After a couple of nights anchored in the same spot we used in 2011 - outside the Kalamis marina on the Asiatic side of Istanbul - and nice and close to the entrance to the Bosphorus, it was time to enter the straits again and head towards the Black Sea. We were all stocked up and looking forward to a new cruising ground. Alec had even visited the barber he and his brother Richard used in 2011. They both say one of the best and cheapest haircuts they have ever had.
We decided to get an early start and were on our way before 6.00a.m. We wanted to miss the ferries crossing just inside the entrance at the southern end – the Golden Horn end – carrying the morning commuters to work. It’s like "Piccadilly" at the best of times with everything from ferries to cruise ships to tankers and cargo ships of all shapes and sizes, and even fishermen in vessels not much bigger than a log!!! Well we did NOT miss the ferries. No they started early as well. In fact we did not miss any of them, and they seem to be coming from all directions. We needed eyes in the back of our heads for the first half hour once we entered the straits.
|Wind against Current, Bosphorus|
This time we also had very strong currents to contend with, and the wind was whistling down on us as well. At one corner we found we were only doing .8kt. We had 5kts of current and 25kts of wind on the nose. Mind you we were only on one engine at the time, and that was not at full power. That soon changed as Alec used both engines and more power to round that particular corner. Still it is a fascinating stretch of water. It is like traveling through an open air museum with the most wonderful collection of palaces, mansions, summer residences, kiosks, fortresses, bridges and the like. We watched the city wake to another working day. People making their way to work, cafes opening to receive those early morning clients having their caffeine fix, people out for their early morning jog, in fact on the corner where we were down to .8kts, a couple of guys out for their morning walk passed us and were intrigued that they were walking faster than us. They waved and laughed and we waved back. As you will notice we are not traveling up the middle of the strait, as small vessels follow the shoreline. It’s better to as we stay away from the bigger shipping, plus you see a lot more.
|Rumeli Fortress, Bosphorus|
Another interesting fact we have learnt about the Bosphorus is even though we had strong currents flowing down the strait as we motored up, there is in fact a an even stronger sub-surface upstream current of saltier water flowing from the Aegean to the Black Sea. Centuries ago the Byzantine mariners discovered they could use this counter current to drag their craft upstream by lowering a vase or rock into it, and be pulled forward. Alec suggested we lower the anchor and see if it works, but I decided against that idea just in case!?!?!
By 10.45a.m. we had dropped the anchor in the Fishing Harbour at Poyraz at the northern end of the Bosphorus on the Asiatic side. This was our furthest point north on our last visit. The wind was now gusting over 30kts on the nose bringing in a good swell with it. We decided we would check the weather and hopefully head out into the Black Sea the next morning and follow the Turkish coastline heading east. We planned to do an anticlockwise trip around the Black Sea. This is the direction that we were advised to go as it is said the currents run with us which should make for an easier passage. We were soon to discover that was not exactly correct. To date we have had the current in our favour for all of about ten minutes – that was rounding a headland.
|Poyraz Fishing Harbour|
Now for a wee History and Geography lesson. Did you Know ; it is believed that the Black Sea was once a lake, cut off from the Mediterranean. Around 5600BC the land collapsed creating what is now the Bosphorus. Salt water poured into the ‘lake’ at more than 80km an hour raising the lakes surface by 15cm a day. After two years the water had risen 100mts. It is less salty than the Mediterranean being only 17-18% at the surface, and about half as salty as the world’s oceans. This is due to the amount of fresh water that flows into it from rivers such as the Danube, the Dnieper, the Dniester and the Southern Bug. Also the currents carry water in a westerly direction. We noticed how less salty the Black Sea is the first time we made water. We usually make about two and a half litres a minute in the Mediterranean. In the Black Sea we are making six litres a minute!!!! Well we presume this is the reason. It does not take long to fill up the water tank. At first we thought there was something wrong with the water maker, but after a taste test we realised this must be the reason. The other point of interest is that at a depth of around 200mts hydrogen sulphide makes up the content to the sea floor. But there is still plenty of marina life living in that first 200mts. Every day we have either dolphins or porpoise with us.
The History is just as interesting. Exploration of the Black Sea began in the Bronze Age – around the 13th century B.C. Greek Mythology has this as the area where Jason and the Argonauts came to retrieve the Golden Fleece from - Colchis, in what is now Georgia. A lovely story which one really must read if venturing this way. We have visited many ports where they are said to have stopped at. Somewhere along the line there is a story here which has been passed down, and truth, has been entwined with mythology. Later, around the 8th century B.C. the Greeks were establishing ports along the coastline for trading with the people who had been living here for well over a thousand years. We were later to visit some of these historic sites.
So back to our Adventures. Mid-morning the following day we upped anchor from Poyraz Fishing Harbour and ventured on out into rather rolly seas of 1-2mts and winds of 17kts. I take photos of the ‘clashing rocks’ spoken about in ‘Jason and the Argonauts' as the place where entry into the Black Sea would be almost impossible for them. But thanks to Jason passing through successfully, they stand forever open today. Once we passed through the northern entrance passing ships, a ferry and a yacht flying a Russian flag heading south, we were able to hoist the sails. The seas were increasing but the swells are further apart than in the Med. Our new Cruising Guide had pre warned us about the swells which seem to be your constant companion in the Black Sea. We were sailing about a mile off the coast which was hilly and green with long sandy beaches and delightful little coves. Towns and holiday villages were dotted along the shore, but many of these don’t have harbours where one can call into. The coastline is too exposed just to drop anchor off one of these beaches, unless you have calm weather. Also along the whole of this coastline there are only about two natural harbours one can go into. We had a visit from a military helicopter who flew directly out from the coast, around us and then back again.
After 25nm our first stop was in the Fishing Harbour of Sile. There was plenty of room and we were able to anchor out in the middle of the Harbour. At this time of the year all the fishing boats are in port and the men are busy preparing them for the coming season. They are laid up between May and August. We were surprised to find two other yachts tied up to the quay. We did not expect to be the only ones, but the Black Sea still is not a popular cruising ground. A Swiss couple were on their forth visit into the Black Sea doing the Turkish coastline. Sile is just beautiful. It was founded by the Greeks in the 7th century B.C. The town is on a hill above the harbour.
The streets are narrow and paved. The houses are small and quaint. We found a restaurant to have a meal where we looked down over the harbour watching the sunset and SHAMAL rocking gently, as if on the stomach of a sleeping giant. ( Ann had too much Raki !!! )
Next morning we were on our way again. When we pulled up the anchor we had so much sea grass attached I now needed Alec’s help to help clear it. Our next fishing harbour was Kefken. It is a rather sleepy little town where yachts are welcome but again the harbour is full of fishing boats. We anchored out in the middle and made our way ashore in the tender to find some basic supplies. Like many Turkish sea side towns at this time of the year, the ‘local’ tourists have arrived for their summer holidays. We found just as many dogs here as humans, but even though most are strays, they are looked after and fed by the locals.
Again the next morning when we upped anchor it was covered in a hair like sea grass. It took ages to clean off. This was a slow leg due to light winds and a strong current against us, but we finally drop anchor in the harbour of Eregli. The logs ticks over to 29,000nm on this leg – that is some water under the keels for us. We decide to have the following day off here and look around the town. It is home to Turkey’s largest steel works, but that is tucked away at the far end of the very large harbour. We dropped anchor outside the local yacht club – number of local yachts – two, but, they did have a small fleet of dinghy sailors. We went ashore to the club and were given a very warm welcome, tea and cakes, and a bag of goodies which included a lovely book – in English – all about the town.
We then went out onto the waterfront promenade which is beautifully landscaped with big trees and flower beds. This area use to have an old train line running along the harbour shore, and is a great example of how something can be turned into a wonderful public place with a little imagination. There are cafes, playgrounds, exercise equipment and even a children’s zoo. At one point we came across a cat house where a mother cat had six kittens where children could play with the kittens. The kittens could escape back into the cat house if they wanted, but none were being harassed in that way. You sure wouldn’t find anything like that back home as we could not trust the public !!!!
We also went to visit the caves of Hercules where again in Greek mythology it is said he killed the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to hell. The ancient Christians did not bother about that as they used the caves as a hidden place for their worship. We visited the local markets which were wonderful. You need not worry in which direction to go as you could smell them and just followed your nose. The smell of hot breads fresh from the ovens. Sweet fresh peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs and grapes, hangs heavily in the air. The largest and most mouth-watering watermelon you could imagine. The spice market took us back to our Middle East days. Rose water flavour Turkish delight along with more flavours than you could imagine, and, fresh flowers everywhere. Then the wonderful colours of all the vegetables – peppers of every shape and colour, deep purple glossy aubergines, courgettes of different shades of green and shapes, the most wonderful tomatoes you could ever taste. Cheeses, nuts, and so much more, and everything so so fresh and crisp. We struggled back to the boat laden with all our goodies.
So that was Eregli. You would think it could not get much better, but after another hop along the coastline following hills covered in forest which drop into the sea, more holiday towns and villages, ruins of ancient mines, and more sandy beaches and coves, we arrive in Amasra Harbour. This town is much smaller but very pretty. The old town sits out on a hill which is joined to the new town by an ancient bridge. Again we spent an extra day just exploring. Amasra has two harbours, one each side of the headland. It was in a café on the water front of the new harbour while drinking coffee, and Alec downloading the weather on the ipad, that the waiter who spoke good English rushed off and came back with a photo of himself on a cruise ship which he had worked on while in New Zealand waters. In the photo he is on deck with White Island smoking away in the background. He then started laughing and said , ’that is a volcanic, my surname is Volcanic!!’
It was also in this harbour we had our first visit from the Sahil Guvenlik – Turkish Coastguard. They came alongside, rafted up and invited Alec aboard to check our papers - i.e. transit log. They were very professional and friendly and we were able to take photos of them. Alec gave the captain a New Zealand silver fern cap which he was very happy with. This harbour is clean enough to swim in so later in the afternoon I cooled off. The water temperature is now 29 degrees. Later we went back into town to climb the hill and look around the old town, the Genoese castle, and the Roman baths. We had a lovely dinner out in a restaurant right on the water’s edge in Amasra’s ancient harbour – our table was wedged into the pebbles – and we watched the fish swimming around less than a metre away while we dined on their delicious friends!!
Our next leg was only 16nm so we did not leave Amasra till the following afternoon. We had no wind so motored with dolphins playing around the boat a good part of the way. Our next anchorage was the fishing harbour of Kurucasile. It is home to a wooden boat building operation which we were interested in looking at. Again a very safe anchorage in the harbour away from the Black Sea swells. For a change there was only one large fishing boat in port. The others were just small day fishing boats. It was fun to wander around the harbour and village and see huge piles of logs and sawn timber and boats in different stages of being built. There was a super yacht under construction we think for a Belgium client.
Now we have stuck a bit of a problem. Alec has been sending emails to our agent in the Ukraine with regards to clearing in formalities and costs etc. We have just received one saying that New Zealanders need a visa prior to arrival. Well we don’t have one as we presumed like everyone else we could get one on arrival – WRONG – what have we done to annoy them!! Well we have come this far and will just have to sort this out somehow!?!
Cide is our next anchorage. Here we anchor beside a British yacht. So there is still the odd cruiser about. After a visit ashore we go over in the tender to say hello. We are invited on board as they have come from the direction we are going. One is always pleased to get information on the different ports ahead. They tell us we will have no chance of getting into Sinop Harbour, a harbour further along the coast where we were thinking of leaving SHAMAL to go inland to get our visas. They say it is full of fishing boats, some rafted up four deep, and it is also not a safe place to leave the boat long term as we would have to anchor out. They advise us to carry on to Samsun as there is a marina there with excellent security. Our plan is now to look for a safe port and then take a bus to Ankara to obtain our Ukraine visas. That is where their Embassy is. A bit of a divert, but we will make the most of seeing some more of inland Turkey.
|Weed on another yachts anchor|
Next morning sees us heading out again. This time we are sailing but again with a counter current. We hope to get a good few miles along the coast but late in the afternoon we have thunder storms looming all around us. Fork lightening is flashing just in front, so we decide on a divert to the small fishing harbour of Doganyurt. We drop anchor just as the rain starts. We are unable to go ashore here as it rains on and off most of the evening and then most of the night with more thunderstorms and lightening. We are very sheltered by a huge breakwater wall plus a mountain which makes for good shelter. When we upped anchor the following morning it is the first time we have no weed or sea grass which made for a nice change.
Time is moving quickly and it is now 28th July and we have only come 224nm along the Turkish coast line. Not quite half way. We have decided we will do the next 96nm in one hop to reach Sinop which will mean arriving after dark but that won’t be a problem. For a change we are able to sail most of the day but by early evening we have lost the wind and are motor sailing. We arrive into Sinop just after midnight and anchor in a bay outside the harbour entrance. There is no wind at all and the seas are flat so we get a good night’s sleep. The following day is rest day and after a morning aboard we take the tender into the harbour. The English couple were quite right with regards to no room in the harbour. It is full of fishing boats. On returning to SHAMAL after a visit around the town, we are approached by a local and his family in a small pleasure boat, who explains that he has been on the Raki – a popular Turkish drink made by distilling anise seeds which are mixed with grape and ethyl alcohol, twice. The alcohol level ranges between 40% -50%. Water is added which turns it white. The young man “would very much like to visit with us to practice on English”. Oh help not now please. But we end up saying Ok hoping the visit will be short, which it is. He offers to help us in any way with things ashore if we need it. Sometime later he returns asking if we will join him on his boat for tea. That was most kind but we are unable to as I have just served up our dinner!!!! He spends the next hour going back and forth across the bay but does not return. Again we have no winds so another very calm anchorage outside the harbour.
We have an early start for the run to Samsun. This is a 74nm leg which will take us to the 394nm point along the Turkish Black Sea coast line. Just over half way to the Georgian border. We have decided that because of our time frame, we will leave SHAMAL in the marina there and do the rest by land. We will take a bus to Ankara and fast track our visas and then go to Georgia somehow from there.
We end up motor sailing that last leg – more motoring than sailing. We make water and I get all the washing up to date. I do some baking and make gluten free bread for my inland trip. We arrive at Samsun just on dark so decide to anchor outside the marina as no one will be around.
The following morning we take the tender into the marina to check that it is OK to bring SHAMAL in. There is a slight misunderstanding and somehow they think we have broken down and need to be towed into the marina, so a fishing boat comes out with us to bring us in. We eventually think we get it sorted and come in a tie up, but they are still a bit miffed as to how we got the engine to work again. The local fishermen are great to us. They help tie us up and get us connected to the power box by offering Alec a local plug. We have all we need on board but the help is there. A couple of nights later one of the fishermen turn up with a plate of gutted what we think are fresh anchovies as it is the season. You toss them in flour then quickly fry them. They really are yummy. Within the first couple of hours of being there a man speaking excellent English turns up and introduces himself as Dr. Oktay Yapici. He is a member of a German based organisation called Trans Ocean, which have asked for volunteers to offer their services for free to help visiting yachts which call into ‘out of the way ports’ around the world. Within the first 24 hours he has organised for a local Hotel owner who is also a sailor, to get a couple of our jerry cans filled with diesel, and for our gas cylinder to be refilled with cooking gas. We had been told elsewhere that it was going to be impossible to get our gas filled but these boys knew where to go. He also takes us into town to get our bus tickets for Ankara, and also takes us along with a German couple off their yacht, into town to a smart new shopping mall so we can stock up. Then he takes us all out to dinner at the Yacht Club. We explain that we will be leaving the boat while we go off to get visas and do some land travel, and felt very confident that SHAMAL would be well looked after. So, SHAMAL is left in the hands of the Samsun marina and the local fisherman while Alec and I set off on another adventure.
What really has surprised us about the Turkish Black Sea coastline is not just how spectacular the scenery has been, or how wonderfully friendly and helpful the locals are, but also how were have not arrived in the backblocks of the country where there is little or no infrastructure in place. It has been quite the opposite. Here in Samsun we are in a modern Turkish city with a well-developed transport system. Both the new and old parts of town intermingle without losing the authenticity of the place. There are modern shopping malls, museums, parks and hotels catering for all budgets. It is proud of its history and has attempted to show that off as well.
We are also in the area that myths of a tribe of warrior women called the Amazons are said to have lived. They rode horses wielding bows and arrows and double-headed axes. According to legend, their right breasts were cut off in childhood to enable them to use their bows more effectively, thus they were named as Amazon, which means ‘without breast’. They used the male population as servants and to produce the next generation after which the males were killed!!!!!! The poet Homer, said that the Amazons fought as if they were men at Troy in the Trojan War.
Well on that note I think it is time to sign out for this letter.
Love to you all, and watch your backs guys.
|Cat in our power box,|
|Turkish Tea Pot|