Sahula Cruising

14 May 2012 | England
25 October 2011 | Ipswic
13 September 2011 | Ipswich
13 September 2011 | Ipswich
25 June 2011 | Frankfurt
09 June 2011 | Frankfurt
25 May 2011 | Regensburg, Germany
18 May 2011 | Linz
12 May 2011 | Nova Sad
12 May 2011 | Vienna
05 May 2011 | Budapest
22 April 2011 | Viden
08 April 2011 | Constanta, Romania

Passage Report No 60 Danube Report to CA

09 June 2011 | Frankfurt
David Haigh
Passage Report No. 60

Danube Report

Danube Report from Sahula submitted to Cruising Association of UK.

Sahula is now in Regensburg, Germany. She has completed a cruise from Istanbul, across the Black Sea to Constanta, Romania and up the Danube.

This is a short report on the Danube cruise. More details are on a blog site – (Sahula) and videos on YouTube (davidhaighsahula).

Sahula is an Australian registered, 9.5 tonne steel, 12m x 3.5m x 1.5m (1.6-7 loaded), “Van de Stadt 36” sloop. She had a crew of two and a Yanmar 54 hp motor. Average revs used: 1800.

The cruise started from Teos Marina, Sigacik (Izmir) on the 15th March, 2011 via the Dardenelles, Marmara Sea to arrive in Istanbul on 25th March. At Istanbul, she anchored in Yesilkoy small boat harbour awaiting crew from Australia.

After the Bosphorous and awaiting weather, she left Poyaz fishing harbour (Turkey) on 4th April to cruise (2 nights) across, direct, to Port Tomis Marina, Constanta, Romania.

After the mast was stored along the deck (and excursion to Bucharest), on 12th April, Sahula entered the Constanta – Danube Canal. On 13th April the Danube odyssey began. Some 6 weeks later, Sahula arrived, some 2000 km later, in Regensburg. Another option is to enter the Danube Delta – a natural heritage site.

Over long days an average of 70 km was travelled each day. Distances of 100 km a day were achieved if current was reduced by dam lakes in the latter parts of the River.

Current was some 2-3 km through Romania, Bulgaria and into Serbia, Croatia to Hungary. An exception was the Hells Gate (or gorge) section were, while a dam reduced current, the narrow river provided some. Also a local” gorge” wind against current created, in parts, a 2 m sea. Going uphill Sahula “surfed” before it. The River was closed to commercial traffic. At other times as well the “rear” wind assisted the daily average.

The lower Danube, through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, is a meandering, wide, peaceful place, past villages, fisherman huts and small boats. Hungary is the same, albeit with more prosperous villages. Sahula anchored (near sand banks to lessen risk of tree obstacles) each evening between town stops. Beautiful Ruse was Sahula’s first stop. The Ruse Yacht Club provided a welcome and facilities.

Checking in with Border Police, customs and harbour master was, at times,
bureaucratic but officials were generally friendly and efficient, albeit, within non-sensible systems.

Fuel was available but requiring carrying containers from the local service station. A container trolley is useful.

Town berths for visiting yachts are generally non-existent. Pontoons cater solely for commercial traffic, especially the passenger boats. In some cases this meant not stopping or anchoring. A dinghy crossing is not for the faint hearted.

Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna – beautiful cities – but Budapest is the “Queen of the Danube.” It embraces the River as no other.

Industrial visual degradation (reported especially in the lower part) is mainly confined to large towns. It is not overwhelming. River pollution is not an obvious issue.

The River was shallow in places. A River boat captain suggested Sahula “move along” due to seasonal shallowing. Locals reported the lowest river height in memory. Dunafoldvar, Hungary was nominated as the lowest river height (there are less dams) but Sahula found the German sector, (between dams) after Passau (Inns River [larger than Danube] junction), the most persistently shallow i.e. less than 2m (1.7m) and the channel, at times, very narrow (less 100 m). Current increased to some 5 km in places. However, generally, depth averaged 2-3 m. Large barges and passenger boats (some 120m long) draw 1.5 – 1.6 m. Their skill in navigating the winding, vagaries of a changing river, at speed, at night, is remarkable. “…we follow the red line on the digital chart…” – such faith. Skipper observed two survey boats on the Danube.

At no point did current put at risk Sahula’s journey. A large rope around the propeller in Viden, did, however, almost have this effect. Generally, the River water is green and clean (Blue from local hills). Engine water was not blocked at any stage.

Sahula’s references included: Danube –a River Guide (Heikell 1991), Cruising Bulgaria and Romania (Allardice, 2007), 8 chart books (Pierre Verberght – updated). The latter is the “official” navigation aid. They are critical. Charts (same as in the books) are also available on the Web.

Agency for Exploration and Maintenance of Danube River (Bulgaria HQ Ruse): Danube Charts and information – river heights, floods, weather …:

Water levels for Europe:

Digital charts Europe waterways: PC Navigo by Pierre Verberght (Holland) 0032 475 490131. Cost (2011): 400 Euro. “…Put in the boat details and the intended trip. It calculates the time to do it and depth available…”

Heikell, while mostly out of date on river information, provided an overall map and interesting historical information on many towns. It is still a useful book.

There is other material, printed in German, including a large reference on “The Danube.”

Distance and navigational markers “dot” the whole River. They are well maintained. River heights are also signposted, at infrequent, points.

CENVI navigation regulations apply. A “blue” flag is advisable.

A 2m draft yacht could do the trip. Obviously, shallow draft is useful. This year, river heights were historically low. Rains and snow melt came through in December, January. In another “wet” year, deeper draft is possible.

It is difficult to determine when to do the trip. Spring is reported as flood time. However, these occurred in December, January. Sahula commenced early (in the cold) and would recommend this time. Weather was generally good, with intermittent, rain and cold in the lower reaches. Only in late May was swimming possible or enjoyable.

A remarkable, memorable journey. Sahula passed 4 “downhill” small yachts. She was reported as the second to transit “uphill” and the only Australian yacht.

The cruise will continue up the Main – Danube Canal, down the Main and Rhine Rivers. Originally to re-enter the German canals from Duisburg to Lubeck on the Baltic. However, due to a short three month Schengen visa for “foreigners” this was changed to Holland and the UK.

Skipper David Haigh is able to be contacted on

Vessel Name: Sahula
Vessel Make/Model: van de stadt 36 extended to 40 feet
Hailing Port: Townsville
Crew: David - single hander
David is retired (60 ish young) academic who taught potential environmental radicals environmental law, law of the sea and coastal law. He's now setting out on a global cruise aboard Sahula. He's travelling solo except when potential crew take the plunge and join up. He welcomes worthy souls. [...]

About Sahula

Who: David - single hander
Port: Townsville