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Thursday, February 25, 2016

TOP CRUISING SPOTS OF THE EASTERN MED (PART 2) – TURKEY'S SNAKE AND CASTLE ISLANDS

While Envoy is in Lefkas Marina, Greece, we are home in Auckland, New Zealand planning to return to Greece early April to commence cruising by late April.

Destination 2: Snake and Castle Islands (Sehir Adalari)
Where is it:
At the eastern end of the Gulf of Gokova, which has many great anchorages. On its northern shore is the village of Cokertme and large town of Bodrum while the entrance is protected by the Greek island of Kos.
How long is required to enjoy here:
A few days for the islands and a couple of weeks or so for the surrounding area.
Brief outline:
An enchanting anchorage sheltered between Snake, Castle and Tomb islands and the mainland. It's busy with tripper boats during daytime but quiet by late afternoon with stunning sunsets. Great for swimming and snorkeling. Interesting 2,700 year old ruins set in olive groves including a well-preserved Roman theatre.

The Snake and Castle Islands offer good shelter for anchoring

Must do:
After the crowds have departed have a swim at Cleopatra's Beach.

At nearby Cokertme a Turkish lady bakes bread

We had a snorkel around the ancient harbour area to see a considerable amount of pottery remains scattered across the sea bed. We were also surprised at the number and variety of small fish along with sea cucumbers and snake-like 400mm long sea worms.
When we returned to Envoy there was a large number of gulets (traditional tripper boats) anchored in the bay, one so close that it almost touched us. Di yelled out a warning to the gulet's skipper who had a look but was totally unconcerned.

Envoy in the sheltered anchorage

The area was originally part of the Rhodian confederacy and then occupied by the Romans in 129 BC. You can still see the remains of a 5,000 seat theatre, various temples, houses, tombs and defensive walls and towers.

Sunset at the islands

On Castle Island is a once-beautiful sandy beach about 50 metres wide with clear blue water. Now there are hordes of day trippers who come over by ferry from the mainland to enjoy the deck chairs, sumbrellas, loud disco music and ice cream stalls. Although you can swim here the historic beach itself is fenced off from the public with a security guard in a tower at each end to ensure nobody spoils the beach composed of sand imported by galleys from Egypt by Cleopatra so that she could enjoy the beach during her time here with Mark Anthony. The sand has been analysed and confirmed as coming from North Africa. Amazing to think of the effort which would have been expended to bring over hundreds of tonnes of sand!

Cleopatra's beach

We enjoy a swim at Cleopatra's beach after the day trippers have departed

Nearby Degirmen Buku contains a cove called English Harbour, so named because during WW 2 it was used by the English Special Boat Squadron (SBS) as a base of operations. The SBS was a marine version of the SAS and mostly used local caiques for their missions. 

Envoy at anchor in peaceful English Cove

Turks are highly nationalistic and their flags abound

Friday, February 19, 2016

TOP CRUISING SPOTS OF THE EASTERN MED (PART 1) – Turkey’s Kekova Roads

While Envoy is in Lefkas Marina, Greece, we are home in Auckland, New Zealand planning to return to Greece early April to commence cruising by late April.

Over the next several blog postings we’re going to describe ten of our favourite eastern Med destinations. This is based on the point of view of the cruiser rather than the tourist, for example Santorini is very special but not a great place for cruising having limited shelter and facilities.
The selection was a very tough choice – it’s easy to make a list of our favourite 20, but not so easy to narrow it down. So that you know what’s coming up, these places are, from east to west:
TURKEY – The Kekova Roads and Snake Island/English Harbour
GREECE - Simi, Astipalaia, north-west coast of Crete, Cephalonia and Corfu
CROATIA - Korcula
ITALY – Cefalu and Trapani/Egadi Islands

All of these places are not just isolated magical spots but parts of broader regions of considerable interest. Some areas aren’t featured as we haven’t cruised there – eg North Africa, France, Spain and Portugal and some not, including destinations in Albania and Montenegro, as we feel they just don’t have that magic combination of factors, and we haven’t attempted “political correctness” by including some from each visited country.
For interest some destinations that came close, but finally missed out were Kotor in Montenegro, and Lesvos, Monemvasia, Amorgos and Kavala/The Three Fingers in Greece.

Destination 1: The Kekova Roads
Where is it:
Part of the famed Turquoise Coast on Turkey’s south-east coast. To the east is Finike and to the west is Kas, Kalkan, Fethiye and the tiny Greek island of Katellorizon.
How long is required to enjoy here?: Several days.
Brief outline:
A strait protected by uninhabited four-mile-long Kekova Island with several islets offering anchorages sheltered from all wind directions. See Lycian tombs, sunken ancient ruins, a Byzantine hilltop fortress, a picturesque village, stunning natural scenery, rustic tavernas.
One must do:
Climb the summit behind Kalekoy to explore the Crusader castle ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the area.

This map of Kekova Roads shows why it's so special

It’s logical that we start this series with Turkey’s Kokova Roads as this is where we joined my brother in 2005 for a brief cruise aboard his yacht, Acrobat, and made our decision to buy our own Med-based boat.
Our first night we anchor in the pristine waters of a perfectly sheltered bay inside Asirli Island, close to a rustic, atmospheric bar called The Smugglers Inn, which in our part of the world would never get building consent or health and safety approvals. It doesn’t open until 2200 hours and we go there after dinner for what turns out to be a very late night. The always friendly and concerned Turks insist on escorting us safely back to Envoy and join us aboard for a nightcap.

Next morning we eventually appear and take the dinghy to Kalekoy to climb precarious steps to the summit of the 15th century castle built by the Knights of St John Crusaders on the foundations of an already existing ancient fort. Several unofficial lady guides offer their services in return for the purchase of cheap trinkets which we happily buy in return for some interesting local knowledge. The site was first occupied around 400 BC and there are many ruins and long since ransacked tombs dating from Lycian times, including some adjacent to Kekova Island submerged by earthquakes and able to be viewed from glass-bottomed boats.

Looking down on Kalekoy from the castle summit

Wild goats roam among Lycian tombs long ago robbed of valuables

On the northern shore lies the picturesque fishing village of Ucagiz where we go ashore to replenish some supplies, enjoy coffees in a taverna and wander through a traditional carpet shop. Most of the locals have made no concession to modern dress and appear unchanged from how their great grandparents probably looked.
Nearby is the village of Demre where apostle Saint Paul stopped over on his voyage to Rome and where in the 4th century the Bishop of the Church was Saint Nicholas who's alter ego was “Santa Claus”. His remains stayed there until 1043 when some Italian adventurers removed them to Italy where they still lie. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas threw bags of gold down a chimney to save three sisters from a life of prostitution and this is how the Santa Claus tradition started. Turks are of course Muslim, but they too have Santa complete with red costume and white beard as part of their New Year celebrations.

Looking to the castle summit from seaward

Looking up the large channel between Kekova Island and the mainland


FOR FOODIES Gozlemes are a traditional savory flatbread similar to a pancake, made from hand-rolled dough and cooked in a heavy frying pan or griddle. Traditionally they had numerous varieties of fillings ranging through meats, fish, vegetables, cheeses, herbs and spices, but nowadays sweet fillings including banana with honey are increasingly popular. Recipe to serve four: 2½ cups plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, ⅓ cup olive oil, ¾ cup water. Make the dough by sifting the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and oil and mix to combine. Lift out the dough and knead on your bench top for 10 minutes until silky smooth. Let the dough rest back in the bowl for 20 minutes. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll out thinly. Add the topping to two of the rolled-out pieces and place the other two pieces on top as covers. Brush olive oil into a frying pan at medium to high heat and cook for 5-6 minutes each side until golden brown and crisp. Serve sizzling hot with lemon. Warning: gozlemes are habit-forming!

Turkish couple row their ancient wooden dinghy around moored boats cooking gozlemes to order



Saturday, February 06, 2016

Envoy's 2016 Cruising Plans

Being unable to cruise during 2015 we sure had plenty of time to think about this subject and here’s what we’ve come up with.
We’ll get back to Lefkas Marina early April and hope to have Envoy back in the water mid April. ASAP after that we’ll leave the marina for a 3-4 day shakedown cruise and if all is well head towards Corfu.
We’ll clear out of Greece at Corfu and cross to Albania for about 2 weeks. Apart from wanting to spend some more time in this fascinating and by European standards very basic area this will give Envoy a spell out of EU waters avoiding any requirement to pay VAT.
We’ll clear back into Greece at Corfu and head south through the magnificent Ionian islands to the east coast and then south coast of Peloponnisos (mainland Greece). From there we’ll cruise east via the southern Cyclades Islands of Milos, Kimolos, Folefandros, Sikinos and Ios to Santorini.
Then we’ll cruise south to the central north coast of Crete and work our westwards before cruising back to the Peloponnisos coast by way of Antikithera and Kithera Islands.
Then we’ll be retracing our steps back up the Ionian Sea to Corfu before concluding our 2016 cruise at Lefkas Marina late October.

So now finally this doesn't seem like something way ahead in the future and our excitement is building!

Envoy Tech-talk
While we've been away from the boat things have still been happening recently on the technical front (apart from the various works completed up to mid last year and detailed in previous blogs):
-One of our bow thruster's 24V battery bank batteries was damaged due to a short circuit caused by loose connections. Batteries in a bank should always be replaced together so we've got two new Deka batteries en route from a dealer in Italy to replace these.
-The hydraulic rams on our Naiad stabilisers have been leaking a small amount of oil and the “knuckles” on these rams have been worn. Parts are coming in from USA to replace these and at the same time the fluid and filter will be replaced.
-The windlass's electric motor is being removed to be cleaned and checked. When you anchor hundreds of times in a year windlasses are subject to much more wear than normal - carbon dust collects in the back of the motor and can cause a short.
-Envoy's hull and running gear are being cleaned off and prepared for anti fouling so this can be done within days of our arrival and we can launch quickly.
-Envoy's large RHIB is having some maintenance done and the Yamaha 25hp outboard fully serviced so we can sea trial it on our arrival.

There's a very long list of technicalities to be performed before we can start cruising and we expect this to take about 2-3 weeks based on previous experience. We'll talk about this during April and hope there's no nasty surprises!