Friday, May 28, 2010

Nearly in Istanbul

Just a very quick update. We are anchored in a large bay on the outskirts of
Istanbul, having had a very enjoyable sail/motor north in pleasantly
English-summer-like weather.
The lat/long of our bay is 41 01.3N 28 34.7E if you want to look on Google
Earth. It is Friday night, and there is lots going on in this large beach
resort, just what we need after the almost post-apocalyptic solitude of the
Sea of Marmara islands.
Hope to visit Istanbul in the next few days.
More details later...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spring wildlife - but what?

Can you identify the wildlife that we saw during our first few weeks afloat?
We saw 3 whales swimming slowly along the coast near Gemiler Adasi. These are the small ones – there was a huge one further out to sea. What are they?

In Bayandir Limani near Kas we saw loads of these tiny animal things in the water glowing bright blue like LED's. Slowly they were coming together in pairs (or threes – wey hey) and they were definitely glowing, not reflecting the light. They had lots of tiny wavy arms/legs along one edge. What are they?
Needing no explanation, but just as wonderful, we had dolphins (or are they porpoises?) jumping along next to our dinghy as we went ashore from the pine forested anchorage opposite Ece marina in Fethiye bay. 
In our walks ashore, particularly around the Lykian sites we've seen 3 snakes (one as big as my arm and definitely on my trajectory had I not stopped to look at something), tortoises, terrapins and turtles, and heaps and heaps of giant insects. It must be spring or something......
2 sea birds on a raft - aahh!!

And much more rare – look, what's this blue flappy thing?......

Finike to Marmaris

Escape from Camp Finike, April 2010

With the last day of our five-month contract rapidly approaching we fitted in the last few boat jobs and farewell parties around our timetable and untied from the marina bound for Kekova, only 15 miles away. As we sailed into the bay the water was turning white as the wind increased to 30 knots against us, just as we dropped anchor into the sticky gloop of Uc Agiz bay. If we'd left just one hour later it would have been a real hard slog. As the winds reversed into katabatic winds from all angles overnight, sending the anchor alarm on the GPS into a frenzy every hour, and then blew again at 40 knots the next day, it still felt really great to be swinging to our own anchor once more, particularly as we only managed 3 nights at anchor last year, due to taking part in the East Med Rally and being in a part of the world where there are no lovely bays to swing to your own hook.

We chilled out for a week enjoying the company of several yachts as they came from Finike and left again. We enjoyed
delightful walking on the Lykian paths around the bay and dinner in the newly discovered Kekova restaurant, half the price and twice as good as Ibrahims or Hasans. We were treated to a visit from the local mayor and the Turkish Minster of Tourism as they visited the tiny sleepy village to open the new visitors pontoon. The day before the visit announcements were made in the traditional manner from the village minaret speaker system to let all the locals know that the time had come to vacate the new visitors' pontoon because it is for .....visitors! So all the gulets tied up in a tidy line on the old locals pontoon, and the little fishing boats tied to any rocks they could find around the bay. Predictably within 1 hour of the ribbon cutting ceremony and departure of the officials the boats starting moving back in again. By the following day there were 20 gulets enjoying the new luxury visitors' pontoon. We asked around but no-one seemed to know who's job it would be to collect the dues for visiting yachts on the new pontoon, as there is no harbour master there. No doubt it is full by now!

It was time to move on again before any more Finike yachts came in to socialise with. With our visas due at the end of the month we decided to renew them early by anchoring in the bay near Kas (Bayindir Limani) and taking Captain Selos' boat to the Greek Island of Kastellorizo, and stock up on bacon, pork chops, spirits and Greek cheese.  We have been really fortunate to have settled, warm and sunny, calm weather for April, and it was no problem to leave the boat for a day to complete the visa formalities.
I have never been to Kastellorizon without there being some calamity on the ferry boat, and this was no exception. On leaving the harbour the new driver cut his engines to avoid a diver on the bottom with a free flowing regulator (he could have been coming up in an emergency). The boat drifted off course and swung around taking out the bowsprit of local gulet as it accelerated to get back on course. A lot of red faces all round!

A chance conversation with Birte from Circe informed us of an interesting bay just to the west and outside Kalkan, so this was our next stop. After anchoring for the evening , we took the little path behind the ruins of a house, and followed the piles of stones marking a tiny path up through the undergrowth. After a slightly breathless 30 minute scramble we emerged onto a ridge and there were the remains of an early Roman aqueduct system that crosses a dip between 2 hills. To enable water to flow across the dip, the central pipe of the aqueduct is a sealed siphon system. Each block weighs around 800kg and has interlocking rings. Some blocks were engineered so that they could be slid out for maintenance and the lowest blocks had inspection holes, presumably for removing sediment from the lowest point. The mind boggles how they brought the blocks here and how and where they were constructed. These aqueducts went on for miles and miles, although now only a few sections remain, bringing fresh water from the hills to the Lykian city of Patara - more of which follows.

Next stop the lovely sticky mud of Fethiye bay. This town really interests us, and although it has a touristy facade it has a lot to offer and our visit this time only whetted our appetite for more. With Martin and Gerlinda (Mojo) we hired a car to go and visit some of the old Lykian cities around the Xanthos valley, first Patara, which by 11am still only had 10 tourists on the site. The city was the port from which St Paul left Anatolia bound for Rome, and was a really important trading post in it's day for the Lykians, the navy of Alexander's successors and then the Roman Empire, and later the birthplace of St Nicholas, who still is seen in the night sky with his reindeer delivering parcels. 
It lies a few kilometres inland now, and a lot of the ancient city is believed to lie under the sand dunes. Just a couple of years ago they took out many trucks of sand and discovered the old lighthouse, now marooned in the dunes. 

Using all the partial maps available to us between English and German tourist guides, we explored a back road and drove up into the Saklikent Gorge, where we stopped for a snack by the river. We were tempted into paying 4TL entry fee for the gorge, as we were told you could wade through the gentle stream up the gorge for about 3 km. The gushing flood from up the hill, across the road and through the car park should have raised our suspicions, but in we went through the turnstile, along the wooden ramps for about 200m, then we were confronted with a raging freezing torrent which would have been truly foolhardy to attempt to cross, as for sure we would have been carried away down the river towards where the white water rafting trips start from ! This is definitely a mid summer pastime – not to be attempted for a few months after the snow has melted on the surrounding mountains. 

With our canyoning explorations thwarted, we had time for another Lykian city, Tlos. Although these cities all date from around the same period, they were all built in stunning strategic sites, and are barely excavated, as there are so many sites and not enough archaeologists or money to do them justice. Each place has something a bit different to offer. Tlos is currently being farmed and goats are encouraged to graze the agora and stadium!
We totally underestimated how efficient our car would be on petrol, so we had to hire it for a second day to use up the remaining fuel!  We drove to the northernmost, highest of the ancient Lycian cities, Oeneanda, described as a vast, romantic jumble of tumbled masonry, lintels, statue columns, and buried arches overgrown with juniper, oak, and cedar...frequented only by  squirrels and the occasional hunter or shepherd, in wild mountain country. The directions were given exactly to 100m and we parked in front of the village tea shop where the gentlemen of the village were enjoying their Sunday morning game of Okey ( like rummy with scabble tiles). We had a cay (Turkish tea) and within moments had attracted the interest of the village guide who insisted on accompanying us and showing us around. Although we tried to dissuade him, we would not have found all the interesting  ruins without him, so it was worthwhile having him along, even though he spoke no English. This ridge-top site overlooking both sides of the huge valley is virtually untouched by the excavations of the German Institute. The pillars and blocks lie scattered among the rocks and shrubs, and pieces of pottery are everywhere. Diogenes of Oenoanda was a prolific writer and possibly purchased an entire piazza in the 2C Ad to inscribe his lengthy discourses on ethics, physics, dreams, old age, the Gods, origin of humans, and the invention of clothing, speech and writing. The pillars with fragments of his inscriptions lie scattered by 2000 years of weather and earthquakes around the hill top. It was originally about 25 000 words long and filled 260 square meters of wall space.
We ate our picnic at the top of the theatre with views of the top of the world all around us, before acknowledging that we couldn't stay forever, and would have to return to the village, the car, Fethiye and the modern world. 

Onward from Fethiye via Skopea Limani, Gemiler Adasi and Ekincik to Marmaris to see our friends Kate and Davey. Whilst at anchor here I decided to inspect the chainplates, as neither of us could ignore the small bulge on the deck any longer, and feel comfortable about bashing into the Black Sea or meltemi waves. After taking a saw to the  headlining and wood lining of the interior of the hull, our suspicions were confirmed that the chainplate had partially sprung away from the original fibreglass and the plate had slightly bent. It's a task that is much better tackled in Marmaris, centre of the yachting industry, where you can get anything done, and there are lots of contacts, and competitive pricing as opposed to Finike's tiresome monopolies. 
As Stu got to work with the fibreglassing, rebedding the chainplate, and making a lined access hatch for future access, our fellow voyagers to the Black Sea are getting further ahead of us, although some of them are stuck waiting out an early northerly blow in the Aegean. In between grinding, cleaning and glassing we visited Yat Marin for the first time – what an amazing operation – it has to be seen to be believed, they really know how to get a lot of boats launched. We were more impressed than we expected and while we wouldn't want to spend a winter there, we'd have no qualms about hauling out there to do work on Matador in the future. 
Our friends Kate and Davey helped to deliver a charter yacht from Marmaris to Finike and it was just perfect timing for them to help us by bringing our cruising shute back to us as it arrived in Finike later than expected. Hopefully with the right sort of wind it might help us catch up.
The weather here is 22 to 25 degrees and sunny most days, with light winds. April has been an excellent month for escaping from the rigours of marina life, even if we have had a small setback. 
And here's the forecast for the next 5 days : 
Good init?

There are some late additions to the blog for Syria, Lebanon and Israel, if you don't mind scrolling back a few pages.