Monday, 27 August 2012

Better than...

So here's where the blogger meets her match. Everything is going swimmingly. What more is there to say? Who, if they're honest, is interested in the detail of other people's summer holidays? Just show us the pictures, you say, and skip the babble.

OK. This is the water beneath our boat. Unedited. No enhancements. Dull, isn't it?

And here's Enki (smack in the middle of the photo below) anchored just outside the harbour entrance of Bozburun, a devilishly appealing small fishing and boat-building town tucked deep down on the Hisaronu Peninsula, about 60 km south of Marmaris by road.

Bozburn, on approach
We went ashore to eat, and bought a small rug from a man who threw a bite-sized fish from his catch to a cat which looked like Po. Isn't that the way things go on holiday? We liked the easy pace of life in Bozburun, or what we could gauge of it on a hot August night under a crescent moon.

Comfort on a boat is a grand thing
Drinks on the balcony
Backgammon players
After a week "out", we're getting the hang of swimming a line in to shore after we've anchored, and tying it to either a rock or a tree.  Did I mention that the sea is as clean and warm as bathwater? I put a thermometer in a cup of seawater yesterday - 27 degrees.

Here we are (above) backed up against the rocks at Bozuk Buku, a magnificent natural harbour at the tip of what's sometimes called the Loryma peninsula after the ancient city of Loryma which was built all around where we are anchored (if you can make out the flag in the background, it's flying from the ruins of the Loryma citadel). There's plenty of room for everyone in Bozuk Buku  - flotillas of Sunsail yachts which, bizarrely, choose to pack in tightly on the pontoons provided by pop-up restaurants, imperious private gulets which throw LED mood lighting up their masts after dark, the usual pot-pourri of family cruising yachts, look-at-me megamotor yachts with hydraulic lifting platforms for their tenders, and crew smartly uniformed to match - and amongst all this, the liveaboard fishing boats of families whose summer work is feeding those who come in from the sea.

Family campsite at Loryma
We bought a couple of Turkish towels from girls whose smiles couldn't be resisted.  One of them asked if we wanted bread in the morning. Her mother made it, she said. Is the Pope Catholic?

"Something's burning," Alex said when he woke. I'd been out in my kayak, stalking goats at the end of the bay and ruin-spotting. I'd seen the plume of smoke rising from behind Ali Baba's restaurant.  The previous day, I'd watched a woman stoking a wood-fired oven there, while her house-proud husband threw water on an oleander bush. I put two and two together. My girl's mother was baking. "That'll be our bread cooking," I told him. Eat your heart out, Good Living.

In Bozburun, we learned from a couple of old hands of a Saturday market in Datca, about 20 miles west. Needless to say, we were bound for Datca from that point. Smooth water sailing in this gulf is dreamy when the wind's blowing from the right direction. The market didn't disappoint either.

For the next few days, we'll keep doing what we're doing...checking out the anchorages in Hisaronu Gulf and surrounds with a view to designing a magical cruise for our guests, Barb and Andy, who fly into Dalaman airport on Sunday evening. Tonight we're at Keci Buku, near the head of the gulf. A gem of a place, according to Rod Heikell's Turkey pilot. It takes a while to learn the preferences of a cruising guide author - and Mr Heikell (made in NZ), we think, is not fond of night clubs.

For two nights we were anchored, all but alone, in a small sheltered cove he gives just a passing mention to. We won't be spreading the word.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The earth beneath our feet

Sometimes, when your world is closing in on you, you need to walk away. Get a bit of perspective. Or drive away, in this case. I've rarely been so happy to be on the road as I was this past weekend.

The hothouses of Demre
From the road above Kas, looking west
There was no mutiny. Alex was at the wheel of our rental car as we headed towards the south-western corner of Turkey. The troublesome charger had been fixed with a minimum of fuss, and we'd both decided that a road trip to look at marinas in the small towns of Kas and Finike would help us decide where to park Enki and ourselves during the winter months. If that seems like forward planning gone mad, it's not. There are too many cruising yachts in Turkey to leave such matters to the last moment and given that marinas and me are not generally a happy combination, there seemed to be a lot hanging on this particular decision.

On the promenade in Marmaris

Today we signed up to keep Enki for the six months from the end of October at the Netsel Marmaris marina, which is right in the town, and I've binned my heavily pencilled spreadsheet. The wisdom of our decision will be revealed in time, but I don't think either of us realised how important it was to get off the boat for a few days in order to make it.

Hoyran Wedre - small hotel between Finike and Kas

The soothing properties of a fine chutney are well known
We've been in Turkey such a short time that my impressions are surface ones only, but they're strong.  I like the way people treat us, at least here, on the coast in the summer. We are welcome. We are not suspect. Naturally, commerce is our link, but it does not have to be our only link. People seem prepared to give us a little more of themselves than we expect. This charms us. It is also therapeutic. There are more smiles and warm handshakes than I am used to after four months in the Med. My baby steps in the language  - I can say hello, thank you, please -  are noticed by people who themselves speak much better than average English.

Boys in Kas

Saturday market in Finike

This is a country in which ATMs dispense euros, English pounds and sometimes US dollars as well as Turkish lira. People could feel resentful of foreign intrusion, but they seem not to.  They seem to be realists, to be sure in themselves and of themselves. The Turkish flag is everywhere - on huge poles, wrapped around cars, in shop windows.  Its presence doesn't feel overbearing, but joyous. I'm not particularly fond of flags, nor of nationalism, but I don't feel threatened at all by this bright red flag. I saw red satin hanging over a balcony and it took me a second to register that it was not a flag but sheets, or perhaps curtains, hung out to air.

Newspaper stand in Kas

On the way home - home being Enki - we stopped at the ruins of Xanthos and Letoon. I get a real charge out of walking in these ancient places, and even more so when they are not crowded, as these were not. I'm crazily thrilled to think that people who lived two thousand years ago, and more, felt it important to build amphitheatres, that drama and story-telling was that central to their existence, an existence that in Xanthos, for example, was threatened not once, but twice to the point where citizens committed suicide en masse rather than allow themselves to be taken by invading forces.

Amphitheatre at Letoon

Most of Letoon is in pieces

Fragments of a great city - Xanthos
Tomorrow we are going cruising. Truly. If the wind permits, we'll go back to some of the places we missed in our hurry to get here from Bodrum.  It will be enough just to be at ease on Enki for a few days. Then we come back into Marmaris to pick up sister Barb and the Rear-Commodore....or is Vice-Commodore now? These things matter. We want everything to be shipshape when they join us. Enki is on notice, but even she seems to be feeling better in her skin in Turkey. A few of her sister ships are tied up here at Yacht Marina....Sea Cloud, also from Sydney, and Destiny of Scarborough, the HR48 we sailed on last summer when we passed through Marmaris on our boat hunt. They're fine-looking boats, with perspective.

Waiting for the dolmus back to Yacht Marina

Mice security patrol  in a Marmaris chandlery

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Back and forth

I did paddle my kayak around the lovely big bay of Cokertme, and for the rest of that day we allowed ourselves to believe that we were carefree.  Alex had noticed a New Zealand flag on the spreaders of a Canadian catamaran (above). When the gulet squeezed in between us had moved out, I swam over to make conversation - perhaps I could interest them in half a watermelon I hadn't been able to resist buying in Turgutreis? I could, and so we spent a couple of hours chatting with Dick (still a Kiwi after 42 years out of the country) and his Vancouver-born wife Marian who had spent 17 years working and raising kids in an American compound in Saudi Arabia and cruising each summer of those 17 years on this part of the Turkish coast. Interesting people. We haven't had many chance encounters of this sort so far, given the cracking pace at which we've been moving. 

And the pace continues, because in fact we weren't carefree. On the way out of Turgutreis, we'd paid close attention to the amount of charge being put into our batteries while the engine was running - and confirmed what we'd kind of known for a while but been able to ignore because we've been hooked up to shore power far too much. Nothing was happening. This is a bit of simplification, but for those who really want to know I include the next two paragraphs (feel free to skip if boat electrics do not interest you).

When Alex decided that Enki needed bow thrusters (and I am 100% in agreement there), he had to re-think her battery arrangement. Enki's previous owner had made do with a very small (200 amp hours) battery bank for the house batteries which in addition to everything else had to power the windlass. Alex doubled the number of batteries at the back of the boat, and put a couple more at the front which are dedicated to firing up the windlass and the bowthrusters. The Sterling charger which puts current from the alternator into the main battery bank is wired to look first (as they say) at the batteries at the bow. In other words, it's fooled into thinking they are the start batteries (we have another charger which keeps the actual engine start batteries full). Once satisfied that there's enough charge in those bow batteries, it's meant to turn its attention to the house bank which supplies the bulk of our power requirements on the boat. The trouble was, while the engine was charging the bow batteries, it wasn't going any further. We didn't know why, but the upshot of this was we've been running the generator to keep the boat electrics powered - and that, believe me, is NOT a happy situation. Generators, even quiet ones like ours, are only just tolerable. Some people have very strong opinions about generators (i.e. people who have them ought not to be allowed in quiet anchorages).  On top of that, running the engine and not topping up your batteries at the same time is like spending money and not being allowed to take home what you've bought with your hard-earned cash. It's humiliating. 

So, there we were, at Cokertme, trying to fool ourselves that we were at the start of our Turkish cruising, but actually we weren't. We had another boat problem which had to be fixed either by us (for which read Alex) or someone else. That didn't stop us from chilling out in "town" that evening. Cokertme is a tiny summer place, with four beachside restaurants which compete for your custom by sending out envoys in fast boats who race to help you with your shore line when you come in to anchor (you can also choose to tie up at their jetty if you wish). We were helped by a charming boy from the restaurant Orhan, so that's where we ate. Such a hardship, as you can see.  I chose my fish from a fridge (ignoring the flies which popped out as the lid was lifted). Its eyes were bright, as bright as mine. I am hoping like crazy that there will be more of these hardships around the corner. 

The next morning Alex systematically investigated outputs and inputs (that kind of thing), and I noted voltage and ampage, and to cut a long story short, by 3 pm we'd pulled up the anchor and were motoring back towards Bodrum into a muscular meltemi wind and against fighting seas. Bang, bang. There was a Sterling specialist in Marmaris. We needed him. Damn.

If this is all sounding drearily familiar, fear not. It gets much better. 

I don't have any pictures, sadly, but you are going to have to believe me when I say that the next day - Monday - was a day to make all the troubles we've had on Enki worth enduring. What a sail. What a ride. I've talked about Enki's great performance in light winds, but her performance in strong breezes is a blast. She's a big powerful boat, exhilarating to drive, very responsive to Alex's sail trimming and to the wheel, so smooth across the water, so solid in the water, and yes, so fast. 

We left early from Bitez, a beach suburb just west of Bodrum (how is it that a beautiful waterfront at 7.30 pm is a pulsating, neon-lit, crazy beat place by 11 pm? Even the hi-fi muezzin couldn't compete with the clubs on the shoreline). Initially we were thinking of stopping at anchor another night, but a phone call from our man in Marmaris asked us to come as quickly as we could. Ramadan ends this weekend, and the marine electrician was going on holiday. Huh? We hadn't even thought about Ramadan. 

So we sailed across the seaway from Bodrum to Kos again, rounded the tip of the Datca peninsula and didn't stop at Knidos (though many others did - Turkey in August, we're learning, is very busy on the water), but continued along this extraordinary coastline, with its steep weather-beaten hillsides, worn as bald as an old beast's hide. We didn't think to pull out the camera - dazzled by the light, by the barren, heavily-etched skyline, and in love with the constant wind from the west which pushed us along at a reasonably steady 7 to 8 knots, and sometimes more.

At Simi, the Greek island which some say is the most beautiful they know but which is now out of bounds to us for another three months, we turned right, and slid down its nude west coast, opting against the narrow channel at the bottom of the island but going right the way down to the Rhodes channel and then pushing up towards the Marmaris peninsula.  That's when we decided not to stop where we'd thought we would. We'd go a little bit further up the coast to give us a good start in the morning and reach Marmaris by midday. It was then about 5 pm, and the wind looked as though it had not much left in it for the day. Alex turned on the engine. We had 16 miles to go until the next viable anchorage. 

About 20 minutes later, as I was watching a stream of gulets making for the entrance of Bozuk Buku, and trying to pick out from the general ruinous rockiness the ancient citadel of Loryma which draws the crowds, the wind began to build again. And it built, and it built. 

We thundered along, glad for the first time in a long time of our hard top. Enki took a lot of water over her topsides. The wind wasn't cold, though looking back today at the barometer readings, which I took but didn't process,  there was probably a front passing over us. When we reached the proposed anchorage, it looked full (I was feeling for Mary and Joseph at this point) and very small. So we made for Marmaris, another 12 miles away. It wasn't a difficult decision - Enki could have kept sailing all night like this - though we came into the marina in the dark, which is not something I'd recommend. We had been to Marmaris Yacht Marina once before, last June, when we were looking for boats, so it wasn't entirely unknown, and fortunately, at 9 pm, there was still help available from the marina staff. We were guided into the travel lift dock for the night.  Here we are on the morning after. 

I can't say we're happy to be here. That'd be a lie. Marinas are like institutions - you check yourself in voluntarily, but somehow it's always much harder to leave than you expect it to be. I don't live well in marinas,  ever. Some people choose to stay for years on end. I don't understand that. As Alex says, a boat in a marina is a different thing from a boat at anchor. One is a caged beast, the other a free one. But we've been dealing with an excellent marine electrician who's looking after our charging problem, and cross fingers, it seems much simpler than we imagined. A loose nut on the back of a large fuse holder, a belt which isn't the right size. We're waiting for new belts now. They're coming from Izmir. Sounds exotic, doesn't it? So I am trying to be less manic about the marina.

The Russian boats here tell a story of a changing world. So do huge strutting power boats, ships really, with shove-it-up-you names like The One, and Forty Love.  Imagine if they had a charging problem. Game over. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Border crossing

Things got even wobblier on Enki after we left Patmos, by which I don't mean that the mast started groaning again and a mainsheet block exploded as Enki went through a jibe too fast off the end of Kalimnos island, its jagged plastic edges ripping through the mainsheet for good measure.

No, those things are relatively straightforward to deal with if you've got a head as cool as Alex's.

What's more difficult is when his crew, his only crew, a woman he thought was solid for a few years at the very least, self-implodes in the Kos marina. "What are we doing here? What is life about? What does all this mean?" When you're caught out in an existential gale, even a cockpit with a hard top isn't going to give you enough shelter.  So for Alex, the relief when it blew over was much greater than the relief of having thought to buy two new blocks in Piraeus (just in case), and having a spare length of Spectra rope on board long enough to replace the shredded mainsheet.

Before normal broadcast resumes, a short explanation of where the gale came from. I'm not a hedonist by nature. I like working towards a goal,  I get a buzz out of achievement,  I enjoy the satisfaction of contributing to....well, whatever. My family, a better world. All very worthy stuff.  I think people now call this being engaged.  Living on a boat isn't a very good fit with any of the above.  It's the ultimate in disengagement, actually.

Doing lunch on the Kos quay
An Australian we met in Kos told me, neither originally, nor with any particular degree of insight, "we're about the journey not the destination" (his journey that day began in a hurry and almost ended when a mooring line tangled around his propeller). I'm more of a destination person. I'm trying to be a journey person, but I am off to a shaky start. Hoping to get steadier on my feet. To live on a boat as we're doing, you need to know that it's ok just to be happy. Period.  Live and let live. Do no harm. Sounds facile, doesn't it? To someone as conditioned as I am to justify my existence, it's as complicated as anything I've ever attempted.

Now this is complicated - a 55 ft X boat comes into Kos marina with a broken mast

Back to the journey.

Marina staff at Kos
We went to Kos from Patmos to check out of Greece. Now's the time to come clean on our visa status. Because of the delays in Port Napoleon, compounded by delays in Italy because of our engine troubles,  by the time we left Syracuse we had over-stayed our three-month Schengen visa. (For those who don't know about Schengen, it's an agreement which restricts non-EU nationals to staying in the zone - which covers almost all of Europe, excluding the UK and Croatia - to 90 days in every 180. It doesn't work very well for cruising yachts, but we're caught up in it like everyone else.)

Patrol boat on the quay at Kos

But families are what the summer is all about

5 Euros for 2 sunbeds - close of business
We weren't sure we'd be allowed into Greece, but as a Greek girl we met in Messina said, with a broad smile, "Ah, the Greeks won't worry". And sure enough,  they didn't.  In Zakinthos, no-one asked us any awkward questions, and we figured they were probably more interested in our custom then in keeping Brussels onside. Who knows. But just to be safe, we hurried through Greece.

Life in the slower lane

We stayed three nights at the Kos marina however. The gale stalled us, and we needed time to clean up, to reset the mood. We wandered into Kos which is full of beachgoers in August, but the bicycles and the bikinis, the beach toys and the big boys' toys don't detract from the splendour of the fortress built by the Knights of the Order of St John (the Crusaders) in the 16th century. They built another one across the water in Bodrum, and thus controlled the seaway. It survived a huge earthquake last century which toppled the remaining ruins of the Greek agora (market). 

The immigration office in Kos is on the quay where ferries come and go continuously between Turkey and Greece. We went there late in the day for an early departure the next morning, armed with paperwork to support our case. A Turkish girl was flirting with the boys behind the window. She had a pile of passports to be stamped, probably belonging to passengers on a gulet, a Turkish charter boat. She was smoking beneath the non-smoking sign.  The immigration officer who took our passports seemed to be on cruise control. He stamped one. Then he opened the second, and paused. He began flicking through the pages. "When did you come to Europe?". I answered truthfully, "In April." He paused again, then reached for his stamp. We took them casually, chatted to the boy next in the queue who told us his brother was emigrating next week to Perth. We didn't want to linger, but neither did we want to stick around. We were Out. Out of Greece. Out of Schengen. Off to Turkey and a clean start.

That's Turkey over there
And here we are, in a bay east of Bodrum called Cokertme, anchored the Turkish way i.e. with a line taken from the stern to the shore (that's a complicated manoeuvre, unless a small boy in a boat touting for your restaurant custom happens along to help you). We cleared in at Turgutreis, a big swanky marina with two out of three big power boats flying the Stars and Stripes, all registered in Delaware, which must be some kind of scam since they seem to be Turkish-owned.

Delaware Avenue

Made in Turkey - marina shopping

We've got our Turkish transit log safely tucked away with our yacht registration papers, and sorted ourselves yet again with local internet and phone connections. The weather is fine. No gale warnings. The barometer is steady, and humidity high. Time to get the kayak off the boat.