Leaving Bulgaria. Entering Turkey.

Sans Peur
Grete & Fred Vithen
Thu 9 Jul 2015 16:20
We made a 5am start from Sozopol because we knew we had a long day ahead. It's vital that we check-in and check-out of each country to avoid complications. Not all ports have the bureaucratic capacity to process us (eg Sozopol), so we had to make a quick (hopefully) stop in Tsarevo to check out of Bulgaria. This was the first time we felt that we were properly processed....a very pleasant young lady actually came on board and had a good look around, and actually compared our faces to our passports. To Fred's amazement, she scanned all San Peur's documents, instead of making three photo copies of each!

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So we continued our fascinating journey down the Black Sea coast. The continuous foreshore development......massive high rise and endless hotels of Bulgaria, gave way to farmlands and deserted beaches when we crossed the border into Turkey.

We try to avoid night sails, and we knew we couldn't get to Istanbul from here before dark. We'd been told about a small Turkish port, a combination fishing village and military base where sailors like us were welcome to dock, but not leave the boat (because we hadn't been checked into Turkey as yet)

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So after a long sail down the Turkish coast of the Black Sea, we crept into this small harbour with great relief,and "sidled up" beside a huge heavily armed Turkish naval ship, expecting a warm welcome. Well....they had no idea what we were on about, and after some delay as they summoned a high ranking officer who had reasonable English, he said we could anchor in the harbour, but not at the (civilian) village Marina and certainly not on Naval property. We explained that we couldn't do that because our anchor winch didn't work (since we overloaded it trying to winch ourselves off a sandbank in the Danube 2 weeks ago). A discussion ensued, the big Captain arrived, and to our amazement, they moved one of their boats so we could dock next to their "gunship", and invited us to "tea".....delicious sweet Turkish tea. The conversation revealed that this was their first experience of a boat like us seeking a dock, and that the reason they wanted us to moor initially and not dock in the village was nothing to do with protocol. They were worried about the hoon element in this village, robbing us! So much for the reliability of info' from other sailors.....but there's always the time factor (he was here 2006) and the ever present risk of "lost in translation".

Naturally,we couldn't be seen taking photos in a military base but Fred snuck this one. You can see part of their ship at our stern.

We slept well this night.

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Another early start and strong winds, gusting up to 32 knots. Fred had a grin on his face all day, as he had Grete scrambling about the boat putting on more sail. I would have offered to help but as I'm leaving soon, and Fred and Grete will be doing lots of sailing with just the two of them, including a year in the Med and then crossing the Atlantic, I felt it my duty to not intrude....just stay comfortably seated in the cockpit and focus on not getting seasick. We made great time, averaging 6.6 knots for 90 nautical miles, under sail. Despite good preparations, the contents of some shelves now lay scattered on the floor, but no damage done.

So again we entered a harbour, 20 miles before Istanbul, that we had been reliably told, would accommodate us. What we found was a seething mass of huge, smelly commercial fishing boats, rafted up together, packed like sardines, in this small busy harbour. We could not see any possible place to dock and the further we crawled into this ever narrowing refuge, the harder it would be to extricate ourselves. Grete spotted a fishing boat undergoing repair work, so again we sidled up beside it and Grete asked a workman, "Can we dock here?" (Meaning for 1 hour while we get some info') His work blackened face broke into a gap toothed grin, as he replied in broken English, " No problem. How many nights?" Our relief was palpable....we were knackered and did not relish the prospect of going back out into the strong winds for night sail and arrival into Istanbul.

These experiences have really endeared these people to us....just when we feel lost and a bit hopeless, a friendly turn around pops up. Fred and Grete seem to thrive on it. Me, I find it a bit stressful, and I'm always pleased that the buck stops with Fred.

I wish we had the presence of mind to always photograph these amazing "saviours" we've met on our journey,(especially those Romanians who worked for 5 hours to get us off that sandbank 2 weeks ago) but of course, we are too preoccupied at the time.

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This how the plotter looked as we approached Istanbul. Fred has it on a big screen and it's an invaluable aid. Any boat that has a transponder shows up, including us. The details of all the boats are listed on the left so we can tell how big they are and what speed and direction they are moving, long before they're in sight. They're basically all freighters, and mostly anchored. If you can zoom in, you find us, "San Peur", identified as GPS.
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