On the Black sea: by ferry across the desert

The black sea is like a bridge between East and West with the castle in the view of the Bosphorus, is the bridge between Nations who are willing to turn each other back. In addition, this place is an endless stream of vehicles it cuts through the water in all directions. Our journalist went to meet people, swim, live on its banks and depend on the sea.

“Please don’t be late”. Metallic voice from hanging on the wall shabby speaker urges everyone to hurry. Made before the phrase passed us. Because we slept soundly. What time is it? Three hours? Or four?

We boarded the Ukrainian ferry in the morning. The port of Batumi seemed at the time a real black hole, which almost penetrated the neon lights of the city. We turned back to the brightly lit wide street and plunged into the dark belly of the ship under the calm gaze of the man in uniform.

Carpet and plastic

Metal, carpet and plastic. In the nose hit the vaporization of fuel oil. My mouth was dry, and in the Elevator, covered with the patina of the mirror gaze like a magnet was drawn to the bottle that stuck his nose from the bag of a man in a t-shirt. However, the circles under the eyes, hollow eyes, strong arms, greasy hair, sweat, a gold tooth, sandals, and gave alcohol breath companion forced me to give up prospects to quickly quench the thirst. No. It was better to find my cabin. To make the bed. And go to sleep.

But I didn’t take into account the metallic voice of a faceless woman who is at first in Russian and then in English offers passengers a variety of classes. At four in the morning Payne raised us all on his feet for customs control. The window still bore the port and the ship was securely moored. It remained motionless for three hours. All the trucks and cars were loaded. The hold was occupied by only a quarter. Such quota exists in the Black sea since the beginning of the year, and it blamed on the economic downturn in the region. The man from the Elevator was sitting on the stairs with the other passengers. His gaze was still empty. Like its bottle.

Not a soul on the horizon

“Don’t be late”. I have a narrow bed, the Palace gives off a smell of feet, and all around there’s a rumble of engines. I open my eyes. Included in the rate, nothing interesting. Three bed, labeled A, b and C, white blankets, table, bathroom. And the loudspeaker. I look out the window. There’s nothing but sea. The journey began.

On the horizon I can not see any ship. The sea is a boundless desert, where time seems to stands still. Kaunas Seaways company “Ukrferry” goes with a speed of 11 knots, that is 22 km/h. two days later, he docks at the Ukrainian port of the Black sea on the other side. Leaving the cabin, I have no idea what a metal voice is the only guardian of the travel time. Three times a day in clearly marked hour, he will convene the passengers to their tables with potatoes and soup. All will faithfully execute the instructions, to Shine tidying the plates and not making up after themselves or bread crumbs.

On Board the corridors found in many Ukrainian and Georgian truckers. They carry everything. Some delivered the goods in Georgia, and the other driven back mineral water.

“Have a drink with me!” Is yesterday’s man from the Elevator. He sits at the bar surrounded by three guys, four glasses and a half-empty bottle. They all leaned his tattooed hands on the couch and turned their heads toward the TV, where it announced the film with Mel Gibson. On the table in agony flattened wedges of lemon. My recent companion, probably, no longer sober, and he had bad language, but the hand is not trembling. He generously pours me a vodka and squeezes a few drops of lemon. He says that speaks German. That he loves Georgia, and that I shouldn’t take pictures of military ships in the port. What’s his name? “Call me Bandito”. Bandito is not a truck driver, as most of the passengers on Board. They sit beside him and wait for the movie, simultaneously emptying the other bottle.

Poems Bandito

Emptying his glass, I’m headed to the heavy doors to get some fresh air on the deck. Circle — blue-green of the Black sea. I lean elbows on the side and looking at stretching into the infinity wave. The bandit was in possession of the book of Vladimir Vysotsky 1989 edition. He literally did not let it go. Twice he opened it to go look at a couple of the marked verses. “This evening I am speaking, — he said. — The ship of the festival, and I told the captain that want to participate. He liked my performance.”

A few hours before that I had seen in the corridors a crowd of children and heard coming from behind the closed door the sound of a violin. I met a group of women are not very young age. Painted lips and announced, in spite of the rolling eyes gave them the appearance of a div, which increased the huge scarves on the shoulders. They left the cabin in a cloud of perfume and slightly bowed their heads in greeting.

Bandito explained everything to me. “These kids have a gift. They sing, dance, play the violin and the accordion”. They arrived in Georgia on the festival of young talents of the black sea region. “The ferry came back late. They arrived in Batumi in the end of the show and didn’t even manage to set foot on dry land. They had to go back.” Therefore, it was decided to hold a sort of festival at sea, in the auditorium adjacent to the bar, where vodka in the course of the morning.


On deck the sun is shining bright. I am also joined by the bartender. We stare at the rising along the side foam. The Black sea is always so calm? “Are you kidding me? In winter there is a continuous storm. And it’s so cold, outside just not to stick out.” He is 22 years old, and he hails from Odessa, and a large part of the crew. The rest, officers and mechanics, — the Lithuanians. He started working last week and will carry on Board two more months. Born a week ago, the second daughter, he will only see during the holidays.

“Cigarette?” Low man with a mustache holds out the Turkish pack. It looks too flimsy for a truck driver. “Have you seen the dolphins? Here, in the Black sea they are small”. Yeah, I saw them. Before or after Breakfast? I do not remember. The man’s name is Aladdin. He travels to Ukraine to sell the house that I bought when things were going well. He has suffered from the actions of a business partner and lost a lot of money. But why is it then took a ferry ticket for $ 275? He wants to feel the open sea?


To feel the passage of time and to set the soul on the movement of the waves? “Given how much I’ve lost, two and a half days of life do not decide anything,’ he replies with a smile. — You don’t want Efes? I bought a few bottles in the duty-free”. Aladdin loves Turkish beer. Vodka he usually does not drink, but this morning still had a couple of drinks, and the deck swaying under his feet.

A house in Italy

Inside under the glow of neon lights passed through the conditioning air gives heavenly pleasure. You can breathe and can help themselves to sandwiches. We slept another night and four meals. On the horizon are seen the white Crimean cliffs, and somewhere in the distance can be seen the first buildings of Sevastopol.

We have an appointment with the captain. He comes in jeans and a t-shirt, holding out his hand for the strong welcome. “I put on the form, only when we go to the port or go out,” he explains. He looks around and sighs: “these drinkers passengers a headache”. Earlier mechanic told him that one of them climbed in the cargo Bay to pick up a carton of cigarettes from the Luggage. “He could get hurt. Passengers will know that on Board there are no doctors. And help with helicopters in the Black sea no.”

Neither alcohol nor coffee

To walk in this sea, you need good health. The captain doesn’t drink. No vodka, no coffee. He is afraid that together with stress it may hurt his heart, and too often hears about the problems some of their colleagues. Smoking is also not for him? “Sometimes I allow myself a good cigar from Nicaragua”. We went up to his quarters, and he turned on the TV. On the screen the movie with Mel Gibson. “Once you are a member of the crew, you can call me by name.” Ruslanas — Lithuanian. Bachelor.

Most of the time he spends in the cab of the pile of papers. “Such ships as ours, no longer do, he says. — It was built in Germany in 1989 for the removal of Soviet troops in the Soviet Union. In addition, he was in the Guinness Book of records in 1991 as the largest ferry at the time”. This book is like hanging a trophy on the wall directly above his Desk. Ruslanas worked out at sea for 15 years.

He loves the loneliness of the Black sea. And its color. “The North sea is grey. Here before us — all shades of blue. In addition, along our route, few people go, and we may not meet anybody for several days.” You are a dreamer, Ruslanas? He sighs: “you Know, I want to buy a house in Italy. I decided to kite surfing and going on vacation to the North of Sardinia, to exercise”. Ruslanas tries to keep the shape. He occasionally goes to the pool and gym on the lower floors. On Board there is a swimming pool? “Yeah, but he’s for the crew”. Passengers can only smoke, sleep, drink, watch the sea and read the poems of Vladimir Vysotsky.