The last ten days on the Donau

The last two weeks of the trip were so intense that I had no time and energy left for my blog. But now I can do it, sitting comfortably on my couch in Stockholm, after arriving yesterday on a plane from Istanbul, happily reuniting with Joyce, who has been waiting for me here for a month.
From Vidin, where we had checked in to Bulgaria, Anders and I had ten more days on the Donau before it merges with the Black Sea. The Donau had then become such a huge river that it often felt more like going on a huge lake than on a river. For a long time it is the border between Bulgaria and Rumania, mostly a rural and wild landscape, sometimes flat, sometimes hilly but with few villages or cities. Now and then it was a beaming birdlife and we saw pelicans, lots of cormorants and also some eagles, foreboding what we expected to come later in the delta. The weather was mostly hot with some days without any wind and the Donau lying smooth as a mirror.
It was sometimes long between the harbors so we had to find a place to anchor the boat for the night or get the permission to tie up beside a barge which was anchored. One night when we had anchored behind an island in a shallow bay with shelter from the wind we had a challenging experience: when it was already dark the wind turned and grew quite strong straight onto the boat, the boat turning back and forth by the wind from one direction and the current from the other, making a strong pull on both the anchors. As the Donau now is so wide the wind can be quite strong and make big waves. We had a pretty turbulent night but the anchors did their job to keep the boat in place. By dawn we could take the anchors up and continue, now with big waves against us, a rocky trip which reminded us more of a windy trip on the Baltic than on a river.
In Ruse, the biggest Bulgarian city by the Donau, we made a two day stop in the nice marina to fill upp our storage of food, diesel and gas. There was also a Danish couple in their motorboat so we could enjoy talking in our exotic nordic languages. They spent their eighth summer on the rivers and canals of Europe, real veterans!
In Ruse we had passed all locks and low bridges so here was also our first chance to raise the mast and get rid of the big construction on deck. As the very helpful and nice harbormaster, Boyko, offered to assist me I also decided to do that. But this was really a challenge. Here were no special mast-cranes on a dock which we are used to at home. We had to use one of the ordinary huge harbor cranes and there were no dock, only a stony beach, so we had to park the boat outside the beach with anchor and ropes on land which we had to reach by my lifeboat. The crane first lifted the mast ashore so I could prepare it and eventually, after a long waiting when the crane had to do a lot of job for the harbor, it lifted the mast onto the boat. Then it was swinging and turning in ways that were hard to control, but with lots of help from Boyko we eventually managed to get the mast on place. This was quite a very stressful event, especially since it also was extremely hot,  95° F (35° C). Still: what a relief to have this done and the boat now prepared for the sailing on the Black Sea.
Our crane
The mast on the way 
But alas, still an important piece was missing: when I unpacked the mast I found that the boom to the mainsail was not there! I later found out that it was still at the marina in Travemünde, Germany, and by mistake had not been delivered with the mast. Of course I should have noticed that already in Vienna where the mast was delivered but I didn´t. Fortunately I have a jib (a front sail called genua) which is bigger than the mainsail so the sailing on the Black sea could still be done with just the jib, a little slower but still OK.

Ruse was a nice city with lots of boulevards and old houses (some restored, some in bad shape) and statues om one of its famous sons: the nobel laureate Elias Canetti, born in Ruse. We had a nice dinner there on a restaurant and the less nice experience to see on TV Bulgaria beat Sweden in an important soccer match.
When the Donau approaches the Black Sea it suddenly turns north, away from Bulgaria and wholly into Rumania. There were two big Rumanian harbor cities, Braila and Galati, where I for the first time in a year saw big cargo ships and not only barges, a sure sign that we were approaching the sea. The first one happened to be a big brother to my Joy:
The landscape had now changed into more flat beaches where horses and cows were grazing.
Joy with mast on a calm Donau
The last day we went all the way from the city of Galati. The Donau here became the border between Rumania and Ukraine (and for a short while even Moldavia).  Then the Donau was spreading out into its vast delta, where we took the the main branch where all the big ships were coming and going,  all the way to Sulina, the last port by the estuary where the Donau ends. This became the longest day of the whole trip, more than 12 hours. We had a gorgeous sunset
and it was already dark when we arrived to Sulina, where my next mate, Lennart, was waiting for us and had found a place to tie up the boat. So there I was, at last, having left behind me all 2410 km of the Donau. What an adventure, what a challenge, and what a joy!
 But there was still one chapter left before the great adventure of this year would be finished: sailing on the Black Sea.
Joy, the only sailboat in Sulina, Rumania.

Author: nilsassarson

Retired child psychiatrist but still working part-time. I am recently married to an american woman and we are living halftime in Stockholm, Sweden halftime in Palo Alto, Ca, USA. Have three kids and nine grandkids from earlier marriage.

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