron’s daughters wedding at the end of the month. Click for Helen's wedding pictures.

Cloudburst off the Turkish Coast

Twisters from the clouds

So many nice places on the Turkish coast each with there own harbour. Children coming out to us with fruit and vegetables and practicing their English: How old are you? What is your job?  - obviously standard curriculum in the Turkish schools.   We arrived back in Atakoy Marina on the 24th August having just done 9 knots down the Bosphorus. As they say, what goes up must come down.

We came back to the boat in mid September, did some work on here while we had the chance (replaced a Solar Panel and re-fitted some windows we had had re-glazed in the UK) then headed south and home to Kemer. Some of the same stops on the way back but also lots of new ones on the Turkish West coast;  Alibey, Ayvalik, Kusadasi where we met up with Helles Belles again, Bodrum etc etc.

While in Bodrum we picked up our first stay on board visitors, Carrie and Damien who were staying with us for a couple of weeks.  Carrie is, for those who do not know her, Julie’s niece and Damien was the boyfriend of that time. Click for Carries pictures.

Arrived back in Kemer on the 4th of November for a well earned rest and to plan our next episode – Croatia.   Read on……………



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