Hello From The Sea Gypsies Again
We are really feeling like Gypsies at the moment as we have spent the last ten days crossing back and forth across Marmaris Bay from the town side where we anchored just off the main beach, to the other side where we sat outside the Marmaris Yacht Marine – a big Marina – where we could pick up the internet, dispose of our rubbish and spend quieter days and evenings swimming and relaxing. On the town side we got our maintenance done. Alec did a complete oil change on both engines and sail drives, the watermaker got a haul over, we had a broken hinge on one of our big front windows, which was successfully welded. We found the correct shaped batten for our main sail as we had to replace one after breaking it coming up the Red Sea, we had fender covers made for the fenders to help protect them from the sun, plus we visited nearly every boat shop in town, and I can tell you there are HUNDREDS of them. Alex now has ‘spares’ for everything.
Yesterday we decided to take a break and visit Rhodes, the Greek Island which is only 30 nm from here. Rather than take SHAMAL over, which would mean we would have to check out of Turkey, check in and out of Rhodes, then check back into Turkey, paying for each ‘check’ along the way, we decided it would be much simpler and cheaper to take the local ferry which only takes an hour. It was a hassle checking in and out of customs at each end – it took longer than going through an airport, but, at least we did not have to pay for that, plus it was a lovely day out. Rhodes is the largest island in the Dodecanese and lies at the southern end of a group of twelve islands stretching down the west coast of Asiatic Turkey. It really does have a violent history. The Knights of St John fled Jerusalem in 1291 and came to Rhodes making it there stronghold. After that everyone seems to have been there from the Ottomans to Italians, Germans, British and Greeks. It is now another one of these World Heritage- listed Old Medieval Towns. It has massive city walls which have been well restored, and is a lovely place to wander around. There are courtyards and squares, and old houses covered in beautiful tumbling bougainvillea. We found a lovely garden restaurant for lunch where we sat in the shade of huge trees with pretty gardens all around. I enjoyed a typical Greek Meze with all the goodies that go with it. The Island survives on ‘Mass Tourism’ with charter flights coming down from northern Europe every day during the summer, bringing the sun and sea worshippers. I have to admit the waters again are beautifully warm clean and clear, with that gorgeous turquoise colour. Shopping is fun – well for a while!!
Days later. We are now sitting in the small fishing Harbour of Lapseki – nearly opposite the town of Gallipoli – and nearly at the top of the Dardanelles, and, 120nm from Istanbul. It has been quite a run from Marmaris to here. Most interesting but very frustrating at times. The Turkish Cruising Guide does advise one that sailing in the direction we are going during the month of August is not the easiest thing due to the winds they call the ‘meltemi’. The Guide also tells us we will need some perseverance, particularly to get up the Dardanelles as you are against prevailing winds and contrary currents – Yes they are RIGHT on both accounts. We decided not to try and do the 35nm run up the Dardanelles in one hit as it was quite hard going, so we broke the journey here at Lapseli on the Asiatic side. Not a place that takes your breath away, but definitely we will have a well-earned rest here for a couple of nights. We Have dropped the anchor right in the middle of the small fishing harbour.
Once we get into the Sea of Marmara our guide tells us we will be rewarded with a cruising ground that is quite simply idyllic and little frequented by yachts. We will see what we find when we get there!!
The’ meltemi’ is a wind that blows mostly from the north or north west, but also seems to turn at every headland you come to and curves around the coast and blows right on the nose which makes it impossible to sail. We did a night run some time back of only 42nm. Starting out the winds were blowing no more than 10kts. Within three hours they were gusting up to 40kts and we had short sharp seas to go with in. Right on the nose. That bay crossing took us 10 hours and we blew a hole in our jib sail – Bugger – but the following day we were in the most delightful bay where Alec and I got to work and mended it. We took the sail off and hung it up in the cockpit with Alec on one side and I was on the other stitching away. It is now better than a new one. We made a very good job of it.
Our first night out from Marmaris was spent sheltering behind the Greek island of Simi – again because the winds were not in our favour. So we pulled down our Turkey courtesy flag and hoisted the Greek one so as not to upset anyone, and spent a delightful evening swimming and enjoying another very pretty anchorage. One of our next stops was Bodrum. The Castle of St Peter sits out on a headland as you come into the bay and makes for quite a magnificent sight at night when it is all lit up with spotlights. The town is another very popular tourist resort with all the night life one could wish for – no thanks!! Here we anchored outside the marina again which is always much quieter. Our next anchorage, another beautiful one was a place called Gumusluk. This to date is one of the prettiest places we have visited. It is surrounded by the ancient ruins of Myndus. Again we spent a couple of days here waiting for the winds to drop. We went ashore and wandered through the quaint village and climbed the hill overlooking the bay to take photos. Back on the boat Alec appointed himself the unofficial Harbour Master telling other yachts where to anchor when they came in as it became very crowded with everyone running for shelter. In the end I went below and let him get on with is unofficial duties. Funny thing was people anchored where he told them to.
Another stop not far up the coast was Cukurcuk. A very pretty bay with beautifully clean clear water. We were just about to have a coffee when two people swam out to the boat and started asking about catamarans. Next thing they were having coffee with us. It turned out that the man was a retired General from the Turkish Army who could trace back his families army history for 660 years. He had quite a story to tell and was most interesting on all subjects. He invited us back to his holiday house that evening. We learnt he was building his own catamaran back in Istanbul. Alec was in his element asking all the ‘political’ questions!! The General, like many others here in Turkey, are not very happy with the present Government. He said the Government is like a train that was heading towards the west, but is now heading Turkey towards the East. In other words was heading towards Europe, but is now heading towards the Middle East!!
The next 100nm or so were a little challenging to say the least. We did have stops, but it is also when we did that night run to try and avoid the ‘meltemi’ which sometimes drops at night but in our case picked up ! Among other things that happened around this time was one of our loos calcified up!! All part of boat life. Alec has now cleared that and also checked the other which was no too far off becoming blocked as well. A result of using sea water. We are so careful at using cleaning agents as they can do more harm than good in the long run.
The next lovely stop was a place called Bademli Limani. We are now getting into areas which are not so much visited by foreign boats but more by the locals. It has been a pleasant surprise to see how the Turks are really into boating, and lots of sail boats too. The other thing we noticed was how so many of these ‘local’ boats are flying the American flag. It was explained to us by a local yachtie that to avoid paying the VAT or tax in Turkey on you boat you send off to America for your registration papers for a pittance, and back in the mail you receive your papers plus, an American flag.
Bademli was lovely, and we stayed a couple of days here. This is where we did some boat maintenance, plus had a look around. The village here was a 10 minute walk where ancient olive trees overhang the road. On entering the village was like stepping back in time. The locals all sitting in the doorways of their houses passing the time of day, the menfolk sitting around tables at the local cafes drinking Turkish tea, or the local beer. Even though it is the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan you could be excuses from thinking otherwise as in this country it is not really observed all that strictly. Cats of all colours and size stretched out under anything to get out of the sun or waiting for the street cafes to start having their guests for their evening meal so as to con a meal from them. The local fruit vendors waiting for passing trade in no rush to do business. The butchers shop was a bit of an eye opener, or should I say the prices. In the supermarkets we noticed red meats are rather expensive so we thought we would see how we fared in this local butchers shop. HELP NZ$60 for a 2.5kg leg of lamb!! It looked more bone than meat as well. We will stick to our fish and chicken for the time being thank you.
It was also here in Bademli we met the Turkish sailor Ozkan Gulkaynak, who was the first Turk to solo circumnavigate without using any of the modern navigational aids. He just had a sextant and a compass and that was about it. Also his boat is very traditional!!. A very interesting person and he has been so helpful as well. He took us on to our next two stops. One a lovely sheltered bay in the lee of Ciplak Adasi - an Island in the Ayvalik archipelago. Here we went for our usual swim to check that the anchor is well dug in, and I nearly died. The water was freezing. When we got out Alec checked the water temperature. It was only 23 degrees. We only do these anchor checks in places where it is clean. Our present anchorage in the fishing harbour is not one to check on. Water temp is 29 degrees and we are only in 2mts of water, but one cannot see the bottom here!!!!
Ozkan then took us on to Ayvalik which is situated on the edge of ‘The Lake’ – it is salt water but is given this name as there is only a small channel taking you in to a lovely big bay. The town is another tourist resort but this time not a noisy one. Ozkan showed us around and took us out to lunch here. The area is famous for its olive oil and soap making. We said good-bye to Ozkan here and the following morning went on to Bozcaada. This is an Island just 10nm south of the entrance to the Dardanelles. Here we could not just drop the anchor in any old bay as the military do not allow it, so it was into the harbour. We had to tie up to a concert wall and pay one hundred Turkish Lira (TL100) for the night. That is NZ$70. Alec was not too happy about that as we arrived at 1830 and were leaving the following morning at 0400 for our run into the Dardanelles before the ‘meltemi’ sets in. ( Sometimes in the afternoon the sea breeze combines with the ‘meltemi’ and then it gets really windy. ) You can see why we try to anchor out most of the time rather than paying prices like the above. It was a very pretty place with lots of ‘local’ tourists coming to visit. When walking around the streets of the small township we were stopped and Alec was asked if we came from China!!! Help, we have either been at sea too long and must look really different, or this poor man has never left the Island or seen what other races look like. When he had run through half of the European countries trying to guess where we might come from, Alec put him out of his misery and said New Zealand. There was a complete blank look on his face. He may as well have said Mars. As I say the tourist are very ‘local’. We went back to the boat for dinner and were sitting out the back enjoying a pre-dinner drink watching some local kids playing around what looked like a large pipe in the breakwater wall when there was a hissing sound and smoke came out of this pipe followed by an almighty bang. We both nearly died and the local kids were squealing with delight. It was the bang we hear in a lot of places signalling the end of the day so the Muslims can break their fast as it is Ramadan.
We have passed the coastline where Ephesus and Troy are situated and have visited both sites on a previous trip. Both were worthwhile, particularly Ephesus as so much of this ancient city can still be seen. What a wonderful History this whole country has. We are still seeing plenty of ruins along the coast line and many old castles and forts, some of which have been beautifully restored.
At the entrance to the Dardanelles on our Port (left) side, the English and Turkish war memorials are conspicuous, and continuing on up the channel, the Gallipoli peninsula is dotted with war memorials and too many graves of Turks and Allies alike. What a sad sad history. So many lives lost in a bloody futile campaign. It was a hard slog for those boys then, and today it is a hard slog of a different kind for yachts and small craft to navigate their way up the channel. At times our speed dropped down to 2kts as we were motoring into 20kt head winds and a 3kt current!!
The Sea of Marmara.
Yes we have made it. Our first night stop was at a place called Kemer. Again on the Asiatic coast. Not idyllic, but interesting anyway. Let’s say very unsophisticated. We must take into the account that it is Ramadan, but to date this had made no difference to other places we have visited here in Turkey, and we have always been able to get a primitive cup of ‘Nescafe’ – really the Turks have no idea about coffee making, not even the ‘instant’ stuff!!!! The real Turkish coffee is sort of ok, but you get such a small cup of it, and half of it is grounds. Here in Kemer we only got a friendly smile. NOTHING else. We walked the main street – there was only one street anyway – a couple of times, then sat at a café table for about half an hour while the old boys just smiled looked on and kept discussing whatever it was that was of interest that day. In the end we decided that my coffee on the boat was our only answer that afternoon.
Next stop was the Island of Marmara. Complete different story. Now this place is idyllic to say the least. Very few foreign tourist, but lots of locals visiting from other areas. The village of Port Marmara on the south coast, is nestled under steep rocky slopes which have been planted out in areas, some with pine trees and others with olive trees. There is a strong Greek influence here with the narrow streets and houses. Remember they occupied this area for a very long time, so much of their influence still remains to this day. There are no high rise five star resort hotels here, only small family run ‘Otels’ as they call them. We are anchored off one such ‘Otel’ which opens onto the sandy beach in front. The owner not happy with the brownish sand, has a truck load of marble chips brought in every so often and dumped in front of his ‘Otel’ and then a machine comes in and spreads them out pushing half of it into the water. So he has the lovely turquoise waters in front of his establishment!!
The word Marmara means Marble. The northern half of the Island is composed of white marble which has been quarried from ancient times by the Greeks and Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans, and is still quarried today. It is highly sort after around the Mediterranean for its flawless quality. It is so strange to see it used everywhere here. From the open air restaurant floors to breakwater walls.
After spending six days in Port Marmara, we motored around to the north western side of the Island to Saraylar. This place is amazing. Not beautiful, it is described as quite dusty, and noisy at times, but it is neither,and here we are anchored in a bay surrounded by a huge marble quarry. Everywhere you look is white marble, from the sheer scars on the hillsides where the marble has been cut away, to huge blocks waiting to be trucked down to the port. The retaining wall running most of the way around the bay is marble. The breakwaters to shelter the bay is marble. Part of the beach in front of where we are anchored sparkles with marble sand. Along the foreshore road leading to the town and port, are marble sculptures every fifty metres or so. Alec was busy looking for the statue of David as he felt they had something in common. You will see in the photos he found David, but at about the same age Alec is now!!!! Once you reach the town there is an open air museum showing the rejected items left behind by the Greeks, Roman and Byzantine workmen, which include columns parts, sarcophagi etc.
We are starting to get more cloud about now and the evenings are much cooler, but the days are warm and we are still swimming. The water temperature is still around 27-28 degrees here in the Sea of Marmara. Alec keeps reminding me here this far north – we are now at 40 degrees plus, north – it will soon be Autumn!!
Tuesday 30th August
We are now anchored just outside Yesilkoy Fishing Harbour, only eight miles from the entrance to the Bosphorus, Istanbul. Richard and Kayleen arrive tomorrow evening. So I will sign out for this newsletter.
Lots of love from
The Admiral and The Commander