by Cosmin Jitariuc

Mangalia meant for the Circumeuropa team an end of a stage and a beginning at the same time. The crew disembarked from the “Vulpea”, the boat with which they scored several firsts on the water route from Timișoara to the Black Sea, and boarded the sailboat “Gaia”.

 Valentin Bogdan, geologist and speleologist, part of Circumeuropa, started from Timișoara, on “Vulpea” together with the other members, but got off at Otelec, before crossing the border with Serbia. The plan was to meet again, somewhere by the sea, and continue the sea expedition together. Oana Gavriliuc, the scientist of the expedition, got off the boat in Galati and was going to rejoin the team in Istanbul.

 The departure from Mangalia took place on June 17th, (2023) and the Circumeuropa crew had a surprise: Mihai Pătrascu, the man with whom Cristi had dreamed more than 15 years before the project of circumnavigating Europe and a key man in the support team of came to greet them and give them advice. Between meeting and parting with Mihai, time passed quickly, and “Gaia” detached itself from the pontoon and set off for Istanbul, the next destination. “I’m glad I was able to see the boys and hug them. The meeting with them and especially with Cristi, moved me a lot. I would have liked to be able to be with them on the boat”, Mihai Pătrașcu, director of photography and skipper. “Mihai is with us every moment. It supports us and keeps us updated with everything we need, from weather conditions to technical support and details about where we are going to stop or take shelter. He would have been with us on the boat if certain health problems had not forced him to stay on land”, Cristian Ilea, the initiator of the Circumeuropa project. The Black Sea is notoriously unfriendly to sailors. Big waves and strong currents test the boats that cross it. “Gaia” was no exception, but she coped brilliantly.

It was also the first night of sailing for the crew in this formula. The watches, the periods of vigilance, were 4 hours each, during which each member of the team had to overcome their sleep and concentrate. “It’s not very easy, but if the shifts are well organized, everyone has a chance to rest. Of course, a period of accommodation is needed, and fatigue speaks for itself” – Valentin Bogdan, geologist, speleologist and skipper.

 “Gaia” entered the territorial waters of Bulgaria, and with the coming of dawn the dolphins greeted the crew and accompanied the vessel for more than an hour. “There were several dozen, I think I’m not exaggerating. An extraordinary image. They were coming in leaps towards the boat as if they wanted to attack us. But they had peaceful intentions. I’ve never seen anything like it.” – Cosmin Jitariuc, journalist and skipper. Before leaving the Black Sea, team members kept their word to Oana and collected a water sample. Action that turned out to be much, much more complicated than it initially seemed. The choppy sea caused the boat to roll and pitch extensively and what on river waters turned out to be a relatively simple procedure at sea turned into an impossible mission. “It was very difficult, a real test for us. Because of the waves that were moving the boat in all directions, I could not collect the water samples by leaving the probe overboard, as Oana usually did. We had to find a solution, so we improvised”, Valentin Bogdan, geologist, speleologist and skipper. “Valentin came up with the idea. He found the solution and we finally made it. We bumped into the boat furniture, tied the peristaltic pump to the table leg, then moved it again. It was complicated. But all the details of the action can be seen in the footage taken by Cristi.” – Cosmin Jitariuc, journalist and skipper “This time I somehow managed to film and contribute to the collection of evidence. The promise made to Oana had to be respected”, Cristian Ilea, the initiator of the Circumeuropa project “Gaia” slowly left the Black Sea behind and headed, carried by the wind, towards the Marmara and the strait that connects the two seas, the Bosphorus.

The team was focused on the cultural event that was going to take place right there, on the boat, during the navigation: Petre Ionuțescu’s trumpet concert. The event was to be broadcast live, on a huge screen in Timișoara, on the banks of the Bega canal, in the place where the expedition around Europe started, and on Circumeuropa’s social media channels. The happening of this artistic moment required a lot of work and a very good organization, considering the fact that the entire transmission on the boat was in the hands of one man: Cristian Ilea, the initiator of the Circumeuropa project and director of photography. “I arrived a few days before the event in Istanbul. I made all the connections, pulled the cables on the deck, looked for the best options for everything to run in optimal conditions. It was very difficult and a real challenge for me, from a technical and artistic point of view”. “We tried to imagine what the concert would look like, how Petre Ionuțescu would react… He had never played on a moving boat, on the waves. I didn’t know, for example, if he was seasick”, Cosmin Jitariuc, journalist. “Besides the technical details, there is also the problem of navigation. The Bosphorus is very crowded. It is the only route connecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

All commercial ships pass here. And in addition,there are passenger ships that travel very often in the Istanbul area. On Saturday, when the concert was supposed to be, private events, weddings, baptisms, anniversaries are held on a lot of ships, steamboats, and they all go out, travel on the Bosphorus”, Valentin Bogdan, geologist, speleologist and skipper. Oana Gavriliuc returned to the team and boarded Gaia. The reunion was emotional for everyone. “I missed the boys. While I was away, I kept reading about what they were doing on social media and followed them. I’m glad I came back and rejoined the team”, Oana Gavriliuc, researcher. Istanbul is the largest urban agglomeration in Turkey, with a population exceeding 18.5 million inhabitants. The city spans two continents separated by the Bosphorus strait, but connected by several spectacular bridges. The Circumeuropa team entered the hustle and bustle specific to a megalopolis, which, in addition to the millions of inhabitants, also has several hundred thousand tourists roaming the streets. “The city is full of life, it’s very colorful and noisy. Istanbul is full of history. I’m sorry that we only managed to see a very small part of it.”, Cosmin Jitariuc, journalist. The Galata Bridge and the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia are some of the important tourist and cultural sights that the Circumeuropa team managed to visit.

The musician Petre Ionuțescu arrived on “Gaia” the day before the concert. He quickly adjusted to life on the boat and to the place where he was going to perform. “Ever since it was proposed to me, I thought the idea of ​​the concert on the Bosphorus was extraordinary. I understood that it won’t be simple, that there are a lot of unknown details that we have to take into account and adapt to. Super!” Petre Ionuțescu, musician “I had emotions because the flight that Petre was supposed to take to Istanbul was cancelled. It arrived half a day late so we didn’t have time to do a simulation before the event. At the last moment, I noticed that some sound cables were missing”, Cristian Ilea, the initiator of the Circumeuropa project. On the morning of the event, Cristi and Cosmin literally ran around Istanbul to purchase the cables without which the concert could not have taken place. “I tried in several places, in a mall and a few specialty stores. Cristi found some alternative solutions to transmit the sound but the most secure, no. After a few unsuccessful attempts I found exactly the cables I needed. The last two from the store… and we calmed down.”, Cosmin Jitariuc, journalist. As soon as things were settled, “Gaia” started to cross the Bosphorus towards the place where the concert was to begin. It was about a 4-5 hour walk and the strait was very crowded. Petre and Cristi organized the stage at the front of the boat, the bow, and did some rehearsals. The concert started, with a delay of about a quarter of an hour, caused by the weather conditions in Timișoara, at 19.50. Those present on the banks of the Bega canal were able to watch on a huge screen, the musical journey of Petre Ionuțescu and the Circumeuropa crew on the swirling waters of the Bosphorus. “I had some emotions at the beginning of the concert caused by the delay of the event in Timișoara, and at the end, in the last 30 seconds, I lost the internet signal, inexplicably. All the gsm cards that provided the transmission fell one after the other. The technical challenge was great but we handled it honorably”, Cristian Ilea, the initiator of the Circumeuropa project.

“I really liked the feeling and the whole atmosphere. It was a unique experience to perform on a moving boat on the Bosphorus. I think I managed to convey to the people of Timisoara what I felt through my music”, Petre Ionuțescu, musician After the end of the live broadcast, on the way back to the port, in the light of the beautiful sunset on the Bosphorus, Petre recorded a few more songs. “Gaia” tied up at the pontoon late at night and the Circumeuropa team together with the musician Petre Ionuțescu told, now relaxed, the emotions and experiences they had.