Saturday, 18 January 2014

Winter wrap

We've begun discussing routes for the next cruising season, or should I say seasons, because once we leave Turkey in May we'll keep going. No more winter hiatuses.

Leafless in Labranda

This is a good thing. My brain has slowed down in an alarming way.
"Hope the marina isn't getting too boring," Bridget writes.
I tell her no.
And then I wonder if some kind of marina rot hasn't set in because there are many days when I am happy here, when it's enough to make a pot of soup, bike to the bakery (so much good bread in Turkey once you know where to look), sit in the bright light of the cockpit stitching my tapestry, trade village news, read a book and, of late, do a bit of yoga.
Alex's days are a variation of the above, though they appear more productive because they involve pulling apart whatever section of the boat attracts his interest at the time. After last night's skippers' "de-stress" meeting at Yacht Marine, when one of our number talked us through a disaster scenario titled How NOT to cross the Atlantic in 31 days, I ought to be more grateful for every hour he spends on boat maintenance. Fundamentally though, Alex is keeping himself amused until the season changes. Just as I am.

Early spring bulb - a wild anemone - at Iassos

Boat girl's bag - crochet and recycled bottle-tops
It's a quaint, small life we lead here, mellow to the point of almost turning. It's not for everyone, and I understand why the vast majority of people who cruise in the Med don't even consider staying with their boats over winter. Those of us who do each have our own story. Alex and I are further from home than anyone else here, but distance doesn't seem to matter much in terms of the decisions people make about whether to go or stay. We know French and British liveaboards who haven't been home for years. Americans too. As far as they're concerned, they ARE home, on their boat. Whatever they've left behind can stay behind.

For a brief moment, we considered staying the whole winter in Marmaris on board Enki. We would break it up with a few trips, and save a whole lot of money even so. But things changed in a heartbeat - literally - when Alex learned that he was about to become a grandfather, for the first time. Baby Nemeth is overdue by a couple of days now, so we're checking our email a lot.

We'll be back in Sydney soon after the birth. We leave Marmaris at the end of January, and we'll be gone two months. On the way home, we're diverting for a few days to Berlin. We'd like to see the rest of Pergamon, the parts which the German archeologists hauled away and installed on Berlin's Museum Island. Alex hasn't been to Berlin since the Wall came down. I was last there in 2006, with Sabina. I'd like Alex to see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It changed her life, and in a much smaller way, mine too.

Perhaps before we pack up here, we'll manage one more day trip out of town.  Last week we were in Bodrum to visit friends Jane and Dave and on our way home - yes, Enki is home too - we stopped by a couple of lesser-visited ancient sites. Both offered revelations of a kind.

Grazing rights at Iassos

The council debating chamber at Iassos, with agora behind

The floor was beautiful in its day

The agora of Iassos (above), at the end of the fishy-green Gulluk gulf, was so much more idyllic than we could have imagined. We'd anchored off the village in August but left in disgust without venturing ashore.

On top of Labranda's highest temple

The grand staircase at Labranda

The riven rock, with spring below
At Labranda, a terraced sanctuary built high in the mountains behind the provincial town of Milas (ancient Mylassa), we found a wide set of royal steps to rival any in Rome, and a vast expanse of temples to Zeus. The attraction of the place is obvious -  a hanging rock, split in two as if by a sky god. A spring pushes out from the bottom of the rock. Further up the hillside, more massive rocks which make for natural fortifications.

Apparently, people have been coming to Labranda to worship their gods for thousands of years. Most of what we saw was built in the 4th century BC by the brothers Mausolus and Idreus, who belonged to a phenomenally wealthy Carian dynasty which governed over these parts on behalf of the Persians. When Mausolus died, his widow (and sister) built him a monumental tomb which was known as the Mausoleum. It has long since been destroyed, but words, it turns out, are more durable than stones.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Mutlu Yillar

The sun goes down on 2013
This is the time of year when the blog gets sleepy. We're hibernating here in Marmaris. Alex plugs away at boat jobs which, if it keeps him happy, keeps me happy too. He gets a real kick out of making things work, or work better. In my less amenable moments I wonder when it was that I agreed to live in a workshop, but hey, this boat's plenty big enough for me to find a corner to park myself even when every floorboard (okay, the sole for those of you who speak marine lingo) gets lifted during a day.

Hostess in the galley - NYE table setting
The self-help extends to the fun department too. On New Year's eve, not to be out-done by Sydney and London, Marmaris town council put on a credible fireworks display. Alex did too, in his own fashion. "I didn't make a fool of myself, did I?" he asked when we got back to the boat from that den of iniquity, Sailors Corner. Of course not. Snake-hips, one of the onlookers murmured as Alex powered through his sixties playlist. He had the dance floor largely to himself, but does that ever matter? I think most of those who held back had joint envy. Back? What back? When it's good, it's very very good, but when it's bad etc. Sorry not to have photos of the dancing queen.

On a more serious note, we now have a straight mast. You might think this was a pre-rerequisite for a sailing vessel such as ours, but for reasons we have yet to fully fathom, Enki was specced with unduly loose forestays. The slackness in them has always bothered us. To deal with it, we've sailed her these past two seasons with quite a lot of tension on the backstay, but that's put too much bend in the mast for a furling mainsail and, on the two occasions we've crossed the Aegean in robust winds and short, choppy seas, produced a disconcerting amount of groaning on the mast step (the mast is deck-stepped for those who want to know). 

Straightened mast

This week Alex called over Mustafa of M2 riggers, acknowledged as the best in town. He prescribed the chop. His boys removed the forestays, took 10 cm off the front one and 7 cm off the inner, and put them back up again. They installed new Sta-lock cones in the rigging, and while the whole lot was on the dock, cleaned and serviced both furling drums.

Laying out the forestays on K pontoon

Pushing in a new Sta-lock cone after cutting off 10cm from the forestay

Marmaris town is built right up to the castle ramparts
On a clear warm day which could easily have passed for summer in Sweden I coaxed Alex off the boat to visit the castle. Our castle, the one we look up at every day from the aft deck of the boat.  It was closed for renovation all last winter and re-opened in October. It's not a massive castle like the ones in Rhodes and Bodrum. Suleyman the Magnificent built it as a base from which to launch his naval assault on the knights of Rhodes in 1552.  The French blew up Suleyman's citdel in World War I, so what's there now is a reconstruction. But it's built on ancient foundations. Herodotus, the Greek historian, maintained that people had been living on this spot since 3000 BC. In ancient times, the town was known as Physkos and was part of the Rhodian empire. That's Turkey. Layer upon layer, empire upon empire.

Natural fortress

Low season traffic,  from the castle top

Inside the castle's small musuem are a few really nice bits and pieces from the once-powerful trading city of Knidos, at the end of the Datca peninsula,  Among them is this lovely Grecian marble head which brought to Alex's mind Jane, the daughter of friends Tim and Nola.

The most famous marble of Knidos was a stand-alone Aphrodite, the first life-size representation of the female nude. She didn't survive into the modern era, although she inspired many copies which did. Sculpted by the 4th century BC Greek sculptor Praxiteles, the Knidos Aphrodite was reputedly so luscious that one delusional sod locked himself in the temple overnight so he could have her to himself. Or so they say. We had the Marmaris castle to ourselves, but only for educational purposes.

Mutlu Yillar (Happy New Year)....