Monday, 26 November 2012

Friends from Singapore joining Awatea

Sunday 9 September 2012
Athi, Brian, Graham (scribe), Nai and Walter travelled to Istanbul SAW airport (memories of traipsing endlessly in the heat across derelict but strangely new terminal buildings for a free CIP coffee) to catch the early evening flight to Dalaman. Earlier discussions had established that we were all new to yachting and sailing. There was a certain amount of apprehension expressed at being trapped on a small ship for five days under unknown conditions with Captain Queeg. More anon. Once safely arrived at Dalaman in the gathering darkness, we took Captain Queeg’s, sorry, John's recommended Merc 8-seater and driver for a very good transfer to Fetheyie. This was certainly worth the extra over the bus. We arrived safely and joined the good ship Awatea at the Classic Yacht Hotel marina, arriving at about 9pm.

After greetings and refreshings, an excellent late dinner was enjoyed in the hotel restaurant with a toast to "absent friends" as we keenly missed our other host, Woei Haw (Desmond), who was still stuck variously in Cyprus, Malaysia and Singapore with Turkish visa issues and so couldn’t be with us .... damn it. 

(Late post script … finally his visa was all sorted out OK and he and John returned to Turkey together on 29 September after a few days in Singapore.)

Monday 10 September 2012
Capt J and Graham joined Sarah, John’s good acquaintance from the East Med Rally earlier in the year who was moored nearby at 7am and went for a 90min brisk walk round the bay.

This was followed by breakfast on board as the rest of the laggards had surfaced by then. 

After clearing away, the whole ship's party walked into town for some shopping and sight-seeing, eventually being dragged away to get back on board ready for departure, which was achieved about 2pm.

Once we had motored out of the bay, we had an exhilarating sail in perfect conditions for the late afternoon, finally arriving at a bay close to St. Nicholas' Island, where we dropped anchor for the night. 

An excellent Thai dinner from our two chefs Athi and Nai - chicken green curry, omelet, steamed rice  and salad - was enjoyed with suitable libations (grog for the Captain, of course and G&T for the more discerning passengers.) Walter introduced us to his collection of Schnapps, purely for medicinal purposes so as to settle the stomach. 

The stay was mildly marred by a plague of wasps, which brought out the more blood thirsty and cruel elements of our more usually mild captain and crew. The swell rocked us to sleep in berths and on deck, although sound sleep was marred by the crying of the boom as it also rocked from side to side.

Tuesday 11 September 2012
At 7am, Graham bought the wrong bread and received much abuse. Later on, Thai cooks provided a full and excellent breakfast followed by a set of highly civilized cappuccinos for all, constructed (it's the only word) by John. The facilities on board lack nothing! We then motored south to look closely at the archeological ruins on the island without paying landing fees, then we headed on to view the Blue Lagoon beaches, bodies and busyness and the foolhardy hang gliders descending from the impossibly high peak above us. A tout in a dinghy provided useful data on the sport ... forty minutes flights after a forty minute truck trip to the mountain top for about TL100, flying in tandem with an experiences pilot, very very safe and fully insured. 

We love that contradiction, but it must be good to know that you're fully insured when falling from 6,000 feet or so with no parachute. We then partly retraced our steps to Cold Water Bay where we anchored with the help of the smiling and handsome single-handed assistance of Agung inhis dinghy. Once all secure we had a huge mixed salad lunch, once more courtesy of our Thai chefs. The afternoon was spent digesting, swimming and watching the cliff divers from the various noisy tourist boats that backed into the bay close to us for about 30 minutes at a time. 

Nai represented Awatea magnificently by diving twice from ever-higher points on the cliff, much to Walter and Brian's concern, alloyed with justifiable pride. [photos] The upper fresh layer of water from a spring was surprisingly chilly compared to the underlying salt water, making for an interesting swim. In the evening our single-handed ferryman took us ashore, landing by his tented home on the small beach under an olive tree. We puffed our way up the path to a magnificent hidden restaurant, Ali's Place, doing a roaring trade from the 14 or so yachts anchored below. The roaring fire alongside the barbecue took the cooking fumes and smoke skyward very neatly rather than having them drift across the diners. A clever concept. We all enjoyed some very good Turkish tucker (see, I can speak Oz - just a little) that was complemented by a very good red wine. 

The lamb meatballs were great, as was the skewered mixed grilled meats. Our Thais talked with the Thai waitress, who was the sister of the owner's wife. Confusingly were told about food being available for breakfast once the kitchen opened next morning, rather than the hoped-for invitation for a complimentary meal.  But that was tomorrow’s problem. Tonight, the ferry trip courtesy of Agung back to Awatea went without incident and the usual nightcaps were taken once on board. This proved to be a brief interlude for your sleepy scribe who left the others imbibing and retired to an excellent night very shortly after taking his first sip of single malt while the others forced down their purely medicinal schnapps of a various flavours.

Wednesday 12 September 2012
Awatea is two years old today ... Happy Birthday.

Ever optimistic where food is concerned, we summoned Agung once more for a lift ashore to once again ascend the path to Ali's restaurant under brilliant blue skies with a lovely cooling breeze and increasingly wonderful views of the bay and the moored yachts through the trees. 

Our hopes were realized and the breakfast was both adequate and complimentary and was enjoyed in the most magnificent of settings despite a recalcitrant toaster. On the walk back the donkey posed for its photo very nicely.

Back on board, we had coffee then prepared to cast off with a bit of a wait for Agung, who, after releasing our ropes, beamed to receive his reward of a couple of beers. We motored away from Cold Water Bay then raised the sails and tacked out in a freshening breeze and another stunningly gorgeous day. Once round the point on a long close-hauled tack across Fetheyie Bay the breeze increased to let Awatea show her paces for a couple of hours of exhilarating sailing in fabulous conditions. Our Thai chefs Athi and Nai managed to whip up a great lunch of steamed rice, fried minced beef with basil leaf and salad despite the problems in the galley due to tacking and a reasonable swell. Walter was torn between his new love of continuing to steer Awatea or handing over to John so he could follow his other love ... eating lunch.

Sailing got a good bit more exciting when we passed through the narrow channel between the mainland and Domuz Island, tacking furiously into the headwind. Most of the passengers had never come about so often in years. The other yachts making the passage all dropped their sails and motored but through but the skill and bravery of our Captain prevailed and we burst through under full sail. 

Once in the enclosed waterways the wind was very variable, first screened and then funneled by the hills and valleys. At one point we sailed into a squall that hit the sails before the ship had a chance to heel over and we got a shock as there was a big "bang" from the fore deck area. On investigation we found that the genoa car holding the foresail had partly failed. (That’s the bit at the back bottom of the sail where it fastens to a track in the deck, allowing the foresail to flip from side to side for ach tack.) We continued on mainsail only to Ortisim Bay where after a false start with a dragging anchor we finally moored up stern to shore, with thanks to Nai for his efforts to swim the line ashore each time. We moored a few tens of meters from a gullets (local chartered holiday boat), from which a Turkish crew member shouted a confused message having seen us showering on deck that we shouldn't pee in the water. Hah! As if we would. We suspect that the deck hose water had confused the poor man.

The damaged genoa car was found to result from a stress corrosion cracked stainless steel alloy shackle that had cracked almost 80% across before the added stress of the blast of wind on the vertical sail snapped the remaining metal. We reflected soberly that it was a bloody good thing that it hadn't failed while tacking up the narrow Domuz channel or things could have been disastrous. That called for a drink; sober reflections are not good.

Dinner was a magnificent Thai meal once more – this time of Penang Curry chicken, Tom Yam seafood soup, omelet, steamed rice followed by fresh fruits and another set of Walter's schnapps to settle our stomachs.

Thursday 13 September 2012
A convivial full breakfast was enjoyed early and then all cleared up as we prepared to release the stern line, courtesy of the great white whale (your scribe took to the waters early today) and then weigh the anchor (about 12 kilos without chain) ready to head back to Fethyie for our last night together. The damaged genoa car prevented sailing, so it was steady motoring under great conditions. We admired several of the other craft on the waters close to us, particularly one good-sized magnificent two-masted yacht that performed some odd manoeuvres around us. We responded by giving them a turn ourselves, but without any apparent effect. We were surprised by how small Awatea’s turning circle was. She seemed to do 360 degrees in little more than her own length. Leaving a crop circle on the surface of the sea behind us, all too soon we were entering Fetheyie Bay. John became increasingly apprehensive as mooring time approached. The Classic Yacht Hotel jetty was pretty busy, so we had to reverse into a narrow single gap with the stiffening wind on the beam and lots of onlookers. His apprehensions proved ill-founded as he skillfully handled his craft and commanded the crew. Oooh … so masterful! And there we were, safely back where we started. While the crew washed down the topsides and tidied up, your scribe took a walk to Swirling Eddie’s ships chandlers to get spare shackles modified to repair the genoa car. These were delivered within 3 hours and Walter and Graham effected the repair in the early evening. We’ve heard since then that it all seems to work ok, which makes it all rather satisfying.

Once the ship was ship-shape, it was showers and change into shore rig and off into town for a shave and haircut (for some) and shopping for others before returning to pack and freshen up before our pre-prandial drinks followed by another excellent dinner at the hotel and a relatively early night for most of us. Our two younger Thais headed back into town to explore the nightlife and only returned in the early hours.

Friday 14 September 2012 
We were all up early this final morning for showers onshore and coffee and tea on board before having to gather our bags on the jetty and finally set off to the front of the hotel and the waiting transport to the airport that duly turned up on schedule at 7.20am. All the five newbies to yachting were really sad to be leaving and universally declared that five days just wasn’t enough and that we all want to come back to do lots more for at least 3 or 4 weeks next time. Our sincere thanks to Captain Johnnie for looking after us so well and for allowing us to sail on his wonderful ship and home, the Awatea!

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