Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The end of certainty

Who needs a holiday?
Enki tied off to the shore at Sarsala, in Skopea Limani

The goat-track off our stern (photo taken from Enki in position above)
When the golden weather came to an end yesterday, I checked back in our ship's log to see when the first big southerly blow hit us last year. I know you won't believe this, the climate being manhandled into delinquency and everyone (including myself) certain that the seasons are all out of whack, but it was on exactly the same date - October 1.

Cloud rolling in from the west

No dodging this one
Autumn caught us off-guard last year. We were at Yesilkoy, just up the coast from Kas, anchored and tied off to shore. Same old same old - brilliant sunshine, flat water, next to no wind. But by early evening, something had shifted. There was weather on the way, as they say at sea. The wind was strengthening and we were on a lee shore, and with boats packed tightly around us. Thunder rumbled and lightning flickered across the mountaintops to the south. The sea rose very quickly and at 2 am we were frantically fending ourselves off the flanks of the neighbouring gulet. "You're dragging," the gulet captain had to tell us.  We'd taken a huge gust on the beam which had dislodged our hitherto unimpeachable Rocna anchor. That's how the summer finished last year. We learned important lessons about Turkish weather patterns and our anchor. Both hold firmly, until they don't.

The boys had great voices, and the mangal (charcoal barbecue)  smelled good too

Cleansing drops
We were better prepared for last night's light and sound show which was more remarkable for its stamina than its ferocious wind speeds, and the rain today....ah, we haven't seen solid rain like this since spring. The Mediterranean doesn't mess around as much with its seasonal mix as we do downunder. When it's summer, you get hot and dry. When winter is around the corner, you get rain and the temperature drops. Simple.

Before the storm, we had a few perfect days in the Gocek gulf, which is properly called Skopea Limani. It was all about the turtles, really. I've loved turtles since our first cruising season in Queensland. They make me smile when they pop their little old man's head out of the water and then flip their bottom up in the air and dive for cover. This year has been a vintage turtle year with regular turtle sightings from Enki and the kayak in anchorages around Gocek and Kas. But the best by far was when I swam with a turtle on the last day of the golden weather.

September 30 began as a marked day - I was thinking about the birth of my daughter 23 years ago, and the funeral of Robyn's mother Alison in Auckland that morning. I was missing my tribe, half a world away. I paddled my kayak along the beach with the olive grove, searching in the weedy shallows for turtles, then came back to the suntrap of our cockpit and read some more of The Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt's clever riff on the ripple effect of Lucretius's epic poem On the Nature of Things. At 3 pm, before the sun fell too low to see well underwater, I went for a last snorkel off the back of the boat. The fish in the gulf this year are more plentiful and varied than I remember them from last year. They're small, granted, and very few are daring in their colours, but they're delightful to float among.

I was swimming along, thinking about how I'd like a better mask (one which doesn't leak and which has magnifying glass), when I belatedly recognised the shape of a turtle's back right below me. A neck and flippers too. He was foraging on a rocky ledge down in the dusty blue, as placid as a cow in a field. I wasn't expecting him there, and he either didn't see me or my looming presence didn't frighten him. He was pushing his nose into the cracks and crevices (what do turtles eat?) and shifting small stones with his back flippers. When he'd done in one watery nook, he pushed on.  I followed him at a distance. I'm not sure how deep the water was, but even with my dodgy mask, I could keep him in sight as he mooched along, diving and then surfacing to exhale, and then diving again. I was mesmerized by the motion of his flippers, the front ones like angel's wings, the back ones like clever little legs.

We kept company for a bit, and after a while I got bolder, and possibly contravened good wildlife practice by getting close enough to touch (I didn't) his firm mustard-yellow under-belly which does, I must admit, look as though it would make very good eating (sorry, vegetarians, and no, I do not want to eat a turtle....).

Eventually, he decided it was time to sink - he stopped moving his flippers, and dropped like a stone down down into the deep deep blue until he disappeared. I was too cold to wait for him to come up again, but I'd had enough. My capacity for pleasure with turtles has peaked. For now.

"Pancakes, bread" - floating stall, mother and son

Yesterday, just before the wind came in, we sorted out the lines attaching us to the official orange buoy we're hanging off (the marine authority's preferred method of mooring in the very deep waters of this gulf). Then I paddled around to the stern and while I was tying off my kayak, Alex leant too far over the bow and put his back out. So we are back in THAT place, where the options we had in the moment before the back went "crack" are no longer options. We will hang off this buoy until he can function again, I'm guessing in five days.

Not again...the man is a glutton for pain

We will enjoy the autumn air which feels so soft and clean, rinsed out by the deluge, and know that whatever we do is gone before we've counted the moments.

The sun rises over Fethiye gulf (and below)


  1. five days....sorry to hear it, Alex. A boat can be a lonely place to be when something like that goes wrong.

  2. Thanks MIke - that's true, but this time we've lucked out. Our friends on Sea Cloud have joined us in this anchorage, and while the barometer took a plunge for a while there (literally and figuratively), it's climbing again.