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Bulgarian Port Update 2006

By doina — last modified Jun 27, 2006 10:10 AM

Published: 2006-06-27 10:10:40
Countries: Bulgaria

Port of Bourgas Details:

Clearance in or out of the country is done on Quay 6. Call Bourgas Port Control on VHF 11. If you do not call Port Control, they will call you. Customs, Passport or Immigration Officers and Harbourmaster all came aboard. The Immigration officials (2) inspected our passports, took a signed copy of our crew list, stamped a copy, and returned it to us. They asked for a ship’s stamp, which we do not possess. The lack of a ships stamp, was not a problem in Bulgaria however, I would recommend having one. Passports were stamped and returned to us. A signed and stamped copy of our crew list was returned and we were informed that harbour officials along the Bulgarian coast might request to see this document. None ever did. The harbourmaster kept the original of our registration. We collected our registration from him on departure from Bourgas. They escorted us to the Customs Office where we filled in a few more papers and everything was complete in less than ten minutes. They required a declaration stating that we had no firearms, munitions, stowaways, narcotics, dutiable cargo. Standard stuff really. They wanted a list of alcohol, tobacco and any expensive pieces of electronic or computer equipment. We happen to have a list of all the electronic and computer equipment aboard and that satisfied them. The customs agent was very pleasant and spoke excellent English.

Since Bourgas is primarily a commercial port this all falls within the realm of commercial vessels and the paperwork remains the same even though there are a lot of N/A’s, none and no comments throughout.

All the officials wanted to know how long we would stay in Bulgaria and where we were going. I had prepared a list of harbours for our trip north and showed this to them, enquiring also that we would check out of Balchik for Romania. This would be no problem and we were free to travel throughout Bulgaria with the boat. No “Temporary Navigation Certificate” was required even though our stated harbours included all harbours north of Bourgas not just Varna and Balchik. We did not visit any harbour south of Bourgas.

Should we decide to leave the boat in Bulgaria and leave by other means we would be required to complete some customs paperwork at one of the Ports of Entry but there was no problem should we decide to do that. The customs office noted in their file that we would clear from Balchik to Romania without any predicted date stipulated.

When departing Bourgas for another Bulgarian port a trip up to the eighth floor in the large tower control building is required. (Quay 7) The elevator runs only from the first to the third and you walk the rest of the way. Watch your head because the stairway is low about 1.80 m in places. Clearance to your next port issued and original documentation returned.

Bourgas Yacht Club

The berths are out on the end of the east breakwater and because of the extension of the southwest quay, there is better protection than it appears in the “Cruise the Black Sea” sketch. The moorings are suspect and generally intended for small yachts. It is advisable to drop your own anchor and back to the quay. Stand well off the high concrete wall (approximately 1.5 m of the water) as the wash from passing tugs and pilot boats can be dangerous. Power is available but requires a long cord depending on where you end up. There are three power points along the quay. Bulgaria uses a European household 2-prong connection so you will need a pigtail to adapt your marine shore power inlet. 230 volt 50 HZ.

Water is available but you may have to use jugs.

Charges are based on the most ludicrous system of a midnight clock that I have ever seen. From initial arrival until 12 midnight is day 1. You could have been there 23 ½ hrs or 1 hour it is still considered a day. Day 2 then begins at midnight until the following midnight. Realistically all yachts will be charged 2 days even if they only spend one “night”. We arrived at 7 pm and departed the next afternoon at 3 pm. (20 hours) we were charged for 2 days. Charges based on the sq meter. (LOA x Beam) I did not record all the different price levels and although I asked for a copy of their “Price List”, they were not forthcoming with it. They post all the charges on one of the electric boxes and it is something to wonder at. They have connection fees for everything, garbage disposal fees, and a list of others that I cannot remember. Yachts greater than 59 sq M: 1st night 16.67 Euros, 2nd to 10th night 5.83 Euros, 64.17 Euros/month. Bearing in mind that one night is charged as two therefore you really pay 22.50 Euros. For smaller yachts, the prices are scaled downward, but the same principle applies.

It is a long walk through a dirty commercial harbour to the town. When it rains the mud and muck gets everywhere and without rain, the air is filled with dirt and coal dust and whatever else they are loading/unloading in the ships. The town however is cleaner and everything that you could want is available at very reasonable prices.

On a better note, there is an anchorage behind the commercial port. A few local boats moor here and it offers good shelter. The bottom is mud and good holding. You are closer to town and you do not have to walk through the port.


The harbour wall, like Bourgas is rough concrete and quite high. Anchor and back to it or anchor in the bay. We saw no moorings in the bay but the two starboard hand Buoys are where indicated. What they mark we do not know. There is good depth of water and the anchorage is secure. It is open from WNW to SW with the fetch from Bourgas. We landed the dinghy on the small pier on the north shore. This pier is convenient to town. Passport Police came and checked our passports, recorded us in their “little black book” and that was it for formalities. An ATM machine and numerous currency exchange stalls are available in town. GSM service is good. Prices are lower than in Bourgas for most staples. The town has a quiet charm and broad promenades shaded by trees that make a pleasant walk plus the usual shopping district devoid of traffic.


A more tourist oriented town on the peninsula. Cruise ships dock regularly so you can imagine the typical fanfare that goes along with this sort of place, lots of restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops. The local town to the west is where you will find the shops, banks, ATM’s, green grocers and bakeries.

In southerly winds anchor on the north side of the peninsula west of the fishing harbour. It is a sand/mud and weed bottom. Keep a careful eye out for isolated rocks when you are inside the 4 m contour.

Nessebar Marina

The proprietor will tell you there is 4 m throughout the basin. We sounded 8 to 12 feet and less than 6 feet alongside the new fuel dock. The bottom is irregular. There is no power or water on the northeast quay or the outer quay. The berths on the T-head have both water and power (2-prong plug required) but less than 2 meters of depth. These have moorings designed for boats less than 35 feet. The isolated rock off the northeast quay is not marked, which after all this time surprised us. We wonder how many boats have hit it. It makes for a lucrative business with the yard there to lift the boat. We were charged 2 BGN per meter of boat length, 30 per night, which at the time of exchange works out to 15 Euros. He never asked for documentation or dimensions. He does not post a price sheet so you may be able to negotiate. Diesel sold for 1.76 BGN /L. Depths alongside the new fuel berth are less than 2 m (6 feet)

As with Pomoria, the Passport Police arrived even before we had the boat tied up. The locals are always quick to help you on arrival and we found them friendly. There was always an English speaker among them. We found this to be true in all the ports in Bulgaria.

As a side note Bourgas Officials are pushing to have Nessebar listed as a Port of Entry and remove yachts from their harbour altogether. They reported a 300 berth Marina, exactly where we were not able to determine, to be constructed in Nessebar Bay, north of the peninsula, but we saw no signs of such a development.


Shallow but with care and attention entry is possible. Keep well clear of the end of the breakwater. With good sunlight behind you can see the shallows, but not on approach as the sun will be in your eyes unless it is dawn. When the harbour breakwaters are spotted look to the west for a prominent dip between two hills. Approaching inline with this dip, 15 feet of water gradually reducing to 10, the first of two orange mooring floats will be spotted. The two orange moorings are in line with each other east to west. Both are in seven feet of water. We noticed the locals used these markers to enter and exit the harbour. Turn to starboard and parallel these two mooring balls in 10 to 12 feet of water. As you gradually approach, the harbour depths will decrease to 8 feet before increasing again to 12 feet. Once they again decrease to eight feet the depth will continue to shoal all the way to shore. Anchor in 9 to 12 feet of water in transit with the predominant house bearing 15 degrees and the light structure on the breakwater bearing 165 degrees. You will be clear of the channel and will not hinder the entry and exit of fishing boats. If you are inclined to tie to the quay, you can now turn to starboard and head SE toward the centre of the breakwater. Depths are irregular and range from eight to twelve feet. We stayed at anchor and it was quite comfortable with W to NW winds blowing as much as 25 knots between periods of calm. The harbour and anchorage affords protection from the easterly swell. When we first arrived at Byala, it was just before the onset of a thunderstorm. We dropped anchor outside of the breakwater and 2 hours later made our entry, after the wind and rain had past.


As we entered Varna, we called Varna Port Control on VHF 16 and 11. We never received a response. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, still early in the afternoon we decided to check out Varna Lake. We wanted to see if there was a suitable place to anchor. Although depths were good for anchoring it had a very scruffy and uninviting look. Numerous smoke stacks belched black smoke. We did not see a good spot to land the dinghy and felt that security would force someone to remain on board at all times. Since there was just the two of us, this would not be feasible.

There is a small yacht club but depths shoaled quickly once we reached the 5m (16 feet) contour and we were still a good 500 m from their pontoons. We saw only small boats under 30 feet, and decided not to risk grounding. We draft seven feet with a wing keel.

Having decided to turn around and make for the Varna Yacht Club, we also took the calm in the lake to flake our mainsail, cover it, retrieve fenders and dock lines, and get everything ready for docking. Coming back out of the lake and under the bridge the local Passport Police hailed us from the south shore. They wanted to see our papers, but since we were on our way to the Yacht Club, they would see us there. I guess we were the first foreign boat that even went up the river to the lake and they did not know what to make of us. We secured along side and not ten minutes later a thunderstorm hit. Lots of rain fell in the space of an hour and just in time for the Passport Police to arrive. The usual little black book entry and they were gone. About an hour later an Immigration agent appeared, he asked a few questions. How many crewmembers, Where had we come from? Where we were going? He never asked to see any paperwork but told us that when we leave the Marina manager would call to inform him of our departure.

Power and water are both available but both require a long hose or cable. It was the same 2-prong plug outlet charged at the local rate per kilowatt. Water was free. We did not plug in to power.

Varna was a very enjoyable city even though we encountered a thunderstorm every afternoon. If you want to get to the Metro Cash and Carry supermarket you must take bus #41 from the railway station. Bus 22 no longer goes there, it may return to the railway station but we took a taxi back so I do not know. The #41 lets you off about 200 yards from Metro. The pedestrian area of town runs for miles in all different directions. The traffic is civilized. They do not try to run you over at pedestrian crossings or even when jay walking. You will not hear the constant blasting of car horns either. It would be very easy to spend weeks touring the sites of Varna, as there is so much to see.

Varna Yacht Club Charges quoted in Euros but payable in BGN only 2006 vary according to LOA from 5 (per day), 35 (per week), 120 (monthly) for up to 8m yacht to 15/95/340 for a 20 m yacht.

When we departed, no clearance paper was issued, we were given a receipt of payment from the Yacht Club, and he made a quick call to inform Immigration we were on our way. At that point we were headed for Kavarna and then to Balchik for final exit clearance from Bulgaria.


Winds were NW making the anchorage at Kavarna uncomfortable so we did not stop. Balchik harbour was surprisingly full. Fishing boats side tied and rafted two and three abreast all along the South jetty. We were able to take a local mooring the boat was on the hard in Varna and not due back for many weeks, with our stern to the prevailing wind. We were adjacent to the break in the breakwater and there was 2.5 m of water. Charges 1 BGN per meter per day. With longer stays this is likely negotiable. The protection in Balchik harbour is very good. We did not attempt to anchor in the bay. With the large fishing boats, rafted three deep there would have been little swing room.

The mini tanker will deliver fuel cost E1/L. However, the flow rate is so fast it overwhelms most yacht diesel fills. Even after the pump stopped, fuel was flowing out everywhere. What a mess. We decided not to top up our two smaller tanks. In hindsight, it may be better to fill jerry jugs first and then empty them into your tank.

Formalities in Balchik are as described under the report "Bulgarian Formalities". They however insist that when checking into the country and checking out, you bring your boat to their customs pier. This is a huge concrete wall approximately 8 feet high, more suited to commercial vessels. We were not about to side tie because the black rubber bumpers hanging from heavy rusty chains at a 45-degree slant would damage yacht topsides. We dropped an anchor and backed to the quay. Close enough to pass papers up. The officials declined to come aboard with good reason. With our sugar scoop transom, they would have had to jump down a good 7 feet and then scramble back up on those same awkward bumpers. Closer to the Navy harbour is a section of wall that is lower, where a yacht may tie, however at the time two fishing boats, impounded for illegal fishing, occupied the space. We found it annoying that after walking over to their office with all the ships papers they would not clear us out until we docked the boat on their pier. They could see the boat across the harbour. It made little sense to us but they are stuck in their ways, just like the “Temporary Navigation Certificate”. Balchik is the only harbour to issue it.

Having said all that, we enjoyed our time in Bulgaria. We found the people friendly and welcoming. In harbours, they were always quick to lend a hand either tying up or where to find something. Bourgas and Varna are the only to places were you are stuck in the middle of a grimy commercial port. There are enough bays and anchorages with varying degrees of shelter and none so far apart that a yacht could not seek better shelter if weather changed. It is a simple matter to hop around the coast in either direction, back tracking as you like. Internet cafés are located in all the towns, although often in darkened basements. Unfortunately, it was difficult to download to a disk or memory stick in some of these cafés. The necessary ports were unavailable on the individual terminals. If it was possible, it was through the café operator on a single master terminal. We did not try to access the internet through the GSM network. We travelled up this coast in May and consequently many of the beach resorts, cafes, and bars on the waterfront were closed. This did not distract from the charm. We sailed by the bays on the north coast of Varna Bay but many of them are too shallow for our 7 foot (2.2m) draft so we did not enter.

Sue Antifaoff

S/Y Tala