Doing the ditch

24 Aug

We came back through the Corinth Canal on Wednesday. Our original plan had been to sail back to the Ionian going round the bottom of the Peloponnese but we changed our minds and decided to cough up the exorbitant fee for transiting the canal in order to avoid the somewhat uncertain anchorages off the beaten track at the bottom of the peninsula.

We left Korfos bright and early, expecting the 30 mile passage to Kiato in the Gulf of Corinth to take anything up to 8 hours – that’s our usual estimate of 5 knots average speed plus up to 3 hours to do the paperwork for the canal and a wait to be granted permission to transit.

Our previous three transits have been straightforward so we were pretty relaxed. What could go wrong?

We arrived at the eastern entrance at Isthmia in a stiff northerly breeze. With 30 knot gusts on the beam we screamed onto the quay at breakneck speed, taking the place of a departing power boat All was well, no damage done, apart from 2 poor fenders which went pop!
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We hadn’t even tied up and a head emerged from the control tower window, “Hurry, hurry. Come and pay quickly and follow the power boat!” Not 5 minutes later & a couple of hundred euro poorer we managed, with a lot of revs and ropework, to get ourselves off the windblown quay and head at full throttle up the canal chasing the aforementioned power boat which was disappearing into the distance.

With a substantial current behind us we were tanking along at 8 knots, enjoying the pure excitement of watching kingfishers flitting along the base of the limestone walls.
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Just to put you in the picture, the canal is spanned by a total of 5 bridges, 3 at the top of the cliffs and a further 2 at water height at each end of the canal. The latter are submersible and are dropped when vessels are due to pass.

I jokingly said to PT, “Make sure that the bridge is down before we get to the end.” We couldn’t believe it when, with only about half a mile to go to the open sea, we saw the distinctive yellow and black stripes of the submersible bridge rising above the water in our path!

Trapped!

Trapped!


A frantic call to the control tower was answered eventually with the advice to reduce our speed. But with wind and tide pushing us onward and very little room to manoeuvre, it was a little nail-biting. Thankfully, with a couple of hundred metres to spare, the bridge slid below the water and disaster was averted!

In gusty conditions we headed up to Korfos for the night. The passage time of 5 hours from Korfos to Kiato, including the canal transit, must be a record for a boat our size!

Kiato is a place we’ve been to a couple of times before and, apart from having a branch of Lidl, there’s not much to recommended it. The harbour is plagued by a vicious swell and the town is home to an army of graffiti ‘artists’. The only reason we chose to stop there is its convenient position in the eastern end of the Gulf of Corinth.

Two Choices dwarfed by a coaster in Kiato

Two Choices dwarfed by a coaster in Kiato


One night was definitely enough and even though the wind was howling the next morning we set off for one of our favourite places, Galaxidi.

Galaxidi is a pretty place. Nice restaurants, unlimited water and electricity, a safe harbour (well, safeish!) and a few local characters who add interest to the pastime of watching the world go by.

Galaxidi

Galaxidi


Boats arriving in Galaxidi are usually hailed by a skinny, cap-waving figure on the quay who directs you to a berth, takes your lines and then asks for 5€ for water & electricity. An efficient welcome from a port official? Or not…. This is Thanassis, the town drunk (sorry, not very PC). You quickly realise that something about the set-up is not quite right and many decide not to hand over any cash till they find out what the score really is. Thanassis is never rude or aggressive though, and will just as easily accept a can of beer in payment for services rendered. And before 10 in the morning he happily accepts the offer of a cup of coffee…you just have to remind him to bring the cup back. We’re told that he has been punished on several occasions for extracting money under false pretences, but he’s pretty harmless really, a bit of an entrepreneur in fact. Just not as skilled at fleecing people as some in higher places maybe! 😉

When we arrived in Galaxidi this time we were quite disappointed not to see Thanassis on the quay. Enquiries as to his whereabouts drew a blank. He appeared the next day, but he kept away from the quay and no longer seemed to be acting as the self-appointed welcoming committee for visiting yachts. Had he been warned off? Or is he now living in a little world of his own? Who knows? The quay is not the same without him.

Andreas, the diesel man and general fixer, on the other hand, is still omnipresent and larger than life.

Andreas, the diesel man.

Andreas, the diesel man.


If you need something in Galaxidi, Andreas is your man. His primary role is boat refuelling and he rubs his hands with glee when the big gas-guzzlers come in looking for fuel. (2 years ago we watched as he helped out an Italian whose fuel tanks had leaked. Andreas very kindly pumped all the diesel out of the bilge, took it away and filtered it…and then sold it back to the guy…all 2000 litres of it! There ain’t no flies on Andreas 😀 ).

Andreas appears to be rather well connected in the local community and probably has a finger in many pies. We were looking for a new gas regulator and accompanying rubber hose. Andreas said, “No problem!” He returned the next morning with new hose – no cost. He’d had the old regulator tested and declared it to be in satisfactory condition – no cost.

Give Galaxidi a go, you’ll like it…and be sure to look up Andreas 🙂

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Heading north

20 Aug

We’re in the Saronic Gulf again now. It’s busy, busy, busy. Charter boats and Athenian gin palaces abound. I suppose it’ll help us ease back into the hustle-bustle of the Ionian.

The hoardes mostly arrive in port at sundown, all clamouring for a spot on the quay. It can be entertaining watching the game of ‘musical berths’, glass of wine in hand – as long as it’s only as a bystander and one isn’t forced into becoming involved in the mêlée.

A dragonfly hitches a lift - it appeared when we were 30 miles from land, where had it been before that??

A dragonfly hitches a lift…30 miles from land.


After a long passage from Adamas on Milos, we had 4 days of relaxation at anchor in Porto Heli, only going ashore once or twice for provisions. Games of cribbage (I’m in the lead) & Rummikub (PT ahead), swimming and napping filled our days. It was windy outside, but Porto Heli provides great all-round shelter so we were happy to stay and do nothing much of anything.

Poros, 30 miles north, was a different story. Although there is plenty of room for anchoring, quay space is much in demand. The layout on the north side of the town is a curved quay with a long pontoon extending at a right angle.

Poros North Quay

Poros North Quay


A perfect recipe for crossed anchors and frayed tempers. We managed not to get caught up on anyone else’s anchor and nobody hooked up on ours. We were lucky. During the 2 days that we were there there were numerous games of ‘anchor macramé’, not helped by the strong north-westerly blowing onto the quay.

We’d already had our turn at tangled anchors in Milos, where some of the local trip yachts berth on a quay which runs at nearly 90° to the pontoon that we were on. It took an hour of manoeuvring and rope-work at 6am to free ourselves of the 2 anchors that had been laid over ours. At least the skipper of one of the boats was decent enough to come across and lend some brute force to the operation.

We like Poros. We first came here 10 years ago on our last boat. The place hasn’t changed much and it’s still pleasant to explore the steep lanes and to climb to the top to enjoy the view.

Poros

Poros


Not too so much time for relaxing this time though, there were also loads of jobs waiting to be done. Laundry, more provisioning, mailing and, most important, a valve to be replaced.

PT laid out all the required tools and spares before swimming below the hull to shove a bung into the through-hull outlet. He was confident that it would all go like clockwork, “Of course the boat won’t sink”, he reassures me. Of course I trust my handyman, but my heart was in my mouth throughout. it wasn’t helped when a string of expletives exploded from the heads compartment. How was I to know if this was a mountain or a molehill that had befallen the repair job? I was mightily relieved when the bung was removed, the valve was opened and the boat remained afloat & dry. We live to sail another day 🙂

Another hop north today sees us in Korfos, our last stop before heading through the Corinth Canal tomorrow. It was a tedious trip with little wind, mostly on the nose. The only diversion was the appearance of shoals of fish jumping on the surface of the sea – big ones chasing middle-sized ones chasing little ones. There were loads more of these fishy flash mobs as we swam on Korfos bay this afternoon. The fishing tally for the season remains embarrassingly low though. 😳

A fishy flash mob

A fishy flash mob

When things go wrong

16 Aug

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When things go wrong humans have a natural tendency to point the finger of blame. This is true in the big, wide world – think of all the millions spent on official government inquiries, not to mention the ‘unofficial’ trials by media deciding who should be shot, at the very least, sacked in the event of a major or minor catastrophe.

It also happens in domestic situations…well, it certainly does in our little world. We’re self-confessed champion squabblers! 😮

However, with the arrival of a third crew member, things have changed aboard Two Choices. Peace and harmony reigns…mostly!

This shadowy figure doesn’t look anything like the usual helpful visitor. This one never helps out when an extra pair of hands is needed. They don’t get up at the crack of dawn when an early departure is called for. They never take a turn doing the dishes. What they do do though is take the blame. He, or is it a she?, is known on board as “Somebody”. Somebody’s eaten the last of the biscuits; Somebody left the lid off the milk and now the fridge is awash with the stuff; Somebody forgot to switch the mooring light off…you get the picture.

Let me give you a little example of how useful Somebody really is. During a long, bouncy passage in Turkey, when we’d had to leave an anchorage hastily in the early hours due to a dragging anchor, we discovered that a hatch had accidentally been left open. Result – one completely sodden bunk :-(. Major work and inconvenience resulted. It could have lead to endless recriminations. Instead, that poor old third crew member, “Somebody” got the blame.

I would love to be able to say that the latest mishap was down to Somebody.

For the past 10 days or so there has been a small amount of water finding its way in to the bilge. Only a little…but it’s saltwater. Not so good.

PT has been searching high and low, mostly low, for the possible source of the leak. No joy, he’s still scratching his head. (And I have refreshed my liferaft launching knowledge! :???:)

His latest strategy to try and pinpoint the problem has been to close off each seacock, one at a time, while we are underway (no water is coming in while we’re stationary). He told me this. Did I listen?

An hour into our 74 mile passage from Milos to Porto Heli on Wednesday off I went to the loo…the one the skipper had told me not to use.

Pumps don’t like an airlock. Result – one bust valve, one loo out of action. New valve needed, which involves blocking the seacock from outside the hull and ensuring that it is watertight. I’ll be very glad when it’s over & done with. I wish I could blame Somebody!

The sun sets over Porto Heli

The sun sets over Porto Heli

The Cyclades: better on foot??

11 Aug

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The Aegean has a reputation for being pretty windy. This should be a good thing for sailors. After all, who wants to spend the whole time on a sailing boat with the engine going because there isn’t enough wind to get the boat moving?

I don’t mind a good bit of wind when we’re sailing! In fact, I quite like the challenge of seeing how fast the boat will go without breaking something! However, whilst a nice cooling breeze is welcome when we’re in harbour or at anchor, I also like to feel safe and to be able to relax a little once the sailing’s over. I DON’T like the feeling of anxiety in the pit of my stomach that the threat of a dragging anchor brings, or the worry that we’ll have to high-tail it out to sea to find somewhere safer when the wind is howling and it’s pitch black outside.

I know that this stuff is all part & parcel of liveaboard life, but the Aegean – the Cyclades in particular – seem to generate more than my fair share of anxiety.

We’ve sailed in the Cyclades before, 10 years ago in our previous boat, Escapade. We had a great time and thought nothing of the threat of the meltemi then.

We’re in the Cyclades at the moment – Sifnos to be precise. Prior to here we stopped off Amorgos and Skoinousa. So far the weather has been tolerable. Good fast sailing on passage and no howling gales through the night (not nice and calm either though 😐 ).

Amorgos - looking down on Katapola

Amorgos – looking down on Katapola


Sifnos - Vathy, good shelter, poor holding.

Sifnos – Vathy, good shelter, poor holding.


We had planned to track north now, via Serifos and Kithnos, before turning west to Poros in the Saronic Gulf. However, the forecast for the next week isn’t looking good so we’ve had a change of plan and will head south west to Milos tomorrow and then 65 miles on to the east coast of the Peloponnese to avoid the worst of the forecast wind.

It’s a shame that we are rushing through the Cyclades. The guide promises that each island is worth exploring in it’s own right, every one with it’s own virtues and unique qualities – and I’m sure that’s true. I just don’t really want to do it on a sailing boat, given the scarcity of really safe harbours to tuck into when Aeolus shows his wrath. At the moment it feels as though the Cyclades are to be endured rather than enjoyed. That shouldn’t be the case in such beautiful islands so I’m sure I’ll be back here…but next time it’ll be with walking boots or maybe even on a bike!

The Dodecanese

9 Aug

It’s now been 10 days since we checked back in to Greece and, in so many ways, it feels like slipping on a pair of old shoes – comfy, familiar, even if a little scruffy and worn.

It feels good to exchange greetings with passers by. It’s nice to be able to understand snatches of overheard conversation and to be able to read the signs round about us. We have some idea of the local manners and customs: more so than in Turkey. It feels more like home.

The Dodecanese Islands

The Dodecanese Islands

Our first port of call was the island of Symi, which sits in the entrance of the Gulf of Hisarönu, only a stone’s throw from the Turkish mainland. We’d heard that the main port of Symi Town was picturesque but pandemonium from a yachtie point of view. With crossed anchors and poor holding inevitable, we decided to give it a miss and anchor instead in the neighbouring bay of Pedhi and catch the bus into town to do the official paperwork.

Symi Harbour

Symi Harbour


After an exhilarating bus ride that wound slowly up hairpin bends and then plummeted down at great speed along single-track roads, we spent 4 hours shuffling to and fro between Port Police, the local police and customs. The whole process took unexpectedly (and unnecessarily) long but it did give us time to sit and watch the harbour antics and confirmed that we’d made the right choice anchoring elsewhere.

From Symi we went west to the little island of Nisyros, to the port of Palί to be precise. With the forecast looking favourable we decided to push on after only a one night stay. A mistake, I think, as I consulted the travel guide only after we had left and found out that the island is actually a volcano with an active, but not erupting, crater. Shame, that could have been an interesting visit. A change from ancient ruins and castles anyway. 🙄

Next stop was Kos: big, brash, busy and very touristy. We managed to squeeze into a vacant slot on the town quay having been turned away from the marina-run berths in the harbour. Apparently a reservation is essential.

Kos Town - with minarets hinting at an Ottoman past.

Kos Town – with minarets hinting at an Ottoman past.


Once again, we gave sightseeing a miss. A deliberate decision this time, it was darned hot. We could have explored the Knights of St John Castle and marvelled at Hippocrates’ Askeplion. Instead we had a tasty Chinese meal and hosted our next door neighbours, Guy & Annika, who are nearing the end of a circumnavigation. Just as enjoyable, I’m sure, as perusing castles and ruins.

2 nights in Kos was enough and, once the wind dropped from F7, we moved on again. This time north to Kalymnos.

We side-stepped the main port of Pothia, going instead to the tiny fjord of Vathis on the east coast.

Vathis, Kalymnos

Vathis, Kalymnos


It’s a sheltered little harbour with lovely clear water for swimming but, with only room for about 10 boats maximum, it’s best to get there early. We decided that we’d better drag ourselves out to do some sightseeing here, given our big failures to do so on the previous three Dodecanese islands that we’d stopped at. We managed to clamber up the cliff path opposite the quay to admire not one, but two early Christian basilicas. With that achieved, we repaired to a taverna for an ouzo or two and to watch the world go by…it’s a hard life! 😉

From Kalymnos we had a short but windy hop of 18 miles to Leros. Xerokambos is a large bay on the south of the island with good shelter from the prevailing wind. The holding is reported to be not so good so we were glad to be able to pick up a mooring to sit out some more wind. The tavernas here have taken a leaf out of the Turks’ book and have laid moorings to encourage visiting yachts to eat at their establishments. We’d read online that the food at the ‘yellow’ mooring taverna was good, the ‘white’ was ok but the ‘red’ buoys and taverna should be avoided. With this in mind, we duly went for yellow and were very satisfied with the fare at To Aloni.

Dusk in Xerokambos

Dusk in Xerokambos


With provisions a little depleted and exercise required after all our ouzo & meze stops a trip to the metropolis of Lakki, the main town on Leros, was required. We went ashore to discover that we’d just missed the bus so instead we decided to walk the 5km into town.

It was interesting walk, with sustenance gained from ‘scrumped’ figs on the way. We passed a huge, dilapidated psychiatric hospital with a few patients watching the world go by at the gates. Apparently several hospitals were built on the island in the post-war period and psychiatric patients from all over the country were ‘warehoused’ there. Most were subsequently moved into community care but the army of hundreds of carers, who can’t be made redundant, are still on the payroll but idle.

The town of Lakki, which was built by the Italians in the 1930s to house families of military personnel, is renowned for its Rationalist architecture and wide boulevards.
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Whilst the buildings were certainly were different from anywhere else we’ve been in Greece and may well be terribly interesting to architecture buffs, we found Lakki to be rather soulless and dull.

Our last Dodecanese island was one of the smallest and certainly one of the least visited. Levitha, and its sister island of Kinaros, sit out in the windy Aegean, almost midway between Leros and Amorgos. There is very little there other than a nice sheltered anchorage and an enterprising family from Patmos who have set up a taverna, with moorings, to cater to passing yachts.

Levitha

Levitha

The island has a lovely feeling of peace and isolation. It is not connected to the electricity network, there is no phone signal and the power for the taverna and the family home is wind & solar-generated. It’s certainly a get away from it all kind of place (well, if we hadn’t been sharing the anchorage with 11 other boats!). You really can imagine ancient seafarers taking refuge from the storm-tossed Aegean here. Get there soon before it is spoiled, as apparently a wind farm is on the cards.

Menagerie

4 Aug

Whale sighting south of Fethiye

Whale sighting south of Fethiye


Chicken family outing

Chicken family outing


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Backtracking

4 Aug

Well, our little foray into Turkey is now at an end. It was only a brief taster of the country, just under 8 weeks. It definitely wasn’t long enough but commitments in the Ionian are calling and our next “milestone”, the journey back across the Aegean is one we just want to get on with now, rather than linger while the anticipation and related tension builds.

We covered a lot of ground during our short stay. Starting at Kuşadası we covered over 400 nautical miles to our furthest east stop at Gökkoya at the far end of Kekova Roads. (Then another 130 miles back to Bozburun where we formally checked out of Turkey.) Most were short hops with passages over 30 miles kept to a minimum and we managed to visit most of the places that we’d wanted to or that had been recommended to us.

The weather gods looked on us very favourably. A spell of windy weather at the end of July coincided with Sara’s arrival, so we decided to stay put in the excellent shelter of Orhaniye for a few days, but other than that we’ve pretty much had wind when we wanted it and calm the rest of the time (or maybe any memories of unfavourable conditions have already faded beyond recall!)

Prior to going to Turkey, we’d heard so many differing views of the country from a cruiser’s point of view. Many said, “You’ll absolutely love it!”; some said they found the place frustrating and couldn’t wait to get back to Greece; whilst others had decided that, given the bad publicity on the Internet regarding the rules and regulations, they had chosen to give Turkey a miss altogether. We decided that the only way was to find out for ourselves….and we’re glad we did! 🙂

What we liked most about the country were:

1). THE TURKISH PEOPLE
Pretty much without fail, we were met with friendliness, courtesy and a genuine desire to be helpful. The Turks are born salespeople, but even when it was clear that there was no profit to be made they went out of their way to help.
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2). MARKETS
Most of the towns and villages that we visited held a weekly market. We just loved wandering around the maze of stalls, always with the freshest of produce, just marvelling in the sensory overload of aromas, noise and colour. The stall holders were very eager to draw you in with quirky sales patter but always good natured and accepting of a polite refusal.

3.) HAMAMS (Turkish Baths)

We’d been disappointed to leave Istanbul without having been to a hamam (although, to be honest, our omission was probably more to do with my anxiety about the etiquette – do you have to take all your kit off?? Will it be sleazy?). So we were determined to visit one before we left Turkey altogether. Sara was also keen, so, with female moral support on hand I had no excuse.


The steam, body scrub and sudsy wash were fabulous. You come out of there feeling like a shiny, happy person… minus several layers of grotty dead skin. Sara and I finished off the process with a face mask, PT went for a full-body massage. We all agreed that attending hamams could easily be addictive! 🙂

4). EFFICIENCY
Before I go on, I should state that we absolutely love Greece, that’s why we base ourselves there. However, we couldn’t help making the odd comparison regarding efficiency and enterprise. We were immediately impressed how clean and tidy the environment is in Turkey (I know that we only experienced a tiny sample of a massive country). We saw almost no litter or graffiti and only once or twice came across the odour of rotting rubbish, which has been common in the Mediterranean countries we’ve visited.

Services and facilities for yachts were pretty good, although not always cheap. The coastline is typically very deep, often too deep for anchoring, so many bays have little jetties with laid moorings and, quite often, water & electricity too. The jetties are run by restaurants and there is an expectation that, in return for using the facilities, you’ll eat ashore. The standards vary considerably, but the welcome was always warm.

There wasn’t much to not like about Turkey but the main things that were a bit tedious were:

1). ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION RULES & REGS
The whole Blue Card system (see earlier entry for an explanation)is, in theory a really good idea. After all, who wouldn’t want to swim in cleaner water and to know that efforts are being made to protect marine life. However, in reality, it is difficult for most boats to fully comply with the scheme and the authorities in some ports are also paying lip service to enforcing it. For instance, in one port there are no pump-out facilities but officials will still register a pump out and, if asked what should be done with the waste, they shrug and tell the boat owner to dump it at sea.

We did have the tank pumped out a couple of times to create a record on our Blue Card (we’d read that we may have difficulty checking out of the country otherwise). The first time we tried to pump out our full-to-the-brim tank was unsuccessful.

The system uses vacuum suction which wasn’t going to work until our long-suffering skipper had stripped down the top of the tank and fitted a hose to reach the bottom of the tank….all done in 38° heat. We eventually achieved a successful pump out but I’m afraid our soapy water all went overboard after dark. We just became rather paranoid about being caught and fined.


The good side to the environmental protection regulations is that, in some bays, bollards and mooring buoys have been provided to prevent damage to tree trunks (from mooring lines) and to the seabed. We liked these and it certainly made life much easier at times, so it wasn’t all bad.
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2). Gulets

I’d heard about gulets ( pronounced ‘goo-lett’) 2-masted wooden sailing boats used for tourist charters, but hadn’t really thought too much about them. Sailing the south-western coast of Turkey is a guaranteed way to get to know them better….they are EVERYWHERE! And they are BIG!!
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You just settle down in a secluded anchorage, maybe sharing it with only a couple of other diminutive boats…and then ‘they’ arrive with throbbing engines and generators and moor up only yards from you before they proceed to turn up the sound system so that the clients can party into the night. In town harbours, they take up most of the available space on the quay. Whilst at sea, they are majestic (rarely seen with any sail up though) and cut through the water single-mindedly heading for their next destination. Woe betide any yachtie that thinks that they have right-of-way! I’m sure they’d mow any small fry down without batting an eyelid!

However much of a pain in the neck gulets are, they are undoubtedly very beautiful, usually with acres of pristine varnished wood gleaming in the sunlight. The sky’s the limit with gulets. Whilst some are quite modest in size and quality, there are some that offer sheer luxury and indulgence with 5-star fare and accommodation. Although we two curmudgeons moan about them, PT has admitted to secretly wanting one of his very own. I could quite happily live with that…as long as there’s a full crew at my beck and call!

So, we loved Turkey and one day may well go back to explore the places that we missed, inland and coastal. Maybe we’ll even try a Blue Cruise on a gulet! But, for the meantime, Greece is where our hearts are. The Ionian here we come!
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Getting dressed up

17 Jul

Flag etiquette, which is a combination of law (what you must do) and maritime tradition (expectations of behaviour within the sea faring community), is always guaranteed to provoke heated discussion and polarised opinions amongst yachties. Frankly, I think it’s all a load of old codswallop…but who am I to speak?

There seems to be a bit of a hierarchy going on with UK ensigns. Most civilian vessels wear an undefaced red ensign.
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However, there are a select few who wear a “privileged” ensign.
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Privileged ensigns are usually dark blue and defaced with a badge or emblem.
In rarer cases, the ensign may be white or defaced red. Only certain clubs and organisations are granted permission to issue warrants for these prized status symbols. These flags are viewed by some with great respect and even envy, by others with complete disdain and contempt. Apparently, a junior member of staff in an Italian marina once asked his boss why some British boats wore blue flags. “Ah! That’s because they are learner drivers”.

Since we started sailing 20 years ago we have always had a bog-standard red ensign. But the skipper has always secretly coveted something more eye-catching. Who knows quite why?

As a member of the Cruising Association, he could have applied for a dark blue ensign defaced with the CA white anchor on a red background but that would have involved send our original boat registration papers to London – a non-starter as we need to have the papers on board at all times. So instead he came up with another plan to obtain the Holy Grail.

Many moons ago PT served in the Royal Air Force and he discovered that he could join the RAF Sailing Association who, you’ve guessed it, are authorised to issue warrants for posh flags. Over several months, letter, emails and money changed hands. And finally, when our most recent visitor (my sister, Sara) arrived onboard a couple of weeks ago, PT was overjoyed to take delivery of his shiny new flag. Ah! But it’s not just any old blue ensign, just to be different it’s a fetching shade of RAF pale blue.

Don't tell the skipper, but baby blue is SOOO not his colour!

Don’t tell the skipper, but baby blue is SOOO not his colour!

Oh well, if the skipper’s happy, then I’m happy 🙂 , (though I was far more excited with the huge box of Weetabix that Sara brought all the way from Scotland!)

Getting to know Turkey

25 Jun

It’s been a while since the last post. Technology hasn’t helped. (We have an internet connection on the boat, but only via our ancient laptop with a dodgy battery. Sufficient for checking email and weather forecasts but not for prolonged use – it can take a while to craft a blog post.) I’ve also been a bit brain-dead: must be the heat which has been up in the high 30s.

Anyway, here we are in Turkey again…with Two Choices this time. 🙂
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It was only a short passage from Samos to Kuşadası, where we formally checked into Turkey on 7th June. Checking in basically means getting a Transit Log which includes the boat, skipper and crew details and your proposed itinerary. The process involves getting clearance from the Health Authority, Passport Police, Customs and the Harbourmaster and can apparently take hours trailing round different offices. Like many others, we chose to use an agent and we were pleasantly suprised at the fee charged – 60 Turkish Lira (about €24). Information gleaned from the internet had suggested that it could be anything up to €150. We were also glad that we didn’t have customs come aboard given our substantial stash of Greek wine (we’d been warned that booze is pricey here…).

Turkey have introduced new regulations concerning marine pollution in the past 2-3 years. Most yachts discharge toilet waste (known as ‘black water’) into the sea far from the coast in deep water. What the new regulations mean is that, essentially, it is now illegal to do this within Turkish waters. It is also apparently forbidden to discharge ‘grey water’, the water from sinks and showers. In the most popular cruising area of Muğla, boats are now required to have both types of waste pumped out at shore stations and to have pump-outs registered on a computer system known as Mavi Kart or Blue Card. Stories of huge fines for contravening the regulations circulate. However, there are an inadequate amount of pump-out stations and the practicalities of abiding by the regulations are a bit farcical. The whole issued has generated a huge amount of stress and uncertainty within the cruising community and many cruisers are now choosing to give Turkey a miss. Prior to coming to Turkey, we had weighed up the pros & cons and decided to give it a go. We did, however, want to get a Blue Card as soon as we could so at least we would be seen to be complying in some way. We were disappointed to find that Kuşadası aren’t yet part of this new scheme so were unable to provide a card. More bureaucracy to be looked forward to further down the coast then!

We weren’t keen to linger in Kuşadası longer than necessary. The town is busy and rather touristy – it’s a cruise ship stop-off point for visiting Ephesus – and at €50 a night in the marina, not the cheapest place to hang around. Besides, we had planned a rendezvous with friends from home further down the coast.

Next stop was Didim, 42 miles down the coast, with some cracking sailing on the way. D-Marin is a plush marina, complete with luxury accommodation and swimming pool. There’s also a supermarket, a shopping centre and a comprehensive range of yacht support services. Our overall impression so far of Turkish marinas was that they are incredibly efficient and professional. Cost – €56 per night.

Didim is known for the ancient Greek sanctuary containing the temple and oracle of Apollo. Our reason for calling in at Didim, however, was not to visit ancient ruins but to meet up with our friends, Ivor & Moira, who have a holiday apartment close by. It was great to catch up, enjoy a good meal and to swap guided tours of our respective homes. But 2 more nights in a marina was enough for the budget and, after all, there’s a whole coastline to explore. So we moved on again.

Catching up with Ivor & Moira

Catching up with Ivor & Moira

We didn’t go too far. Only 10 miles east into Gulluk Korfezi (Korfezi Gulf) to a little cove known as Paradise Bay (37°19′.1N 27°28′.0E). We shared the clear turquoise waters of the bay with 2 other yachts and, for an hour or two, with some Turkish fisherman stopping for their lunchtime chin-wag. A fabulous setting, but still not warm enough for me to swim!
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The next day was my birthday so a meal ashore was called for. The enclosed bay of Gümüşlük, 20 miles south seemed to fit the bill – small, sheltered and a choice of restaurants. We motor-sailed for 5 hours to get there in a rising southerly breeze, only to find that it was jammed full of boats, mostly on moorings, with not much room to anchor safely. There were 2 alternatives to choose from, Turgutreis Marina an hour south into the wind or backtrack 4 miles to Yalıkavak Marina. We went with the easier downwind option of Yalıkavak. The thought of spending more time in a marina wasn’t appealing but there were no suitable anchorages within reasonable sailing distance, so a marina it was to be.

Palmarina turned out to be the most expensive so far for us at €77 for one night, and that didn’t include water & electricity!. The marina has been bought by an Azeri oil billionaire and is in the process of being transformed into a swanky megayacht marina. Atmospheric lighting, swaying palm trees and hugely expensive shops and restaurants line the quay. They seem to have got the basics far wrong though. The brand-new marble showers look the part, but there are no locks and only one changing cubicle for 3 showers. Big fail! On the plus side, we had a lovely birthday meal ashore, and we finally managed to get our Blue Card so we’re almost legal in Turkey!

On Wednesday 12th June we had a 21 mile passage south to Bodrum. There’s a huge marina here but, thankfully, there is also a large anchorage right under St. Peter’s Castle which suited us just fine. Bodrum is a small but busy town with a nice atmosphere. We wandered the streets, shopped a bit (& I finally found a handbag that met with my approval – happy birthday to me!) and visited the castle.


St Peter’s Castle was built by the Knights of St.John back in the 15th century and defended Bodrum up until World War 2. Now it is a fascinating museum, housing the Museum of Underwater Archeology amongst a whole host of other exhibits. Well worth it!
A prototype Ipad

A prototype Ipad


Crusader graffiti

Crusader graffiti


The BIG downside to Bodrum is the noise. It’s lovely and peaceful bobbing around during the day watching the world go by. But, come nightfall, the place is transformed into decibel hell. Not only is there the wall of music coming across the bay from the Halikarnas Club, which claims to be the loudest in the Eastern Med, there are nightclub vessels weaving through the anchorage until dawn, pounding out music loud enough to make our decks vibrate. Still, we liked the place enough to stay 2 nights…ear plugs are essential kit though!

All provisioned up, we departed Bodrum and headed into the wilderness of the Gulf of Gökova for a week. The gulf is almost 50 miles long and has umpteen choices of hidden anchorages along its shores. The weather was settled, with a breeze during the day and stillness and calm by night. We had a fantastic relaxed time just chilling, with a little bit of swimming, wine drinking, reading and cribbage/scrabble/rummikub thrown in for good measure. Sadly, we never did have an anchorage completely to ourselves but there is still plenty of room to go around.

For anyone that may be interested, the anchorages that we spent time in were:

English Harbour (in Degirmen Buku) 36°55′.35N 028°09′.4E – gorgeous and incredibly well-sheltered. Apparently, the Special Boat Service were based here during the war, hence the name.

Akbük Limani 37°01′.7N 028°05E – a large, deep bay with 2 restaurant jetties at the head. We moored on the Doğa Restaurant jetty and ate ashore. Free water & electricity, ok meal, very helpful staff. 2 mini markets for limited provisions. Nice swimming.

Sakli Koyu (East Creek) 36°52′.02N 28°02′.9E – another fantastic, sheltered anchorage where we tied a line ashore…watched by a turtle!

Mersinçik 36°45′.11N 27°28′.9E – no room in the small cove on the NW corner of the bay so we anchored close in. The weather was settled so we were ok, wouldn’t be good in a blow though. V peaceful and…PT caught a sea bream 🙂 !

English Harbour

English Harbour


Akbuk Limani

Akbuk Limani


East Creek

East Creek


Mersincik

Mersincik


We’ve now rounded the headland at the western end of the Datça peninsula and we’re meandering around the Gulf of Hisarönü, getting ready to pick up our first guest of the summer at Orhaniye.

Summer has really started now and as we go south, there are more and more boats on the water. We’re moving into the busiest area of Turkey, cruising-wise that is, and it’ll be interesting to see what we make of it. In the two and a half weeks since we arrived here, we’ve been unable to stop ourselves from making comparisons with Greece. Which do we prefer? The jury’s still out. Watch this space!

Duckwatch

7 Jun

You know how parents behave when the child who has wandered off returns?

The relief of discovering that Little Johnny is OK and has come to no harm is juxtaposed with anger and frustration towards the child for putting the parent through the stress and anxiety. “Don’t you EVER do that again!”, the parent yells, whilst simultaneously squeezing the breath from the errant mite with a hug to reassure both.

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Well, it seems that this kind of parenting also happens in the duck world.

There is a family of ducks – mum, dad & 3 offspring – living in Ormos Kamari on Chios. Their ducky antics were the source of entertainment for yachties and locals alike. One morning, as I sat in the cockpit, both parents and one sprog went by at speed and proceeded round the perimeter of the bay, paddling at a rate of knots in and out of the rocks. There was no sign of the other two youngsters.

Suddenly a frantic quacking came from the other side of the bay. From an olive grove just back from the water’s edge came the two missing ducks, waddling as fast as they could and calling loudly to the rest of the family. The search party did a handbrake turn and, paddling like fury, they headed across for the joyful reunion. The theme from ‘Chariots of Fire’ was playing in my head. Aaah!

And then it all came to a screeching halt. Instead of fondly embracing the poor duck-o-lescents and welcoming them back into the flock, Daddy Duck (or was it Mummy?) launched into an abusive tirade and jumped on the back of one of them, held it under the water until it eventually fought it’s way to the surface spluttering and quacking remorse.

The youngsters having been shown the error of their ways, Ducks Reunited headed off for breakfast with only a few ruffled feathers.

It’s never easy being a parent, is it?!