Sunrise on Monday 24th July – the Black Sea.
The overnight stage of our journey from Sulina to Constanta had gone well. We had been greeted by a pod of bottlenose (we think) dolphins not long after we left Sulina and they stayed with us for half an hour or so, playing. As the autohelm was on, we were both able to lay on the bow of the boat looking over the edge at them. I am always amazed by the feelings of joy and gratitude that a visit by these beautiful creatures brings. Their presence lifted a slightly sombre mood at having left not only the Danube but also the inland part of our journey and the people we had met.
The rest of the night had been uneventful. It had been necessary to motor as the wind was against us, although light. We were finally able to proceed under sail in the middle of the morning. The approach to Constanta was very choppy and we were relieved to get into the harbour (Port Tomis), at around 4 pm. We approached the police boat but they waved us away, saying it was not necessary to report in as we had arrived from within Romania. We were directed to tie up alongside the fishing quay, while a marina berth was found for us. This didn’t take long and pretty soon, it was time for our first attempt at stern-to mooring. As usual, we were completely unprepared but muddled through. The laid mooring line was encrusted with mud and mussels, consequently I ended up coated in stinky, slimy mud. As did the long suffering Doris. It took a while to get lines sorted and everything tidied after the overnight passage. The marina office had closed by the time we headed over, so we returned for dinner and an early night. We were both shattered, barely able to string a sentence together.
Just as we finished eating, we had a call from Matthias, who we had met on the Danube a couple of weeks earlier. He was in Constanta having just dropped off his kayak with a guy who was going to transport it back to Belgium for him. He joined us for dinner and as his bus was not until the following morning, was able to sleep in the spare cabin. It was really great to see him. We had all hoped to be able to help him get from Sulina to Constanta but for various reasons it had not worked out, so he had paddled down the coast all by himself. The conditions made it a really difficult journey for him, so it was good to at least be able to offer food and a bed. It helped relieve a little of our guilt and allowed us to catch up with his and Timm’s adventures since we had parted in Rousse.
We said goodbye to Matthias early the following morning and headed into old Constanta for a potter. Constanta is a large city and appears to be thriving. We only really explored the old part of the city close to the marina. The views from the minaret on the mosque are fabulous.
The casino is magnificent but in a significant state of disrepair. A local told us there are plans for refurbishment but seem to be held up by the usual political and bureaucratic problems.
We returned to the marina and called by the office. It was quite formal, and they wanted boat papers to be able to prepare a contract, so we agreed to return later. On our return they weren’t happy with our boat registration document as it did not have all the information they required, so back to Doris we went and found the expired registration certificate. Although not in our name it contains more information and seemed to fit the bill. After much printing, photocopying and paper signing our contract was produced.
We had been told to check in with the harbourmaster as well – I left Cy to it and went off for some groceries. The visit to the harbourmaster required more production of documents. Cy then had to see the border police. All this in a country we were already cleared into seemed a bit strange! Also, we could not leave until we had been given clearance by both.
The next morning (Wednesday 26th) we started early and were tied alongside the police boat by 7am. There was a bit of a wait for an immigration official to arrive and look at our documents, again. Eventually we were given permission to go. As is more often the case than not, everyone was courteous, interested in what (or maybe why) we were doing and even chatty. The police officer showed Cy some details of the route and next port on his phone app.
Our destination was Mangalia, the last port of call in Romania. The Black Sea was kind to us and we had a nice gentle sail, arriving in Mangalia in the late afternoon. We were met on the pontoon by a guy from the marina who helped us tie up and a nice lady from the border police. She was a bit timid but had a gun, so I guess that compensated. She accompanied me to the harbourmaster’s office, where our documents were checked and I was advised that we would need to see the police again before leaving in the morning to clear out of Romania.
Mangalia is a small town, there is a good supermarket close to the harbour, bars and cafes surround the harbour and there is a popular beach. Not a bad place at all, shame that the pontoons were locked and we couldn’t get out in the evening…Oh well.
Our departure was a bit delayed the next day as the border police did not start work until 8am. I had been told that the harbourmaster could contact them and someone could come at any time, but this proved not to be the case.
Once we had completed the necessary we set sail for Bulgaria, crossing the border shortly after leaving. The distance from Mangalia to Balchik, which is the port of entry into Bulgaria, is around 50 nautical miles. During the early afternoon, we were approached by a border police vessel who hailed us via VHF to check details and on arrival into Balchik an official was waiting for us on the quay. Paperwork took a while and then he searched the boat. It was our first search, and was quite thorough – he checked all the lockers and spaces large enough for a person. Evidently people trafficking is an issue here. Once the formalities were done, we headed over to a marina berth. Balchik is lovely, inevitably a bit more touristy than the places we had visited on the river but charming. Restaurants and bars line the waterfront and live music was going on through the night. After dinner we went for a cheeky dessert; we also got their WiFi password as Doris could pick it up from across the harbour.
The intention was to stay for just one night, but the weather was dreadful in the morning, so the decision was made to stay put and a guilt-free lazy morning ensued. The weather improved later, so we took the opportunity to top up diesel and get some groceries in.
The wind was pretty formidable the following morning (Saturday 29th), so we didn’t set off at first light as planned, but got going at around 7:30 to Nessebar. This was another longish day sail, just over 50 nautical miles. Initially, the sailing was good, but the wind dropped later and the engines had to go on. Cy gets extremely grumpy when this happens…
We pulled into the harbour at Nessebar late in the afternoon – it was a bit confusing, and not easy to see where yachts should go to moor. A guy in a small powerboat met us and explained there was more than one marina and quoted a price for his. This was a better price than we had expected, based on blogs we had read, so we followed him in. He was brilliant, helping us get secure with the mooring line as we went stern to again. Afterwards, the manager came by and asked for a higher fee than the one quoted. This was annoying but we chose not to make an issue of it and not to be upset.
Nessebar is reported to have an interesting old town so we prepared for a foray ashore. As we reached the end of the pontoon, we bumped into George, who had helped us initially. He was very apologetic that we had been charged a higher rate and wanted to buy us a beer to make up for it. One turned into ‘some’ (with a plate of mussles) and the evening, whilst a hazy memory is certainly a good one.
We had a great time chatting with George and the others in the bar. The old town would have to wait a day.