Saturday, July 24, 2010
Passage from Israel to Turkey
Passage from Israel to Turkey July 20-23
We ended up staying for three weeks in the Herzliya marina in Israel, doing a fair amount of sight-seeing, boat work, and just plain relaxing. We are slowly getting to the life of a ‘yachty’ – people living on board. Most of our EMYR friends have now departed Israel, all 70 boats dispersed to the four winds. We met plenty of wonderful people, but this is a transient type of friendship. You may never meet one another again. So it is now time to get on the open sea again, and embark on the long 300 miles passage back to Turkey. Israel is nice, but Turkey is where the summer cruising ground is, and also there are more choices for marinas with vibrant cruising communities for staying the winter.
In July and August, the super-heated land masses of Turkey and Greece form a weather system that funnels strong winds that roar down the Aegean Sea, through the southern coasts, and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. This is the famed Meltemi winds, which blows North and Northwest at 20-30 knots. It slows down to 10-15 knots in the Southern Mediterranean, but nevertheless it means the passage will be mostly heading into wind, in seas that have been built up over a long fetch.
Once the coastline and high-rises of Israel receded from the horizon, there was nothing except the vast sea with endless shades of indigo blue dotted with white caps, under a friendly sky with a few patches of cotton clouds. Not a ship was in sight. We were truly alone now, unlike the EMYR where we were always sailing in a company of other boats and our position was always known and periodically updated with the team. We managed to sail about half the time, and motor sailed the rest. Wind was fairly steady at around 10-15 knots from NW, even through the night. This wind blows through two hundred miles of fetch, and at this side of the Med a considerable chop builds up. It was an uncomfortable ride, with the Nauticat ploughing through two-meter swells plus some steep waves. After the three-week rest in Israel, it took us a while to get our sea legs back.
We had intended to sail as much as possible on this passage, and only turn on the engine when the wind is absolutely too little. We did manage to sail a fair bit, but it worked out that we still had to motor-sail often. The basic reason is that we still had a schedule to meet: We need to arrive by Friday when the Turkey check-in offices are open, otherwise we would need to anchor somewhere during the weekend. Also if we had relied on sail only and tacked about, it would prolong the sailing time significantly, and open up the weather window to potential adverse weather. This is late July, after all, with a good possibility of heavy weather. Such are the restrictions of a longer voyage. So we ran the iron horse when needed and motor-sailed half the time.
By the third night, with the Turkish coast only 50 miles away, the wind direction shifted to westerly, on the beam. The sea was also much calmer. It was a nice smooth sail, a full moon shined through a cloudless sky and lit up the sea behind us. It was a nice way to end a 1,400 mile sailing journey.