Eight months later I am now back in my boat in Sozopol, Bulgaria, to make everything ready for new sailing and new adventures this year. A new story begins. But first of all I want to share a short summary of last year´s river- and canal-trip which took me all the way from Lagarde, France, to Sozopol, Bulgaria. I started this summary already last autumn but it was never finished and published.
The journey was both a very challenging and a very rewarding. It went on during 3 1/2 months for 3300 km (= 2050 miles), through 113 locks and through eight countries (France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Rumania and Bulgaria) and along the border of three more (Croatia, Moldavia and Ukraine). I travelled along three rivers (Rhine, Main and Donau) and also on canals in eastern France and between Main and Donau. In the end the sailing on the Black Sea took me 200 nM from the Donau delta down to Sozopol, Bulgaria. On the trip I had 20 different passengers/mates between the ages of 9 and 91 coming and going. The weather was good most of the time, at least for those of us who likes sun and heat, with only a few rainy days and one heat wave after another with over 30° C (86° F) with a maximum of 38° C (100° F).
One of the best things with this trip has been sharing this adventure with so many great passengers/mates. First of all with my wife Joyce, who is not a boat person but still stayed with me on the boat, eight weeks the year before and now for the first 9 weeks, all the way to Budapest. She certainly enjoyed many aspects of the trip but was not very happy with the discomfort of the boat and the heat many of the days. But without her the trip would never had taken place and I will be forever grateful to her for making it possible. It has also been wonderful to share this adventure with eight of my grandchildren, my son David, my sister Birgit, 91, and several friends. It has certainly been a challenge to organize all these changes of crew but with shared efforts it has worked out well to mutual satisfaction.
Good memories of the trip was the beauty of the landscape of the Vosgues in Alsace, in the Bavarian mountains along the river Main, high points along the Danube as the Austrian wine district of Wachau, the magnificant Iron Gate in Serbia/Rumania and the fascinating Danube delta with an abundance of pelicans and cormorants. And also many of the cultural sights and events, especially Strasbourg, Bamberg, Passau, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. And I will always remember how the dolphins greeted me welcome to the open sea when we left the Danube delta and entered the Black Sea after those many month´s confinement to rivers and canals since we left the Baltic in Travemünde in June 2016.
The worst part of the trip and in a way the only bad part was the time after another recurring problem with the cooling system of the engine. On rivers and canals you are very much dependent on the engine, which has to work for hundreds of hours and is bound to fail sometimes one way or other. The problem of the cooling system followed me into the last minute, when we much to our frustration had to call for help to be able to come into the end station, the marina in Sozopol. And, of course, another dark time was when I realized that the boom for the mainsail was not delivered with the mast which I think now mostly was due to a mistake on my part.
Anyway, all problems has been solved and all the enjoyable moments of the trip prevail. I am so greatful for having done this trip. And I am actually also grateful that it is done! New adventures are waiting!