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.


  1. any traveller worthy of the name has some shady visa issues in her past!

    now, you know what they say about unasked-for advice - it exists purely for the satisfaction of the giver. But - spectra for halyards but never for sheets, yes? But likely you were just using spectra as a stop-gap and don't normally use it that way. I've read about people on a 47 footer who go farther in their efforts to protect mainsheet blocks and use super-stretchy climbing rope for the traveller.

    And - for people who want to justify their existence while living on boats, how about writing books?

    Great post.

    Hello from all.

    1. Quite right - just a stop-gap, but one we're grateful to accept for the moment. Re books - right about that too, but hey, gotta get the head in better shape. Getting there, and glad the skipper has broad shoulders in all respects!

      Hello to you all too, including Joan. Wishing we could send those Tassie viruses into permanent exile. x

  2. Have rented out our house in Hobart, huge job!!!so sad pushing the boys finally out of the nest. Back in the marina at Mooloolaba and noticed a yacht for sale exactly like Kukka. Enjoy your trip, as you know love love reading your updates while we sit quietly in the marina. Much love, Ange & John xx

    1. That's big news! Well done, and remember, you'll always miss them but you won't stop being their mum, and vice versa. What's next?? Are you heading north at all this season? So good to hear you are back on the boat again, both of you. x

    2. Well I can tell you for certain she is not Kukka. Good people, Wendy is a constant visitor to your blog and keeps me up to date on your goings on. We havn't moved on board the K boat yet but she is well used, much loved and most definitely not for sale. Bestest to you both. Andrew B

    3. Hello Andrew and Wendy - nice to know that Kukka is treasured. We definitely haven't forgotten that lovely boat, talk of her often. There's a Kukka lookalike right opposite us in the Marmaris marina. Not so many Malos around even in the Med, but saw a gorgeous 45 in Piraeus. all the best, Diana