Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yacht Matador and the BSE


No we haven't gone cow-brain eating crazy, I'm referring to the 'Black Sea Experience' as it shall be called henceforth.
All the time that we've been in Turkey the Black Sea (BS) beckoned. When we mentioned Trabzon, Turks would go starry eyed and say 'aaah Trabzon, cok guzel(very beautiful)' or 'Oooh Black Sea, very dangerous'. Turkish films portray Trabzon as a gentle green paradise with pebble beaches and clear calm seas. Frankly I don't know what the film producers were on, we thought it was a hole, details will follow.
Other cruisers that we met, who had visited the Black Sea, told us it was fantastic, an experience not to be missed, friendly people, interesting places. As our BSE continued on, we really questioned what was wrong with us, we just didn't seem to be getting it.
One of the main attractions for us was that only a handful of yachts travel the Turkish coast of the BS, many less than visit the Pacific islands, for instance.
There are a few reasons why few yachts go there; it is a very long way from Istanbul to the Georgian border (600miles, 1000km); you must travel north early in the spring to avoid northerly summer winds; it has a bad reputation for sudden storms and treacherous seas (not so much in mid-summer);barely anyone speaks English; there is no foreign tourism; there is a very short sailing season mid May to end August, and insurance companies  often impose time limits, or additional premiums, as they perceive it to be a riskier cruising area.
Unperturbed by these facts, we're always up for an adventure and for something a bit different. I try to speak a little Turkish and we're not afraid of a bit of inconvenience, to see how other people and cultures live. Rather that, than spend the summer with crowds of charter boats in the super-heated environs of Marmaris and Fethiye in mid summer.
It was certainly not all bad, and we did have some super experiences, but for those on a limited time budget in the Med, we personally would suggest that you don't go too far past the Bosphorous, use the time to hire a car or go by bus to explore inland. If you have many years to poke around in the Med, then it is a real eye-opener to another culture, and unforgettable. Other cruisers that went to the western BS, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, had mixed feelings about that too. The BS clearly divides us into 'really loved it' and 'really not so sure what it's all about'. Some cruisers in the former category go back year after year, and have many Turkish friends who they meet up with time and again.
At least we went, we saw, we made up our own minds. Don't let us discourage others from going there, though, everyone's experience is different.

Here's a map for the geographically challenged.
 It is approximately 600 miles from our starting point in Finike to the Bosphorus, and another 600 miles from Istanbul to the Georgian border – and then back again! We left early April, with a 10 day break in Marmaris for repairs and 10 days in Istanbul for sightseeing, and didn't stop too long anywhere on route, but moved at a leisurely pace. We had good sailing winds as far as Istanbul, then June saw really terrible weather across the whole of the mainland, with many big storms and floods. By August, when we left the BS, the weather still had not settled into it's normal sea-breeze patterns (as an experienced BS cruiser told us it should have by July), and we experienced, no wind, or contrary  winds, along the BS coast throughout the trip. Diesel for motoring is a bit more expensive in Turkey than Greece and England, so 600 miles is a significant cost if you can't get good sailing (we do 5 miles/hour, and use 2.5 litres/hour if you want to work it out).

For navigation we used the Atakoy Marina publication, Cruise the Black Sea, now hopelessly out of date, but with good background information, and the few details in Heikel's Turkish Waters pilot, sometimes more out of date than the Atakoy one, and information from cruisers that visited last year, or were ahead of us. The Turks are building ports along the coast at an amazing rate, some are packed with large fishing boats and others totally empty, but they are mostly close together so it is not necessary to sail at night and you can make shortish day hops all along. The ports are all free, with the exception of Samsun. More than once we asked fisherman for information about depths in nearby harbours, but lost confidence in this approach when the answers were totally in conflict. Some Turks just want to say something helpful, even if it isn't helpful to do so, and would never say 'I don't know'.

For the sake of those that visit in the near future, I'll give a breakdown of the trip, with brief details where it adds to the info in the Atakoy book. Don't whatever you do pay attention to my lat and long information – you'd be an idiot to rely on it for navigation!  Unless otherwise mentioned, all conversations with locals are in faltering, dictionary assisted Turkish.

Poyraz 41 12.2N 29 07.5E,  Bosphorous Cruise  9 June 2010
It was an early and unceremonious departure from Mimar Sinan, with our anchor chain knitted around our neighbour's lazy line on the bottom of the extremely dirty, muddy bottom. We were in no apparent distress, using secondary lines to sort it out slowly and carefully, but a Turk in a little boat came out to help and typically not appreciative of any risk, put his hand in the middle of the mess just as it slipped. I really hope that he didn't get a lasting injury, but please could they just learn not to put hands anywhere near anchor chain attached to 14 tons of boat and a heavy anchor  held fast by a rats' nest in the water. I know he was trying to help and Stu could not communicate that he didn't want him to, but we were doing fine on our own, and  it made us feel sad that one of their community might have a lasting unpleasant reminder of our stay there.
We sailed and motored along the coast, dodging anchored ships waiting to go into the docks. We were feeling a little apprehensive of whether the engine problems would recur as we headed into the raging currents at the southern entrance to the Bosphorous (The engine problem just turned out to be bad fuel from Cannakale in the end).  The Bosphoros is an enormous TSS (north and south bound shipping lanes) criss-crossed by numerous fast ferries east to west from the Asian to the European side. The advice was to go up the west side, just outside of the shipping lanes, to avoid the worst of the adverse current. As we were barely moving over the ground, we had plenty of time to appreciate the grandeur of the Istanbul skyline from the sea.
Ferries seem to appreciate the predicament of low-powered  north bound small craft and we had no near misses. We monitored the series of different VHF channels as we ascended the Bosphorous but no-one called us up.
North of the Golden Horn, under 2 gigantic road bridges, the houses of the very well-off Stamboulites line the waters edge. Little of it is stunning architecture, though there are some well renovated Ottoman houses to admire and some exquisite old buildings in decay beside glass and concrete monster apartment blocks, What are the planners thinking? There was much less traffic further up, and we soon did what everyone else does and zip across the shipping lanes to the other side at times to cut corners. There were a number of places where you could anchor, or maybe moor up, and this could be an alternative to the expensive marinas of Pendik and Kalamis if you are willing to explore the possibility.
After 45 miles we arrived at the little holiday town of Poyraz and anchored in the middle. Good protection from any swell or north wind. We met a little English boat who was turning south at that point. 'Did you get permission to enter the Black Sea?' he asked in a very clipped Brit accent. Eh – never heard of that, we said. Brits come out with the oddest things sometimes, like they want to ruin your day with bad news. We just ignored him.

Sile, 41 10.7N 29 36.0E, Poyraz-Sile 25nm.
Our first introduction to sailing the sloppy, fidgety waters of the Black Sea.
Empty quay, but we put the anchor out and went stern-to the quay, For the first time we can recall, no-one helped to tie our lines. Later lots of small diving fishing boats came in to unload their giant sea snails. Friends, who earlier went alongside here, got swiped deliberately by these boats.
(On our return trip we found everyone friendly, fishing boats happily next to a huge catamaran taking up half the quay, alongside  - local kids using the trampoline for dive practice, that will teach them! We went alongside a fishing boat in the process of being painted. It was OK as we were leaving the next day, before the 2nd coat went on.)
Despite the frosty initial welcome we found it one of the nicest towns, good shopping and market (Friday).


Kefken Adasi, 41 12.7N 30 15.4E,
Sile – Kefken Adasi 30nm, actually sailed with spinnaker up

Anchored where pilot book directs.  Good holding once through weed. Soon after arrival we were visited by a small official boat, with 2 men. Oh oh we thought, military area, but with dictionary in hand they welcomed us to the island and  invited us to drink tea at the lighthouse with them, and said we were welcome to go for  walk on the small island.  We were also visited by the Sahil Guvnelik (Military Coast Guard). They just asked our boat name, where from, where to, and didn't want to see our papers.
We went ashore to visit, where Captain Sevgin welcomed us. There is a permanent crew of 5 men who stay for a week at a time, and are a sort of RNLI Search and Rescue operation. There are several on this coast, established 150 years ago by an English Admiral, Sir Henry F Woods.  They didn't speak much English, but the Captain took us for a 30 minute walk around the island to show us the remains of the 600 year old castle and the 40 wells that supplied water for occupants.
During several cups of tea, he showed us newspaper articles of a large rescue they were involved in, 300 men saved from the sea after a merchant ship sank. This is the lee shore of a dangerous sea, where all shipping from north Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia must pass through.  It makes sense that there should be something other than the military forces that effectively guard the sea border.  Thank goodness for the foresight of Henry Woods, how many seamen owe their lives to him, I wonder.  They told us that in winter the seas reach 10-12m high. Not a nice job to have at that time of year, living a week at a time on a remote island in wild, cold weather. They all came from fishing backgrounds and go to Istanbul to do short courses on search and rescue, fire-fighting etc. We were shown the view from the lighthouse and he pointed out the safe gap in the reef that we could pass through in calm weather the next day to go east. Frequent and recent earthquakes in the area change the underground contours and maps can't be trusted.  ( We got through without hitting any rocks, but did see fishing pots just below the surface – perhaps best to go around!)
These were lovely warm people and it was one of the highlights of the trip.   A much better place to stop than Kefken itself, which we did on the way back

Eregli 41 16.9N31 24.1E, 54nm motoring with no wind.  13 June
Anchored off the small yacht club opposite a submarine!!  The town has a huge steel boat building industry, but you wouldn't know it from  here. Huge market (Monday), very cheap produce.  We bought some webbing from someone for 50p and he asked us to join him for a tea. We sat with him and I muddled through a bit of difficult Turkish. He is from the east of Turkey. He tried to pay for the tea, which would have cost him twice the cost of the sale he'd just made, but on this occasion we really felt the need to insist on paying, he had a big heart, but we felt he didn't have a lot of cash to spare.
Big supermarket and a BIM (discount ultra-Islamic LIDL equivalent) in the street directly behind the YachtClub.  Here we met Yacht Octopus, who we had last met when we had to anchor in the relative shelter of a dirty steel and coal works near Aksaz in the Sea of Marmara. Octopus was one of only 5 sailing yachts we met from here, all the way east and back!  A good town for shopping and easy to get clean diesel at the fuel quay.

NB Between Kefken Adasi and Eregli there are oil rigs and pipe-laying paraphernalia,   lit and marked with yellow buoys.

Degirmenagzi Koyu.   41 10 26N 31 43.2E Short stop.
We intended to stop for a swim, but the din from hundreds of kids shouting 'look at me, look at me' as they jumped off rocks around the bay, and the picnicking  hoards on the beach, as well as lots of jellyfish, made us decide to carry on. Can't believe that no swell enters here, as the pilot book claims.

Kozlu Koyu Limani 41 26.4N 31 44.9E
A new harbour a few miles west of Zonguldak. Octopus had gone ahead and looked at Zonguldak, but didn't even want to motor through the disgusting brown dirty water, let alone put an anchor in it, so they came back and found this new place.  A very useful stop, where you can tie alongside. Very friendly people but seemed to have a few that were 'a sandwich short of a full picnic', who would not leave the side of the cockpit, just wanting to sit and look at us, which was cute but a little unsettling.
Fuel station very handy just opposite the harbour.

NB Friends went into the Bartin River, and there is no problem with the clearance under the power line. Perhaps it has been moved since the pilot was written.

Amasra,  16 June,  41 25.6N 31 43 .2E,  37nm mostly motoring
A large harbour-bay protected from the wind, but a swell still enters and we rolled constantly at anchor. Good holding after several attempts. We visited Safranbolu (via Bartin) from here by bus.
The weather was fine when we left and when we arrived back, but Octopus said that all day they could see our keel bottom as we rolled in the swell that came into the bay, and they capsized their dinghy twice going ashore “in the harbour”!
Nice town, very popular with Turks on holiday. Few foreign tourists. Laundry 10TL  for 7kg.
The town sports a fine statue of their most famous rock star (there are posters of him everywhere, wearing just a little too much eye make-up for a straight guy) along with his favourite motorbikes – a hobby that cost his short life.
We discovered our exceptionally good holding during our trip away was due to our anchor being entangled in an old mooring. No-one 'helped' us to disentangle this time, which was just fine with us.  After 5 miles, the wind came up big time from the east,and we wisely turned around and headed back to Amasra, where it took 7 attempts for the anchor to hold again. When we left again the next day, the anchor was tangled in a plastic pipe.

Safranbolu 2 hours on bus inland
One of the 'must see' places of the BS, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lots of restored traditional half-timbered Ottoman houses, around the old central bazaar, now unfortunately full of not very traditional trinket shops.  Better to hire a car if you can find one in Amasra, as there are smaller outlying villages that may have escaped the trinket effect, and caves to explore.


We visited Amasra again on our return, end of July. The beach was absolutely packed with Turks on hols.  We couldn't believe the change. Note the interesting neck to ankle beach attire that some of the ladies wear.

The 'loveboat'. It's highly unlikely that they're gay, its a Turkish thing
Octopus decided to turn back west at that point, but we did send them a text to say that, at last, the coast from here was starting to look wild and attractive instead of industrial.

Kurucasile. 41 50.9N 32 43.6E
A short lunch stop, nice traditional wooden boat building town.
More details on return trip.

Cide 41 54.1N 32 58.8E, 20 June Motoring/headwinds.
We went alongside the completely empty quay in what appeared to be a very well protected harbour. As we were cooking dinner, the thunderstorm started and the wind blew a swell directly onto the quay. We were jostling up and down on our fenders, when a local came and told us we should move off and anchor as it was very dangerous. 'Ooh, Black Sea, very dangerous' he said. We spoke to another helpful local who said 'half an hour, no problem'. He was right, it was all over with the passing of the thunderstorm, and we had a calm dinner and good nights sleep. Bizarrely there are bubbles coming up all around the boat from some underground source.  Lots of kids come and jump off the quay for swimming, the BS pastime for young people. There ain't a lot else to do.

Inebolu, 41 58.9N 33 46.4E , 41nm, motoring with headwinds.
Small but well protected inner harbour, not clear where to go but in the end a man on a huge concrete barge motioned for us to go alongside it. The harbour is quite industrial and the quay is busy with the export of silver ore, which now arrives by truck, rather than the extensive overhead cable car arrangement that disappears far into the hills above the town.


Nice town, a couple of places do roast lamb cooked on a spit. Served just with bread, and eaten with fingers, it is tasty but lacks roast potatoes and mint sauce. You could buy a half kilo for take-away and remedy that situation.
We were starting to get into territory where foreigners were few and far between and I felt the stares of men and women on my uncovered blondish hair. I always dressed conservatively in below-knee trousers and shoulders covered, but I just could not escape my differentness, even though there were still plenty of local women who didn't 'cover-up'

Caylioglu, 22 June, 41 58.0N 34 30.5E  37 miles of hell on the water.   
A good-going BS thunderstorm blew up all around us, with fast building seas. In 30 minutes we had 2m seas breaking on the quarter (back) of the boat. For the first time ever, we put our washboards in (to close the interior of the boat in case a large wave broke in the cockpit) as we really risked being pooped.  Not quite pooping ourselves, but not having the best day on the water, we had a fast but unpleasant trip and thankfully pulled into the quiet harbour of Caylioglu.  Despite the storm, this was worth the trip. Wild donkeys and a friendly little  dog with scabies, broken jaw and a limp and almost no hair, greeted us at the quay, as we tied alongside. 
Until very recently this village was cut off from the world with no access road, and only a very humble living could be made. Most of the houses are owned by people who have moved away to Alsace (I may need to be corrected there) and only stay for a short time in the summers. The donkeys were turned out to be left to their own devices when everyone left and are now more or less wild but cared for by a few locals in the winter months. They have great characters. The little dog was so friendly and polite. He would dash up to the boat, but would not come aboard (unlike the local kids) and would just sit and look at us wagging his pink scabby tail.


We were invited for cay (tea) on an ex-fishing boat where the man minding the boat showed us his varnished crabs destined, “he hoped”, for the coffee tables of the rich and famous? We wish him luck. We also got a feel for the depressed fish stocks which is why the boat was now used to lay moorings or whatever else they could do.  He spoke no English and had no idea how to break down communication to basics, so he was really hard work, and we went home with very sore heads, no alcohol involved.

On our return trip we stopped here again, and 2 other boats were here. What excitement – I cannot begin to describe it. The first English speaking people in ages. Rudolf, of SY Moira from Basel,  used to be a vet before he owned a large Halberg Rassy, for which he had to deal with a lot of dog and cat ***t he told us. We asked him if he felt compelled to help the little dog with scabies, broken jaw and snapped leg ligament. He called him the party animal, nature's way of providing the ultimate party host for lots of bugs, who had just as much right to live as the dog, and nature should be allowed to take it's course.    Rudolf was a wealth of information on the BS, shame we hadn't met him on the way in, it would have made a big difference to our choices.  Well, like he would point out, that's life.
The other boat was an immaculate Dutch motor launch, they'd lived onboard and brought the boat down the canals from Holland to the BS.  Gerda even did a load of washing for me in her on-board washing machine. Now I'm ruined, a bucket will never hold the same appeal ever again, but where would we put a washing machine in our overcrowded home? Stuart will have to go, then it could go in his bunk....only joking Stu xxx
 Aklimani, 23 June, 42 03.1N 35 02.9E
As I write this, I have to admit that a lot of the ports merge together in my memory. So I have to look them up to try to remember something that was different about them. Ah yes, the pilot book says, ' a little bit of heaven in the Black Sea'. It's a natural anchorage in wooded surroundings in a national park on the outskirts of Sinop. Unfortunately we had big thunderstorms and rain that evening, so we've probably blotted it from our soggy memories of quite a lot of wet June days in the Black Sea. It deserved better weather and a longer stop.

Yakakent, Outer harbour, 41 38.5N 35 30.7E,
35nm of good fast downwind sailing in not too big seas!
This little place was just a stop off for us en route to Samsun, but when we arrived and were waved into a place next to yacht 'Cherokee'  ( we were with them in the shelter of the steel works in Marmara Sea with Octopus)  and the Sahil Guvenlik.  Robert and Susan weren't on board, the locals told us they had gone to hire a car for a week . It's a great little spot to leave your boat and go travelling.  It is right opposite the friendliest Sahil Guvenlik, who don't promise to guard your boat, but obviously the presence of a 24 hour armed guard under the same floodlights as your boat has a somewhat reassuring effect.  The town is a 2 km walk along the promenade, but pleasant. At a short lunch stop in the tiny lokanta, a policeman in full uniform took the order and served lunch during his lunch break, helping his wife in the kitchen.
In the nearby fishing harbour we found a fantastic restaurant imaginatively named Canli Balik (fresh fish), where we spent many pleasant evenings for very little money.
There are numerous off-lying fish farms around Yakakent, and we tasted delicious salmon, sea-bass and bream fresh everyday from the farms, and unusually for Turkey, imaginatively cooked at Canli Balik. Very cheap, they even served beer. A little bit of paradise in the Black Sea, indeed. After every meal they gave us half a kilo of cheese 'for our breakfast' and about 50 handwipes to take away. So charming, but I worry about the profit margins.
The kids here were friendly, interested , inquisitive but not bothersome. The locals were very friendly; on a return trip from the supermarket, considering our need to urgently don raincoats a local car of three 25 year old-ish lads screeched to a halt, it's going to rain, are you going to the harbour? Jump in!  I'll never be able to drive past someone in the rain with a clear conscience ever again.

Large fishing boats are tied up all over the place and hauled out for summer maintenance on traditional wooden sleds using steel cables, grease and a little luck. Reverse process for launch with a bit more luck applied

Maintenance is a summer function as commercial fishing for anything other than the big snails for the Japanese market is banned for 4 months during breeding season. Good thing too when you consider the capacity of these boats. Hamsi  (anchovies) are the main catch and a moderate boat pulls 60 tons on a good day. One of the larger boats with a conning tower we mistook for a lighthouse from several miles outside the harbour, hauls 500 tons on a good day, so we were reliably informed. That's of lot of little fish!

Samsun and back ! 50Nm flat calm, motoring.
We had an early start in grey skies for a long trip to Samsun, the defining port of our trip. Should we leave the boat there and travel further east by car or pursue our target of completing a tour of the entire Turkish coast from Iskenderun in the SE to Hopa in the NE? Flat calm, motoring along the boring flat land of the Bafra peninsula, a large nature reserve and nesting ground for migratory birds and ….....ferocious mosquitoes.  Thousands of them attacked the boat as we rounded the headland in the middle of the day.
Later we pulled into Samsun yacht club, well, we tied alongside a concrete quay like anywhere else in the BS, hardly what we call a YC in the UK,  but it did have power and water, a friendly guy took our lines. 'Should we go to the office?', we asked. 'Oh no, the office will visit you, without doubt'. 'Oh'. Stu took a shower in the basic facilities. Another yacht 'Atlantis' was alongside and we  discussed inviting them for a drink to find out where they had travelled. Before we had a chance, the money squad arrived.  Two of them , no smiles.  No English, only German.  How long did we want to stay. How much per night?, we asked. 50 US dollars he said. My jaw dropped. I translated for Stu. His jaw dropped.  More than Marmaris ? More than the Aegean ? We gabbled. He looked perplexed and phoned someone. Maybe  once cruisers have got this far no-one  questions this absurd departure from reality. Just how many boats do they think will stop here, once they know the price. I'd tried to find the price or contact details on the internet for weeks before, but to no avail.  We can afford 50 US for 1 night, but it was completely out of kilter with the economy of the area and the facilities on offer.  As a matter of principle we decided to leave.
We asked about anchoring in the harbour and this was met with – same price, same management. Anchor in port, not possible.  We said, we'd rather spend a night at sea, than pay this price (an opportunity for them to negotiate, but to no avail) so we said, 'We're leaving!'.  Co-incidentally, or not according to Stu, a phone call was made and promptly another person arrived who spoke English. He wanted our papers to take to the harbour master. By this time 'Atlantis' had joined us on the quay, and said, 'under no circumstances give him your papers'. Just as we knew this was not a necessary formality. We all said 'NO' you cannot take our papers. He threatened us with a fine and 'big trouble' from the harbour master. We said 'we're leaving, and you can't have our papers'. He retaliated in aggressive overtures ' I will wait to see you leave'.  So we turned away and finished our conversation with 'Atlantis' gleaning a lot of important information about ports east of there, and a useful tip about a port 10 miles to the west that saved us a night at sea.
Bye bye Samsun. We won't be spending a night here, or so we thought.....

Derekoy  Approx. 41. 28N 36. 08E
We set off back west in the direction of Derekoy, described as too shallow for yachts in the pilot, but Atlantis had met with an American yacht intent on updating the pilot book, so had visited every BS port.  The update was that Derekoy had been dredged, so was deep enough (this year) for us.
We tied up at dusk in the low economy fishing port outside the town of Derekoy, far from tourist attraction, but safe and free. Locals took our lines. One of them, Tuncay,  introduced himself. Can I do anything for you? Is there a restaurant here?, I asked. '5Km' he said, 'but I can take you in my car.'  'No worries', we said, 'very kind, no worries, we have food on board'.  He went, we started to clean up and cook. 30 minutes later there was a knock on the boat.   A  clean and well dressed  Tuncay invited us to go to his parents house for something to eat.
Although our pasta was half cooked, we knew it was rude to decline even an offer of tea in Turkey, and we relished the opportunity of his offer and went off in his car to his house.
Outside we met his mother, father, brother and a female neighbour,  married to a Syrian, who spoke perfect English  and she agreed to come to the house with them to enhance our communication prospects.  At first, she didn't really want to come, but when she found out that we weren't Russian she was overjoyed for the opportunity to practice her English.
What a lovely antidote to restore our confidence in BS hospitality, after a long bad day.  We had a fantastic evening, discussing local life. We joined them for their normal family meal, though mum was too excited to eat. All the food was produced in their own garden without chemicals. Even the unpasteurised ayran ( yoghurt drink) was made from the milk of their own cow. The food was delicious and company delightful, it was the most generous and thoughtful experience that we had in the Black Sea.

We really appreciated being invited to a traditional family home for a meal, by the most genuine people you  can imagine.  Later we were spirited back 'home' with the extended family, and we gave them a tour of our humble home. They were impressed with the small space that we live in,  I think we surprised them with the simplicity of our chosen lifestyle, when they found it's not the luxury that they imagined.
Yakakent again
Next day we  returned 50nm back to Yakakent, past the mosquito coast, to tie Matador up with 'Cherokee' next to the Sahil Guvenlik, and started our land based tour to the Georgian border. Our short conversation with 'Atlantis' had confirmed our fears that we might find the coastline disappointing, since the construction of the Yeni Yol, a 4 lane highway linking up these previously remote villages, all the way from Samsun to the Georgian border. Many of the traditional fishing ports were filled in to provide somewhere for the road to be built where the coast meets sharply inclined hills, and new soulless harbours have been built seaside of the road to accommodate the local fishing fleets.
Also, they had found that the yacht harbour in Trabzon had been sold, and was out of bounds (though they had negotiated and been allowed to stay for free for a few days, and later we were told that a better place to stay is the fishing port to the west of the town). Time to visit the best bits, inland.

Inland adventures
First we walked 2km to the town of Yakakent, and tracked down a bus going to Bafra, then we found a bus making the 5 hour trip to Trabzon arriving at 11pm that night. A much quicker way to see the coast. There are many intercity buses joining the large Turkish towns, they are very cheap and when you arrive at the destination town a free service bus takes you to your hotel. The same service bus rule applies for a pick-up from an outlying town if you book your bus ticket in advance, but the problem is that you have to phone them and explaining where you are in Turkish is no easy thing.
Perhaps we didn't see Trabzon at it's best overlooking the industrial, commercial docks. Our hotel, 'best of the cheapies' according to the Rough Guide (RG), was in the centre of the busy red light district. There were plenty of Russian 'Natashas' and money changing hands in car windows in the streets around.  Normally we take what the RG says with a pinch of salt, especially when it says one of the bars has a notice 'Entry with loaded weapons forbidden'! But the only family friendly bar in the area had just closed and our exploration of the rest in the area only found pick-up joints for Natashas and their clients, unbearably smoky and loud even if you were up for a bit of entertainment.
By day the town was a brighter place, and we hired a car to explore the area east of here, starting with a short trip inland to the 13th C Sumela Monastery, another place that everyone declares a must-see site, hugging the edge of a rocky ravine, 1000' above sea level,and home to many beautiful Byzantine frescoes. We paid the now hefty entrance fee, and made our way into the site. It is horribly defaced with graffiti up to head height, and sophisticated art thieves were caught levering off large slabs in 1983. But closer inspection reveals that much of the graffiti is more than 200 years old, and it would appear that visiting monks left their marks on the exterior wall, an ancient 'I woz ere 1792'.




It would have been one of many monasteries and Byzantine churches in this area,  but the spread of Islam in Turkey ensured that they were deserted and their upkeep was not high on the Turks agenda, until quite recently when they have realised the attraction of tourists.  We have seen a fine Ottoman mosque in Greek Orthodox Rhodes in an even worse state, long awaiting funds for renovation, so it's not only a Turkish phenomena.

Hemsin valley
Driving east along the boring but functional Yeni Yol we turned inland to the Hemsin valley, and up to Camlihemsin and Ayder, thanks to a tip-off from a Turkish visitor to the yacht 6 weeks before, whose family came from this area.  Here the vegetation becomes very lush and green. The small increasingly rougher road disappeared up into the mist and we arrived in a white out. These Kackar mountain foothills are shrouded in mist 1 day in 3, which assists the crops of tobacco and tea that slightly enhances the income from each small holding here, and green stuff grows prodigiously everywhere, a far cry from the barren and dusty, or pine forested coasts of the Med.  The houses are beautiful,  and on a short walk we were invited to tea and snacks at a traditional house where in their months holiday the family were busy fighting back against all the green stuff that grows prodigiously and threatens to take over the houses. This house was built by their grandfather.

This is just the storeroom
Other houses are quite remote from roads and they have flying fox systems to take supplies up to their house from the road.

We stayed here for 3 nights, and as far as we could see we were they only foreign visitors. Most of the tourists are Turks coming back to their roots. Our elderly but charming host Idris, at Otel Doga, who had lived and worked abroad for many years, so spoke perfect French and English, filled us in on his history of the area.
The origins of the Hemsin people are debated, but they became intrepid pastry chefs and pudding  bakers, and their success peaked in the years before the Russian revolution, sending family to trade from Russia and Istanbul. They became incredibly wealthy and built beautiful half timbered Ottoman style residences, Now summer only, in the foothills here, also growing tea, and making butter and yoghurt. To visit and trade with the next village entailed a days walk (the tracks now overgrown and lost in most peoples memory now that a few roads and cars make the journey easier), and an overnight stay in the next village, or a boat trip along the coast . Idris had left school, at 12 years old just after the war (Turkey was independent) and decided to go to Ankara to study engineering.  At this time the Russian state extended to the Georgian border and only a single freighter plied the seas from Hopa to Zonguldak, along the Turkish coast. He had to walk from the Hemsin valley to the coast ( a days walk) and take a small boat out to join the freighter as it passed. If the weather was rough, no boat, and the journey was wasted. After the first thwarted attempt, he joined the boat and went off to Ankara to study, then to Paris and overseas for many years.  He returned to his family base and built a small house in the hills but found it difficult to live through the snow bound winter, so bought some land down by the river, and with his own hands and some ingenuity, built a small house, which then extended into a unique 'hotel'.  The water supply is the clear perfect river, the sewage goes..., don't ask. He says that the land is very fertile and it's easy to grow your own produce and be self sufficient, though the winters are very harsh. He now hosts many Turks who are returning to discover their roots and the now dilapidated family residences, and he is always encouraging young people to turn their backs on city unemployment and rediscover the simplicity and freedom of living off the land of their ancestors.   they have flying fox systems to take supplies up to their house from the road.
We found the Hemsinli people colourful and jolly, friendly and independent. One evening as we finished our simple meal, in a very rustic Ayder restaurant, the teenage  son appeared with a traditional bag-pipe like instrument with which he made fearsome noises. The whole family got up to dance and sing the spontaneous Horon, often performed in the fields in the afternoons. Of course, we were 'encouraged' to join in. We got the impression that these people are very happy with their remote lives and have a distinct pride in their origins, somewhat more rooted in tradition,  than the  apparent drudgery and economic difficulties of the Black Sea towns.


video
 You too can share the bagpipes agony

We drove up into the hills of the north-easternmost part of Turkey, but were discouraged by the distances involved, a terrible meal at a trout farm with possibly the world's smallest fish on a plate, for the same price as our favourite trout restaurant on the south coast where you stagger out the door as your gut swaggers from side to side.
The RG was far less complimentary about the accommodation around here than it had been about Trabzon, so we headed for the Georgian border to renew our visas.  When we'd hired this car, we'd been very pleased that it was only 15 days old, and in pristine condition, no chance of a break down in the mountains, but it rapidly dawned on us that we'd made a mistake. We should have insisted on a wreck, as we were too worried about driving it's paintwork up any of the rough local roads, or leaving it with the shifty characters at the border. We would have been a lot more comfortable with an oldie, like we're used to. So instead of popping over to Georgia to have a gander at a culture impoverished by recent Russian bombardment and oppression, we just turned around at no-mans land and were allowed back into Turkey with new 90 day visas. The penalty for overstaying your visa is harsh, maybe having to return to the Uk for a month, so we'd been fretting about how this procedure would go, but after a bit of insistence on my part for a new visa instead of just a new stamp, we were legal again, for another 90 days.

We had an exciting time getting back to Yakakent by bus, which nearly involved a very expensive overnight in Samsun, as all buses out were full by mid afternoon.  Somehow we got the message to get a bus to town,then somewhere else, and then something else would happen. Not quite sure what was going on we were set down by the side of the road out of Samsun city, and following much discussion between the bus driver with 3 young locals, we waited for 30 minutes and then they negotiated with another bus driver to take us in his empty minibus to Yakakent for about £8, 2 hours drive. It  transpired that this is where the dolmus's (local minibuses) come to rest after they have finished their official daytime journeys to and from the city, and an unwritten and illegal system exists for them and stranded passengers to make a mutually convenient arrangement, when they are going to do the homeward bound trip anyway without passengers.  We thought these young people were headed our way too, but it turned out that they had just hung around for 30 minutes to make sure we got on one of these 'araba's' or 'cars' and negotiated on our behalf. Then they went back to what they were doing on their weekend off at the beach. So Samsun nearly got us again, but not quite....thanks to the wonderfully helpful Black Sea folk.....

Back at base we found Robert and Susan (Cherokee) back from their trip and ready to go inland to another 'must-see', Amasya. We joined them  for this long and complicated bus trip inland, via Samsun, and we held our breath to see what trap the  city  had for us this time.

Amasya is another site of special interest with lots of restored Ottoman half timbered houses. We found it better to stay on the cheap side looking at the restored houses over the river,  than to stay in the more expensive restored houses looking at the modern cheap side.  After seeing so much amazing stuff in the Med, and Middle East,  we found it hard to get excited about, but it did attract a lot of off-beat travellers who we found it fun to chat with in the bars and restaurants, including some unusual Americans going to Azerbeijan, Armenia and Georgia. With  a few exceptions, most Americans wouldn't know there was another Georgia in the world.  Failing to get trapped by Samsun on the return, due to our diligence and forward planning and paranoia, we got back to our boats ready to undertake the leisurely return trip along the coast back to Istanbul, visiting all the gems that we must have missed on the way in.
In the back of our minds we remembered reading about the east going current,but had blocked it out. What with that and the head winds or no winds that we got on the way back we started to tear our hair out at the lack of progress we were making, despite our intention to be leisurely. By now we were aching to be in jelly fish free, Greek islands, with turquoise water, white sand and pork!  But before we get there, like us, you will have to be patient!

Gerze N41 47.8 E35 12.2
Anchored in the middle of the eastern harbour.
A relaxed Turkish holiday town, in company with Robert and Susan we stayed a few days to watch the last of the football world cup, and anyone that knows us will appreciate how little interest we normally have for footie, but as Robert and Susan agreed there just was no other evening entertainment.  The kids used the yachts as swimming target practice and after they found they could pull themselves up the anchor chain, and climb onto the pulpit for the highest dive, we took to greasing the chain so they couldn't get a grip! If you have a permanent swimming platform or ladder, beware.

Sinop N42 01.3 E35 08.7
Very small port with little room to manoeuvre. Small fishing boats will make whatever room they can for you but it's real busy. Bustling and charming town with a good market. We heard rumours of pesky officials but didn't experience it ourselves.

Caylioglu
as previously described, with the party dog. Here he is again:

Konakli Liman N41.57.8 E34 10.1
Anchored in the small port and went ashore to the 'restaurant' which only resembled a restaurant by having 2 tables and some wooden chairs. Possibly the worst meal in the BS and infested with mosquitoes.

Inebolu – as previously described but now hosting the BS festival of the sea.
The coastguard, dressed impeccably in white suits, launched their RIB and off they went in a cloud of black smoke, out to sea  to be on hand to rescue those in trouble. A few minutes later it was towed back in by an even smaller fishing boat. They launched their second RIB and the same thing happened again!  There were very entertaining fishing boat races, at full throttle, full smoke with the finish line just a couple of metres from a head on collision with the quay wall. The highlight of the races was for swimmers around a fishing boat. Ducks were released into the water and the winner was the first to return his duck (living) to the boat.
That night there was a huge music festival which we watched from the precarious platform of a fishing boat we'd kindly been invited to join.  It would have been lovely to converse with the woman on board, my own age, but Turkish women seem reluctant to even try to understand my small amount of Turkish, and maybe just aren't keen to associate with western women.  It's really a mans world here, no work for women at all, except of course rearing all those Muslim kids. I felt it was sad that she had no interest in me or the wider world, and while she wasn't unfriendly she seemed totally unquestioningly accepting of her little world. This repression of women started to feel quite irritating to me and I was itching to move on to a more liberal world.

Incommunicado!
Gaideros, N 41 52 E 32 51
A  delightful looking natural bay surrounded by lush vegetation. Also very rock strewn,  lots of jellyfish and rolly, so we went on to:

Kurucasile
We tied to the harbour wall and did wonder what the nearby factory made (Kum fabrika). We were downwind of the factory and strong blasts of wind covered us in fine sticky sand, until the deck resembled a beach. It is a sand processing plant for glass making.


'Turkish bloke'
A local shopowner, whose father builds the local traditional boats, invited himself on board to chat. He charmingly bought us a present of wine glasses, though he did not drink alcohol himself. He showed us photos of his son, then his mum, then his dog. What about your wife, we asked? Huh? After more prompting he produced a photo of his wife in a tight fitting headscarf. It took much more prompting to procure her name. After more discussion it transpired that he had divorced his first wife as she hadn't produced a child in the first 6 months. Stuart went down below for a few minutes to get a beer, during which time our guest tried to play footsie with me, and turned on all his slimy charm. What a creep!
Some Turkish men can be a bit pesky when you are unaccompanied and often you'll be offered their phone number in the hope of a liaison or a visa acquiring opportunity.
I only met women capable of conversation in the Hemsin valley staying for the night in the middle of a Trabzon conference on women's rights. Not a headscarf in sight. Says it all really. In between dashing out for a clearly much needed fag, an Istanbul lawyer told me that there are 81 'states' in Turkey and not a single woman in power in them. And this is viewed as the most progressive Islamic state in the world!!!


Akcakoca  N41 05.45 E31 07.15
Great sea festival, even though we were tied rather close to the fireworks, and felt compelled to stay on board with a bucket of water to hand. An enormous crowd of locals from toddlers to pensioners gathered to watch music acts, in particular the Turkish Eminem rapper equivalent. I guess they don't get many concerts here, so you take what you get whatever your tastes.  It was a really nice town and a very friendly place – another highlight.
At one point 3 smartly dressed young men walked by and took a photo opportunity next to the boat. Next we knew they were on board (without asking) and sitting at the wheel to each have their photo taken in turn. We were getting so used to these bizarre invasions of privacy by now, and didn't think much of it at the time. Maybe I should have given them my phone number!

Kefken town. N41 10.2 E30 13.3
We stayed in the town this time, rather than the island (note the military harbour near the town is off limits). We had another mini storm come through that squished our fenders flat against the quay, while locals stopped by to tell us we should move as it is really dangerous, though they were short of advice as to how to get off the quay, since we were really pinned on it. We decided to sit it out and were correct that it was another short lived but violent thunderstorm passing by that was causing the wind, rather than a sustained weather pattern. We were learning to make our own assessments rather than listen to well intentioned by often inaccurate advice. In the morning the mess- rubbish, plastic, fag butts, and dog poo- that normally covers the large quay, had covered the entire boat, rig and the water around us. It was gross. My top tip of this extended guide to the BS – don't bother to stay at Kefken town, period.

Sile, our first and last port of the BS, we were really impressed with it on this occasion. Great shopping, great people. And no bags of revolting giant snails this time.
Princes Island, Sea of Marmara.
Nice anchorage, popular with Istanbul boats but room for all.

Armutlu,  Sea of Marmara
Bustling Turkish holiday town with a fast ferry to Istanbul and a new harbour being built. Worth checking out next year when the harbour is finished.

NB, Look out for extremely strong winds as you turn around the south of the islands in the Sea of Marmara, in the lee of the meltemi. It's rig shattering and there's no time to reef, so even though it looks benign shorten sail before you get there and enjoy sailing in 40 knots with a hankie out.

Erdek, Sea of Marmara
We stayed 3 nights on the quay here, although it costs 10 euros per night, it does have lots of entertainment and a water supply, so we washed Matador thoroughly.  Sandpiper had had good experience with the understanding harbour master at Bandirma the previous season, so we took a bus and our papers to try and check out. The new harbourmaster was 'very busy' and ultimately unhelpful, but did have time to lecture us on our childlessness. He was from Samsun – we should have known better!

Cannakale, Dardanelles.
We anchored outside again to avoid the overpriced marina and duff diesel, but had to go ashore to check out of Turkey. We did achieve this without an agent, although the harbourmaster was gruff and it cost 40 euros as we had to take a taxi to the commercial port to clear port police. It would have been possible to take a bus, but it was really windy and we were worried that Matador might drag anchor a few metres into the lanes of the adjacent Dardanelles shipping and cause an international incident.

A couple of days later......
With a great big sigh of relief we arrived at beautiful but treeless Limnos and checked into Greece and the EU for a small sum of 20 euros.  Time to unwind, let it all hang out and  as our friends so accurately summed it up, decompress from the differentness of the Black Sea. Boy was it good to back in the west.