Sahula Report: 51 - Danube
16 April 2011
Passage Report: No. 51
Silistra (364) to Ruse, Bulgaria (490)
Grey day Danube, wet and cold. Sahula early on the River. Crew sheltered behind the Doghouse. Visibility low.
Rust red sunken hulk; statue testimony to wrecked caution. Barges are slow and slower to turn.
Pancakes and maple syrup, enjoyed (2007 - Australian).
German chart book (8 volumes - German) used by Peter (UK -downhill, 2007) show maps with comments and amendments. Skipper adds current update.
Pollution - plastic, rubbish - is minimal. River water is clean, green. River banks have little accumulated rubbish. River beaches are pristine - testament to a flowing (2-3 km), flood prone, changing river.
Riverside habitation is an infrequent fisher's hut or "gypsy" van. The low river flood plain necessitates invisible villages being back on the hills.
Crew navigates Sahula through the changing channels. Channels split to passage port or starboard. Sahula keeps to charts. No CENVI markers to direct upstream vessel take starboard channel and downstream, port channel? Few marks exist where mid or outside passage is deep.
Romanian police boat slowed, waved, sounded siren and sped downstream into a bleak, cold, wet, day.
"Heinrich," skipper of a Ukrainian, upstream, pusher churning behind six low gunwaled, coal barges is "paid by the hour" (Crew); "on his honeymoon (Skipper).
Heinrich fronts another pusher barge, white light flashing for starboard too. Sahula, a "small vessel," required to keep out of the way, lines up behind till clear, then "speeds" (6 km/hour) past as "Heinrich's" churning "mammoth" slowly moves dusk bound.
Unused, wasting, rusting, silent memorials: cranes, sheds, ramps, wharves, to past ship building, past glories of Oltenita industry (Romania). Very few of the industrial buildings along the river seem to be in use. They stand in similar, decaying, silence.
Opposite, Toutrakan (Bulgaria -433 km), red roofed, grey, astride the hillside bank, looks relatively prosperous.
Sahula punches past into a rising river wind.
"448" - Sahula's anchored hull resonated with the lapping current and wind waves. Skipper wished the silt dug anchor well.
Danube, some 2 km bank to bank, provides wind river waves. A short day - 40 km to Ruse, Bulgaria for fuel and supplies.
Twice Sahula has imprinted the Danube's silted bottom (1.6m) testing navigation skills between non-existent markers, using current to back off.
Skipper sketches the river expanse (449-450) beautiful in its natural river green, low, banks.
Black, swirling, north clouds threaten a storm. Sahula makes for Ruse Yacht Club, located in Ruse harbour. "Friendship Bridge" towers above - the only road link across the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria.
Sahula cuts a fisherman's line on entry. He demands (Crew pays for peace) five Euro damages. The line is recovered from the propeller.
On VHF 16, "Sprechen die Deuche" - broken English permits Sahula to enter.
"Welcome to Bulgaria" - local yachtsmen assist Sahula to berth to a small floating metal wharf. Sahula dwarfs local day yachts.
Boyko, club manager, offers the Club facilities (hot shower, laundry, toilet, fuel (service station), water, mast removal or raising etc) and assistance in clearing entry procedures. Harbour Master provides the "Transit Log for Bulgarian Ports," stamped (no cost) also by Port Police and Customs. (located nearby - 30 minutes).
Ruse's Danube frontage - grey, industry, wharves, apartments - belies the rich heritage behind of a prosperous, vibrant, town. The tree lined streets of old houses, squares of impressive, heritage, public buildings and statues, shopping pedestrian boulevard of lively, modern shops, chic cafes and clubs. Modern, prosperous, Ruse directly contrasts with Romania's decaying, Constanta.
Sahula stays to obtain fuel, supplies and explore.
Next Report No. 52: Ruse to Hells Gate.