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Cruising Romania 2006

By doina — last modified Jun 30, 2006 09:27 AM

Published: 2006-06-30 09:27:14
Countries: Romania

Our cruise through Romania, May 13-17 2006 was very short because, of the 120 nm of coastline there are few anchorages and outside the Danube Delta only two ports, Mangalia and Constanta. Port Control use VHF 67 not 16. Weather broadcasts are at 10:04, 16:04, 20:04, and 04:04 local time on VHF 12. You cannot miss the broadcasts, as your VHF will change automatically to Channel 12. Weather is reported first followed by Navigation warnings. Reports on the firing ranges and dates of activity are given. The range can be very close to the coast and on direct paths from or to Constanta.

Clearance formalities are very simple. As Canadians no Visa was required for entry and no fees were charged. This is the same for all EU and Commonwealth nationals. I believe it is the same for US citizens. Check with your local consulate or on the internet for further details based on nationality.

We hailed Mangalia Port Control, VHF 67, upon entry and proceeded to the customs dock for clearance. The area as shown in “Cruise the Black Sea” was a pile of rubble. It looked to be buildings torn down and left untouched. We thought that customs must have moved. We confirmed with Port Control the location of the customs dock and approached the pier close to the three large round storage tanks. Behind the rubble piles, a dilapidated yellow building with the Romanian flag fluttering in the breeze stood the authorities offices. A man, identified as Port Police, came and asked in perfect English what the name of the boat was.

The customs pier is a large concrete pier rising 2 meters from waterline. Large tires hang in rusty chains approximately half a meter off the water. Among these tires, lying horizontal to the waterline and about 20 to 30 cm above waterline are rotten 30 x 30 cm posts 2.5m in length mounted in steel brackets. Much of the old wood is decayed and fallen away leaving nasty rusty steel brackets that would hole a fibreglass yacht if she found herself pressed against them. They are difficult to see until close in. We choose a spot where three tires hung in close proximity and free of steel brackets. Using our own fenders to rest against the tires, we came alongside. We carry about 4 feet of freeboard and it was a good 2-foot step up onto the concrete pier. One could also use the tops of the tires as a step, which the immigration woman did.

Customs, Immigration, Port Police all came aboard. Completion of entry formalities took roughly 20 minutes. It was all very standard, crew list, customs declaration, last port of call, next port of call. They requested a ships stamp, which we did not possess, but it was not an issue. Entry stamps in our passports. On exit from Mangalia to Constanta, we would be required to check out here again. Although no exit stamp until we departed Romania. Next we proceeded to the inner harbour where the friendly harbourmaster greeted us, led us to his office where more paperwork was conducted. This in fact was the most time consuming portion of the check-in. There are no charges in the inner harbour; however, there are no facilities either. There is no security, power, water, toilets, or showers. There are garbage containers however. The rough stone and concrete wall about a meter off the water has good bollard to tie to and steel rings mounted in the concrete face for securing lines. We choose to drop anchor and back to the wall, using our boarding ladder to get on and off, rather than side tie. Side tie would put a lot of wear on the fender and was more likely to permit stray cats boarding.

The protection in the inner harbour is so good that by the same token it does not flush therefore there is a lot of scum. We would not recommend running a desalinator in the harbour. The harbour has a large sulphur content therefore, there is a persistent sulphur smell and too long at anchor would remove the galvanizing from chain and anchor. The bright yellow paint on the head of our Spade Anchor is now a muted brown colour after only two days. The stainless anchor swivel connector has a whitish haze etched into it. Imagine what it could do to a stainless anchor. It does however clean the bottom of the boat well as most organisms die and drop off. I am not sure of the effect on underwater zincs and bonding plates.

After two nights, we headed out with a repeat of formalities in reverse order. The harbourmaster gave us clearance for the next port, Constanta, and then we motored back to the customs pier. This time we did not tie. Wayne pointed the bow into the dock on a large tire and I stepped off with papers in hand. Border Police inspected the document from the harbourmaster. He had the folio of papers, those we had filled in on arrival, and now added to it our departures clearance and that was all. Seemed a waste of time to us but that is how they like to do it. No fee or charge made.

Between Mangalia and Constanta close into shore, there is a ½ to 1 knot counter current northward. As we approached Constanta, we hailed Port Control on VHF 67. From Port Tomis there was no reply however, the official in Constanta’s Commercial harbour acknowledged us and we were clear to pass by them for Port Tomis. At that time, we did not know about Yacht Club Europa, or we would have proceeded there. The Northwest Breakwater extended approximately 500m in a circular fashion adding to the protection inside the harbour. The Green light on the end of the breakwater has NOT been moved, so do not approach on the 260* heading from the yellow buoy as outlined in “Cruise the Black Sea”.

Upon arrival in Port Tomis, it was not clear where we should go. The coastguard no longer operates on the end of the western breakwater. Large ferries and fishing boats occupied the northern end of the western breakwater. The local boats were all on moorings all the way down to the restaurant area. We found a space among the local mooring where three moorings were empty and the locals nodded that we could pickup one of those. Seeing no lines tailed to the quay, we expected to be able to pull the mooring up and secure a line to it. This was not the case. Some of the moorings have a long extension about 50cm, with a ring on top for tying lines. Finally along came an inflatable, I passed him our mooring line which he secured onto the mooring. We were then able to back up and Med Moor as usual. The biggest contrast to Bulgaria is the lack of help from anyone on the quay. As Wayne backed the boat up close to the wall, I jumped off to secure the stern lines. Although they all watched, no one assisted, with the exception of the man in the inflatable, who we wrongly assumed worked for the yacht club.

Customs and Border Police came to the boat within a few minutes of our arrival. Since we had cleared into the country, it was a brief inspection of passports and the clearance document from Mangalia. We waited for the harbourmaster but he never came. After 2 hours, we went to his office only to find it locked, the next day as well. Finally, the night before we were due to leave the Port Tomis Yacht Club contacted the harbourmaster on the telephone and informed them that we wished to depart the next morning at 9 am. Port Tomis security office is also responsible for calling immigration and customs from the commercial port to clear us out. We had them call the evening before requesting clearance at 9am in hopes that we could be gone by 10 or 11 am. After an hour and a half, the immigration people arrived and an exit stamp was placed in our passport. The harbourmaster cleared us out for Odessa and we were able to leave. It took all of five minutes. Customs never came and since they had never given us any idea when they were arriving, we choose not to wait around.

Detaching from the mooring was an adventure. We had asked the Yacht Club for their man in the inflatable, as we would not be able to untie the line from aboard the yacht. It seems they did not understand what the problem would be. No one came. It turns out the club does not employ anyone to assist in this manner. We pulled out and still connected to the mooring swung head to wind clear of the other boats. Now we attempted to pull up the mooring, secure another line to take the load so we could undo from the mooring. Well this turned out to be impossible. We did not wish to cut the line either. Finally, our old neighbour seeing the dilemma came in his inflatable. After freeing the line from the boat and passing it to him, he untied it from the mooring and passed it back to us. The Romanians have not figured out how to set up a mooring so that outside assistance is not required. It is preferable to drop anchor and med moor in that fashion. Since the moorings are individual and not interconnected there is little chance of fouling, however depending on how many dead moorings litter the bottom an anchor trip line is advisable. They also like to leave their boats on very loose mooring so they swing a great deal from side to side. Best to keep well clear of them as many are heavy steel with no fender or perhaps a tyre hanging off the side.

A small fountain occupies the area noted as an anchor spot. A small yacht may still have room to anchor but the authorities may frown upon this and move you to the quay regardless. There is no indication as to where the power line for the fountain runs but one can judge it from the location of the control shed in the corner. The fountain des not run all the time and it is not very attractive so its purpose eludes us. Perhaps it aids in water circulation within the harbour? Fuel is not available unless you are buying more than 500 L in which case a tanker truck will come to the quay. We took jerry jugs by Taxi and had to travel outside the town to find diesel. (Diesel 3.34 New Romanian Lei per L). The in town fuel stations sell gasoline and natural gas. Fuel on a quay is available in the commercial port and you can go there but the dock intended for commercial boats, is rough and high. Large powerboats have no problem here but sailboats may find it to cumbersome.

A note about currency. The Romanian Lei is changing to the New Romanian Lei currently both currencies are in circulation. This is expected to remain throughout 2006 but eventually the old bills will be out of circulation, reportedly in 2007. Check with a local bank on arrival for updated information on this. Prices are often listed in both denominations, but sometimes only in the old form. To convert from old to new Lei move the decimal place 4 places to the left. (A 500,000 note is now a 50).

*Port Tomis Marina’s Charges*

There are numerous containers around for garbage. There is a public toilet and shower, open to all. Power/electric is located at each light post along the quay, to which meters are connected. Power charged at 0.50 New R Lei per kilowatt. The plug is a standard 2-prong European household type. We made a pigtail to connect from our marine 3-prong plug. There is no charge for water but the fitting is a hose barb and not a threaded fitting.

Prices range from 1.00 Euros/M/Day for 1-2 days to 0,20 Euros/M/Day for 180-360 days. 20% VAT not included. They state that vessels with beam greater than 4 m are charged an additional 50% above the listed prices. Our beam is greater than 4m but we were not charged 50% extra so I think it is a misprint and they are referring to Catamarans and Trimarans.

The Romania school system teaches English rather than French so you will find a large percentage of the younger generation are English speaking whereas some of the older generation speak French. Constanta is a pleasant town albeit somewhat on the scruffy and worn down side. Many roads and sidewalks have gaping holes. The main tourist and pedestrian walking streets are well maintained but little else. Boulevards overgrown with grass and weeds. There is a dishevelled look about the place. Prices are somewhat higher than Bulgaria. We had no trouble taking 1500 Lei from the bank machines as opposed to Bulgaria where 400 Levi was the maximum regardless of the limit on your own card. ATMs, banks, grocery shops and the usual assortment of clothing, antiques, souvenirs, cell phones, electronics, and computer shops are all within easy walking distance. The flight of stairs behind the harbourmasters office is convenient to town.

Of the two cities, Constanta had more to offer by way of museums, shops, and places of interest. Mangalia does however have the therapeutic sulphur spring baths. We tried the Irish Pub in Mangalia, but found it smoke filled. It appears there is no good ventilation so we did not stay to enjoy a pint. The internet cafes are located in basements with limited light. The computers have no CD or floppy disk drives or USB port so downloading anything, weather fax or large emails from friends, is usually not possible. Sometimes the operator will be able to use his terminal for the download but ask first as it is not always possible.

We had read the previous years report posted on Noonsite, by Clive Probert, S/Y Sanyassa and he was not the first person to mention the horrors in dealing with the officials in the Danube Delta so we were not inclined to go there, instead we elected to travel the Dnieper River and Delta in the Ukraine. Perhaps the Danube offers something more for the cruising yachtsman but overall we found Romania lacking. It provides only two stops outside the delta. We were not impressed with Romania. We found Bulgaria more to our liking.

Sue Antifaoff S/Y Tala

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