Sahula Report 50: Constanta Canal
15 April 2011
Passage Report: No 50
Canal to the Danube
Dawn red, lines off, Sahula departs Port Tomis Marina for the Constanta – Danube Canal.
Polizia Frontiere is ever vigilant. After passing through Port Constanta and tied up at the entrance to the Canal, the Police are aboard. “Why did you leave without telling immigration?” “We did by radio and voice to the Police Boat; and we are not leaving Romania. We like Romania!” “Sorry, it is procedure, you understand” – Skipper did (principle: never argue, just do, always compliment!).
Skipper attended the Canal Adminstration HQ (fee: 124 euro).
“Not so much traffic this year or last.”
“You must go; port side, into the lock.” Sahula entered the concrete canyon, the floating bollards lifted as it filled, the gate sank, exit. A barge moved in. The locks do not operate for small vessels unless a barge requires entry.
“You cannot leave till tomorrow, gypsies a problem in harbours before Danube.”
Sahula cannot berth were assigned, it will damage the boat (a north wind drives canal sea). Alongside a concrete wall – “Captain, not safe there, gypsies.”
Sahula sleeps, dawn start (gypsy free), to Cernavoda locks.
Into the Canal of Death (some 100,000 perished), a dramatic huge sculpture and mosaic of contented workers, celebrates their effort.
Low, laden barges pass, slowly, to Constanta.
Ducks dive in the reeds, fishermen wave, factories, farms, stoaic grey villages, horse carts, net fishermen rowing long narrow boats. Life ticks by.
It’s the lock - Cernavoda” “It can’t be” - Tanya (engine) has done well.
VHF battery flat. Dockmaster waves a blue flag. Sahula enters the lock, a barge enters, water drops. Spirited Sahula enters the “blue” Danube (300); a green, clear, flowing river.
Tingles of excitement. Sahula has made it - 2400 km to farewell - through seven countries. Many more to Baltic or Mediterranean seawater. An odyssey begins.
The River’s broad expanse covers the navigable channel. Sahula wends between the widely spaced, red, green, channel buoys (from sea to land), observing the shore direction markers (from land to sea), paralleling the barges. Kilometre signs click by. The European Waterway Regulations (CENVI) set the River/ canal signage and rules. Buoys, markers, in good condition, are frequent.
Sahula uses digital, Danube Commission, charts (2010 - in German), Heikell and Allardice (Guides,1991, 2007).
Barges, fully loaded, gunwales awash, plough “downhill,” the shallow river silt. Depths are various and shallow (3-7m). Deeper along corners and steep sides.
Rasnova’s grey village merges into the winter grey, brown bank. Sahula anchors off a designated shore at “316.” Hot soup, chicken, vegetables, music, celebratory beer - Crew cooks gourmet. Fishermen wave, row by trailing a hopeful net. Dusk, heater on, sleep.
Dawn start, Day two. Breakfast on the go (hot pancakes, jam, tahine, lemon juice). Calm, cool, Tanya at 1500 revs. Sahula enters the faster current, narrowed, between Ceaciru and Tin islands.
Tarantula rooted trees cling to low, silted, strated banks. White cormorant speckled tree tops, ducks, formation flocked, glide low. Nature; ancient, habitual.
Sun rises - “It’s warm, a two jumper day.”
Averaging 200-300 m. wide in narrows, to half a kilometre, River flow varies between 2-3 knots.
The Danube Commission detailed charts are confirmed by the Romania’s clear markers. Heikell charts are useful, general. Barges confirm both.
Log (speedometer) paddle jams - again. GPS takes over.
Fishermen wave, nets reel in fish.
A conundrum: green buoy on south Talachi Island channel is high and dry, a huge six barge pusher enters the north. Follow the charts or the barge? Sahula tracks north (3.4 m). Danube is an ever changing feast.
Pelicans rest on a sand spit. Bird life is prolific.
To pass or not to pass? Tanya pushes Sahula by a huge pusher barge. Crew wave.
The Bulgarian - Romanian land border joins the Danube at city, Silistra. Allardice(2007) reports the Harbour master refused to recognise the Danube International Convention and a court case cost them 1000 Euro and 4 days. Sahula passes the massed grey apartments, suburban sprawl and modern city centre to later enter Bulgaria at city, Ruse.
How to get rid of a floating navigation obstacle; a Bulgarian tree stump? Tow it to the river centre - the median line of their international border. Leave it to fate, a Romanian boat dragging it to their side or a collision. International law and comity makes for odd outcomes.
A Danube storm rolls thunder and rain upon Sahula. Visibility drops, Sahula must anchor. A sandbar at “385”, provides an off channel stopover (4 m). Sahula’s destination is 70 kilometres closer.
Anchoring must be out of the shipping channel, have minimal current and risk of snagging sunken trees.
Crew, inspired by local fishermen, drops an optimistic, corn baited line. Results: dinner is tinned fish and vegetables.
Next Report 51: Ever onward on the Danube.