July, 2011

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Sunday 31 July. Off to Constanza.

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Based on yesterday’s forecast I had planned to leave Wednesday, but this dioes not look good any longer. Today I’ll have a fairly strong Westerly that will decrease during the night and then turn to a more NW. This will work. UI expect to be in Tomis Marina in the afternoon on Monday.

Amazing how many items had to still be checked and hooked up after two years on fresh water.

There is an old Catholic Church here but the priest comes just once a month from Tulcea to say mass. Not today.

These fishermen/ delta tour guides just seem to have nothing better to do than to blast past in their long boats at about two feet from the moored boats. An hour ago one of them ran right into the boat. No apology and a reasonable repair job. The epoxy busted right off under the finish. I’ll have a good reason for the “trespassers” part of the “Our Father”.


Saturday 30 July. Still in Sulina.

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

I realized that I still had a couple too many loose ends to tie up before I can head into blue water again. The safety netting, short wave radio hook up, which has not been used since I arrived in Holland two years ago, etc. The wind was good for getting down south from here but then it was turning from the west at 24 k.m./hr on Sunday and that is right on the nose on my approach to Constanta. It was quite breezy this morning and would have been rough gettting out of the river and into the Black Sea.  Wednesday looks like a good forecast. And I still have plenty projects while I have free and reasonable good moorage here. On Monday the weekend hot rodders should be back in Bucarest and I will have less reason to be tempted into screaming at these idiots.

I am parked in front of a oceanographic research ship, the “Marina 1” from Constanta. Four men crew, captain Constantin who has sailed the seven seas as a merchant mariner and 5 researchers, marine bilologist, hydrologist, etc. They are recording the ocean quality. I could not help bringing up the trash flood issue. I took a hike to the edge of town to visit the cemetery. Very interesting. There are several separate sections for the different nationalities and ethnic population Sulina. The Romanians, Greek, English and German and the Lipovans. The Lipovans moved out of Russia into parts of the Ukraine and Bulgaria but the majority settled in Moldovia and here in the Danube Delta in the area called Dobrogea. They held on to the old Orthodox traditions and resisted to conform to the revisons under Patriarch Nikon in 1652. They were persecuted in Russia for their stubborness and therefore moved away, somewhat similar to the Hugenots, Pilgrims, Quakers, Mennonites. The Reed thatched houses are a typical Lipovan feauture. I talked to three Lipovan sisters who had come from Ukraine to visit the grave of their mother.

In the English section there were a number of grave stones of young men who had died in 1856, obviously from the Crimean War. See below pictures. There are also supposed to be a number of Romanian pirates buried here. In the book “Sailing across Europe” there are some great stories about the pirates that operated in the Danube delta. One of them a la Robin Hood.

A ship is just passing here with these cages filled with life goats, destined for the Muslim butchers.

The bird pictures were taken in a swamp on the edge of town. I had never seen a Spoon Bill in the wild. I also saw a number of White Pelicans overhead.



Friday July 29. Danube done. Black Sea next.

Friday, July 29th, 2011

I tied up along the river board walk at 6 p.m. The wind was fairly strong against me the whole way. This branch of the Danube is fairly narrow and deep. Freighters passed only a couple boat widths from me. I saw quite a few more Storks, Egrets, a couple Hawks and even a few Crowned Plovers (Kiewiet) which I have never seen out side of Holland.  No white Pelicans. Many of the traditional houses have reed thatched roofs and bright painted walls.

Last night the proprietor of the “Republica”, George, showed me the engine room of this old steam paddle wheeler. It was built in Austria in 1887 and was captured by the Romanians at the beginning of the 1 st world war, in 1914. And it was then made into a navy frigate. The equipment was in great shape and immaculate. I show the pictures for some of my steam engine buff friends.

From Braila on the prices in the restaurants and bars are a lot dearer. In Zimnicea I paid 2 Lei ( 66 cents) for a draft beer and 3 Lei for a bottle. Here it is 5 or 6 Lei.

But I eat little in restaurants. I like my , noodles and stir fry, which just is not served here. There was one Chinese restaurant in Galati. But I have noty seen an Asian person since the few Koreans and Chinese that stayed at the hotel in Zimnicea. Turkey will probably not have much of an Asian presence either.

I plan leave tomorrow for Constanza the Main Romanian sea port on the Black Sea and a city which was an important port in the Greek and Roman times.. The wind is from the right direction NNE and about 11 knots. It is  about 80 nautical miles or about 20 to 24 hour sail. I will not get much sleep during the night because I am close to the coast. I’ll do my best to get a good night sleep this night. Just like the Europeans used to drive like idiots on the Autobahn, after they bought their first car, so do the Romanians drive their new power boats. I had often wondered why I even bothered in the “Our Father” with and “forgive those who trespass against us” because I could not think of any one. But here I have a couple Romanian stink potters to forgive and the Cruise Boat captains. They throw huge wakes. There ought to be a law that they have rear few mirrors and record the havoc they create along the shore line and in the Danube locks.



Thursday 28 July, Tulcea. The portal to the Danube Delta

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

I am enjoying a cool Beck’s draft on the deck of the “Republica” restaurant boat. “Fleetwood” is parked along side. The “Republica” was originally the “Linz” and Austrian paddle wheeler steamer and served also in the Romanian navy. The captain here will give me a tour of the machine room.

Yesterday evening I went to dinner to a really nice local Galati restaurant, serving mostly Italian dishes, with Mark Geertsma and his lady friend. I had Linguine fruti di mare. Excellent. Only Lynne Poland’s Linguine a la Vongole is better than that.  Afterwards Mark had me over to his flat. He has a large collection of Elvis Presley L.P.’s and a state of the art turn table and sound system I discovered that that Presley did have a great voice and that I enjoyed listening to these songs. Mark also showed me a little more of Galati and, contrary to my earlier blogs, it still has some older sections that are well preserved. Mark’s company, Romtech, furnished the interiors on the Damen coast guard cutters that I wrote about in my “Logs” out of Vietnam. My very first moorage in HaiPhong, in 2006, was along one of those patrol ships. I was very impressed with the luxurious interiors, the mess, day room, showers, and the Vietnamese “coasties” who treated me so well.

I motor sailed today, most of the way. I ran into Daniel, from Leipzig in his canvas kayak. I had met Daniel in Rouse, where he took off from. He is doing the Danube from Regensburg, Germany in three parts, one per year. He spotted “Fleetwood” yesterday afternoon on his way through Galati and came along side.  Daniel took some pictures of me sailing. I also heard from George (GiGi) from the pumping station, that he will mail me some pictures of passing under the last Danube bridge, under sail.

Tulcea, being at the head of the Danube Delta, has a lively tourist influx, from all over Europe. You can choose your day or over night tour into the shallow branches of the delta. For most Europeans there are not a lot of Deltas like the Danube. In the United Sates we have a lot more choices. And for me it is, in a way, just another, river Delta. “Fleetwood” has been into so many river deltas, Fraser, Sacramento, St. John’s in Florida, a number on the Chesapeake Bay, Savannah, Surinam in Dutch Guyana,  Kinabatangan in Malaysian Borneo, Paraiba in N.E.Brazil, etc.
I discovered, last night, testing the wiring on the mast head, that I may need to take another hoist to the mast head. The lens of the tri color was put on wrong. Oh, well.

The picture below invites your judgement. I have been taking many pictures of boat names that match those of good friends/relatives and I send them to use as their screen saver. If you have not received on yet, have patience, your ship will also come in. Sometimes I cheat a little with my photo software. Do you think that I can send the below to the White House? Since Bin Laden is busy with the 1000 virgins I cannot mail his version to him.

And here are some more pictures of to day’s travels.



Wednesday July 27. Galati

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Last night I finished installing the second section of the port toe rail. It was a tough job, because there is a fair amount of bending involved to follow the tear drop shape of the hull. This morning I plugged the counter sunk screw holes with teak bungs and did some epoxy filling/fairing on the joints. Came out well. I am very much indebted to Mark Geertsma of Romtech for making up the replacement parts. Tomorrow I will sand and put a coat of finish on it and then I should be on my way to Tulcea.

For every one who has been so very helpful in suggestions on the overheating of my stuffing box: I think that I have the problem under control. Loosening up the nut that compresses the packing, and adding the one extra piece of packing, appears to have stopped the overheating shaft and stuffing box but it also introduces more water in the engine bilge than should be expected. The motor, transmission, flex coupling still feel unusual hot to me, compared to the raw water cooled (without radiator) Renault engine I was used to for the last 31 years. But the thermostat control gauge tells me that it is normal. So, I plan to just keep an eye on it and wait till I get to a place in Turkey with a travel lift, ideally next spring when a coat of bottom paint would be due, and check the shaft for possible replacement and replace the packing.

From Monday morning till now the river has changed. Apparently there were heavy rain storms in the last days in the tributaries of the Danube. Tons of flotsam, has been coming in mile long streams down river. The water has turned even murkier and muddier. From the pictures you can see that the Danubians are not the world’s best environmentalists. Water bottles are the worst of the garbage, I saw a great big sack, of what I figure was charcoal, floating down, sneakers. When I was working on the boat on the Danube’s edge the locals would just walk down to the river and throw their plastic bottles down the bank.

I have the ever present smell of the raw sewage that the city discharges into the river.

I have one more project that I am not a master in yet. Working with a volt meter. I have hooked up the wires again that were disconnected to the lights on the mast. But none work. I figure because not a single one of the 5 lights ( steaming, tri-color, strobe, anchor, spreader light) works that it has to be trying to find the one ground connection. And I can only do this in the dark be able to see the masthead lights. This evening I am going to dinner with Mark Geertsma.

Monday July 25, Galati.

Monday, July 25th, 2011
Monday morning:
I woke up to a fairly dense fog. But by 7 it had cleared enough to set off. By 9 I was tied up in Galati to one of the two river tour boats that belong to the local university. My two nights in Braila were free, compliments of my hosts. And the same here. They consider it a pleasure to have me along side and ask me many questions about my travels. Braila was a good stop. On Sauturday night it seemed that the entire population of the town from age 14 till 25 was parading on the river side boulevard. There are a ton of discos, side walk cafes, charcoal grills, etc. Older people also come out to be seen and meet their friends on the benches along the boardwalk. Braila is supposed to have the most beautiful women of Romania. I saw plenty of them.

Galati is definitely a deep sea port. It is nicely laid out, with shady boulevards and parks. But it is practically all built after the 2nd world war. Mark Geertsma and one of his yard men of the local Dutch owned Helmers/Romtech yard stopped by. They will make up a new piece of teak toe rail, that I removed in Zimnicea. Now I am only two days motoring from the Black Sea. I plan to stop at Tulcea, in the Delta and at the end of the Danube in Salina. And then “Fleetwood” gets to taste saltwater once again, after two years in fresh water.

There is not much here to take pictures of, so, I add a few from Friday/Sunday.

Monday evening: I already have most of the toe rail installed. Mark and his joinery carpenter came back in the early afternoon with the toe rail all molded to the pattern in a very nice quality Teak. Mark did this Pro Bono….. How come I am so priviliged to meet these generous people? My host on the river boat I am tied on to, came and helped me install the toe rail.  I need to predrill the second scarfed section tomorrow and then I should be ready to move on again. My host let me use his hot shower on the boat.




Sunday July 24th. Braila, Romania.

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

It started raining before sun up and lasted for several hours. Like a Northwest summer vacation, I could imagine all those vacationing Romanians, I saw the last days swimming, boating, barbecuing, on the river banks, now sitting locked up in their little orange and blue tents, waiting for the rain to stop. So, what better to do than go find shelter in a Baptist church? Just like that winter Sunday, the day of the Martin Luther King holiday, in Bellhaven, N.C. in January 2008. See : https://cometosea.us/albums/albums/ICW.pdf

Yesterday, searching for the Catholic Church I came upon a church with a regular cross, unlike the Orthodox churches, it turned out to be a Baptist church. Christi, a young man who spoke good English and today was the designated interpreter at the Sunday service, helped me on my way to the R.C. church. The service this morning started at 9.30 and I sat through it till noon…. Yesterday I used the word “duty” for having gone to mass. Bad choice. And with all the hours I have spent in many different churches, in more than 40 countries in the last 6 years,  these two and a half hours were also well spent.  The service was all in Romanian. The building, as you can see from the below pictures, was impressive. I estimate that there were about 150 to 200 people in attendance and it had a capacity for 5 times that number. It definitely had an American design and I doubt that this was done without financial assistance from the US brethren. The hymns were projected on two screens and I can read Romanian well enough to sing along. About an hour through the service a delegation of about twenty 10 to 12th graders, with their leaders, filed in. The younger boys, typically for Americans, with their hands in their pockets. They turned out to be of the Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas,  Texas. They are here to give sport clinics for the Romanian children and to conduct Bible classes.

Prestonwood is one of those  Mega churches, 30,000 member, with three different “campusses” near and in Dallas, under handsome looking young pastor Jack Graham (no kin to Billy). I tried to start a conversation with a couple of the members of the group after the service but they appear to live in a cocoon I am not a part of. I do not mean this in a derogatory way. They happened to have been raised in these suburbs and even when they travel away from it they stay connected to the hive and the queen bee. My guess, is that, the majority of these young suburban Texans have no clue what Braila has gone through in the last 20 centuries and if they even know that it happens to be located on the Danube.

One of the leaders, Chris, gave a testimony about his conversion at age thirteen. It was just a little too familiar, the football coach, parents with alcohol abuse, etc. But for this audience a great inspiration. And I did get a good jolt from it to start back to my Bible readings which, I have, frankly, been slipping on. His message was on Romans 12, 1-2. So, thank you Chris!

July 23rd, Saturday Evening Post. In Braila, Romania

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

The customs officer had promised to clear me out of Bulgaria at 6 a.m. yesterday morning. Now, why was I  not surprised when he never showed up. After lots of rubber stamps and having to come to his office after all, the border police, customs, harbor officials had me on my way at 8.30. The wind blew hard right on the dock till mid night, I’d say 25/30 knots. Then I still had a nice following breeze all day, but it just was impossible to set a sail. I had to sometimes make a 90 degree turn to avoid a shallow and then recross the Danube to the other side. Then about an hour down stream from Silistra I entered the Bala- Burcea side arm of the Danube. Boiko, in Rouse, had told me that it was the only way to go because the main Danube stream would be too shallow. It is also a shortcut. It was narrower and there was hardly a channel marker to search for because the river was deep from shore to shore, instead of the much wider Danube with lots of shallows, islands, etc. It ran for about a 100 k.m. There is hardly any human activity on it’s shores, like villages, ship yards, etc. Just forested shores. I was able to photograph a stork on the shore. I saw one white tailed Eagle.

The wind picked up from the N.W. and the river ran mostly in the opposite direction so I was preoccupied on how I would be able to anchor for the night. Then just before the side arm rejoined the Danube there was a pumping station on the shore. I asked if I could tie up to them. Yes. The pumping station is a pontoon, see below picture, that pumps water to the rice fields, into an irrigation canal. This originated from the last years of the Ceausescu regime. Then after the fall of communism, in 1986, the rice fields and the irrigation sort of were abandoned, then two Italians came and invested in the rice growing and bought the irrigation system. The pumps are powered by large electrical motors. The electrical engineer for the maintenance yesterday evening happened to be Giorgio/George or the nick name GiGi. He spoke good English. Self taught by Voice of America and audio courses.  Great guy. He showed me the system and the rice fields. It was like being back in the Sacramento delta. He lives in the village right at the last bridge over the Danube, at the confluence of the Danube and the Burcea. I asked him to try and take some pictures of “Fleetwood” going through the bridge. I put the main up for the occasion. As soon as I receive them from him they will be on the blog.

Braila was described in the 1925 “Sailing acroos Europe” book as the place where they saw ocean going vessels again for the first time, from many European ports.  The ocean going vessels have outgrown the size of this river port but they do built ocean going ships here just as they do in Galati, which has the large Dutch owned Damen yard. Galati will be my next stop, tomorrow or Monday morning. It is just a couple hours down stream. I plan to try an replace my busted Teak toe rail in Galati. After Galati here is just one more stop in Dulcea before I enter the Black Sea. I could have easily made it to Galati but the book tells me that Braila is a prettier and more intersting city. Galati was almost entirely destroyed by the Germans in the second world war and has been rebuilt as a modern industrial town. I am moored against a big river boat/restaurant. It is free. I managed to clear into Romania, but I had to explaining to do since I had not been able to clear out of Zimnicea or San Giurgu.

With a little imagination you can picture Braila in the early 1900 as a a very cosmopolitan town, in the style of Vienna and Budapest. But most of the buildings are in very sad shape. I searched for the Roman Catholic Church to see what time mass would be tomorrow. And just as I found it the bells were ringing for the 6 p.m. Saturday evening mass. So, I have done my duty. Pretty little church. Much of the liturgy was sung and it was very melodious. And even though there were few people, for this mass, practically every one participated in the singing. I could understand more of it than the Bulgarian.

Thursday evening 21 July. Silistra

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

After I had posted the earlier blog I came upon this gorgeous Orthodox church. St. Peter and Paul. They had recently renovated it. It has a very interesting history as you can  read in one of the pictures.

In one of the parks all the benches were filled with a much darker skinned ethnic group than the Bulgarians. At first I thought they had to be gypsies but then I realized that they are ethnic Turks. Left overs from the nearly 5 century occupation of these countries during the Ottoman empire that lasted till the beginning of the 20th century. In 1925 one of the very first Americans to descend the Danube, Negley Farson, wrote in his book “Sailing across Europe” about the Turkish quarter of Silistra.

When I left the church a gentleman greeted me. He was Roumen Tchernev from Kansas City. Silistra is his home town. He teaches math in Kansas City. I met his wife and a few of his friends. He had obtained a green card in the lottery, years ago. He had served in the Bulgarian Navy and worked as a merchant mariner.

21 July. Last stop on Bulgarian Danube

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I am at 44.07 North 27.16 East in Calarasi, Bulgaria.

But first of all I am calling again on all you talented Sailing Diesel engine experts. I am starting to suspect that the overheating of the stuffing box has nothing to do with the packing or shaft but with the engine it self. Yesterday I ran the engine at about 1500 RPM and the temperature gauge was just a little over 80 ( I assume that is Centigrade) it goes up to 120. The stuffing box was hot again but I noticed that the transmission and the flex coupling were extremely hot and also the engine appears to be much hotter than I ever remember the previous Renault engine to be.  I added coolant/anti-freeze before I left. The exhaust spurts out a good amount of water. The transmission oil and engine oil had been checked. An hour after I had stopped the engine the stuffing box and drive shaft had cooled off but the transmission, flex coupling stayed hot for hours.

Today I decided to run the engine at about 1100 rpm, I had a reasonable breeze push the boat anyway (yesterday it was on the nose). The stuffing box and shaft never got hot, like the previous two days, but the flex coupling and the transmission still felt very hot.  What do you guys think?

The engine is a brand new Sole-Mitsubishi Mini 17. The coupling is an M127 Centaflex. It is attached to the shaft by fastening 5 nuts with a Torque wrench, in a sequence similar to a cylinder head cover. Ever run into this?

I managed to clear the Friendship Bridge, just down stream from Ruse, with plenty room to spare. The remaining, three or so, bridges are taller. Getting out of the slip, with the falling river level, took some doing and muscles from Boiko. He was a great help in all that he assisted me with in Ruse. Nice stop.

I filled my water tank on the river at the customs pontoon # 1. I had hoped to sail under the bridge but the wind was right on the nose, fairly strong. I anchored near Tutrakan. But it was not quite what I had hoped for, the nice peaceful evening on anchor. Strong williwaws were coming down the hills, from the opposite direction of the current. So it was a cat and mouse game with the wind and current. Jerking me around. Till the predicted thunder storm came up. At first the wind turned the same direction as the current. Great. But once the storm hit it changed directions. But these storms do not last long and at last peace came and I had a decent night sleep. Today I put the sails on deck and lay ed out the sheets but the wind was either right behind me or the navigation on the river just did not allow me to sail. Some parts are dicey and shallow. I have to continuously search for the channel markers. They pop up in the least expected places.

Yesterday the thermometer hit 40 degrees Celcius (over 100 Fahrenheit). Today was cooler and a nice breeze. Even with the motor running at a put-put rpm I was doing 7 knots, with the current and the following wind. The Bulgarian shore is hilly and covered with hardwood forests the Romanian side is flat and lined with  Cottonwood plantations. I saw one white Pelican. But it does not have the nice red beak and feet like the American White Pelicans I saw in Florida. I should get some pictures in the Delta. I arrived just after 2 p.m. in Silistra. This is the last Bulgarian city on the Danube and the place to check out. The handbook told me that I could moor at the border police pontoon, but shallow and no room, so, I had no other option than the one private dock/pontoon at the Hotel Dragstar. Twenty Five Euroes per day ( $40 ) Oh, well I see that, when I drew cash out of the ATM,  today has to be the third Wednesday in the month already and Social Security made me feel wealthy once again.

Silistra is another very worthwhile stop on the Bulgarian side. From the below pictures you will get an idea of the history going back to pre Roman times. Tomorrow I have a long drag through the side arm of the Danube, which is a meter deeper than the main river. But narrower and fewer places to stop. So, I will most likely be away from internet for a few days.