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. 

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