Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece

6/15/2008

By Liz Tosoni

Fethiye Bay, Southwest Turkey
36 49' N, 25 51' E

While Feel Free was tucked in at Marmaris Yacht Marina, Tom and I became friends with Umit and Iclal, a Turkish couple who live and work in Istanbul and have a boat, Altera, which they’ve owned for only a few short months. Being new to boating they were eager to gain experience and absorb every ounce of knowledge available as they have a dream to retire in a couple of years or so and sail away. So eager are they, in fact, that they regularly take the 12-hour overnight bus to Marmaris from Istanbul to spend the weekend on their boat, sail like crazy, and then return to Istanbul on another 12-hour bus ride, to their jobs on Monday. They’re bundles of energy and enthusiasm and we all had lots of fun together.


We met Umit and Iclal at Marmaris Yacht Marina

The first time we met, on the early (0730) “walk and talk” hike up the hill from the marina, it was instant friendship. After the hike, Iclal spontaneously issued an invitation to us and Graham and Karen on Red Herring: “Let’s have breakfast together! Please come to our boat. We have much to talk about.” Yachtie style, we all brought something to share and Turkish breakfast (feta cheese, olives, bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fruit) and easy camaraderie ensued. When it was time for the annual Istanbul Boat Show trip sponsored by the Marina owner, Tom and I signed up (along with 180 other marina dwellers) and booked a hotel for our stay. Of course we contacted Umit and Iclal to let them know, hoping they’d have some time to spare for us. “You have to stay with us and the longer, the better. Cancel your reservations!” was their immediate response. And so we did enjoy their warm hospitality once again while visiting the grand, historic city.

 


Enjoying the warm hospitality of Umit and Iclal in Istanbul

Leaving a port we’ve gotten to know for new lands has always filled us with mixed emotions. Departing Marmaris was no exception. We were leaving behind new and old friends we weren’t sure we’d ever see again, as well as a people and culture we’d grown fond of. We’ve come to almost dread the good-bye stage at the end of a long stay, but thankfully, we always take away with us memories as deeply etched as inscriptions on ancient rockwork. Douglas Bernon said it well in one of his Cruising World essays in his “Log Of Ithaka” column: “Cruising gives so much, and yet it also takes away. When friends say good-bye, a shadow always blankets the soul. The high price for affection is loss, but mercifully, love fills an internal account, a bank of memories we can draw against as we go forward into the unknown.”

It was sad to say farewell to friends such as Ray and Brenda of Sunchaser, seen here on the Bosphorus during our Istanbul visit

After tending to the usual checkout procedures, visiting Customs, Immigration and Harbor Master officials and doing one last stock-up of beautiful in-season fruits and vegetables – such as succulent strawberries and juicy oranges, apples, spinach, purple cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers -- we made our farewell ritual. The next morning we were off on a blowy Ides-of-March dawn, flying reefed main and staysail. The weather gurus had predicted northwest winds of 20-25 knots and we did get that and more during the 26-mile ride to our first anchorage. Feel Free bowled along jauntily with the wind on her quarter as we exited the embracing arms of Marmaris Bay.


Exploring the remains of a 2,000 year old citadel in Bozuk Buku, our last Turkish anchorage

Once outside and heading west, we began sailing hard to weather and it was boisterous. Feel Free loves those conditions, heeled over in the salt spray doing 7 and 8 knots; but her crew was unused to it after a sojourn in a comfortable marina. “This kind of sailing is hard on the nerves,” piped Tom. I felt the same way as the wind backed and veered, strengthened and gusted and the autopilot (Benny) misbehaved. The high mountains gave us katabatic winds or “williwaws” that shifted from 10 knots to 30 knots in a matter of seconds, so there was no relaxing. The motion caused some gear to come loose in the forward cabin, so as we neared our anchorage, I went below to straighten up. A sickening WHAM and shudder came next. What the hell? I bolted topsides, certain we’d hit something very hard. Tom was a whirling dervish trying to find the source of the bang. Was it a log, an uncharted rock? Had the topping lift failed? Was it the rigging? He finally discovered that the reefing line at the clew had chafed away, causing the boom to crash down heavily on the gallows. Not a big deal after all, but it sure scared the socks off us.


Check-in procedures and fuel stock-up were quick and efficient at Simi. Now we were officially in the EU

With the winds steady at 30 knots by then, it was with relief that we dropped sails and set the hook in Turkey’s splendid Bozuk Buku, the site of ancient Loryma, and as it was still winter, we had it to ourselves. Finally relaxing in the cockpit and taking in the surroundings, we could see the remains of the massive castle standing guard with silent stateliness over this deeply indented, well-sheltered bay. Technically speaking, it was illegal for us to be there, as we’d checked out of Turkey, but it was such a convenient stopover en route to the Greek islands. The 30-to-35-knot winds meant we couldn’t get off the boat for a few hours, until they subsided later in the day. Close to sunset we set off in the dinghy to stretch our legs and get a closer look at the ruins of the amazingly intact 2,000-year-old fortress wall overlooking the bay.


The Dodecanese islands of Greece are dry and rocky from seaward. In early spring, cruisers have the place to ourselves

Early the next morning this very impressive final image of Turkey was behind us, and Feel Free set off for the easy 11-mile run to rocky, dry, Simi Island in Greece. The verdant hills of Marmaris, the sparkling domed mosques, the haunting calls to prayer gave way to narrow cobbled streets winding up steep hills, sugar-cube houses with freshly painted shutters in blues, yellows, and pinks, bright white churches ringing bells and monasteries. That’s one of the things I love about cruising: contrast, variety, change. We never fail to be surprised at how different two countries can be, separated by a simple border. Check-in procedures, and fuel and wine stock-ups, were quick and efficient. We were officially in the European Union. We had a “transit log” for Greece, cost: 30 Euro (US$45) good for six months. Harbor fees of 19 Euro (US$39) were paid, and permission for the boat to be in the EU was granted for 18 months. A new chapter had begun. We had two months to play with before our four-month summer jobs back in Canada began. The plan was to go with the wind through the Greek islands, then on to Malta, our haulout destination. We had two months to cover some 800 miles. This meant we didn’t have to rush, and that’s always just fine with me.


Walks ashore revealed a bucolic scene of sheep and goats, few people, verdant pastures and beautiful wildflowers

Because of the high and large land masses close to the sea areas of Greece, it’s difficult to predict what local winds and wind strength will be, but the Greek Meteorological Service does a pretty good job of forecasting and warning of approaching depressions, in Greek and English, on VHF radio. We relied on these regular broadcasts as well as on information from various websites when we were able to get internet access. A Cruising World magazine article by Jimmy Cornell says that the typical Mediterranean sailor “sails mostly short distances and keeps a wary eye on the weather which here can be quite capricious.” Yes, but “capricious” is understating it! During the coming weeks, we were dished a cornucopia of wind and weather situations -- lows, highs, gales, and squalls -- and it would be false to call it pleasure cruising. Sailing was demanding, even tough, and each day brought a different adventure as we sought anchorages that provided good all-weather protection, not always an easy task. It’s ironic that some of the very things that attract you to the cruising lifestyle (contrast, variety, change) are the very things that can cause anxiety. I was not happy with these changeable weather conditions but it’s all in a day’s work. And people laugh when we tell them that cruising is a full time job!


At the Katapola town quay, we just stepped off the boat to grocery stores, bakeries, a bank, tavernas, hotels, and even an internet café at our disposal

The islands of eastern Greece, the Dodecanese, are dry, stark and rocky from seaward, appearing barren and uninviting. Walks ashore, though, revealed a bucolic scene of staring sheep and goats, few people, some verdant pastures, and a profusion of lovely wildflowers. People had told us that the little harbor at Nisiros Island was secure and an easy entrance. When we asked about the depth, the answer was: “No problem.” With our 8-foot draft we’ve become wary of others’ advice, but the harbor looked delightful, the chart showed shallow water but maybe just enough, and we were looking forward to the ambiance of the tiny hamlet so in we went. After bouncing on the bottom a couple of times once inside, we knew it was a “no go” and ended up anchoring further west in a rolly yet secure spot for the winds we were getting (southerlies). Unfortunately, the precariousness of it all made it impossible for us to go ashore.


The beautiful harbor on Amorgos Island, facing west, and the town of Katapola. We planned to spend a week

At Astipalaia, a butterfly-shaped island floating in the blue Aegean with a marvelously landlocked anchorage, there were two large, well-equipped fishing boats from Egypt. Fresh fish -- just what we wanted! When one of the fellows told us they were 70 Euro ($105) per kilo though, we decided beans for dinner would be fine after all. Guess the guy figured that because we were sailing, we were rolling in money, a common assumption. “Isn’t it funny that the last time we got such a ridiculous proposal was when we were in Egypt?” noted Tom. Katapola on beautiful Amorgos Island, population approximately 1,000, in the Cyclades islands, is where we Med-moored to the town quay. There we had the main street at our stern, and we were able to just step off the boat to grocery stores, bakeries, a bank, tavernas, hotels, and even an internet café. We imagined that this safe, deep bay would be home for a week, allowing us to enjoy the sights while a series of low-pressure systems passed through the area.


At Amorgos Island, we explored the spectacular 10th century monastery carved into a sheer-sided cliff

Our first day found us hitching and hiking to the south side of the island to view the spectacular 10th century monastery carved into a sheer cliff face – framed by the sky above and the sea below. We were entertained by the solitary eccentric priest who called this place home, and who’d been here for 40 years. We shared our ouzo home brew and sweets with him and his caretaker. Maintenance is ongoing – on boats and, apparently, in monasteries built into cliffs. The priest told us that falling rocks from the steep cliffs regularly drop on the very spot where we were sitting! We said our polite thank you’s and quickened our pace away from danger!

Our plan for the next day was to visit the historical sights closer to town -- ancient Minoan, Roman, and Byzantine ruins -- and to start immersing ourselves into Greek culture and history. Little did we know that the weather gods had different plans for us, that our plan would be out of the question. The next morning, we had to make a hasty retreat.


Mosaic detail at the monastary
at Amorgos Island