Ukraine to the Danube Delta
Thanks to lots of help from Max in Odessa, official clearance was received to sail up into the Danube delta to complete customs and immigration procedures at the port of Vylkove.
Odessa to Vylkove takes three approach days of 25nm, 20nm, 20nm (all into the wind). Long days, but enjoyable, and with a nice expedition feel because this is a very empty coastline indeed. Sensible decision making and adequate water supply is needed.
At a camp spot before a long empty stretch, Edward and family invited me to join them for breakfast. The homemade ravioli is a perfect start the day meal: nourishment for the body, and the reinforcement of evidence that human kindness is universal is nourishment for the soul too.
Later, a thunderstorm provides some dramatic skies and then sailing in the rain, before some uncomfortably close lightning strikes force a stop, and soon after it is night.
Everything seems to happen for a reason. The place I stop has a bridge across an expanse of fresh water behind this long coastal sandbar, and it is perfect vantage for a close up view of several 'pods' of pelicans.
After these days comes a mercifully easy sail to the edge of the delta, before pushing against the current of Danube tributaries for another 8nm. There is mostly wind, and by keeping out of the main streams it can mostly be sailed, though a few sections require the paddle. The bird and plant life is spectacular - everywhere is an explosion of life. I am happy to observe that the extent of plastic pollution is minimal. There are dragonflies, damsel flies, swimming snakes, fish, frogs, otter, birds of all sizes everywhere. I have a sense that here is like the Amazon basin of Europe. The rampant plant life must be inhaling significant amounts of CO2. The natural borders, home to so many species, are also such sensible flood and erosion defences. Naturally wild habitats like these are life support for the planet.
I check out of Vylkove with passport stamp and saying goodbye to the friendly customs officials. I take a shortcut tributary to the sea but am turned back by Romanian border guards. Not their fault - Cristian and Dumitrel even give me fried fish and vitamin pills before watching me paddle back the way I'd come. The only way I am allowed to enter Romania is via a very long detour out to sea and in the official entrance to Sulina. I am lucky with the wind and so am able to beat the current. Perplexed that luck always seems to be on my side. Just accept and KBO with a smile.
Sulina - in Romania - is lovely. Back in the EU now and there is a feel of a country with ties more interwoven to the west.
Ukraine: you have been a fascinating, beautiful, and entirely unexpected highlight of this journey.
Random strangers I will never know the names of, Max, Victoria, Aleks: thank you for becoming part of the journey.