Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter at Astipalaia April 25, 2011

Finally, a nice, calm day

Easter at Astipalaia April 25, 2011
We are the lone boat at this anchorage at the island of Astipalaia for a third fourth day now, still waiting for the wind to calm down. This little fishing/resort hamlet called Maltezana is very quiet as the tourist season has not started yet. We are sheltered from waves on all directions, but not sheltered from the wind, which rolls over the hills surrounding the small harbor and blasts us at full force, day and night at 25 knots. There have been gale and near-gale warnings for the Aegean every week for the last 4 weeks. It’s all white caps even within the small bay. The masts moan, and the bimini shakes under every gust. The boat swings around in and out of the wind, straining the anchor. The halyards are secured but some lines always manage to slap against something and make a rhythmic noise. Thankfully the anchor, set with an all-chain scope of 8:1, is solidly holding. Spring is arriving late in the Aegean and it’s unseasonably cold, about 15C during the day. However the scenery is beautiful. It’s always sunny, the water clear and emerald green, distant mountains brown with patches of green, dotted by neat white-washed vacation villas and houses. A great way to make use of the anchor time is read, read, and read if you are Eliza. If you are restless like Ben, you varnish, fine-tuning the radio system and re-set the sails. Only if we don’t have a schedule; Matt & Inga, we’re trying …..
By late afternoon, the wind has calmed down somewhat as there are more activities happening; a small plane has landed at the nearby airport, a small ketch puttering around the islands, small fishing boats coming out from the harbour and we have a new neighbour, a French boat called Tempo Rubato. With certainty, tomorrow we can make our run to Thira (Santorini).

From Tilos to Astipalaia April 22, 2011

A tough day at the office...

Choppy even within the protected bay

Sunset after the storm

From Tilos to Astipalaia April 22, 2011
We continue our Greek Island hopping and are now sailing from Tilos to Astipalaia, a distance of about 60 nautical miles. This is our longest run yet through the open Aegean Sea. Typically we’ve picked anchorages that are within half day’s sail, to allow time for less wind or tacking. But now we’ve finally run out of the short hops and its time to head to sea for a longer voyage. We try to time the right weather window, but this is spring gales season and it is next to be impossible to time it perfectly, or you end up waiting for a long time. The prevailing wind is north west, with gale warnings at mid-Aegean about 5 days out of 7. Today is no exception, but at least the wind is slightly to the north, forecasted at 15 knots, and yesterday it was relatively calm so the sea has not built up yet.

Good bye Turkey April 21, 2011

Tilos Harbor

The harbor attendent helping us dock

Tilos sunrise and the ferry, just across our boat

Good bye Turkey April 21, 2011

We had a good day sailing on Wednesday with wind blowing at around 20 knots, arriving at Datca just past 2:00 in the afternoon. We’ve been sailing between Greek islands and Turkish ports, but Datca is the last Turkish port that we are finally checking out. The quay was not full at the time but we decided to anchor out, for the peace and quiet. At the waterfront, there are the coastguard, restaurants, yacht/tour services and of course, gulets and fishing boats. As soon as we landed from our dingy, we were welcomed by someone saying “Welcome Canada” …. having a respectable size flag flying high at the stern helps and also, you don’t see a whole lot of “Canadian” boats in Turkey. We located a yacht agency to help with printing out the exit transit log form and for that, we were charged 20TL. We got to the habour master’s office just before closing time, but police and customs needed to wait until the next morning.

Datca is a fair size Turkish town, pretty it is not, but a pleasant one. Sure there’re tourist shops near the waterfront, but local shops are within walking distance. We went to BIM to stock up on provisions and did our bargaining, the Turkish style, for a flashlight.

The next morning, we went back and got clearance from the police and the customs. We spent our last two liras on a muffin and peanuts. The pastry shop was going to charge the muffin for one euro …. where we paid only one lira the day before. We went back and forth, one euro …. no no, bir lire …. finally, ok. Were they trying to charge us the tourist price or did we pay for a stale muffin the day before? We’ll never know.

Good bye Turkey …. we sailed out, on the run, at 10:00am, with a marching band playing at the harbour …. saying farewell to us?!!

The sea was calm but sailable, and 3 Rivers was sailing on the run for a good 3 hours. In the afternoon the breeze picked up. It was perfect, and we sailed on a reach, at 6 knots, under a brilliant blue sky. We entered the Tilos harbour, in Greece, at 2:30pm. The harbour attendant assisted with the mooring lines and sternly told us we needed to leave the next day, to the next port of entry. Mooring fee was 13€ and 1€ for 100lt of water (no cleaning of the boat). However, after the first day of mooring, it’s only 8€ per each additional day. Not sure how Tilos harbour could sustain hiring a full time attendant as the space can allow no more than five boats. Our neighbour on port side was a Bavarian 49 with 10 ‘teenaged-looking’ crews that enjoyed Elvis’s songs and on star board, also a Bavarian, but with 6 ‘more advanced age looking’ crews from Isreal-Hezaliya, and they enjoyed Abba’s.

We had a nice meal, grilled lamb chops with wine at Strata, that’s a good way to end the evening since we needed to get up early the next day to depart for Astipalaia and according to forecast, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Sheltering in Pethi April 19, 2011

Simi water front

A relaxing lifestyle....

The harbour at Simi

Anchorage at Pethi

Sheltering in Pethi April 19, 2011

We anchored in a nicely sheltered bay at Pethi as near gale warning was forecasted for the next few days in the Aegean. To explore Simi, which lies NE of Pethi, we hiked over the steep ridge of Chorio and once over the top, the Gulf of Doris was in full view. It’s a magnificent sight. The island of Simi is a small, yet dramatic showpiece of the Dodecanese chain, with jagged mountain peaks like raw diamonds cutting the air. The picturesque town is dotted with red-roofed, white and stone houses, set into the steep hillsides surrounding the bay, highlighted by many charming churches. Simi was once known for its shipbuilding, sponge diving, fishing and commercial trade. What happened on many Greek islands certainly applies to Simi: the town is now mainly a tourist town, with ferry boats coming from Rhodes, as many as five or more in the summer. We noticed some shops started closing up at 2:00pm and thought the Greeks were maintaining their siesta hours. No, shops closed because the ferry was departing at 2:00pm. No more tourists! We took advantage of the 1€ bus ride back to our anchorage and along the narrow alleyway-like road, we saw houses of neoclassical style, and once again, we enjoyed the stunning view of both Pethi and Ghialos towns. It was a pleasant excursion. We arranged for fuel to be delivered at the pier the next day and then back to Turkish water to get check out at Datca.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bozuk Buku

Bozuk Buku April 16, 2011
We left the bustling Marmaris Bay in the morning and headed into the open sea, motoring west along the Turkish coast and waiting for the sea breeze to pick up. Taking the lesson we learned from our run to Marmaris which was mostly motoring and pounding into headwinds, we decided to change our strategy from now on: forget the schedule, wait for a favorable weather window, and sail rather than motor! That’s what sensible sailors do. At least that’s the theory. The forecast for the next several days is that the weather will be fine, with light winds, and flat sea. So we picked our next anchorage to be a short distance of 25 nautical miles away, allowing time for slow sailing and tacking as long as there’s at least a trace of wind. And sail we did – Three Rivers sailing with all four sails up, doing about 5 knots in 10 knots of wind, close-hauled.

This stretch of coast is markedly different from the coast line east of Marmaris. Gone are the wooded mountains and green hills of pine forests, instead, the coastlines are replaced by barren, rocky hills that are mostly uninhabited. The sea is mostly empty except for the odd sailboats. The sky is overcast with high level clouds, and the sea’s steely blue reflects it. Our enjoyable sail lasted for about three hours, when the wind turned dead on the nose, and then died completely. On with the iron horse again.

By late afternoon we arrived Bozuk Buku, a well-sheltered anchorage at the tip of a long peninsula that jugs out into the Mediterranean Sea. On one corner of the bay, an ancient Hellenistic citadel overlooks the sea, most of its walls still preserved virtually intact. But there was no sign of human activities now, except for several other boats that were anchored here, and under the orange glow of the setting sun, the bay is pretty in its bleak isolation.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moods of the Sea

Sunset at Marmaris Bay

Moods of the Sea April 14, 2011

We are now anchoring in a beautiful bay just off the Yacht Marina, in Marmaris, Turkey. It’s a quiet anchorage, surrounded by green hills on three sides, with a nice view of distant mountains. Six other sailboats are also anchoring in the bay, all quietly swinging on their anchor in tandem under the light breeze. We took our dinghy for the 10 minute ride to visit the marina, saw some friends and had a great lunch. We are now sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the sunset and the perfect weather of about 20C. This is far more enjoyable than staying at the huge marina, despite the loss of conveniences like washroom and resturants. Tomorrow we will set sail towards the Aegean Sea.

Eliza - back from our dinghy ride to the marina

Riggers doing serious work - replacing the forestay (the big long wire at the front)

Yes, we finally escaped the boat yard and the last boat project was completed. We were here mainly to get some boat work done, particularly replacing some running and standing riggings. But work took longer than planned, as they always tend to. We had intended to depart three days ago, but as boatwork dragged on, it was getting frustrating. However, it turned out that the delay was a blessing in disguise: Two days ago a depression went through, bringing rain and wind. The forecast had called for moderate winds, which was why we had planned to set sail to take advantage of the favorite wind direction. But the south wind turned into a gale. We had gusts of 40 knots inside the marina. A gale warning was issued by weather agencies, but only when the storm was already at its full fury! Forecasts are indeed accurate, except for the timing. Two boats we knew were sailing through the night towards Marmaris, and had a very wild ride. It blew for about 15 hours, and then the sun came out, and the wind dwindled to a murmur. Such is the mood of the Mediterranean seas.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Onto Marmaris

April 5 From Kemer to Marmaris

As April approaches, the spring weather in this part of the Med has been getting milder, close to 20C in the day. Last Saturday we had a wonderful barbecue party, followed by music and dancing. That was our last party at Kemer Marina. On a fine, sunny morning, we bid farewell to our cruiser friends at Kemer, and casted off for an early season of sailing. We've made a lot of wonderful friends here, and leaving this place was very hard, but it’s time to move on and continue our journey.

Another wonderful party at the Navigator

As usual the wind was against us. The prevailing wind is northerly, and along the coast the wind curves around the coast line and presents a head wind no matter where you are, if you are heading north-west as we are. We tried to sail for a couple of hours, and then gave up and cranked up the iron horse. With building sea and head wind, we were barely making 4 knots as the boat pounded into heavy seas. Not only we were not sailing, we were wasting precious fuel. What a way to start the first sail of the season! Fortunately by daybreak the wind had died down, and we entered into the large Fethiye Bay under a cool morning sun and a calm sea. We dropped anchor in a nice sheltered bay and finally had some rest.

Entering the Bay of Fethiye

In the afternoon we went out and explored the town of Fethiye. With a natural harbour that’s very well sheltered and surrounded by distant misty mountains, Fethiye is good size city with a well-developed water front. The mass of tourists had not arrived yet, but waterfront restaurants and parks were very vibrant and filled with locals who were sipping tea or playing broad games. We met up with Paul, a cruising friend who was working on his boat here, while his wife and new-born son lived in Istanbul. We went to a fish market and outdoor restaurant area where one can pick the fish, and then take it to a restaurant and have it cooked. The evening air was chill, but with our glasses of wine and dishes of delicious pan-fried sea bass, we had a wonderful time musing about the cruising life and cursing about the boat working life.

Sailing into Marmaris

The next day we raised anchor bright and early, and continued our journey to Marmaris, about 40 miles away. It was another motoring day, with no wind and the sea flat as glass. The consolation was that Ben saw a dolphin – a single juvenile that played with the bow wave for a short while and then disappeared. By late afternoon the wind picked up a bit, and we enjoyed an hour of fine sailing with the boat doing 5 knots under 8-10 knots of wind on a close reach. By 4:00pm, we’re anchored just outside the Marmaris Yacht Marina, next to the Pupa Yat Hotel, a very scenic and peaceful place (for now, without the tourists, and therefore, without the blasting disco backbeat). Ben finally had a chance to test out his brand new bbq grill and it was a success!