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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


September is a good month for cruising in Turkey, as the temperature is a little cooler, mostly in the high 20s the sea is still a warm 22-24, and the busier season is over. The weather does start to get a bit unstable though, and as I wrote this we were anchored in Sigacik harbour in a thunderstorm and showers – the first rain in weeks.
From the cruising point of view it’s been very quiet. The only boats we see around are local fishing boats, and a few local cruisers. We rarely find another boat anchored in the same bay, or in fact anywhere nearby, and we’ve only seen two other foreign cruising boats in the last three weeks.
Usually there are small local fishing boats setting their nets or long lines, sometimes alarmingly close to where we are anchored. Once we’ve had to cut away a net from our anchor, and several times have snagged long lines. Here they mostly have wooden boats about 6-8m long powered with small diesel engines and using shaft drive. They rarely have mufflers on their exhausts, so we often hear them working during the night.
Sometimes the fishermen will try to sell us some fish, and hold them up for us to see. They have red snapper here in the Med, which look virtually identical to snapper we catch back in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. When you order fish in a restaurant they charge by the kg and it’s generally about Lire 100 (NZ$70) per kg unfilleted.
After dropping off our daughter Amy, and Diane’s sister Sharon and her husband Doug in Ayvalik, we felt a bit sad staying there so started our journey south towards Bodrum, where we’ll meet Chris in mid-October, and then continue on to Marmaris, about 350NM from Ayvalik. Our plan is to spend a few weeks in the Gulf of Bodrum, which is great cruising, and where we haven’t spent any time since 2007.
Most of the places we will visit during the next few weeks we’ve already been to and covered in previous blogs, so we won’t repeat those details.
Our first stop was Bademli Limani, spending three nights in a great sheltered anchorage with clear water, and just a couple of other local boats.

Typical small fishing boat retrieving a net alongside Envoy anchored in Bademli Limani. In the background is an abandoned resort hotel, one of several nearby

This fisherman is pulling in his longline while Envoy is anchored in Alacati – they come very close

We anchored off Candarli for two days, where they have an impressive 14th century Genoese castle.

We moved on to Foca, where in June we had been in the company of three other New Zealand boats. Now we were the only boat at anchor for the four days there, except for a German yacht one night. Foca is an interesting small town of 15,000 people, and we explored the cobbled back streets away from the fishing boat harbour’s water-front tavernas. We had a meal at a typical basic Turkish café, and each had a plate of rice, eggplant, mince, chicken pieces and potatoes. It was delicious and cost Lire 16 (about NZ$11) each.

Traditional Turkish café in Foca

Antique shop in Foca

Archeological dig on the shoreline in Foca’s harbour

Foca is where the Turkish “Blue Beret” commandos have a training facility, and during the day and into the evening we heard small arms fire as they train.

The Kommandos training centre in Foca

Moving south we spent several nights at Sifne Koyu.
We took a Dolmus (mini-bus) into Cesme, costing Lire 4 (NZ$) per person for the half hour trip. The Dolmus system is great – they have 14 seats but often carry up to about 15 additional people jammed-in standing. Passengers just signal the Dolmus to stop and pick them up, and the driver will drop you anywhere along the route you want to get off.

The Turkish Dolmus (mini-bus) is a great transport system

Laurie finds a small friend while having coffee in Cesme

Kemel Ataturk is loved and revered by the Turks, and every town or village has an “Ataturk Boulevard”

The water in Sifne harbour is beautifully clear

All going well – nothing to report.
LOG (to 19/9/11): 139 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 1,774NM cruised for 365 engine hours

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


As Envoy cruised up the narrow buoyed channel towards Ayvalik a RIB was heading directly bow-on towards us. When it was about 30m away we could see it was a Turkish Coastguard RIB, and the officers were signaling us to slow down. I checked our speed as 5.5 knots, and Envoy doesn’t put up any wake at any speed. We thought that being told off for “speeding” in Envoy was highly amusing, and noticed that Turkish boats traveling much faster with sizeable wakes were not approached by the Coastguard.

A Turkish-style rough and ready beach house near Ayvalik

We had originally planned to cruise about 80NM north from Ayvalik through the Dardanelles to Cannakale to visit Gallipoli, but the gale had not abated so we decided to leave Envoy in the Ayvalik Marina and take a rental car to Cannakale. The marina cost here was Euro 86 (about NZ$148) per day including power and non-potable water. In fact the gale lasted for 11 days, and although the wind in our area only reached about 30 knots, it was stronger in the open sea, and would have been decidedly uncomfortable.

Rough sea in the Dardanelles in a gale. We were pleased to have made the journey by car

The marina staff assisted us with the procedure for clearing-in to Turkey, and took me to visit the Port Police. The officer in charge, who looked very busy on his computer, asked me to come around to his side of the desk to see his screen. He was in fact busy playing a racing car game, and insisted on me watching his (lack of) driving skills for twenty minutes or so.
Back in Turkey we quickly got used to the Muslim calls to prayer again. These last about two minutes and are broadcast from loudspeakers at the top of a mosque’s minaret. They can be clearly heard in most places - the first is at dawn, and the last is two hours after sunset.
Driving in Turkey is always an experience. No notice is taken of speed limits with cars commonly driving 50km/hr or more above speed limits. Nor is there any regard for no-overtaking double lines, and vehicles overtake very dangerously, forcing oncoming traffic to pull over onto the shoulder. As we followed a car along a hilly winding road, we saw a large truck coming towards us on our side of the road overtaking another, forcing the car in front and ourselves to take evasive action. Later we saw a major accident where an articulated truck had lost it’s trailer into a roadside ditch.
We arrived safely in Cannakale and checked into the Hotel Helen – named after Helen of Troy, as Troy is close-by. This was the first time since leaving Marmaris in early May that we’d slept ashore.

This reproduction of Troy’s wooded horse was used during the making of the movie

We had decided to book a day tour of Gallipoli (the Turks call it Gelibolu), and this turned out to be the right decision as we would never have found the various interesting sites by ourselves. Our Turkish guide, Murat, was very passionate and gave moving accounts of great bravery on both sides. He described one incident where a wounded British Captain was moaning with pain in no-man’s land, and nobody could reach him due to the intensity of fire. A Turkish soldier put up a white flag of truce, walked unarmed to the wounded soldier, and assisted him to safety. We were all greatly moved, and then he asked if there were any questions. One insensitive member of our tour group replied, “yes I have one, are there many fish in the sea around here?”

Statue of heroic Turkish soldier rescuing wounded British soldier from no-man's land

Our visit was extremely worthwhile and we were deeply moved by the sites we visited, and the hardships that men on both sides had to endure. It was particularly interesting to get the Turkish perspective of this battle, and the extraordinary ineptitude of the British Command – the first fundamental mistake being landing the Anzacs about one mile north of the intended spot where there were high cliffs instead of the intended quite flat countryside.

Anzac Cove where the ANZAC troops were mistakenly landed by the British

At the time the area was only defended by 160 Turks. Most of them were killed, and the Anzacs reached the high ground on the first day. Due to lack of orders they vacated it to re-supply, and after Turkish reinforcements arrived on the second day they were never to reach it again, except for New Zealanders who later reached the high ground of Chunuk Bair for a couple of days before they were driven back.

Chunuk Bair – the highest ground – was breached only by New Zealand’s Wellington Regiment, and here is a statue of Kemel Ataturk and the memoral to fallen New Zealanders

Total casualties during the campaign were around 500,000, roughly half Turkish and half Allied forces. As Murat phrased it the Turks died in defense of their country, and the British, Australians, New Zealanders (2,721 killed), French and Indians died for nothing.

Memorial to the ANZACS

This battle was the largest that the Turks fought in modern times, and it was the event that put Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the father of the Turks) to the fore as an extremely shrewd commander, who later founded the modern Turkish Republic. Ataturk is still revered by the Turks in a way that’s difficult for us to understand. Every single house and shop has a picture of him. Every village and town has his statue, and an Ataturk street.
The Turks highly respected the ANZACS who fought so bravely and Ataturk penned this famous tribute in 1934:
“To us there us no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets … You, the mothers, who sent your sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom … after losing their lives in this land they have become our sons as well”.

We had a great time back in and around the town of Ayvalik, and nearby village of Alibey, until it was time to farewell our daughter back to London, and Sharon & Doug back to Auckland.

Sharon & Doug, Laurie & Amy in Alibey

On Sharon & Doug’s final night we had dinner ashore, but had difficulty finding a restaurant as it was the public holiday of Ramazan Bayramy -there was a carnival atmosphere and everywhere was full. At one place three musicians were playing traditional Turkish music quiet loudly, and there were several empty tables. We sat down at one, but after a few minutes decided that the music, discordant to our ears, wasn’t for us and moved on to another quieter place, that turned out to be one of the best restaurants we’d been to in Turkey.

Laurie takes Sharon & Doug ashore at Ayvalik to catch the bus to Istanbul

By ourselves again we’re gradually heading southwards.
Nothing to report for a change
LOG (to 1/9/11) 121 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 1,626NM cruised for 333 engine hours.


While doing this posting I’ve also added photos to the last one.
Skyros, the largest and eastern-most isle of the Northern Sporades, proved to be our favorite of the Group. It’s much quieter, and has much of the charm of the Cyclades with older style whitewashed stone houses with blue trim, and the Chora (hilltop village) of Skiro. Here were fewer tourists, and the pace more to our liking.

Skiro’s ancient monastery and castle

We try to avoid mooring in harbours, not only due to the cost and the formalities, but also because we like to swim several times a day, and you mostly can’t do this in harbours. Skyros had a superb bay for anchoring just a few hundred metres from the main harbour of Linaria, and at anchor we could hear bells ringing on the collars of the goats as they foraged for food. Their meat is a delicacy here, and one night ashore in a taverna Doug and I enjoyed a delicious goat casserole.

The picturesque Linaria harbour in Skyros

Another night we had local lobsters and met an English couple who have lived here for 40 years, and he was the lobster fisherman, telling us that in Skyros they catch lobsters using nets rather than pots. In appreciation of us buying his lobsters he bought us a jug of delicious local wine.

We enjoy a dinner of local lobsters - Laurie, Doug & Sharon in photo

There is also a very interesting handcraft shop run by an Austrian lady artist called Monika, and Sharon & Diane found plenty to interest them.

Monika’s quaint handcraft shop in Linaria

From Skyros we had a cruise of about 70NM eastwards to Sigri on Lesvos, taking about 12 hours. The Naiad stabilisers performed well with a 18 knot wind and 1m seas on our beam most of the way. This passage took us across the main shipping route to the Dardanelles, and several times we needed to keep a close radar watch on ships, and make course alterations to avoid them. About 57,000 ships pass through the Dardanelles annually (160 per day) mostly carrying petroleum products.

We had to alter course to allow this ship to pass safely half a mile ahead of us

There is also a current setting south, and at times we needed to steer 15 degrees to port of our required course to compensate.
We spent a couple of nights in Sigri, and while anchored there a large yacht of about 25m anchored with his chain across ours. When we wanted to leave I asked the yacht’s captain if he would mind moving so we could retrieve our anchor. He was very cooperative but preferred to don his scuba gear to free our anchor – easily done in only 8m of sparkling clear water.

We anchored in Port Sigri and a large yacht ran it’s anchor chain over ours

Diver being towed above our fouled anchor

The yacht’s skipper dived in the clear sparkling water to free our anchor

A great restaurant overlooking our anchorage had a huge selection of Ouzo

At this time the weather forecast was warning of another Meltemi gale of several days duration – very common in the Aegean during July and August, so we needed to find good shelter. As Amy was flying in from London to Lesvos’s capital of Mithilini we decided to moor in the harbour there for the duration of the gale, and spend some time touring Lesvos by car.
Mithilini is a great and sheltered harbour to stay in, except for one thing – the quay is adjacent to the main street and the noise of traffic, particularly motor scooters, car horns and car “boom boxes” drives you mad after a while. This noise continues without interruption all night long, and it seems that Greeks don’t drive more than a few metres without sounding their horns.

Envoy moored Med-style in Mithilini

We took a rental car and visited the coastal villages of Plomarion, to the south-west, one day, and Mantamados and Molyvos, to the north, the next day. All three destinations proved to be just great, with atmospheric narrow cobbled streets, elderly Greeks sitting around drinking coffee and ouzo, and just a smattering of tourists.

Two shots of the atmospheric streets of Plomarion

Laurie & Doug check out butcher’s shop in Plomarion

Although it was hot we were able to stop and have swims along the way to cool ourselves down.

Laurie & Amy cooling off in a rock pool

Two shots of the village of Mantamados on Lesvos, famous for yoghurt and cheese

Doug, Laurie, Sharon & Amy in this one

Quaint harbourside restaurants in Moyvos

Early on Sunday morning we heard the sound of a military band and jumped out of bed to see a parade of soldiers marching along our street with the traffic banked up behind them. They stopped at a nearby flagpole, hoisted the Greek flag, saluted and then marched off. In the late afternoon they marched back again, and lowered the flag. We had encountered this previously in Kavala on the mainland, and it’s interesting that there is a military presence on most of the Greek islands.

Parade of soldiers saluting the Greek flag

On the 24th we loaded 900 litres of diesel at Euro 1.42 per litre (about NZ$2.45) cleared-out of Greece, and headed over to Ayvalik, just 15NM away on the Turkish mainland coast.

Nothing much to report. The main Lugger engine had still been having occasional starting problems, twice needing six attempts to start. I was pretty sure it was the starter solenoid, so last time it didn’t start I tapped the solenoid sharply with a rubber hammer, and it’s been fine since. We have a spare solenoid on board, but in any case the solenoid terminals can be bridged to start the engine.
LOG (to 24/8/11): 113 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 1,588NM cruised for 324 engine hours.


The morning of Doug & Sharon’s arrival we got a rude awakening. We were anchored off a village called Ay Yeoryios, and fishing boats up to about 20m work from there. About 0600 we hear a boat pass close by and then a deluge of water came through our two cabin portholes and soaked us, our pillows, mattress, and books etc stored around the bed. Obviously the fishing boat either on purpose, or just not thinking, had passed far too close with too large a wake – our portholes are 0.7m above sea level. At the time we had our flopper-stoppers down, so maybe the fishing boat captain was just curious and came close to look.

View of Ay Yeoryios from where Envoy was anchored. A fishing boat came too close and we took water through the portholes above our bed

Doug & Sharon arrived having flown from Auckland to Dubai to Athens. Their plan was to get a taxi from the airport to the bus terminal, and catch a bus to Ay Konstandinos in the Gulf of Evia to meet us. Firstly they had the same problem as Ian & Patsy encountered – their NZ phone didn’t work in Greece, so they couldn’t contact us to confirm their arrival. Secondly all the taxis were on strike, so they got a bus into Athens but then couldn’t find the correct bus terminal for Ay Konstandinos. They found that people weren’t very helpful until a taxi driver on-strike heard their plight, and offered to drive them for Euro 200. As the distance was about 180km, Doug & Sharon thought this a fair price, and we finally all met as planned.

Doug buys beautiful fresh vegetables from a street vendor in Ay Konstandinos

The next day we started heading towards the Northern Sporades, and our replacement Lugger alternator stopped charging. I phoned A1 Yachting and they confirmed there was an electrician in Skiathos, so we decided to continue on our way using the genset for charging.
Skiathos is a major centre for charter boats, and was very busy with these, as well as many tourists shopping and patronizing the many waterfront tavernas. It’s also where the movie “Mamma Mia” was filmed. The N Sporades are very green, as they do get some rain all year round. They also have great beaches, even if mostly crowded, but they don’t have those classic Greek villages of white and blue stone buildings, or very much of historical interest.
There was no room for Envoy in the harbour, but we managed to find space in a crowded anchorage outside. Later we found out we were only about 200m from 15 discos competing with each other for maximum decibels until four in the morning.

Very sleek car ferry in the crowded Skiathos harbour

While Diane, Doug & had a walk around Skiathos the electrician arrived, tested the alternator, and confirmed there was no charging. He took it away, and attempted to repair it – without success. Next day we had breakfast in a taverna ashore and watched the All Blacks beat the Wallabies in rugby to retain the Bledisloe Cup. I suggested the electrician try to make one good alternator out of the two failed ones. This worked, and the electrician was confident the resulting alternator was a good one. Nevertheless we’re buying a new Balmar alternator from the US for a spare asap.

Diane & Doug enjoying lunch in Skiathos

Skiathos is interesting, but too busy to be a great cruising destination, and that afternoon we moved on to the much quieter Nissos Skopelos and had a great night ashore in a taverna.
Then another problem struck. During my daily checks I found the genset out of coolant, and on investigation found a rust hole in the body of the water circulating pump, from where all the coolant had leaked out. Although we can use our Yanmar wing engine as a genset, we need the higher capacity of the genset when running the watermaker. So back to Skiathos where A1 Yachting organised an engineer to repair the hole (with cold weld) – and all ok again. Must say by this time I was getting a bit tired of spending my days in the engine room, but as the saying goes, “Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations”. We have since received a new spare water pump from the US.
Back to N Skopelos again and found a wonderful bay called Limnonari. This was only large enough for a few boats, had good shelter, wonderful clear, clean water with small fish swimming around, and a taverna ashore owned by the same family for 400 years.

We stayed one night in this idyllic sheltered bay called Limnonari

We would have stayed there more than one night but had to find shelter for a gale due to arrive around midnight - we were warned by locals to expect winds up to 40 knots.
We cruised across to Nissos Alonnisos, and after checking various options decided on a bay called Ormos Milia as being our best option. This was a large bay about 800 m across, with good depths of 8-13m, no rocks or reefs, and no other boats. So we dug our anchor in, put out 100m of chain, and waited. Sure enough the forecast wind arrived about 2100 and did blow up to high 30s for several hours, but Envoy held position and we had no problems.
As I wrote this we were doing a 45NM cruise SE to Skyros, the largest of the N Sporades.
See above re Lugger alternator and genset water pump.
LOG (to /8/11): 89 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 1,196NM cruised for 255 engine hours.

Frank said: Hi Laurie, seems like you are having a plethora of running repairs at present. I'd fit the new water pump and keep the old one as a spare. The locations sound wonderful. Can't believe there are places like you describe with no other boats. Cheers

Chris said: Now I kow why you needed that belt tightener - and I am not referring to eating less in the restaurants. See you soon.

Namik said: What can I say after reading all. Seeing what you have been experiencing with the kindness of the sea I am envious but proud of you both. Enjoy!!