Log #32c Istanbul to the Black Sea

April 24, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 32 Istanbul and The Black Sea, The Logs

Bourgas, Bulgaria
April 24, 2004

Hi Folks,

I’m not sure when, if, or how this will get to you as there is no AOL local access number here in Bulgaria. I will try the Istanbul number long distance, and if that doesn’t work may try to send this via an internet café with all the attendant problems.

The currency here in Bulgaria is the Leva, and $1.00 Canadian is about 1.10 Leva. Wines are cheap but adequate, and prices are generally lower than in Canada. The bureaucracy has been OK, and most people friendly although there is very little English spoken here. The Cyrillic alphabet takes a bit of getting used to and appears a combination of Russian and Greek writing. We have met several other sailors who speak some English, and with our bits of French and German have made out OK. We are on the outer wall of a large industrial harbour, and it takes 15 minutes just to walk out of the port area. On Monday, April 26 we hope to take off to other anchorages in the Bourgas area.

All is well. Remember, I am making up a new address list, so please let me know if you wish to continue receiving my logs.

All the best,


Log #32c Istanbul to the Black Sea

Bourgas, Bulgaria

April 23, 2004

As I write this log from Bourgas here in Bulgaria, I realize I have to continue from my log #32a Return To Veleda when we were still in Kalamis Marina in Fenerbahce. At that time we thought we had all the systems checked out, but as we progressed up the Bosphorus and into the Black Sea we found recurrent problems with air in the fuel line, and further troubles with the two self steering mechanisms. Here in Bulgaria, we have had no difficulties and found the bureaucracy quite co-operative and helpful. No problems!

We finally left Kalamis Marina on April 10 after reprovisioning from the local friendly bazaar a few blocks from the marina. Down to the Princes Islands where we anchored for two quiet nights in Cam Limani, a safe, but not the cleanest, anchorage. The shoreline was badly littered, as it is a favourite spot for day trippers from Istanbul; and the sea bed is good holding, but thick with slimy seaweed which is pulled up with the anchor chain. From there we went over to Atakoy Marina for a couple of days before clearing out of Turkey. The night before we left I went to a cinema and met a local who invited me out for some Turkish food. It turned out to be a trip into the Galata “entertainment” district for Iskender kabob, lots of raki, loud music and bar girls from the Ukraine and Belarus. Later, I was poured into a taxi as I did not want to continue “clubbing” with Alex, and so made my way back to Veleda.

Next day we started the out routine to leave Turkey. Nothing is ever simple! We started at 1000 to take our documents to the marina office where they were quite co-operative. However we were told to come back at 1300 to complete the process. We wanted to get going early to get up the Bosphorus but had to wait until afternoon. Then we had to take a taxi, thankfully with a marina representative, into the Karakoy area of Istanbul to the Harbour Master for the Port of Istanbul to get our transit log signed out, then another trip to the passport police at Zeyport for the final clearance, neither of which cost anything, but we had a 40,000,000 TL ($40.00Cdn or $30.00 US) taxi bill for the two hours of running around. When we return to Turkey from the Ukraine, we will not go direct to Istanbul, as the procedure for clearing in is too complicated and expensive (about $250.00 US, or two or three days taxiing around Istanbul for al the signatures). Instead we will go to Zonguldak, a smaller city on the north coats of Turkey on the Black Sea where the officials will be in a closer proximity and should be able to be completed more easily. Once back at the marina we immediately left, as we were supposed to, at 1500, as we were now cleared out of Turkey, and we wanted to get up to Poyraz on the Black Sea before dark. The weather until then was clear and sunny, but as we wended our way up past the Golden Horn, clouds became more threatening.

Good old Murphy’s Law, the wind was against us, force 4 to 6, all the way up the Bosphorus. We had forgotten the details we were given last spring about where the counter currents were, and just followed our memory and our common dog sense about river currents. The procedure is when going upstream to hug the inside shoreline at the bends where the currents will be less. We did this with the extension of watching our speed until it dropped, then switching to the other shoreline in anticipation of being on the inside of the next bend. Thus we went up the Istanbul side close inshore past the Golden Horn, dodging much ferry traffic and a dozen fishing boats at the mouth of the Horn, up past Dolmabache Palace, not crossing over until past the first bridge. Then of course we had to time our crossing to pass astern of an upbound ship, crossing at right angles ahead of  the next upbound  to get to the other side of the traffic separation scheme while being set down by a two or three knot current. Lots of fun!

As we approached the second bridge the thunder clouds caught up with us and we went through a deluge as we passed on the opposite side from Rumeli Hisari, the fortress from which Mehmet the Conqueror launched his final assault against Constantinople in 1452. Our speed dropped to less than four knots, then surged back to five and a half as we motored around and across the various bays on the Asian side. After another switch to the European side, we crossed over again just before the Naval base and shallows on the Asian side to stay that side right up to Poyraz (41˚ 12.28’N, 029˚ 07.78’E) on the Black Sea (Kara Deniz) where we anchored at 1855, a four hour trip (21 miles for an average of a little over 5 knots), a half hour faster than our first trip up last spring.

That first night at anchor in the middle of Poyraz harbor was comfortable, but by morning a force 7 near gale was blowing from the northeast right into the Bosphorus and Poyraz. We decided at 0940 to head to the breakwater to tie up astern of a fishing boat, whose crew came out and helped us with our lines in a now full force eight gale. Once alongside we did a bit of checking of our engine oil and water levels which were OK, but we noted we had air in our fuel filter, a problem left over from last spring. However the fuel hose we bought to replace the old one was in the 26 kilo package we had sent by post from Canada the beginning of March which had not yet arrived. (Actually the hose was given to us by E&C Marine in Toronto from whom we bought the new Yanmar Diesel engine in 1998, thanks Charles!) The storm continued throughout the day with gusts up to force 10 (50 knots plus). It was cold and we tried to get our coal stove going, to no avail as the downdrafts were so strong they snuffed out the fire and saturated the cabin with smoke. In the afternoon, the fishermen ahead of us invited us over for tea, and we had a chance to warm up around their working stove. They were also using coal (Carbonne) that they dredged up from the seabed. Back on Veleda we got a phone call from Tuncay in Kalamis Marina that our parcel had arrived at the post office and we could pick it up in Istanbul. If only that call had come 24 hours earlier!!!!

Again, nothing is ever simple! We had to go down to pick it up at the post office. It would not be delivered to Kalamis where they could forward it to us up the coast. So we had to go back to Istanbul. The fishermen helped us out greatly. They told us the specific buses, with their times of departure, we had to catch to go back to Fenerbahce, had one of their crew escort us up the hill into town to where the bus came, and said they would keep an eye on Veleda’s lines throughout the continuing storm for us. So off we went. Of course by the time we got back to Kalamis Marina (we needed the post office’s notice) the post office was closed for the night. We called our friend Murat Api who invited us to his place for the night as they were celebrating their son’s fifth birthday with his wife’s family. So we had an enjoyable night with his family and returned to the marina next morning at 0930 to resume our saga of retrieving our long delayed package.

Tuncay, the office manager at Kalamis Marina, was most helpful. He had identified for us that the parcel was at the main post office and we would not need an agent to complete the importation. In addition he allowed Murat, another of his front desk staff, to accompany us. Thank you, Tuncay and Murat, as without this help I don’t know how we would have physically gotten there, let alone navigated our way through the post office’s bureaucracy. We had to take a taxi (taksi) to Kadikoy from which we caught a ferry across to Eminonu, and after crossing the overpass from the busy ferry/bus/bazaar center we caught another taxi over to the Topkapi district. Finally after a few cab driver errors we found the right post office parcel center. Then the fun began!

We entered a bustling passageway with numbered offices and wickets from 1 to 9. After inquiring at one wicket we were told to go to wicket 7 and from there they would send us “back and forth”. I thought the terminology was funny, but it proved to be the case. From wicket 7 our slip was inspected and we were sent two wickets along to present our stamped slip, then we were asked to wait for about 15 minutes to go to yet another wicket to see our package, finally. However, we had to show our stamped slip again, and one of our passports, and witness the package being opened and explain that it was our personal belongings and some used boat parts. Then we were sent to another official who ominously had a calculator to give us another slip to take to another wicket down the line. Then after three more wickets we were sent back to the official with the calculator who put a price for customs duty on our claim! Why? It was personal belongings to a yacht in transit!!!

Catch 22! We had an insurance declaration for the value of the goods and so customs duty was assessed on that declaration. We thought of that when we sent it from Toronto, and were torn between no insurance, or risking a value that could be assessed customs. We were assessed the customs duty! We didn’t want to argue about it and so just went along with another $49.00 duty. Off to another wicket to have the duty checked and another after that to pay and another after that for a receipt and another after that to be assessed another small 1,500,00 TL ($1.50 Cdn) fee for I don’t know what, and another official for the receipt. In all we went to 13 wickets and officials before our package was finally given to us. The statement at the beginning that we would be sent “back and forth” was quite accurate!

I had brought a strong two wheeled dolly on which we mounted the package. Of course there was no ramp from the post office to the roadway, and we had to handle it down a flight of steps, then haul it 100 yards out to the street to hail a taxi. Back to the ferry/bus/bazaar terminal, where we had to carryl it up and down the overpass and onto the ferry. Finally back at Kadikoy, we thanked Murat for his assistance and gave him some Turkish Lira for his cab fare back to the marina and for his much appreciated assistance. We could never have navigated that post office maze without a Turkish translator!

We might have had the customs duty waived for a “yacht in transit”, but to have done so we would have had to enlist the services of an official agent whose fee would have been more than the duty paid, plus the time to wait for him. As it was we got back to Veleda up in Poyraz three and a half hours later, after an hour wait for the first bus, an hour bus trip to Beykoz, an hour wait there and a half hour trip up to Poyraz to tote the package down the steep mile long road to the harbour. Back on Veleda at last, and with our final parcel, we were now free to head into the Black Sea to Bulgaria.

We had the fishermen over for tea, and exchanged a few gifts. We gave them a framed picture of Veleda and some Canada stickers, and they gave us a large sea shell, and one of the younger crew bashfully gave me a glass embossed cross. We left next morning, April 17th, greeted early by a pod of dolphins, heading into the Black Sea towards Bulgaria.