Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Cesmes to Istanbul

Passage: Kusadasi to Istanbul
Written by: Paul Hodkinson

Day One Of the Captains Log. 
Ok so we left Kusadasi in overcast weather with the promise of good winds only to find they dropped off once we cleared port. Tried with the sails up but was sporadic the wind so reluctantly...very reluctantly the skipper dug deep and powered up the engine and we chugged up the coast. The going was sloppy fearlessly at the rear hand on the wheel barking out orders to his paying yes you heard it right paying passengers cum crew. We also want to register a protest with Fair work Australia that we were not given a 10am or 3pm coffee break!!
Did 46.63 nautical miles on our first day and arrived at a protected cove about 5.30pm. Anchor was dropped in 10 meters of water on a good sandy patch by Robert .. With able instruction from the skipper and we dropped 40 meters of chain then pulled back and it held...... And it was a good job it did as we had a corker of a night with 25 to 30 knot winds barreling through the channel where we were sheltered and the boat rocking and vibrating from the strong winds whistling through the stays.
Dinner on the first night was a lavish affair ..... Chicken in soya and chilli sauce done in the frying pan accompanied by a nice bowl of salad (finely chopped lettuce tomato carrot olives and cheese and a chunky potato and egg salad sautéed with a light drizzling of olive oil and crushed rock salt).
Day 2 - the trip up
Well the day was as eventful as the night was last night. After that great dinner I cooked the evening before and a fine coffee we retired to our cabins at 10.30pm on day 1 with the wind having continued to blow hard and the boat swinging around on it's mooring a fair bit. Woken at 3am by the wind blowing through the stays and the boat vibrating.... The ominous start to a new day I felt!

Well we were all up at 6.30am and had a light breakfast of toast and cereal before packing up and preparing to go. Lifting the anchor was fun in the high winds and with the boat having swung around on itself so much during the night it was well and truly dug in .... And we had 40 meters of chain on the bottom to recover. With the boat swinging in the wind and John battling to keep it head on to allow the chain to recover through the bowspruit it took a few attempts before we had all the chain in and were under way.

Next challenge was to unfurl the headsail which John dispatched me up front to help pull in on the rope whilst Robert worked the cleats and winch down back. With it up we were able to set off and soon were averaging 6 to 6.5 knots in a very choppy sloppy yuckie sea with beam on sea for most of the day till we rounded a headland late in the morning and had a following sea, which steadied things down.

The early part of the day though was not pleasant and this crew member succumbed to a touch of seasickness and had to put his head down for a while. The swell beam on was at times a good 2 meters and pushed the yacht around a bit (as we heard downstairs with all the banging and crashing of anything not firmly secured - Robert you were told to lock that overhead cabinet Grrrrr!).

Passed some interesting holiday villages on a very craggiest and otherwise inhospitable coast. Passed a few large wind farms and fish farm pens anchored offshore. Soon after we had the pleasure of a pod of dolphins accompanying us for a short while - always a great feeling to have these fella's pop up beside you at sea!

Coming into Cesmes today and into a new marina and some very very big and expensive boats multi-multi millionaire toys but oh so nice to look at. A lot of German Greek Turkish and Italian boats and many flying a registration out of Delaware in the USA  which is a tax dodge as we were to find out from a very lovely lady who registers them and has been doing so for 20 odd years . Her name is Sherry and is tied up in Kusadasi where she lives on her boat. She is from USA (California) and after her husband died 4 years ago decided to stay on and just loves turkey and marina life and all the fascinating people one meets.

Having arrived early today in Cesmes we docked (in high winds we reversed In between  2 big motor cruisers and nervously tied up and tried not to scrap any paint work on the way.

After that it was hoses out and wash down the decks and spray dodger before heading off to the ablution block for a good shower and change of clothes.

After that John took us into the town and to a favorite Turkish eatery where we were greater by the owners and (a reassuring sign...) a host of locals sitting out and eating. After a touch of sign language and pointing we got our orders underway and OMG ...... when it came out it was worth the wait. Called   " Ekmek"   (Turkish kebab on a lovey crispy and olive type bread) they were the best I have ever had - oh why can't we get bread like this back home I ask myself. Lunch came to the princely total of 28 TL (about $15 Aussie) and we had 3 big subway style kebabs 3 cokes and 3 bottles of water! ..... No wonder people come here!

After lunch it was a stroll up the main cobble stone street to find the veggie shop and I grabbed a postcard to shoot off to everyone back at the office. I then went for my second Turkish shave! And the lads left me to that whilst they did a few other provisioning. After that I strolled down and joined them - to find them dozing in the boat - oh it's a great life being a yachtie!. I wondered off to an Internet cafe with Wifi and then meet up with rob and John later for a drink overlooking the marina before heading out to dinner in town at 8.30pm. Another little joint John knows and off the tourist beat so cheap and full of locals - I love it. A small place in the down town main street and tonight's meal was chicken soup for 4 2 cokes and a bottle of red wine (40 TL  - wine is expensive in eateries) mezza being plates of olives, stuffed olives, vine wrapped rice etc plus 4 mains of shish kebabs and all came to 170TL - again not a bad cost for a night out.

Interesting was the main cobbled street it is on. When we walked down there this afternoon at about 2 pm they had a bobcat in the street and had piles and piles of cobble st ones dug up and were leveling the road to lay them down. Tonight at 9pm we go down and there the workers are still working and the road is just about finished!! Never tell me the Turks at lazy. We have seen them building into the night and regularly working till 11pm that's productivity for you.

Day 3
I woke early and so decided to go off and have a nice long shower whilst dopey 1 and dopey 2 slept... Robert and John. Great showers they have with the biggest tropical showerheads that would literally drain our dams back home in days if everyone had them in Brisbane haha but hey enjoy it whilst you can!

We set out at about 9.30 am and with a strong wind still blowing leaving our berth - snug between 2 other yachts was not to prove with out a few challenges! Having let go of the rear leeward side rope and Robert dropping the front one John started the motor to take the pressure off the windward side ropes. Freed of these we moved forward but were pushed onto the next door yacht which we pushed off and had the bollards out so no problem..... But then at the rear we got caught up with our outboard hanging over the side and one of their ropes off a float and with the boat in motion trying to hold back 3 tones of boat was interesting. The outboard was pulled sideways off the clamping board (but luckily also secured with a block and shackle)  and we free the rope and then we away. I now see why the skipper is happy at night to moor offshore than to have to go through that every day!

The day was clear and sunny and with light winds we tried the spinnaker again today and having got it out and all the ropes and shackles laid out - it went up smoothly and we were patting ourselves on the back and saying - now where is the crowd of onlookers!!

Sailed all day with the spinnaker (although John corrected me by letting me know more correctly this is a gennaker as it is slightly smaller but more importantly doesn't have the ability to fly off a boom on either side of the boat which a spinnaker can. Made really good time and ranged between 7 and 8.5 knots. Not a single other yacht was sighted all day even though it was Easter Sunday - obviously the Turks prefer it to be warmer!

We noticed the water temperature dropping as we sailed further north as was to be expected with the influence of the Black Sea. We started off with water at 11 degree's at Kusadasi and steady it dropped and by now was around 6 degree's.

Lunch was courtesy of me and we had a wrap with lettuce tomato cheese and some of the ham we brought in from Oz with us. John rudely asked me what was the " kitchen bitch preparing for his skipper today"..... Grrr the life and power of a skipper. Reminds me of that saying Gavin - " the golden rule haha! ... He who has the gold rules!! and ain't that so true!

Mid ocean we stopped the flag we were flying across to the Greek flag as we were moving into Greek waters and the best route took us through a number of islands and good anchoring points to lay up for the night. The one John wanted to get too was a town called Apothekes  on the Greek island of Lesvosa little way up the entrance to virtually an inland sea but the chart book warned - do not approach in the dark and low waters and highly dangerous..... So with light fast going noticed we stepped up the revs a little in the early evening..... And I wasn't complaining!

We got in as dark was approaching and anchored off a small village and set about eating again! Life is pretty simple out here. Wake, eat, sail, eat, sail, stop, drink, eat,  sleep then start all again the next day.....wake eat sail etc etc!

Dinner that night was already taken care off by the skipper who the day before had made a lovely leek and cauliflower soup, which we heated up and had with some bread. It was delicious. Coffee of course followed and then it was an early night - about 9.30 by now...... And it was to be an early rise for all of us too the next day as we were to soon find out!

Day 4
Well - when I was promised a holiday of a life time it was put to me that we would be lazing on the decks and swimming in warm waters. Not true the skipper tells us on day 3 - that's only about half way down the rally and into cypress and Lebanon - when I am gone! ..... But he admitted he needed a crew to help him move the boat up north and no one was available or volunteered so dopey Robert volunteers our services!

So this lead me to rebook at the list of yachts entering the rally and I notice that of the 34 guaranteed boats - only 3 start from Istanbul and most join the rally in Gocek ..... In fact 23 odd boats and now I know why!

The journey up is cold and windy as one gets into the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara and into Istanbul and usually with strong northerly winds which makes for a hard and unpleasant sail up.

I digressed to the start of day 4 to tell you this as will become apparent as the next 30 hours rapidly unfolded.

The skipper was awake early and didn't like the change in wind direction as we were in a shallow bay and so he woke us up and at 4.30am in the pitch black we up anchor and start motoring out of the bay. Following our path in on the radar it was to be simple..... Until Robert suggested we go straight across here and promptly we got grounded!....... A very good reason why you go oh so slow in foreign waters and at night.... And stick to your chart plotter as the skipper berated his dopey brother haha! A bit of reversing and swinging the boat around and we came off easily and were off again. A full moon was up and I must say it was spectacular motoring out. As soon as we cleared deeper waters we raised the sails.

Like the previous day was a bit choppy early on for the first couple of hours but the seas settled again as we changed direction with the coast.

We got the mainsail up and the headsail, which we stuck with for a while but then dropped the headsail and still keep good speed with just the main up. Averaged mostly 6.5 to 7 knots.

We sailed up past Gallipoli and saw the Turkish monument as well as the British one and started to see for the first time a lot more ships and larger freight and oil tankers.

In fact we passed one and sailed right close to this vessel which by comparison to us looked so large..... And much to the amusement of some of the crew who came out and waved to us. There are a few good pics I took of this vessel and others as well as the  Anzac monuments and some coastal communities.

The marina we wanted to anchor in for the night had a warning do not enter with a southerly wind and that's what we had so we pushed on past the marina which was in a large city called Canakkale and looked for a sheltered anchorage further on ... But outside of the main shipping way and not in too shallow water!

Rounded a 90 degree bend in the passage and just past the military base we found a good spot to anchor and to get out of the very cold wind. So we motored on in and " dropped the pick" as John refers to it and headed inside.

Through some excellent planning earlier in the day we had lifted out a packet of steak to defrost and so yes ... I was in the kitchen again whipping up a good hot meal for the 3 of us. So looking in the fridge I spotted a few mushrooms and some lovely chilli paste  (we had at the restaurant in Kusadasi and that we asked the owners could we have some)... Plus a few onions and I was set! Sliced the mushrooms and onions together and lightly fried added in some garlic and the chilli and we had a good side dish. Added boiled potatoes and carrots and the steaks and we had a great meal. And yes washed down again Finley by one of your superb choice bends of Nespresso pods.

Just after dinner Skipper did a quick check on the weather only to here our run of unseasonable good southern winds was changing and northerly winds expected. With 40 meters of chain out if the wind changed direction and the boat swung with it - that 40 meters would but us firmly on Turkish land so we chose some land mark lights to square upon and all agreed to keep a good look out during the night when ever anyone got up for a pee!

Day 4 - the saga continues...

At 2.30am the skipper was up and noticed a change of wind and so ordered anchor up and we pushed off!...... So much for my gentle cruise. There wasn't mucho could do so I kept my head down and left it up to the brothers to freeze up top and keep us on the right path. The wind was up to 30 knots again and we had a steep sea which saw the boat coming off the back of some waves to crash down heavily before meeting the second one..... " Come join me for a nice sail up to Istanbul Paul" ...... I could still hear robs voice ringing in my ears as I snuggled down again and checked I was ready for a fast get up if called!.... And otherwise the next round of thumping waves to pass under the boat.

With dawn breaking skipper went to turn off the navigation lights but instead turned off the navigation instruments and with it our auto pilot and chart plotter etc. omg he is as blind as me with out his readers haha!

So with that turned off we lost the auto pilot and not having noticed straight away we were not sure of how long that had been the case and so we are set and then kept a watch out for the next headland where we wanted to try and shelter in what appeared to be, on the charts , a small fishing village with a break wall and  marina and ride out the storm which had now become a nightmare for the skipper up top. When I say it was freezing - I have never experienced such intense and biting cold made worse by the fact that we were damp and the skipper wet despite his wet gear he had donned and a furry hat (looked more like Eskimo Joe haha!). It was too cold to have ore than one person up top at a time and the skipper put on the auto-pilot again so that he could stay up top but in the shelter of the bimbi and watch thro the clear covers.

Well by now, with John blue with cold and wet thro despite wet weather gear we realized we will have to change plans and find anchorage sooner than later and abandon our original destination for the day. We decided to anchor just off from a small harbour on the chart where there were 3 large fishing boats and it was a good decision. As we approached the harbour the seas dropped as did the wind and we were in sheltered and calm water and out of the wind to some degree. No soon had we dropped the anchor, we notice the 1st big fishing trawler coming out of the harbour followed by the 2nd and 3rd on and we were nearly square I the middle of the entrance some 300 meters off ( not a great spot but nothing else we could do as it was too shallow elsewhere! We can only assume they needed to re arrange the order of boats in the harbour for fueling needs so we hoped they had all seen us and were going to go out that night or early in the morning.

So here we are having got here by 12noon and having been under power doing 4 to 6 knots since 3am this morning in pounding seas and howling winds.

Now a small anecdotal note needs to be penned in here although I was not on the top deck at the time...... but I heard it from good... Very good sources that in the night we had one tanker blow the horn at us to say move out the way and another large ship nearly blinded us when they turned on their deck search lights to see who we were in front of them in the channel. OMG - yes was probably better I was asleep......... Could see the headlines " real estate agent found drowned on sunken yacht - blackberry in one hand and a torch in the other haha!

So we will ride out the storm here and might be here a day or 2 depending on the wind speed direction and how the swells are in the open waters. I must say that it was not a pleasant few hours this morning! So where to find us ... We are currently positioned at North xxx degrees xx minutes xxx seconds and East xxx degrees xxx minutes xxx seconds. There are about 10 houses and 3 huge fishing trawlers and that's about it! Look at the pictures I have taken.

Which brings me to food! Yes we cooked up a late Brekkie that morning and yes the old kitchen hand was at it again and I did up some French toast to use up some stale bread and a tad of omelette plus baked beans - haha good hardy boys tucker.

Have done xxxx nm's today and in total in the 3 days have covered xxx nm from Kusadasi where we started. Only another xxxx nm's to Istanbul and to the west Istanbul marina where we will be based. Their map reference is North 40 degrees 57 minutes 46seconds and East 28degrees 39minutes 49 seconds .... So do google us.

With nothing to do and it being too cold to pump up the zodiac and go ashore we closed the hatch and just chatted and played solitaire on the iPads and John screened a few of his movies which he had - all good ones and downloaded from the net haha!

Before we knew it it was going dark and that ment it was 8pm so I did a quick meal of pork sausages fried onions potatoes and carrots. Simple but good tucker when one is cold ...Very cold.

With that and the wind still howling outside we headed off to bed and all slept well - more exhausted by the days early start and then trying conditions I think. Even the skipper slept thro and didn't wake 3 or 4 times a night to do his deck check and wind assessment.

Day 5 - the same spot for another day of windy wet conditions!
Well as expected we were not going anywhere today so we sleep in and got up at 7am and had bacon and grilled tomatoes for Brekkie - god I look after the brothers! ..... I am beginning to wonder if they just didn't need a cook on board haha! Spent the day doing the occasional brave dash to the back of the boat for a pee and coming back inside blue from cold and in disbelief at how much the weather had changes in 48 hours when we were sailing in sunshine with shirts off!

Lunch I can't remember but dinner was pork sausages potatoes and johns peas that he has been wanting the last 2 nights and I forgot to add to the cuisine! We watched a couple of good detective and who dunning type movies in johns vast collection and whiled away the day (actually surprised me how quick a day can pass with nothing to do and 3 of you in the size of a cabinet equal to a 3rd and smallest bedrooms n a house - to help put it into perspective).

Wind starting to drop as per the weather forecast on wind guru, which predicted 4 to 6 knot winds next morning ...... We waited to see!

Day 6 of our north board journey
Well we woke to clear sky's and hardly a ripple on the water and so at 7 am we secured all items and John went to start the engine so we could lift the anchor and head out....... And that's where the day got interesting. The battery cranked like Roberts creaky legs and back ( haha!) but was flat. John came down and we looked at the instrument panel only to see that the separate battery that kick starts the engine had not been charging from when we were running the generator yesterday.

So we lifted the floorboards and inspected the panel of batteries. .... (to every electrician please take great satisfaction in knowing - your jobs are very very secure haha!...... Well talk about the blind leading the blind advised by the ignorant and hoping for divine electrical intervention and a miracle) ..... We twiggled this wire, pushed that, stated the obvious (mostly the skipper to Robert .... " Just fix the ----! ") and so we started to disconnect the terminals realizing that we were going to need to swop out the dead battery for one of the ones in the series that made up the bank of 24 volt supply. As good engineers of course we knew where every wire went that Robert was merrily undoing.... Not! So it took the the cook aka the real estate agent cum scribe to suggest perhaps we took a photo of the batteries now with the iPad so we could refer back to it. As the pictures show it was all heads down arses up as we manhandled the heavy batteries around and reconnected them. John went to fire up,the engine - no luck! So back to the wires again and John happened to move one which seemed a bit lose and tried the engine again and we had ignition..... For which the insufferable skipper claimed all the glory for fixing the problem..... Skippers! - Dont you just love em!

So we lifted the anchor (now 10.30am) and set off on a pleasant sail. Wind chill factor still high but bearable for us all to be up top albeit it well rugged up and mostly sheltering under the spray bimbi with the boat on auto-pilot . Got both the headsail and mainsail up and we headed off into a northerly wind so spent most of the day tacking on long reaches.

Our destination for the night was a group of islands and the last harbour between Istanbul and us. We motored past an island called Avsa Adasi - a picturesque seaside town popular with Istanbullians in summer time but still very deserted and locked up when we motored past close inshore.

From here we sailed across to the larger island and our harbour for the night Marmara Adasi and Port Marmara where we entered the small fishing harbour and looked to berth. We first tried to berth stern in on the ashore ward side of the harbour but it was not deep enough for our keel so we were guided to the outer wall and moored alongside the wall next to the trawlers. For those nautical types 40 degrees 35 minutes 0 seconds North and 27 degrees 33 minutes 55 seconds East.

Then we grabbed our rubbish to take onshore and went in search of a shave and some groceries..... And lunch! All 3 were achieved and then Robert and John chatted to a local to see if we could get a taxi to drive us around the island and he turned out to be a retired journalist form Istanbul so spoke good English and arranged a taxi to take us to the marble mines. I stayed behind, as I wanted to seek out a teapot for one that met with a mishap on the journey up and also to check some emails and have a shave.

Met the brothers back at the boat at 8pm ( just going dark) and we headed back along the shoreline to have dinner with our new found friend the retired journalist, Emin.

Went to a small Restuarant and had some lovely fish and chatted to him. He has a house here and has been coming back here for summer breaks for 26 years now and loves the island. Told us he was originally from bulgaria where his father had a hotel and Restuarant that was taken over in the 1940's by the military and they were told to get out. Story that seems to repeat itself with dictatorships and takeovers no matter what part of the world you are in ! He was an interesting character with lots of history both of the island and turkey.

Anyway an enjoyable evening and at 11pm we bade ourselves goodnight and walked back to the boat.

Day 7 - the final push into Istanbul
Well the day broke with clear skies and so after an early coffee and cereal we pulled in the lines and set off for Istanbul.

Had a very uneventful day with good steady winds and sailing. Wind started off at 6 to 8 knots but dropped later in the morning to around 5/6 knots and our speed dropped from 6/6.5 down to around 4 knots soon the skipper decided to turn on the motor and we were again back at a respectable 6 knots.

Probably the only potential drama was that we were on auto pilot and the horizon seemed clear of ships - which the skipper asked me to confirm (asking a blind squirrel like me was risky haha! ..... But it was clear..... I mean I saw a few dots on the horizon but nothing close enough to be worried!).

Anyway we were chatting and doing things and then decided to just pop up top for a bit of fresh air and bugger me! ...... we were heading straight for a fishing trawler and if we were lucky enough to have missed him we would have been caught in his nets he was laying.

Even the skipper was a little taken back and it was a good lesson to me that boats when you add their combined motoring speeds do converge on each other a lot quicker than you at first might imagine.

Soon after we started to see a lot of ships as we neared the shipping lanes in and out of Istanbul.

Never to have been cautioned of learnt anything from this last " close encounter " we were sailing with a large cargo ship and a smaller trawler both off our starboard and bearing down on us. John said we will beat the first one and probably just make it ahead of the trawler - I wasn't so confident..... But you hold your say when the captains at the wheel haha! Anyway after seeing the bow wave of the cargo ship get ever increasingly larger by the second I eventually.... Casually suggested p recaps we speed up and then dart INBETWEEN the 2 of them. Well at the same time we got a merry blast from the trawler saying just that - go around don't cross our bow! .... Which we duly did.

We also soon were to come up about 2 miles off the port side to an old rust bucket of a ship and she was just that - a real rust bucket of a coastal trader.

It was also after that during a quiet moment that John said " oh while we have a moment I best tell you boys how to disengage the auto pilot if you ever had to in a hurry (hmmm thanks John thank god we didn't need that instruction during the storm 48 hrs ago haha!)...... And then he also tells u s what to do if we lose a man overboard in terms of hitting the red button MOB on the satelite navigatin and it will immediately plot the point you lost a crew member to help locate him By the time you have turned the boat around.... Hmmm also a good one to have known about earlier when we nearly lost you off the back skipper..... But then.....  Hmmm not sure we would have come back for you haha!

Soon we were in the thick of about 20 large boats as we made our approach into the new Marina which we had been offered free mooring at and as it was the marina from where the race was to start we took it up...... In hindsight..... It wasn't to prove to be our best move but we weren't to know that before hand.

Sailing into this brand new harbour we could see that it will be a masterpiece in the future but was really not ready to take boats now.

The pontoons and berths were great but the land based ablution block was not finished so no toilets or hot showers on land. The wifi hadn't been installed yet and there was no laundry shops or technical services yet in the marina.

So we caught a taxi out for dinner that night and was taken to a large Westfields type center, which was interesting, but not what we had hoped for. We needed a small local eatery with a friendly barber close by etc.

The next day I opted to head into the city and book into a hotel for a few days and do some sight seeing so the boys came in with me and that was a good thing, as I would never have found it on public transport alone.

We first took a taxi for a good 10 Km's then hopped on a local metro bus for a while before then hopping off and crossing a few walkways over the freeway to catch the tram into the city. Well talk about packing them in. It was worse than Calcutta on a holiday. Not an inch to spare if you were standing and even though it's full - at the next station another 5 will just step one and push in so the door scraps past their backsides to close. Personally a bit too claustrophic for me!

Anyway we alighted in Sultanahmet and my hotel was 1 block away, which we found with a little help from johns iPhone and some local back street navigation.

Dumped my bags and then we went across the road to a hotel with a roof top garden and had a beer before John took us for a stroll down to see the Blue mosque and the Basilica Cistern and the old roman Aquaduct of Valerns amongst others.

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