Friday, October 15, 2010

East Med Sailing

At anchor in Kekova

The colorful village of Kastellorizon

With friends from Red Shoes

The anchorage at Kastellorizon, on a calm day

Eliza trying to enjoy steering with a 25 knot following wind & sea

East Med Sailing

In mid-September sailing condition is wonderful around this part of the Med. The temperature drops to a comfortable 25C in the day, and is nice and cool at night. The Meltimi is still blowing and it extends further south-east to this side of the Mediterranean coast, and could provide for some exciting sailing. We headed north-west for another sailing trip for a couple of weeks, sailing by day and anchoring by night. This stretch of the Turkish coast is called the Lycian coast, and is known for its rugged mountains and majestic scenery. In ancient times this coast was feared by mariners as it’s exposed to the open sea with little protection, but now there are anchorages or marinas that are within a day’s sail. The first stop was one of our favorite cove, Cineviz Bay. Then we went to a small city, Finike, where we stayed at the marina for a few days for some sightseeing, and to get our batteries replaced. Compared to Kemer, Finike is a more traditional Turkish city, with little tourism, and has a rustic charm. The price of restaurants is also much better.

Then we continued onto Kekova Road, a stretch of protected water that is known as one of the best cruising grounds in Turkey. The four-mile-long island Kekova Adasi provides shelter to the prevailing winds, and there are numerous well-protected anchorages. We went into a little bay called Gokkaya Limani, and were attracted by its scenic bays and fjord-like channels. The water was wonderful to swim in. A freshwater spring bubbles into the sea, and it was refreshingly cool on the top layer. There were ruins all around, adding another dimension of interesting sights to this anchorage. The largest concentration of ruins is around the middle of Kekova, with a large castle atop a hill with commanding view of the channel. We stayed for two nights here, relaxing in the clear waters under the clear blue sky of the late-summer. Around us there were many yachts and gullets, including some true mega-yacht, but overall it was quiet and serene in the little bay. At night a full moon peeked into the opening of the bay, as if seeking entrance into the channel, and then rose up and cast a cool blue light onto the bay, silhouetting all the boats slowly swinging at anchor.

North-west of Kekova by another half-day’s sail is a charming small Greek island, Kastellorizon. At one point it used to be a bustling town of 20,000, but today there are less than 200 inhabitants. The island itself is a bare rock rising up from the sea, but the town and the colorfully painted houses dotting the island have a certain harmony and charm, and it’s great for walking around after having been on the boat for a few days. We pulled into a small bay called Mandraki and met up with our friends, a Canadian couple whom we met on the EMYR. We dropped anchor in front of a reef and took the dinghy to get into town. We had a light lunch in a little restaurant near the waterfront and then strolled through the narrow streets to look at the delightfully painted and well-maintained houses. It felt wonderful. We stayed at this anchorage for 2 days. On the second night, a strong wind sprang from the sea, blowing at over 25 knots and whipping the water in the small bay into white caps. Two neighboring boats dragged anchors and had to leave. We held an anchor watch until well after mid night when the wind finally died down.

The next morning we decided to raise anchor and to head back towards Kemer before the wind picks up. Pick up it did, and once beyond the lee of the islands, we were in the full force of over 20 knot wind and large seas. Fortunately the wind was behind us, so we ran with our small head sail in case the wind further strengthened. It was an exhilarating ride, but keeping the boat on a dead down-wind course with a choppy following sea took a bit of effort, so after a few hours we had enough and we hopped back into Kekova Road and took shelter in our familiar bay. Throughout the day more boats and gullets piled into the bay, seeking shelter from the near-gale warning issued by the Turkish weather office. Such was the moods of the sea.