2003 – DARTMOUTH TO TURKEY
Chapter 4 - Towards Kemer"………………
Of shoes and ships-and sealing wax-
Of cabbages-and kings-
Of why the sea is boiling hot-
And whether pigs have wings."
Our arrival in the Aegean seemed to signify another milestone. We were now back in holiday country, sharing the sea with big charter fleets and competing for places in crowded harbours. Nevertheless the crowded parts seemed to engender a feeling of safety in numbers and we soon found that there were ways of finding more sea room. We had heard reports of stronger than usual northerlies during 2003 so we plotted a route down the east coast of the Peloponnisos which we hoped would avoid the worst of it.
Vahti, Methana is a pretty little harbour whose best feature is a free shower in a shrubbery. One swims around in the harbour mouth, hauls oneself out on to the quay and nips off into the bushes for a quick wash down and rinse off in a very satisfying stream of cool water. The tavernas are nice too.
Our next port was Poros, scene of minor misadventures in previous years. The onshore wind was fresh and the town quay reported to be malodorous so we anchored off in the bay for a few days.
We enjoyed re-visiting Ermioni and from there we anchored for the night off Kiparissi before making our way further south to the storm damaged marina at Monamvasia.
There we encountered the most incompetent piece of boat handling seen to date; an Italian crew on a charter yacht trying to place themselves alongside the quay. Having finally made it, and with some of us helpful mariners hanging on to various parts of the yacht with deadpan expressions, the crew found that they had omitted to prepare any warps. It took some time for these to be untangled and then only the shouting, gesticulating skipper had the slightest idea where or how to secure the inboard ends. The most interesting aspect of all this was the crew's apparent total lack of apprehension or embarrassment.
On the other hand we also met David and Pauline. David had been snorkelling in the harbour, fishing we were told, when my reading glasses fell out of my top pocket and into the drink. With one smooth movement David retrieved the glasses and we invited them both on board for an aperitif. In their mid thirties and fairly new to sailing they have bought a Sadler 32 in which to cruise the Mediterranean for five years. They have rented out their house in Hull and spent the previous winter in Kalamata receiving much practical help and advice from the live-aboard community. We found them a charming and unassuming couple that we would have been pleased to spend more time with. We wanted to ask: but what about making your way materially, career development, promotion; what about pensions? There are so many interesting people with a different take on life.
On our second evening we dined ashore and set sail on the dot of midnight bound for north-west Crete. We had a good passage, dodging much shipping east of Cape Malea, and tied up in a fisherman's berth in Chania harbour thirteen hours later. The cross winds were brisk and the vacant berths on the yacht quay were obstructed by taught lines stretched from the bows of boats fortunate enough to have secured a place already. Eventually we managed to negotiate a berth next to a Frenchman with no fingers on one hand bound for Madagascar. He had reached Crete from the south of France in eleven days and was due to call next at Port Said.
Chania with winds
We had a busy social life in Chania. Our friends Jean and Joel flew in from France for two weeks' holiday and brother Martin and sister-in-law Sue were nearby.
Chania at peace
Mags has known Jean since hockey playing days and they have kept closely in touch, Jean being a witness at our wedding twelve years ago. She does not rate herself as much of a sailor but is now married to Joel who is a most energetic crew man with many relevant boating skills. He is an excellent cook, an accomplished helmsman, no-one is more agile when leaping ashore and he can turn his hand to a variety of delicate maintenance tasks.
With our friends Jean and Joel
Joel is not a fluent English speaker and I speak less French. Nevertheless we spent hours under the awnings of tavernas during the heat of the day sipping cooling beers. Our women observed our contentment as we offered each other profound thoughts on the world in general and our lot in particular but they remarked that it was doubtful whether either of us had much of a clue what the other was talking about. They may have been right but we enjoyed ourselves.
Martin and Sue were visiting their newly completed house in Gavalochori, about forty minutes' drive to the south-east of Chania, not far from Souda Bay. It was felicitous that we could time our visit to coincide with the handing over of the keys and Martin's sixtieth birthday. We all feted the birthday boy and Mags and I visited the house, which had clearly been finished to a very good standard and within budget. Great satisfaction all round.
With Martin and Sue on the terrace at their new house
There was much less satisfaction at the presence of a mouse on board. He quickly got into his stride, nibbling the corners off long life milk and fruit juice cartons and burrowing in among our favourite biscuits. Jean was less than impressed when he left his droppings among her clean underwear and Mags deplored his decision to remove nest lining material from the interior of her duvet, particularly as it was clear that he had dirty teeth. After some research we discovered the Greek word for mousetrap and, with difficulty, found a mousetrap shop. All to no avail. He was one of those light fingered mice who take the cheese and steal off unscathed. We never did catch him but came to realise some weeks later that he had abandoned ship.
While waiting for Martin and Sue to arrive we visited Rethymnon down the coast but found it not at all to our liking. We scurried back to Chania where we acted as an unpaid dredger for the harbour authority, dropping our anchor smack on to a foul and barnacle-encrusted motor tyre. We had to let go our lines, bring the anchor home, haul the stinking tyre on deck and start all over again. Only a small adventure.
When we finally headed east we visited two small ports, Panormos and Milatos where we were the only visiting yacht. Both are pleasant but Milatos has a rock in the entrance about 1½m below the surface and not mentioned in Heikell. We touched that and got our cable round a second. Another little fandangle but no great problem.
We had a decidedly brisk sail to Elounda at the southern end of Spinalonga lagoon where we found ourselves in among crowds of holidaymakers again for a couple of days.
Heading towards Elounda
Fearing strong winds that were forecast for later we set off before dawn to arrive in Agios Nikolaos before the wind. We were successful in this and enjoyed our two day stay in spite of having to part from Jean and Joel. We were shooting the breeze in the cockpit at 2300 the first night when the wind arrived. We had to fight hard to keep the big awning under control as we took it down. At 0300 with the rigging howling we ran another line to the quay and were impressed to see the marina manager checking the warps of all the boats in his charge. We recorded 44 knots on our instruments and found out later that the crew of a large yacht along the mole had reported a gust of 56 knots. When I got back to England I learned from Yachting Monthly that Rod Heikell had visited the marina a couple of months before us and given the manager a good write up with a mug shot. Very well deserved in our opinion.
We had the best of our longer sails on passage from Agios Nikolaos to Fethiye in Turkey - about 200 miles with very little motoring until the breeze died as we entered Fethiye Korfezi. We tied up in the new marina on Friday evening 13th September and spent Monday morning clearing into the country. The various offices are close by and provided the five relevant officials are visited in the correct order there is little problem or hassle. Once one is in receipt of a properly stamped transit log officialdom appears relatively relaxed in Turkey.
A superb sail from Crete to Turkey
Old friends John and Beatrix Laughland live in a village nearby. Years ago John worked in the same office as brother Martin but following a family tragedy he sold up, bought a well fitted Rival 34 and sailed off towards the sun. He spent several years pottering about the Mediterranean on his own but eventually met Beatrix, a clever and talented German lady, and settled in Turkey. They have lived for several years in a delightful cottage in Kaya Köy and let a second cottage to discerning holidaymakers. A more recent project is the opening of the Ancient and Royal Kaya Croquet Club, the leading (only?) venue for the sport in Turkey. The lawn is immaculate, the pavilion is gracious, and the equipment is from the leading British supplier. Each week during the season John provides good sport while Bea lays on wonderful food for the participants. Players come from all over the world. Dress is white, and certificates of competence and sobriety are issued at the end of the evening. Read more about it at www.croquetworld.com/News/turkey.asp.
What a lovely machine!
We had some good times with John and Bea. They took us to lunch at a simple restaurant in the market. The thing to do here is to buy fresh fish from the large market stall and take it to the restaurant to be cooked and served with a salad, washed down with several beers. Good food at very reasonable prices.
In the market with John and Bea
On another occasion we picked up an eccentric Welshman, his Dutch lady friend and her sister, piled into John's ancient ship's lifeboat and puttered off at two knots to the restaurant on Fethiye Adasi at the mouth of the bay. The lifeboat and its engine are somewhat reminiscent of The African Queen and, come to think of it, John could pass as a Lancastrian Bogey. We were the only customers for lunch and were given every attention. Afterwards the women swam and beached while the men exchanged tales of derring-do, news of great business opportunities and extravagant gossip about the Royals while knocking back tin.... after tin…. after tin. Disgraceful.
Puttering off in John's lifeboat
We dragged ourselves away and sailed east to Kalkan and thence to the new marina at the head of Bucak Denizi to the west of Kas. There is a bit of a walk to the town but it is quiet.
Next to Gekova Roads where we anchored in the lagoon off the village. A fast road now passes a few kilometres to the north and the village is changing. It is still most attractive though.
Our penultimate port of call was Fineke, which was new to us. This has a fine modern marina and a good boatyard highly regarded by those who berth there over the winter. We bumped into Alan, a world girdler who had kindly shown us over his Beneteau 44CC in Fethiye the previous year. He introduced us to a good little restaurant favoured by the locals.
Finally, we reached Park Kemer marina on 25th September. We arrived among a stream of gulets, awash to the gunnels with exuberant holidaymakers, marshalled by marina Joker boats (the local inflatables) under the supervision of the marina master on the pier head. We were directed into the fuel berth where the man in charge took one glance at the name on our stern, recognized that we were staying for the winter, and made arrangements for us to be shepherded to our berth. We felt at home immediately.
Kemer is an unusual marina under the supervision of the redoubtable Hasan Kaçmaz who, among many claims to yachting fame in Turkey, takes a leading role in the organisation of the annual Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally. During the winter the large live-aboard community keeps itself amused and fit with aerobics, beginners' and intermediate tennis, table tennis, three language classes, visits from a chamber orchestra and trips to the opera in Antalya and places of historical interest. A good time is had by all.
We thought about all this rather enviously while laying up the boat and preparing to meet our commitments back in Europe. We flew home on 1st October.
Mags tidying up the anchor locker
Friends have asked us: what were the best bits? Well, we left on time (almost) and arrived on time after 4000 miles. Getting across Biscay safely gave a sense of achievement, as did dealing with numerous small problems using only our own resources. Arriving in Gibraltar and passing through the Corinth canal were highlights. We had some great sailing, saw some wonderful scenery and watched dolphins and flying fish. But of course the most memorable occasions were those we shared with others; the friends we invited to sail with us and the seafarers and landlubbers we met on the journey. We had wonderful meals in great company and met some remarkably interesting people. We enjoyed ourselves even more than we expected to. We are looking forward to going back in 2004.