Sommeren 2022 var ti-årsjubileet for da jeg og min gode venn Andreas seilte en 16-fots Buster med 70HK påhengsmotor fra Svinesund til Grense Jakobselv.
Vi savnet å dra på en skikkelig ekspedisjon, og bestemte oss derfor for å reise ut igjen - denne gangen sørover! Og så med hver vår båt denne gangen, selvfølgelig. Valget falt på hver får River 350 med 9,9HK på hekken.
En stor takk til våre sponsorer, og spesielt Rotostøp for hver vår 11,5 fot båt, og Erling Sande AS / Suzuki Marine for motorer som leverte varene hele veien!
Vi kom oss aldri helt til Istanbul som var planen, men vi endte til slutt opp i Constanța, en havneby ved Svartehavet i Romania. Det er vi godt fornøyd med!
Her har vi lagt ut dagboken vår som ble publisert på Facebook-siden vår underveis. Den er på engelsk. I tillegg en drøss med bilder fra turen.
Day one done! We managed 135km in at times rough seas. The boats handled it superbly!
Recap day two: After a night with heavy rain, and wet clothes, we decided to put on some dry clothes before getting in the boats. That was a mistake! It was pretty windy today, with a lot of splashing sea! We got totally soaked, and after three hours we arrived in idyllic Marstrand, we decided to spend the day here. We've been drying all the clothes, swimming and hiking around the island.
The weather looks better for tomorrow, so we're hoping for more progress. However, there's not many island to hide behind from the waves from the big ocean, so we'll see what happens...
So far we're 171km of 5000km...
Recap day 3: This has been a very long day! We got up at six, and left Marstrand North of Gothenburg in Sweden around seven. The seas were really calm the first hours, before picking up a bit. Not too bad, waves about a meter in height. But after many enough hours and thousands of waves, you REALLY start to feel it in every bone and muscle in your body!
We arrived Helsingør around ten in the evening. Didn't know where to stay, so we went to a local recreational marina to ask if we could pitch our tents there. We met a very drink harbour master who generously gave us the key to their club house!
We had a great night here, drying all our great. Most of the stuff is in dry boxes, but everything in our backpacks and the clothes we wore was soaked after constantly being splashed by the sea!
Oh, and we're a bit sunburnt. That's why we're driving with buffs to completely cover our faces.
Day 3: 254km, so in total 425 of 5000km.
Recap day four: The day started really good with no wind and sunshine. We packed so our dried gear in the marina, and sailed for about an hour to Copenhagen.
Copenhagen have some really nice canals and lots of friendly people waving at us! When we went on land, we were surprised that people congratulated us as well! Had the word about our great journey spread like wildfire? Were we already seen as legends in this amazing city? No, turned out that our fancy Captain-hats looks just like the hats the Danish wear when they graduate, and it's custom to congratulate them when you meet them on the street... Oh well, made us feel twenty years younger!
Turns out we forgot to take any photos while we were strolling around town, so guess you have to go see this nice city for yourself some day of you haven't already.
We were quite late to leave, so made it only to Rødvig a couple of hours south of Copenhagen today.
Distance today: 96km, and a total of 521km.
Recap day five: Let me first say that the photos don't really describe the day, as most of the time the phones and cameras were packed safely away in our dry boxes.
The day started off with almost no wind, just a lot of rain. But when we sailed further south, the wind picked up, and together with really shallow waters in this area (around two-three meters) the waves built up to at times almost two meters height. When that is said, these boats are classified for these conditions, and that's actually the reason we chose to travel with the River 350, and not the competition (only classified for 60cm waves). So it's safe to say we got to test the boats, and they really impressed us!
Around eight in the evening we finally arrived in Gedser, the southernmost town in Denmark. We rented a room in a holiday hotel, and treated ourselves with pizza and Danish beer!
Distance sailed today: 124km, total distance 645km.
Recap day six: We had a relaxed morning at the place we rented in Gedser, the southernmost town in Denmark. Today was the big crossing-to-Germany-day, but the forecast was windy, but supposed to calm down in the evening. We spent the day drying gear and filling the fuel tanks, and around 16:00 we were ready to go.
The first half hour were in sheltered waters, and just when we were about to turn out in the open sea beyond the sand bank that we had followed for several kilometres, a large group of Danish seals came to say goodbye!
Heading out in the open waters, the wind had calmed considerably - just as expected. We're using the Windy app, and the wind forecast has been very precise so far!
The crossing went smooth in smaller and smaller waves. We crossed a huge wind park on our way, and at 20:00 we were in Germany!
The guys at a local kayak club invited us in to their property to tent, use their facilities, and leave the boats at their jetty - telling us the boats are kayaks for tonight! Thank you so much!
Distance today: 98km - total distance 743km.
Recap day seven: We're finally sailing in to Germany! No more open waters and big splashing waves for a while. Both of us are looking forward to calmer water, and having our spines find its original lengths and shapes...
The day started with passing through the beautiful centre of Lubeck, before heading on to the canal to the river Elbe. It's about 100km, which shouldn't be a problem in a day. After all, we need 160km per day to make it to Istanbul...
However, it turns out that the speed limit on the canals are a mere ten kilometer per hour... We found this out after arriving to the second lock of the day, and the lock-master told us we were way too early... The timing between the locks are so that there's no point even pushing it and going faster - you'll just have to wait there for them to open them. And oh, they're also closing pretty early in the evening...
So of this might be quite a problem for us, as we're going 600km on canals before we're at the "highway" that is the Rhine River. We won't be physically able to get even close to the 160km per day average, for at least the next week...
Anyway, it's holiday and the sun is shining! All good from the CoastBuster-team!
Distance today: 78km.
Recap day eight: We arrived too late yesterday to get through the last lock on the canal before getting to the river Elbe, so we spent the night at a camp site close by.
After packing our gear and getting in to the boats, we went to the first lock of the day. That went smooth, and after about an hour later we were at the river Elbe! Finally free speed again! For two kilometres...
We had to turn south and in to s new canal. This one is even more boring than the previous. Going straight for loooong stretches with not much to see than trees.
However, today was the day for the big event, the lift! Unfortunately, they had some problems, so we had to wait for almost five hours. But when it was finally our turn, it was a cool experience!
We continue sailing until eight in the evening, when we found a camp site. Dinner and beer in the closest town!
Distance traveled: 63km.
Recap day nine: The day started once again here in Germany with absolutely beautiful weather! The good thing about that is that you can't really stay in "bed" in the tent for too long - unless you enjoy being slowly cooked to death. None of us really enjoys that, so we're up before eight every morning. We know that everyone with young kids laughs at that, but trust us, this is early for a summer holiday for us!
Anyway, the day started with yet another lock, and this was also a big one. We were sailing at the Elbe Lateral Canal, a 115 km long canal with two giant locks - with the one we took yesterday actually being a lift - lifting all the ships 38 meter up to the next level of the canal.
The lock today is a gigantic "regular" lock, raising us a further 23 meter up. We share the river with some few recreational boats (those luxurious ones where you're protected from the elements), and giant, up to hundred meters long cargo ships. So you definitely feel small when the gates close, and you're in a 25 meter deep pit/grave...
Anyway, we survived just fine, and now had a long stretch of more than hundred kilometers to the next lock. We finished this canal, came out to the river Elbe, continued along that for two kilometres, and then into a new canal - taking us all the way to Hannover - and another giant lock. To our big disappointment, this one took us down, and not further up...!
We passed Hannover with about 20 km, and camped at a nice marina.
Distance today 167 km, total distance 1052 km
Recap day ten: Today we made some pretty good progress, due to no locks. And that's about it...
Weather has turned a bit, so it's cooler to sit in the boats for several hours. We also had some rain showers. The good thing is that we don't need to worry about getting sunburnt!
Quite quickly after we set off, we had up stop to put on our Regatta suits, or driving suits as we call them. So with them, the temperature was ok.
We had a stop in a lovely town called Bad Essen for a tasty lunch at a bakery, fill fuel and a chat with a Swedish guy in the harbour that said we were crazy. Nothing new about that, by the way, that's the standard phrase we're met with these days! Anyway, crazy is good, and imagine the taste of that beer in Istanbul!!
We camped at a pretty nice marina, and treated ourselves with a plate of German meat and a large glass of weissbeer! Life is good on the road (water)!
Distance today: 167km, total distance 1219km.
Recap day 11:
This was the big lock day! As usual we hadn't really looked in to where we were going today - after all it's holiday. As long as we know which way to turn going out of the marina in the morning, there's not really many ways to mess things up!
Anyway, we had seen on our lock map that this was the big lock day. In the end it turned out to be five locks, which we got trough with varying degrees of time... A problem with the small boats, is that it appears that the people running the locks don't understand that we're on a serious expedition, and want to get through!
The first lock went fine, and took us several meters up. The mood was joyful! As our daily readers knows, the highest point on our journey is 460 meters above sea level. We were on our way! So you can imagine our disappointment when the next lock took us DOWN! And the next one. And next. And next. AND NEXT!!
Anyway, it was to get us to the river Rhine, this river highway finally taking us further South! And let me tell you, it's huge! (That's what she said). Almost 400 meters wide, and lots of traffic. It's running quite fast, so we're doing 25 km/h instead of 29km/h. But we're still passing by the bigger boats, and staying close to the river bank.
And we're super happy to finally be on a river!! After all, the boats we're using is called River 350 from River Boats! We're super happy to be able to borrow these boats for our crazy vacation. Thank you also Suzuki Marine Norge for providing us with the trustworthy 9,9 HP engines!
Distance today: 135km. Total distance: 1354km.
Recap day twelve: A beautiful sunny and warm day, and we were about three hours from Köln, or Cologne as is the English name. The city known for Eau de Cologne and the beer Kölsch. It was the beer that drew our attention the most... It's also the fourth largest city in Germany, and 16th largest in the EU. Since we were children, we've had a dream to visit the 16th largest city in the EU, so this was a natural stop for us!
We had to stop 20 minutes before the city center to find a gas station and fill our fuel tanks. On our way there, we came buy a lovely guest house from 1660, with a Norwegian guy running it. We decided to have a night in proper beds, and rented one of the rooms. We then took the train to the city center to experience Köln. A city well worth a visit!
Unfortunately we didn't get a major progress towards Istanbul today, but it was a great day nonetheless!
Distance today: 50km. Distance total: 1404km
Recap day thirteen: After a good nights sleep, in proper beds since we started the expedition, we were ready for a long day sailing trough what we expected to bea beautiful landscape. And we weren't disappointed!
First we started by passing through the cities of Cologne and Bonn. A few hours after that, we were told to look for a woman in a yellow blouse, waiving at us. This was original crew member Andreas's wives aunt. Andreas, as our long time followers know, had to cancel the expedition in the last moment because of back pain.
Anyway, aunt Valentina had bought a lot of goodies for us, and even watched our boats as we went to the gas station to fill our jerrycans.
The day continued with sailing trough a magnificent landscape with beautiful buildings, old castles on the hillside and the river making endless twists and turns.
Progress today: 153km. Progress overall: 1557km.
Recap day 14:
We woke up in the marina where we camped the night before (no surprise, to be honest). We decided to skip breakfast for a bit, as it wasn't far to the next town. We needed to get fuel there, and thought it could be good with a proper brakfast at a café. And it was!
This town also had an old castle up on the hillside, so we decided to go see it. It was the Rheinfels Castle, a pretty impressive building with the oldest part being from the 1300s. Facinating place with a magnificent view, but looked way too cold in the winter for us to even consider buying it.
The day continued on the river Rhein for a few more hours, until we finally came to the intersection where we could turn on to the river Main. The Rhein is a pretty fast flowing river, taking 6-7 km/h off our speed. It's also huge (still talking about the river), about 400 m wide.
The Main, on the other hand, is a smaller river, just about 80-100 m wide. It also flows really slow... but the reason for this is because it's "tamed" by large amounts of small power plants, and locks.
We passed a few locks, then Frankfurt am Main, and not long after that we found a marina where we asked to stay. When we were pitching ourt tents, a very friendly German guy came to have a chat. He invited us to stay in his backyard, as he and his girlfriend were living in a house boat in the marina.
It as an absolutely beautiful boat and place they had. They had just had guests, so they had a lot of left over food. We had a great BBQ evening, with cold beer and interesting chats. Thank you so much to them!
Distance today: 111 km Total distance: 1668 km
Recap day 15:
This was the first full day sailing on the river Main. This river is much more slow running than the Rhein river, and it's also quite a lot smaller. Things are more relaxed here, and everything looks closer when the river is not 400m wide anymore...!
It's just a dream sailing here, the weather was mostly sunny, and all the time comfortably warm. We're passing old and picturesque villages and castles all the time.
It's also the first day of what we have called "Lock Hell". The river is flowing lazily along, because of the fact that there's dams with smaller power plants about every ten to twelve km. To pass these, there's locks. And to our pleasant surprise, they have also made what we call baby locks, for smaller boats. This works very well, and we've found a technique to maximize our efficiency: Torstein jumps from his boat on to shore, kicks it back out to sea, and runs up to open the gate. Espen grabs the rope of Torstein's boat, tie it to his, and drive in to the lock. Torstein push the big red button, and fills the lock with water. The boats do what boats do best: float - so they rise to the top along with the water filling the lock!
We'll end this recap with a story about humanity: In one of the locks (not the baby lock this time, as we had snuck in behind a freighter in the large lock), the freighter in front of us didn't start moving right away when the gates opened. After a while, some of the "rough and tough" guys working at the freighter came out and inspected and walked around their ship. Then they moved it to the side, and not forward as we were expecting. Then slowly they started moving forward and out of the lock... it turned out a duck mother with four ducklings had gotten in between the wall and the ship, risking being squeezed to death! Such great guys saving them!
Comment with a heart if you love ducklings!
Distance today: 123 km, total distance 1791 km.
Recap day 16:
We're still in lock hell, and not only is it a lock hell, it's warm as hell too... Well, according to Espen, at least. He can't really handle warmer than 25 degrees... Anyway, out on the river it's super nice with the breeze as we cruise along in 28 km/h!
The day went on pretty much like yesterday, with lot's of beautiful towns and old castles and houses along the way. The weather was even better and warmer than yesterday, and there's a lot of people out and about, enjoying the day, kayaking, swimming, in their boats, doing stand up paddle or just chilling by the river side. People are waving at us as we pass by. One thing is for sure, they love our awesome boats, the River 350!
We had a stop in one of the old towns, to be regular tourists for a bit. Had some lunch and ice cream. Very beautiful place, but with close to 30 degrees, we were soon back in the boats.
We managed eleven locks today, and ended up in the most beautiful marina so far, with really friendly people. There's even a beer wending machine here, charging us one euro per beer. Life is good!
Distance today: 128 km, total distance 1919 km.
Recap day 17:
The expedition continues trough "lock hell". We were off to a slow start today, since we were in a very nice marina for the night and met some great people to chat with. They also had a vending machine for beer, so there's that... Before we set of, one of the guys said he could drive us to the gas station to fill our jerry cans. That was highly appreciated, as for some reason there's nowhere to fill gasoline along the rivers - only diesel. Even though there's many boats with gasoline engines. So what we are doing, is finding gas stations on Google Maps close to the river, and walk there.
Anyway, we were finally off, and this was yet another beautiful part of the river. Not so many castles and old towns today, but a really nice conservation area stretching for ten kilometres was the highlight.
Because of the late start, we didn't set any distance records today... BUT we passed 2000 km travelled. Soon halfway to Istanbul!
Distance today: 87 km
Total distance travelled: 2006 km
Norway to Istanbul: 5000 km
Goal: Finish before 25th of July when Espen turn 40 and to old for this shit...
Recap day 17:
The expedition continues trough "lock hell". We were off to a slow start today, since we were in a very nice marina for the night and met some great people to chat with. They also had a vending machine for beer, so there's that... Before we set of, one of the guys said he could drive us to the gas station to fill our jerry cans. That was highly appreciated, as for some reason there's nowhere to fill gasoline along the rivers - only diesel. Even though there's many boats with gasoline engines. So what we are doing, is finding gas stations on Google Maps close to the river, and walk there.
Anyway, we were finally off, and this was yet another beautiful part of the river. Not so many castles and old towns today, but a really nice conservation area stretching for ten kilometres was the highlight.
Because of the late start, we didn't set any distance records today... BUT we passed 2000 km travelled. Soon halfway to Istanbul!
Distance today: 87 km
Total distance travelled: 2006 km
Norway to Istanbul: 5000 km
Goal: Finish before 25th of July when Espen turn 40 and to old for this shit...
Recap day 19:
The journey continues trough "Lock Hell" and on the Main-Donau-canal... Canal-life is not the Coastbuster-guys favourite thing to do, as it's slow (speed limit of 13 km/h) and not the most interesting landscape. As you might know, we're though guys with a love for speed and beautiful scenery!
After six locks and less than 50 km travelled, we arrived at one of the highlights of the trip: The highest point (or, rather stretch) of the journey! The rivers, canals and all the endless locks have taken us to the breathtaking hights of 406 meters above sea level!
It was a warm day, and we could feel it getting warmer and warmer by each lock, as we got closer to the sun!
But we survived the extreme heat of the day, managed to get trough two more locks - this time taking us down, and found a nice marina with an italian restaurant. Pizza and beer is good - life is good!
Distance today: 65 km
Total distance travelled: 2153 km
Norway to Istanbul: 5000 km
Goal: Finish before 25th of July when Espen turn 40 and to old for this shit...
Recap day 20:
The day started by making an awesome breakfast in the marina's kitchen. Usually we just eat some bread and fruit for breakfast, but today we treated ourselves with bacon and sausages!
This was the last day of "lock hell"! There will still be a few locks to pass, but they will be much further apart.
After six loooong hours slowly travelling on the canal due to the speed restrictions, and spending time in locks, we finally arrived at the Donau River!
There's sign every kilometer showing the distance to the where it flows into the Black Sea... and the sign said 2408 km. So there's still quite a distance to go... and only nine days until Espen turns too old for Expedition Life!
But we are very optimistic, we're sailing down the river, and it flows with a few kilometer per hour! So we're experiencing speed like we've never done before, sometimes rocketing ahead in more than 30 km per hour!
Distance today: 134 km
Total distance travelled: 2287 km
Recap day 21:
As we had to wait for a lock yesterday, it got dark before we got to a marina. That's why we camped on the river bed this night. There's not so much water in the Danube (the English name for Donau, for our Norwegian and German followers), so it was easy to find a spot. We tied the boats to a floating road (river) sign, and had a pretty good night. It was a beautiful and starry night, and actually quite cold - for being July. Only 11 degrees during the night.
Anyway, we're at the Danube, and that means full throttle. We had to get through a few locks today as well, but they're 30-50 km apart now, compared to 10 km...
The first lock went smooth... An hour hour later we arrived at the second one. There were a 45 minutes waiting time, as they were expecting a larger ship that had first priority. Luckily there were a restaurant serving ice cream there. And as it turned out, the ice cream was so tasty that we forgot the time and missed our spot in the lock! Another 45 minutes later it was our turn again...
When we finally were out on the other side, we had a good hour of cruising until we finally were in Austria!
Austria have locks too, so at the third and final lock of the day, there were another 45 minutes waiting time again, for another large vessel... but we didn't miss our spot this time, at least!
A bit more waiting today than hoped for, but still an acceptable progress.
Oh, and the landscape was magnificent today! Part of the trip went through a deep valley. It felt like, and was almost as beautiful as a Norwegian fjord!
Distance today: 162 km
Total distance travelled: 2449 km
Recap day 22 - 18th of July:
Our second day in Austria, and we got up early to get some distance. It's good to be on the river, where the 9,9 wild and raging Japanese horses mounted on the back of our boats can push us through the water in almost 30 km/h - no speed restrictions as on the canals! There's also a bit of help by the stream, from 1 to 5 km/h.
The day was more or less a continuation from yesterday, with beautiful landscape and from time to time picturesque towns and old castles and mansions on top of hills.
We still have some locks to get trough, and we did six of them today! We're pretty satisfied with that, and managed to get through without much waiting before we were let in.
Around eight, we arrived at a marina where we planned to stay for the night, get a shower, and then a burger and beer in a restaurant nearby.
When we arrive at marinas in the evenings, after the harbour master has left for the day, we just pitch our tents, ask for a code or a key to the gate of the area, and pay in the morning, There's always some people in the marinas, staying in their boats, and we've met nothing but smiles... so far.
As we are in Austria, home of Putin's mentor and favourite dictator, Hitler, we were unfortunate enough to meet a distant relative of his... He wouldn't help us at all, told us tents were for campsites not marinas, wouldn't give us the key for the gate and chased us out of the common area and locked the door. Basically we had to stay in the area of the marina, behind the gate and a tall fence! Anyway, we laughed it of, cooked some of our own food and went to sleep early.
The harbour master came at eight next morning, and he was a nice guy and didn't mind us tenting at their property.
Distance today: 194 km
Total distance travelled: 2643 km
Recap day 23 - 19th of July:
This was the big "capital day"! First Vienna, then Bratislava! When we planned this trip, the plan was obviously to have at least a day in each capital to just stroll around and enjoy the city life... But when reality hits you, and by that we mean the slow progress through Germany with all the locks and canals with speed limitations, you just realise that those positive calculations of distance and progress were just that: Way too positive!
So we're far behind schedule, and decided to just do a quick stop for some photos and a bit of filming for the TV-series on TV Vest (yes, we're TV stars now!), and then crack on! We've both been there before anyway, and how interesting are actually old buildings anyway...? And it's waaay to warm on land anyway, we're sailors and belongs on the sea!
After Vienna, the landscape flattened out, and after Bratislava it flattened even more! There were built a large hydro plant there, so the river opened up to a wide area, and it felt almost like being on the ocean again! The lake was 30 km long, but finally we came to the final lock for now. It was a big one!
In Germany and Austria, there's been no problem to get through the locks. We've stopped by the lock, and there's a phone you call the guys at work and they'll let you through, or tell you to wait for a ship that's on it's way. It goes smooth, but can take some time...
However, in Slovakia, it wasn't as smooth... especially since the phone didn't work. And we had just cruised along for 30 km without seeing a single ship... So we had to go find someone to talk to. There were some workers there, renovating one of the two chambers, and after some gesticulation and trying to explain with hand gestures that we came with small boats and wanted to get through the lock, Espen managed to find a guy that spoke a bit of English.
He was super friendly, and showed him through the construction area and to the building where the lock was operated. It was four stories high, so how on earth to get their attention?? Luckily, the lock master was outside sucking on a cancer stick. Unfortunately, he didn't speak a word English! Back to the gesticulation... that didn't work. Ok, Google translate!
First, he told us the next ship was in five hours. Then, to be able to get trough, we needed to register in Bratislava (two hours back again), if not, there were a penalty charge to be paid. So this was pretty bad news, as one can imagine. Didn't get any better by the temperature of 36 degrees... Time for Espen to do his magic convincing talking... this time with Google translate...! Long story short, no penalty charge and 30 minutes later we were through!
We kept going for a few more hours, before we stopped at what would have been a nice marina if it wasn't for the thousands of thousands of mosquitos... Anyway, good progress today, and a new country on our journey!
Distance today: 214 km
Total distance travelled: 2857 km
Recap day 24 - 20th of July:
Finally a day without locks! For the first time since we entered Germany almost three weeks ago! I guess everyone with basic skills in math has already figured out that we are behind schedule, but that never stops us from trying! There's only five days left, so we need to make the most of the daylight. For some reason they don't have midnight sun in these countries. That really helped us on the Norwegian coast-expedition ten years ago, but this time we're restricted by the daylight. At night, it gets really dark some places along the river!
We were in the boats already at seven in the morning, eating breakfast on the go! The landscape is quite monotonous, with trees all along the river bed, and a lot of sandbanks. It's quite clear that it's been dry here for a while, for some places a lot of the trees have turned yellow, and the water level is about two meters below normal... that's a lot of water missing!
After a few hours driving, seeing not much but trees, around the corner all of a sudden appeared an enormous building. A quick wikipedia-search, and it turns out to be the Esztergom Basilica, the largest church and tallest building in Hungary. Oh, yeah, we're in Hungary now!
After a few more hours, all of a sudden we passed the capital Budapest as well! Nice to see it from the river, for a change, we thought, before we continued our journey!
The heat is quite noticeable today, by the way! 38 degrees, they say. We wanted sun, but this is too much... But as long as we're on the move, it's quite ok. We need to cover up in the middle of the day so we won't get sunburnt - even when using huge amounts of sunblock. A good way to keep cool is to dip our captain's hats in water. It dries completely in 10-15 minutes...
Many hours later with more or less the same landscape, we entered into Croatia. And then ten minutes later Serbia. And then back to Croatia, before back to Serbia again... the border between these two countries follow a line where the river USED to go, and not where it's flowing today. However, the exact border is disputed, as both Croatia and Serbia claims part of the land on the Serbian side, where the "old river border" makes a turn in to the Serbian side. Easily explained, Serbia want to follow today's way of the river as a border, while Croatia want to follow the "old river". So Croatia claims some of the land on the Serbian side, but also says that some of the land on their own side is Serbian. Serbia don't want this land - so basically this is unclaimed land...
Or, actually not. A czech citizen has since 2015 claimed the land, and named it Liberland.
Wiki: "Liberland, officially the Free Republic of Liberland, is a micronation claiming an uninhabited parcel of disputed land on the western bank of the Danube, between Croatia and Serbia. It was proclaimed on 13 April 2015 by the Czech right-libertarian politician and activist Vít Jedlička."
And who else than the president of Liberland did we meet when we arrived in Apatin, the first city on the Danube when coming to Serbia! We had a chat with him, and asked about where the office were for registering that we had entered Serbia by boat. He advised us not to register, as the government and police were corrupt, and it was better to go under the radar. They would surely detain us for at least ten hours if we talked to them.... Interesting advice from an interesting person, but we quickly understood that he is rather mad, so we're going by the rules and enter the country legally tomorrow morning - then we'll see how much time it takes!
Distance today: 355 km
Total distance travelled: 3212 km
Recap day 25, 21st of July:
As this was our first day in Serbia, and we arrived too late yesterday to go to the border police to check in to the country, that was our first assignment of the day. As we had received the advice yesterday, of not registering, but rather going "under the radar" all the way to Istanbul, we were curious to see what would happen. His argument was that it would take at least ten hours, and at least hundred euros of bribe, to get trough. Then again, the person giving us this advice - the "President of Liberland" have been arrested several times, and are persona non grata in neighbour country Croatia...
So we went to the police, and found a nice guy that spoke well English. Initially we had some problems as our documents were digital, and not on paper. But after e-mailing him so he could print them, use the information on the printed paper to write on another printed paper, and then put it in a binder never to be seen again - we were good to go! All done in less than an hour!
The landscape for the last couple of days have been much the same, mostly flat and trees all along the river. Sometimes there's some hills, farmland, and cabins and small towns that we pass by.
The most dramatic event of the day, happened when we stopped to film (as you might now, we're TV-stars on the local TV channel TV Vest - To not just have "selfie mode" all the time when we talk to the camera together, we had the brilliant idea of putting our tripod in the boat. We brought along the Creator Kit from Peak Design, so it's super easy to mount the phone to the tripod and start filming. However, a boat is not the most sturdy place... so while Espen moved back to his seat, the tripod and phone fell in the water! To save in before if sank to the bottom, quickly jumped in the water! Catastrophe avoided! Luckily the phone is waterproof! The life west worked as well... now we just need to find a new CO2-canister...
Our goal for the day was the capital Belgrade. One of our good followers Nenad, a guy from Serbia now living in Norway, had told us his old neighbor from Belgrade wanted to invite us to stay at his place. Of course we accepted the invitation! He lived by the river, so that was very practical. He didn't speak many words English, but he's a retired firefighter, knew that sailors need a few beers in the evening, and his wife made tasty food! So thank you so much Nenad and Buca!
Distance today: 233 km
Total distance travelled: 3445 km
Recap day 26 - 22nd of July:
The day started really good, with our Serbian host serving us local liquor, and breakfast his wife prepared. A perfect start on what turned out to be a really long day!
We had a few obstacles today... one of them was the heat! It's getting really warm these days.... while we're moving on the river, it's not that bad, as the wind helps us cool down. We also try to avoid getting sunburnt, so we use sunblock, and in the middle of the day also wear clothes and a buff. To not die of overheating, we dip them in water regularly. Espen's fleece can hold ridiculous amounts of water...!
The landscape continued to be not too interesting, mostly flat and with trees all along the river bed. In the afternoon we arrived at the last town on the Serbian side before we arrived in Romania. This is were we had to check out of the country.
We went to the border police, and they took our passports and told us to go and wait in the boats. We didn't really want to sit there and get fried by the sun, but luckily there were a cafe just nearby.
After a burger, a few bottles of Coca Cola, and more than an hour waiting, Espen didn't have any more patience and went to talk to the police. When the guy there understood it was the small boats, he was ready to come and inspect them together with a customs officer right away! They took some photos of the boats, and explained it was for "private collection". They clearly liked the boats!
Next stop was just 11 km away, the bordertown in Romania. We arrived there and started to look for the Border Police office. There were several buildings to choose from that all looked "semi governmental", and a large building was even open... but no one was there. We looked around inside for a bit, but couldn't find anyone. The next building was locked, but in the third one we finally met two policemen. However, they were River Police, and controlled the border, but couldn't check us in to the country. The Border Police was just working two hours a day in this town.... so we would have to continue 100 km further to the next city, they had a 24/7 Border Police office.
That sounded ok for us, we were going that direction anyway! Except... we only had enough fuel for half the distance. And we were basically between two counties - not allowed to step on to land in any of them! Luckily, the police were great guys, and one of them escorted Espen to a gas station in his own car. Problem solved!
Three hours later, it's about to get dark, but we're finally in Orșova in Romania, where we're finally going to legally enter the country. First we go to one police station, but they tell us to go to another one on the other side of the bay. When we get there, it's again impossible to find anyone. We're looking, even going in trough an unlocked door but can't find anyone!
After some time, we ask a guy that's fishing outside, and he manages to find a phone number, call them and guide us in to the big building. On the third floor, in the only room with lights on, there's a young woman working. She's super helpful, but it turns out she's never checked in private boats before, She's desperately looking for our boats in some register, but can't find it. She's asking for the name of the boats, and we tell her they don't have names, we just call them "Red" and "Yellow". That's not possible, she claims. They must have a name. After a few more questions, she ends up talking on the phone to her boss for a few hours, while they together tries to figure out how they can register the boats in to Romania when it's not already in some international shipping register...
It all ends with us filling out a paper with gross tonnage, the draft of the ship, how many crew and passengers and so on... the paper is then filed in a binder and never to be seen again - and we can legally continue our journey!
It's now quite late, but luckily there's a guesthouse in the neighbour building. We ask the police if we can leave our boats and stuff on their wharf, and that's not a problem at all. Never have the boats been more protected against thieves!
Distance today: 217 km
Total distance travelled: 3662 km
Recap day 27 - 23rd of July:
We had a quite relaxed morning after what turned out to be a late evening at the police office yesterday. Today was the day for the only two locks that are on the Danube after the one in Slovakia. These are however gigantic. The first one was so big that it's split in two... - so there's actually a lock to come down to another lock. Two locks in one, so to say.
To get to the first one was just about half an hour. For the locks in Germany and Austria, there were a calling system on land, so you just pushed a button to talk to them, asking to get by. Here, however, there were no such thing. Luckily we have brought a VHF (Thank you, Seatronic båtutstyr) so we called them up on channel 16. We got an answer in Serbian that we naturally didn't understand... When we asked if he spoke English, we got a pretty clear "NO", and he refused to talk to us again.
So what to do? Well, we have a very good follower of our page, who is from Serbia and have offered to help if needed. So we called him up, and with the phone on speaker, he could talk to the lock master.
It turned out that we had to wait for a larger ship to get through with them, and that ship was 2,5 hours away (turned out to be 3 hours). The lock itself took nearly an hour, so that was four hours of the day just there...
While waiting, the guard on the premises came over to us while we hung out in the shade on the grass by the lock. He spoke english, and we had an interesting chat with him about growing up in Yugoslavia.
When we finally got through, we had about 2,5 hours to the next lock... it was already early evening, and we were afraid we would have to wait for a long time again, maybe even until the next day... But when we called them up on the VHF, the guy in the other end spoke english and let us right trough! So that was great, and about an hour later we had passed the lock!
It was now starting to get dark, so we decided to camp on the river bed. We found a nice spot, not so far from someone else that also had the same idea of camping there. Turns out this was four men from another part of Romania, that every year went here for a week to fish. They had made a pretty big camp, and even managed to get their car into the forest. We had a nice evening with them, and tasted their local "moonshine" (it was strong), had a few beers and some Romanian food. A good end to a day with a bit too short distance travelled...
Distance today: 96 km
Total distance travelled: 3758 km
ecap day 28 - 24th of July
Again we woke up to a beautiful and really warm day! We managed to get in the boats quite early, as this would be a day without locks, and anyway too warm to walk around on land, so we were going for a good distance towards Istanbul today!
The landscape is not the most exiting in this part of the journey. The most exciting thing today was probably a thunderstorm that appeared almost out of nothing. The sky just got dark, and it started flashing and rumbling... but it passed right by our side, so no worries. And anyway, it takes more than a visit from Thor the God of Thunder to scare us!
Apart from the landscape and the heat,, we can tell that we're in another part of Europe by the time and effort put into maintaining the waterway. In Germany and Austria, there were signs every 100 meters, telling the distance to the end of the rivers or canals. They also had really good green- and red floating markers to tell where the deepest parts of the river were. They even had ships regularly driving up and down the rivers, making 3d scans with sonars. There's less of all that in this part of the river. To be fair, the markings are usually pretty good, but from time to time they're not... And when you're so low to the water surface as we are, it's not easy to see a sandbank raised maybe just a few centimeters above the surface... We came across one of these in the middle of the river today, but luckily we saw it before running aground. It was however so shallow,so we decided to push the boats to deeper water.
Pretty happy with the progress today, and we have now travelled more than 4000 km! But we're starting to realize that there's a slight chance we won't make it all the way to Istanbul by tomorrow as planned... But only time will tell, we're still optimistic!
Distance today: 309 km
Total distance travelled: 4067 km
Recap day 29 - 25th of July:
Torstein surprised Espen this morning with a homemade birthday cake for his 40th birthday. It was a beautiful morning, no mosquitos around, and the temperatures were not as scorching as the last days... We sailed the final stretch to Istanbul, and were greeted like heros! Or, at least that's roughly how we imagined it when we planned this expedition comfortably at home in the couch...
In reality we were still 710 km from Istanbul... including two of our beloved locks! We got up super early, with a plan of getting all the way to Constanta, the city by the Black Sea. Already at 7:00 we were ready to go, and the day started with a beautiful morning sky and no wind. A good start!
However, good things never last. Mother Earth decided we hadn't had some proper wind for several weeks, and showed us what she got! We were in for a hell of a beating for a couple of hours, with half of the Danube splashing all over the boats and us... As the first week, while we sailed down to Germany, everything was wet. Luckily our water tight boxes and bag still kept our electronics, clothes and stuff dry (A special thanks there to our sponsors Focus Nordic / Stavanger Foto for the B&W Outdoor Cases, and Regatta for the watertight bag and quality sailing clothes - saved us once again!)
Luckily the wind died down. Torstein were interviewed on the radio by NRK Møre og Romsdal, and had to hide from the wind under his jacket. A warm experience that he really enjoyed...
Around 17:00 we arrived at the city of Cernavoda. From here, there's a 60 km canal to Constanta by the Black Sea. There's a lock in both sides of the canal, and as we arrived there were a large ship on the way in. We positioned ourselves to sail in behind it, like we're used to. When we were ready to go, a guy came running, waving at us, and shouted "No small boats, yachts ok. Sorry, regulations" Then he left, and no room for discussions...
So what to do...
One option is to continue on the river, and enter the Black Sea further East. That will add around 500 km to our trip. The largest drawback about that, is the longer distance in the Black Sea. The sea can be rough along the coast, and in the delta area there's shallow water and not really many people living along the coastline. No harbours with breakwaters, so if we need to go to land it would be on a rocky beach. It's not the best idea with breaking waves, we could risk damaging the propellers or engine itself... Everything is possible of course, but right now we decided to get a hotel room and a good night sleep first.
Not far from the lock we saw a small harbour with a few boats, including a boat from the River Police. That could be the perfect place to leave the boats for the night! There were also "a kind of house boat" there, with a guy living there. He didn't speak much english, but enough to understand where we came from, our problem and that we wanted to go to a hotel. He offered us to take care of our luggage in his boat, and even to drive us to a hotel!
On the way to the hotel, he stopped in the middle of the road to talk to a guy. After a bit, this guy hands Espen a phone, to talk to this guys girlfriend. She spoke English, and told that they had a 5 m trailer, and could transport our boats to Constanta next evening! Exactly how they will manage, as the boats are not THAT small, we're yet to find out. But we took the offer!
So looks like part of our expedition will be on wheels, ironically because the boats are too small to sail, but also small enough to easily be transported!
For those curious, we don't feel defeated in any way by this. The journey is our goal, the people we meet and the things that happen along the way. This is just another interesting chapter to the story!
Distance today: 250 km
Total distance travelled: 4317 km
Norway to Istanbul: 4777 km
Recap day 30 - 26th of July
Since we were not allowed in to the canal yesterday, we had arranged transport of the boats the 60 km stretch to the Black Sea. Vasile, the guy with the trailer, were ready to go around 17:00, so basically we had the whole day until then in the city of Cernavoda. There's not much to see there really, the city is mostly known for having the only nuclear power plant in Romania.
We spent this unplanned day of to sleep in a bit, and just walk around town. There were a newly opened Turkish restaurant there, so we figured it could be a good idea to prepare a bit before going to Turkey. The guys there were super friendly, and when one of them heard we were from Norway, he came with Kvikk Lunsj and Freia Melkesjokolade as gifts for us. He told us he worked in Oslo.
Then the time had finally arrived to get going with the boats. We thanked the guy that had kept our boats and luggage safe for the night, and went to where we were being picked up. Vasile had arranged with a friend to come with a lift, so it was pretty easy to get them up on the trailer. It's going to be good to get away from the river bed now... it might look really nice, but it's really just deep mud, something Torstein got to experience first hand today - again!
They had to place the boats a bit sideways to make them fit, and obviously they stuck out a bit on each side. Vasile were a bit afraid that the police would stop us, but it all went smooth! An hour later we were in Constanta, and slid the boats to sea, on the beach.
We sailed for 5 km to the nearest marina, and found some other boat people and asked if we could leave the boats there until tomorrow, in the locked area. That was ok, and we got the code for the door. So nice! It was then time for a large pizza and to find a hotel.
Oh, and there were quite some waves on the sea... but we were told "today it's flat..." So this can be some interesting days to come!
Distance today: 70 km by car and 5 km by boat
Total distance travelled: 4392 km
Norway to Istanbul: 4777 km
Recap day 31 - 27th of July (and beyond)
Guess what! We're still alive! We just realized that we haven't made a real recap of the last day(s) of the expedition. The followers that have watched our stories knows some of it, but we have gotten several questions regarding if we're still sailing in the Black Sea, captured on Snake Island, or whatever has happened.... so here goes!
So the 26th of July we made it to Constanta, a major shipping port in Romania, by the Black Sea. The boats were transported on a trailer past the 60 km canal from the Danube River to the Black Sea - as they were too small for the lock-guys to let us sail it. Some people say size doesn't matter... apparently it does...
Since we arrived quite late, we spent the night at a hotel nearby, and started well rested and ready to sail to Bulgaria. With the struggles to get in to Romania fresh in mind, we were a bit curious how smooth it would go today to check out of Romania again, and also checking in to Bulgaria... They are just not used to these small boats! Anyway, our hopes were high, as we could see that there were more people sailing here, also coming from abroad.
The weather forecast for today was pretty good. About 4-5 m/s (8-9 knots) headwind, so there would be some splashing, but we were actually looking forward to that, as the temperatures during the day was close to 40 centigrade...
Yesterday evening, we had met a Romanian guy who was on holiday with his family. He said he was on a sailing trip with his 10 meter steel boat. He was rather impressed with our boats, and our journey all the way from Norway. He mentioned that his dream was to sail his boat to Greece - but there were no way he dared to do that on the Black Sea! He told us you couldn't really trust the weather forecast in the area, and there were often really rough sea... His boat was now in a marina in a town a bit south of Constanta, called Eforie Nord. He invited us in for coffee if we passed by.
However, as we set out from the marina, the weather was absolutely stunning. Totally calm sea! If it would only last... As soon as we came out in open sea, it was definitely not as calm anymore! We sailed for about 1,5 hour, and had just come 15 km further South. We could see at the map that we were not so far from the marina in Eforie Nord, and since that was the last marina for quite a while, we decided to go in there for an ice cream and think a bit about our further progress...
We beached the boats in the marina Port Belona in Eforie Nord, and took a look at the weather forecast and the Windy app. Just like earlier, the forecasts were pretty good, but in reality the wind was picking up even more. There were even sand from the nearby beach blowing in the wind.
The weather forecast for the coming days, however, told us that the wind was expected to actually pick up and be quite strong the next 2-3 days. With this in mind, we had to make a decision... we wouldn't make it to Istanbul.
Let us first of all say that our decision was a factor of many things, and actually not just the weather. These boats are actually classified in construction category C, and approved for a wave height of 2 meters and wind of 13,8 m/s (26,8 knots).
We were close to that at one occasion near Denmark, and didn't feel like it was even close to the limitations of the boats at all. These boats have impressed us BIG TIME during our adventure! Because of the design of the hull and the small size, it just follows the movement of the waves. But as the waves grow in size, we do of course need to reduce the speed...
Regarding our goal of reaching Istanbul, we had hoped to get there by the 25th of July. We knew from the start that we wouldn't necessarily make it in time, so we had a few days ekstra to spare.
We were now overtime on day two... and we were facing reduced speed the rest of the way... And also potentially quite some time spent checking out of Romania, in and out of Bulgaria and in to Turkey - not just because of paperwork but also because we would had to be in the right ports in the border police office's opening time... And also one final factor: The nice Romanian guy, named Christian, we met the day before had his boat in this marina, and told us he absolutely loved the boats and wanted to buy both of them!
So long story short, we were facing in worst case one more week to get to Istanbul (time we didn't really have) or sell the boats here and give them a new life on the Danube. Yes, because Christian lives in a small city along the river Danube that we actually passed a few days ago.
And can you ask of a better end to the story than that these two amazing boats ends up with a new home actually on the Danube (Donau) river?? After all, the name of the boats are River 350!
So that's how it went! We are now back in Norway, and who knows, after a bit of time and maybe a few beers we are ready to plan new expeditions! Stay tuned!
Til toppen av siden