Headlines along the lines of “Aussie couple disappears in Turkish countryside – boat found abandoned” were running through my mind as we pondered where we had gone wrong.
We were on a hike in Kekova Roads starting in Woodhouse Bay where we had anchored Sunday.
We hadn’t been off the boat for a few days due to high winds and seas to match so when we reached this beautiful, calm bay we were raring to go!
Our cruising guide mentioned a track which started right behind the spot where we had anchored although it was really difficult to make it out from the boat.
Once we had tied up our dinghy we scouted around and followed what did in fact turn out to be the trail although we were definitely dubious to start with.
Despite the heat it was great to be going for a hike (more of a scramble really!) after being cooped up in the boat for a few days.
After a laborious climb we reached the top and came to a more defined track – apparently there was meant to be a deserted, tumbledown, village somewhere on this path but we obviously chose the wrong direction to take (we turned right!) and managed to miss it!
After a walking for a while in the rugged terrain we decided it was time to turn homewards. We walked back the way we had come for what seemed rather a long time and gradually became aware that we were travelling through unfamiliar scenery. We had managed to miss the turnoff for the rough path back to the boat!
While I had visions of spending the rest of the day wandering back and forth trying to find the track back down to Sunday, Jonathan retraced our steps the way we had been.
Being a former Boy Scout with a bushcraft badge he had, unbeknownst to me, left a sign using small stones a short way before our turn off.
Unfortunately, it was so well camouflaged that he completely missed it on the way back. Luckily he found it second time round!
Eventually using his sneaky sign we were able to find our route and followed the red markings painted on the rocks all the way home!
Later that day we took the dinghy to a small cove where apparently, there was a fresh water spring. The cove narrowed to become more like a large creek which was cool, rather mysterious and so peaceful.
Craggy rock cliffs topped with trees towered above us on each side and from time to time low shrubs clung tenaciously to the rocky outcrops at eye level. It felt like we were in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark!
We motored further up the creek and the banks became bushier and less rocky. As we swished through the green water we became aware that the bottom of the dinghy – where our feet were – was deliciously cold. Aha, we had found the fresh water spring!
A little further along we spotted a very clear pool of water which was surrounded by submerged rocks. We could just make out trickle of water bubbling over the rocks – this was definitely the spring!
Jonathan was very keen to get to taste this beautiful crystal clear water so he waded through the ice-cold pool to collect some in his drink bottle.
He took a sip and then gave me some to try – it was revolting! Yes it was icy cold but it also tasted horribly salty and not in the least like we had imagined!
Keen to explore some more of the Kekova Roads area, we set off again the next day. Despite there being a fair number of tourist boats moored in the bays the huge harbour felt gloriously empty as we sailed across, passing the little village of Kaleköy which nestles beneath the mighty Byzantine castle – built in the Middle Ages to fight against invading pirates.
We sailed deeper into the harbour to outside the sweet village of Üçağız – described rather disparagingly in the Turkish cruising guide as “a ramshackle little village”.
It is true that it is very small but ramshackle isn’t accurate – Üçağız is a charming village steeped in history with welcoming locals. It is just such a charming place to visit once all the day trippers have left for the day.
As we strolled through the narrow streets we marvelled at the ancient sarcophagi from Lycian times dotted around the place – some in a car park, another on a street corner, one with hens living in it!
We also saw a crumbling old building that looked like a Christian church – later we found that the village had been inhabited mostly by Greeks until the population exchange of 1923 and that the building indeed had been a Church.
We had a long and very interesting chat with the manager of a Turkish carpet shop – the smell and the colours inside the shop were intoxicating and it looked like an Aladdin’s cave.
We would have loved to have bought a carpet but where on earth would we put it?!
We had tied our dinghy up outside Hassan’s restaurant (he had seen us looking for a spot and called us over).
He wore a magnificent black chef’s hat and was so welcoming that we decided to have dinner at his restaurant.
We had a delicious meal of fresh fish which he filleted at the water’s edge next to our table. As he was working a huge turtle came to visit.
One of his daughters had excellent English (she had been working in Berlin before Covid) and she showed us several foreign magazines and other publications in which her father and his restaurant were featured.
Apparently Hassan’s restaurant has been renowned in yachting circles although more recently they hadn’t seen many yachting visitors at all. We think this was because the once plentiful yachting charter boat companies had closed down. The Covid-19 crisis had made things even worse.
We ended up leaving with a bag of plums, a huge bunch of freshly picked basil and a home made bracelet which Burcu, Hassan’s daughter had made and put on my wrist before we left.
What a great evening we had!
So yachties, if you’re in the area, do go to Hassan’s and you’ll receive a very fine welcome!
The dull thrumming of low flying helicopters above our heads woke us up with a start. The insistent thrump, thrump, thrump, was reminiscent of a war movie and the vibrations felt really menacing.
Up on deck we watched as the helicopters flew away from us and circled around the other side of the Kas headland. As they came back for another sweep of the anchorage we confirmed that these were no ordinary choppers – they were helicopter gunships with their weapons very much in evidence attached to each side of the bodywork.
We had heard that Turkey had angered Greece by planning to send a survey ship to disputed waters to prospect for oil. The ship was anchored just along the coast from us in nearby Antalya.
The seismic research vessel Oruc Reis, was going out to survey the seabed in an area that Greece claims is under its jurisdiction due to the location of the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Greece said that Turkey would be breaking maritime law if it persisted with its exploration activities in this area.
Turkey decided to go ahead anyway and we supposed the helicopters were from the warships that were said to be accompanying the Oruc Reis. It was only later that we learned that Kas is just 2.5 kms from the Greek island at the centre of the dispute! It all felt very worrying.
The Greek border is already closed to any vessel coming from Turkish shores – perhaps this disagreement could turn really nasty and cause a long term closure of the border?
What would happen if military action intensifies?! France has already sent a warship to Athens and of course the European Union would take Greece’s side if things escalated. Could this have implications for cruising yachties? What if the EU took Greece’s lead and closed their borders with Turkey?
Things seem to have quietened down for the moment but we will be watching what happens next with interest!
We had arrived in Kas, a popular holiday destination, the previous day after taking an extra long rest in our wind blown anchorage at Firnaz Koyu. We felt we deserved the extra rest following the drama of helping rescue a fellow yachtie’s dinghy in the dark!
It was still reasonably windy when we finally left although thankfully, the seas had calmed down considerably.
The anchorage at Kas – which occupies the site of ancient Antiphellos – was well protected, very pretty and really quiet (except for the helicopters!) because all the commercial boats were tied up in the old harbour around the other side of the headland.
Once we had settled Sunday we decided to go and explore the town. To get ashore we had to tie up at a wonky jetty (half in the water) attached to a rocky platform but we were able to secure the dinghy comfortably against a conveniently placed old tyre attached to the jetty.
A short scramble up a winding, dusty, path which snaked up the hill to the road and we were on our way into town.
Despite Covid-19 the streets were crowded and we were amazed at the huge number of tourists wandering the streets. We later learned that 40,000 Russian tourists had landed at Antalya airport just in the two days since borders were opened between Russia and Turkey. It felt like most of them had made their way straight to Kas immediately after landing!
Apart from the crowds in the centre, we thought Kas was a delightful town especially once we wandered along the small streets behind the busy waterfront.
Strangely, it reminded us of a Greek village with the narrow lanes, the whitewashed houses and buildings covered in bougainvillea and so we weren’t the least bit surprised to learn that until the 1922 population exchange, the majority of the population in Kas had actually been of Greek origin.
This had also been an important centre for the ancient Lycian civilization and many rock tombs (sarcophagi) dating back to the 4th-century BC can still be seen scattered around the town.
The most famous of these sarcophagi is the Kings Tomb, that lies just a stone’s throw inland from the harbour.
This is also known as the Lions’ Tomb because of the two carved lion heads on the lid of the sarcophagus.
After stocking up with fresh fruit and vegetables we headed for Kecova Roads – a marvellous cruising ground in an enclosed bay protected by the four mile (6.44 kilometres) long Kecova Island.
Just as we were leaving Kas we passed through a narrow channel where on one side we could see the town and on the other, just a short hop away, we could see the Greek island of Kastellorizo – or Meis, as it’s known in Turkey – the island at the heart of the dispute between Greece and Turkey!
We hadn’t realised how close we were to the disputed territory – no wonder the helicopter gunships came so close!!
As we sailed by we caught sight of a massive warship dwarfing the tiny harbour on Kastellorizo. I think I also photographed a drone hovering on the border and am wondering now if this was one belonging to the military from one side or the other.
We arrived at Woodhouse Bay in Kekova Roads by mid-afternoon and there were quite a number of commercial boats – mostly traditionally styled gulets – with guests on board but we managed to find a lovely spot to anchor.
The water was stunning – we could see right to the bottom – and all thoughts and anxieties about potential armed conflict were washed clean away as we plunged into the crystal clear turquoise waters.
The worst thing about boat guests is having to say “goodbye“ so quickly after you’ve said your “hellos”.
My sister Julia’s week-long visit was over in a flash but we had packed a lot in to a short space of time. Our final night together was spent at anchor in Göcek and a meal out in a restaurant on the pretty water front.
Earlier that evening Julia was having one last dip in the ocean when a dinghy drew up and we heard a big “Aloha” from its occupants.
Donna and Ross from Intrepid Kiwi had seen our New Zealand flag and dropped by to say “hello” so we invited them to come over the next night for sundowners on Sunday which they did and we had a lovely time setting the world to rights.
The waterfront of Göcek is dominated by six marinas and it was difficult to find a spot to park our dinghy without having to pay a fee. We ended up finding the perfect spot however, a little outside the town but very close to the Migros and Carrefour supermarkets so we were able to stock up for the next little while very easily.
Then we were off again to do some more exploring. We headed south under motor but soon we were having a lovely sail and passed Fethiye travelling between 5.5 and 6.5 knots with winds of about 15 knots.
Close to our destination the wind turned dead ahead so we motored the rest of the way to Darboğaz Bay hampered somewhat by an unpleasant cross swell but it was nevertheless enjoyable as the scenery was stunning.
As we turned to enter the bay we were surprised to see that at its entrance was a tiny island littered with ruins. Turkey is covered in relics from the past and I suppose if you live here you tend to become blasé about them but they continue to amaze us every time!
Before long we were tucked into this calm and beautifully sheltered bay on the east side of the isthmus on the Bozdoğan Peninsula.
The bay was quite a popular tourist spot with day trippers arriving by foot and a couple of groups camping on the beach.
The following day a massive gulet loaded with (non socially distancing) tourists anchored/moored right next to us and we had fun watching them jumping off the boat and being taken for a whirl on a very scary looking water ride towed by a speedboat.
We went for a fabulous walk along a track that started at the small sandy beach and hugged the coast for a long way. We walked until we reached the narrowest point of the isthmus and were able to enjoy spectacular views on both sides.
Along the way we found some amazing ancient tombs (thankfully empty) and also some tumble down houses which might possibly have belonged to Greek Orthodox families at one time.
Where we were moored was not very far from the famous deserted village of Kayaköy where Greek Orthodox Christians lived peacefully until World War I and the rise of Turkish Nationalism. In 1922 when there was a massive population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the Christians (who had avoided the massacres) were forced to go to live in Greece and the village was deserted.
According to local tradition, Muslims refused to repopulate the place because “it was infested with the ghosts of Livisians (the Greek name for Kayaköy was Livissi) massacred in 1915”.
Leaving this bay fortunately proved to be easy – Jonathan swam to release the the strap that was tied round a big rock while I wheeled the webbing cable in. Then the anchor came up easily and we were ready to depart.
Soon we were enjoying a lovely sail with the wind behind us “goosewinging” – the main sail turned one way and the foresail turned the other way. There was a good steady blow at a moderate 12 and 14 knots. We were going well and enjoying surfing down the occasional big wave.
After a while the wind increased to over 20 knots and we started to speed along a little too fast.
When you are sailing in a monohull it is easy to tell if you are over canvassed – for a start your boat would be leaning over more than is comfortable. In a catamaran there is no tipping over so you don’t get that warning and as this was one of the first times we had been in a bit of a blow with big seas we reduced our sail area.
First we reduced the headsail and then had to wind it right in as we were still travelling around nine knots which is fast for Sunday.
Then the wind increased to 30 knots so we decided this was a good time to see if the reefing system on Sunday’s mainsail worked OK. We were feeling a little apprehensive because on our previous boat Bali Hai, until we got them fixed, the reefing lines used to jam up and cause us all kinds of anxiety – always in the roughest conditions of course.
Fortunately, everything worked really well and we managed to put two reefs in the main and we were now sailing comfortably between 6.5 to 7.5 knots.
We arrived at our anchorage in Firnaz Koyu opposite the town of Kalkan by mid afternoon and although it was very sheltered the wind was still howling through at around 25 knots.
We anchored quite a way out as there were many other vessels (mostly tourist boats) which were anchored and with a long line to shore. Even if there had been room for us I don’t think we would have chanced trying to get in with the wind the way it was so we just anchored with heaps of chain out.
Annoyingly we realised that the holding wasn’t too good which was dodgy in such a blow so we started over and this time put out 100 metres of chain in about 12 metres of water – luckily the anchor held well.
Later on a couple of yachts stopped to ask how much chain we had put out and we suggested to one, a Jeanneau 44i like Bali Hai – flying a German flag but the skipper sounded Canadian – that we would listen out for them on a certain channel on the radio in case they had any problems anchoring. It was that kind of night when things can go wrong and because the holding was not brilliant and there were high winds, it was better to be safe than sorry.
Much later that evening we turned the radio off as everyone seemed happily settled. Jonathan was checking round the boat as he does each night when he suddenly yelled out “there’s somebody in the water!”
Then Jonathan realised that the Jeanneau’s dinghy was missing and the guy had jumped in to rescue it. It was such a rough night that we feared for his safety so Jonathan quickly got our dinghy down off its davits and into the water. Meanwhile I tried to radio to let them know assistance was at hand but there was no response.
As he started up the outboard I signaled the other boat with a high powered torch and yelled out that help was coming. We learnt later that they had tried to radio us but we must have just switched our radio off.
By the time Jonathan had reached the yacht the skipper had swum back empty handed. The wind was so strong that it moved the dinghy like lightening towards Kalkan.
The other skipper quickly jumped into our dinghy and using a spotlight followed the direction of the wind and waves and eventually located the runaway runabout. The skipper wriggled across and started its outboard and soon they were both on their way back.
It took about 10-15 minutes to get to the dinghy but a lot longer to get back battling the wind and waves. High drama!
The following day the skipper and his crew of one left quite early but as they left, they swung by to thank Jonathan for helping to rescue their recalcitrant dinghy.
That day we decided to stay out and catch up with our washing – it was perfect drying weather after all!
The road leading to Dalaman Airport in south-west Turkey was uncannily empty – especially for a Saturday night. We had scarcely seen another pair of headlights since we had left Fethiye.
We were in a hire car which we had rented to pick up my sister Julia from the airport – an hour’s drive away from where we were anchored on the edge of the old town.
When we arrived, the airport approach was also eerily quiet – I had honestly never seen an airport so devoid of bustle – very few cars, no buses, one or two taxis, hardly any people and no planes landing and taking off!
It was so empty that while we waited for Julia’s flight to land we were able to park very close to the terminal building in a bay normally reserved for airport executives and VIPs.
It was so exciting to have our first boat visitor on Sunday – our Lagoon 420 catamaran – since taking possession of her in March 2020.
We had bought this particular boat – more like a floating apartment than a conventional sailboat – so that we could share our life aboard with family and friends. Then Covid-19 hit, no one was able to travel and we were rattling round in this lovely spacious boat wondering if we had made an expensive mistake.
Fast forward to the end of July/beginning of August, when many European countries opened their borders and travellers from the UK weren’t obliged to quarantine on their return, and my switched-on sister Julia quickly made the decision to fly to Turkey and join us for a week.
It seemed rather strange that while family and friends in Australia (where there are many, many, fewer cases of Covid-19 than in any country in Europe) were still unable even to cross the state border, let alone fly out of the country, hundreds of thousands of Europeans (and Russians who have scarily high numbers of virus cases) were pouring into top holiday spots such as Turkey and Greece. It is/was very confusing.
Putting our fears and doubts aside but ensuring we “masked up”, we spent the following day in the old quarter of Fethiye buying a few gifts for Julia to take home and on a mission to find coffee flavored Turkish delight for our sister Sarah whose source in London had dried up.
At each shop the assistant insisted on us having a taste test – pistachio, rose water, vanilla, apple, pomegranate and every other imaginable flavour of Turkish delight – except for coffee!
Some offered other sweets that were coffee flavoured. At one shop the shop keeper said he had coffee flavoured Turkish Delight in another shop and sent out his colleague to collect some for us. The colleague came back with a massive silver tray of “plain“ Turkish Delight that had been tossed in coffee powder. Not what were after at all!
We gave up on our quest after many attempts and feeling slightly seedy after all the sweets we had consumed in the name of research decided to go for lunch at the fish market before heading to the Lycian Rock Tombs – carved into the mountainside high above the sprawling town of Fethiye.
These amazing edifices look like the entrances to ancient temples but are in fact facades of tombs dating back to the 4th Century.
Apparently the Lycians believed that their dead were carried to the afterlife by magical winged creatures and so they placed their dead in geographically high places such as the cliffside – for ease of take off I guess.
The most important tomb is the impressive construction built for Amyntas in 350 BC which has a Greek inscription on the side of it which reads “Amyntou tou Ermagiou”, which translated means “Amyntas, son of Hermagios”.
That evening we had a delicious meal specially prepared for us as promised by “Ryan” the friendly waiter who watched over our dinghy for us while we were exploring the town.
There was no wind to speak of when we set off the next day to our first destination with Julia – a beautiful bay between Fethiye and Göcek called Ciglik Koyu.
Julia and I spent many hours enjoying the clear cool water, swimming round and round the catamaran while Jonathan listened to our chatter getting quieter as we swam to the bow of the boat and then louder and louder as we neared the cockpit where he was relaxing.
We were very close to the beach but in deep water and successfully tied off with our new long line on a reel which made the whole process so much easier! Mind you, there were only a couple of other boats in the bay so that in itself meant it was much less stressful!
We went for a nice but steep (and hot) walk along a track behind the bay and took some shots of the anchorage and of the ocean beyond.
Our next stop was Seagull Bay (Yavansu koyu)- one of the quieter bays in the Göcek area and one in which we had enjoyed for a few days a couple of weeks previously.
The water here is so clear that you can see right to the bottom even in 12 metres of water – just extraordinary and so gorgeous to swim in.
One day we took a dinghy ride and visited the underwater ruins in Cleopatra’s Bay and then sat and had a drink in a restaurant just a short ride over the water.
It was so beautiful gazing across the water watching people swimming and on paddle boards and the beautiful gulets (charter vessels based on traditional timber fishing boats) and other craft skimming by.
One of the things we loved about Seagull Bay was hearing the goats walk past the back of our boat on their way from Seagull Bay to goodness knows where.
First we’d hear the dull tinkling of the goat bells and then the gentle bleating as the older goats encouraged the younger ones to keep moving and not get distracted by some bramble or an interesting looking rock.
On a beautiful evening when the heat was less intense we decided to dinghy in to the rickety jetty in Seagull Bay and have a bit of a wander. Hopefully we would see some goats close to.
After tying up at the broken down timber jetty we stepped onto the small promontory and walked up the steep hill that sweeps up behind.
There we met a small herd of very cute goats who didn’t seem the least bit perturbed by us. Further on there were lovely views over this beautiful environmental area with all its stunning bays and inlets.
Closer to us we could see our catamaran Sunday anchored/moored under the protective shadow of a towering cliff.
We wandered back towards the jetty and on the way met the owner of the restaurant which we thought was derelict. He encouraged us to have a meal there but as we had already prepared our dinner we said that we could come the next day. “Yes, yes you come tomorrow, I will give you meze, fresh fish, everything…”
So the following evening we tied up at the rickety jetty once again with the plan to go for a walk before dinner and then have a meal and watch the sun go down at this unusual restaurant.
We walked up to let the owner know that we had arrived but we were going for a walk first and we noticed a huge fire burning in the stone fireplace. “Aah, heating up the coals to cook our fish,” we thought – although there was absolutely no one there.
We took the track that cut across the little beach and which meandered along the water’s edge behind where Sunday was moored and where we had seen the goats wandering – one way in the morning and back the other way in the evening.
As we walked towards the beach we saw three guys under a tree. What on earth were they were up to? Then it hit us – they were slaughtering a goat. Was the restauranteur planning a meat course too?
We waved, they waved, we walked on quickly. Around 40 minutes later we reappeared and found a small group of people sitting round a table, all very friendly and telling us to sit anywhere.
Our friend from the previous night came up and asked us if wanted a beer to which we said “yes” thinking that a pre dinner cold drink would be very welcome.
We drank our beer revelling in the golden light that is always so glorious as the sun goes down at the end of each day in Turkey.
There were no signs of food arriving and disconcertingly we noticed that our host was now having a full body wash (thankfully at least partially clothed) using a huge tank of water and copious amounts of soap not too far away from where we were sitting. He was extremely thorough and left no part unwashed – a detail which we would have preferred not to have been made aware.
Once he had completed his ablutions Jonathan approached him to see if he was planning to feed us or had he forgotten our conversation of the previous night ….?
Sadly it was quite clear that he was not planning to be the cleanest chef in Turkey and had completely forgotten we were coming. However, he went straight into damage control and instructed Jonathan to go and choose some fish from the fisherman sitting in the bay in his brightly coloured boat.
We were on a roll now and before long we had some beautifully cooked fish, a big salad, bread and a little later a plate of chips (but no meze!). The fisherman even came up to check we had enjoyed the fish.
As the sun sunk over the horizon we cracked the bottle of red wine that we had brought and tucked into the delicious meal, agreeing that we wouldn’t have changed a thing about the evening and that it felt as though we had eaten like “Kings”. Such a tremendous experience – a real Turkish delight!
After a pleasant few days in Sarsala Koyu we dropped our lines and motored the short distance to the small town of Göcek.
It might be a small town but it had a big harbour with plenty of room to swing at anchor which we happily took advantage of. Anchoring close to shore with a long line mooring still doesn’t feel natural to us!
Really Göcek is one massive marina (there are actually six of them spread along the water’s edge.) Unfortunately, a lot of the foreshore is fenced off as a result which we thought spoilt the ambiance.
It also means that if you anchor out, the choice for spots to leave your dinghy is limited. We were very fortunate that the guys at the fishing cooperative let us park on their rather ramshackle dock when we went ashore.
The whole Göcek area was declared a Registered Area of Special Protection in 1988 to help protect the surrounding glorious bays, rocky islands and coves which has meant the town itself has no multi story buildings and all development has been reasonably low key.
There is a pedestrian only shopping street with some tourist shops but also with a couple of supermarkets and lots of eateries and cafes.
We were feeling excited as we had just heard that we were about to receive our first boat visitor since taking ownership of Sunday! My sister Julia had made the decision to travel to Turkey from the UK while she could and was arriving in a few days to stay a week on the boat.
So we spent our short stay in Göcek researching the best way to to the airport, possible places for tying up the dinghy late at night and potential sightseeing opportunities.
The following day we headed for the port town of Fethiye and on the way poked our nose into some lovely bays that potentially could be somewhere to take our visitor.
The entrance to Fethiye is relatively narrow considering the massive harbour within. As we went in there was a massive hotel on one of the headlands that looked completely empty, obviously because of the Covid restrictions.
We anchored where the cruising guide book told us – way out of the way of the commercial boats and the marina arms but we hadn’t been there long before the coast guard boat was circling us and telling us to move! Even though we were hundreds of metres away from the Coast Guard mooring we were anchored in line with it and I suppose they thought in an emergency they might hit us – I really don’t know how this could possibly happen but we didn’t argue and anchored further out.
Finding a place to park the dinghy was much easier than in Göcek – we tied up between a couple of fishing boats at the quieter end of the waterfront – not far from the old quarter.
As we drew up a waiter from the nearby juice bar who spoke perfect English after living in the USA for many years, helped us tie up. We got to know “Ryan” quite well during our visits to his cafe where the best tasting and most refreshing juices were served (and some great food too!)
Our first walk through the maze of shops in the fascinating old quarter convinced us that this was a much better place to bring my sister after her late night flight especially as our dinghy was quite safe outside the juice cafe.
The following day we were delighted to see the “other” Sunday who we had last seen in Kargi Koyu was once again anchored close by.
We had a great catch up dinner on Aussie (the other) Sunday and were delighted to also meet fellow Aussies Catie and Michael of S/V Alys who had been in Turkey since 2018 and were full of ideas on what to do and where to go in Fethiye.
The following day Catie and the two Sunday crews hit Fethiye- first stop the chandlery store! After a good browse round and the purchase of a roll of webbing on an easy-to-feed-out wheel for long line mooring was purchased, we hit the amazing fish market.
It was quite a spectacle to see the huge variety of fish and seafood laid out on wet slabs on four sides of a square with individual fish mongers lined up behind selling their wares.
Brittni and Ryan from Aussie Sunday had brought with them their animal carrier back pack that they use to rescue street animals and take them to vets or shelters whenever they see a creature in need.
Just a couple of days before they had seen a tiny little sickly kitten in the fish market and now they were hoping to capture it and get her/him examined and desexed by a vet.
The little cat was very determined not to get caught but one of the cafe owners in the fish market kindly donated a fish and Ryan and Brittni successfully captured her. To find out what happened visit their video channel (see link below).
Travel not only presents us with new challenges (like the one I described in my last blog) but also enables us to experience many new things that make us laugh, surprise us or enrich our lives in some other way.
During our stay in Seagull Bay near Göcek we had some great new experiences and the first of these was a visit to some submerged ruins in a nearby bay.
Despite there being many sites like this in Greece and Turkey – due to seismic activity throughout history – this was the first time either of us had seen one with our own eyes.
These evocative ruins languishing in the turquoise waters of Cleopatra’s Bay were indeed beautiful.
Legend has it that the ruins were of an ancient hammam (bath house) where Cleopatra bathed in the warm spring that bubbles up from the sea bed.
Probably more accurately, they are believed to be ruins of a medieval monastery that sit half submerged in this lovely bay. However, records show that Cleopatra did indeed visit the area – twice – once in 46 BC and again in 32 BC on her honeymoon with Marc Antony.
Another slightly more prosaic first was having our rubbish (garbage) picked up by a boat instead a truck! We happened to arrive at the garbage bins near a restaurant just as the boat arrived. Very good timing. (Note garbage boats smell just as bad as garbage trucks!)
We had a visit from our friend Phil from Paseafique on our second morning at Seagull Bay. He had motored on his dinghy from another bay in the environmental area called Sarsala Koyu and wanted us to join him there so we could meet some other friends of his who were due to leave the following day.
So off we went, towing his dinghy behind Sunday until we reached Sarsala Koyu. It was pretty crowded when we reached Paseafique but there was still room for us and with having a third pair of hands it was going to be much easier- wasn’t it?
Well all was going pretty well until the rock that Phil had tied Sunday’s line to decided to break off, just as we were reversing towards the shore.
In a split second everything went to hell in a hand basket – Phil reversed into his dinghy painter and we managed to get the line that pinged off the rock caught in our portside propeller.
Phil kindly volunteered to dive down and cut the rope which he did and fortunately there appeared to be no permanent harm done.
Soon we were safely tied up on a stronger rock and peace was restored. Later on, Phil’s friends and travelling companions in Africa and through the Red Sea, Ian and Melian who like us, were originally from England but had lived for many years in Australia, moored next to us and we had a very convivial evening aboard their catamaran Indian Summer.
The following day they dropped their lines and were heading off towards Malta as they had been in Turkey during the worldwide Corona Virus lockdown and were by then, running out of days from their visa allowance.
Phil also introduced us to Australians Daryl from S/V Medea and Bridget and Mal from S/V Eternity who had also spent much of lockdown in Turkey and many interesting stories to tell.
So from meeting new people back to new experiences – one extremely novel experience was going supermarket shopping on a boat!
This wasn’t some small craft selling a few vegetables or ice cream – this was a really big boat with a proper supermarket on board!
It was such a strange feeling drawing up to the floating supermarket in our dinghy, being helped up by one of the employees and walking round with a trolley as the supermarket chugged its way across the bay at snail’s pace.
It had everything you could need including a good array of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, tinned and dried goods – even beer!
After our shopping experience we decided to go for a walk as we hadn’t done much walking for a while (although we had done lots of swimming in the crystal clear turquoise water.)
To my surprise, just round the corner from where we were moored there was a restaurant with a reasonable sized jetty where a number of yachts were tied up. We arrived by dinghy and were dressed for walking rather than dinner out, however, our lines were taken courteously and the young man directed us to the footpath.
After a few false starts we found our way onto the track which ended up being more of a scramble than a walk so after about half an hour we decided a beer at the restaurant was looking like a good idea.
We ended up staying for a meal which we regretted even though the food was very good. We ended up being placed in a corner where we swarmed by wasps as soon as the food was served!
One of those new experiences that we probably would prefer not to have had!
Conventional wisdom tells us that “Knowledge is power” and “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
These sayings often ring true when you are sailing but sometimes they apply to things that seem trivial in comparison to the really scary things like storms at sea, equipment failure or the consequences of making a serious mistake.
Take “Mediterranean mooring” for example. This practice is a hybrid of anchoring and docking used where there is little room due to the large number of boats and not much tidal range – allowing a lot of boats to fit in a small place.
In Turkey it is used frequently where ordinary swing anchoring would be difficult due to the depth of the water in many of the anchorages – often the water only becomes shallow enough for anchoring so close to shore you could almost reach out and touch the land.
For those who have grown up with Med mooring it is the obvious solution and probably just second nature but for those of us who learnt to sail in the Southern Hemisphere and who have always swung at anchor, Med mooring can be an anathema.
We had Med moored twice before – once on the island of Paros, Greece, where the delightful Port Policeman assisted us and the for a second time at the island of Kos where our experience was scary but ultimately fine.
Now we were making our first attempt at doing this in a ”bush” location where we had to anchor, back the boat towards the land, one of us jump in the dinghy with a long rope while the other kept the boat straight using the engines and also watching that the there wasn’t too much or too little anchor chain out and be ready to run forward to pull up or let out more. Then the dinghy person had to leap onto lethal slippery rocks or over razor sharp pebbles and quickly find a suitable rock to tie up on, all the while hanging onto the dinghy painter (rope) and securing the line from the boat to the said rock, probably while holding the painter between their teeth.
I don’t know why we found this proposition so scary but we did!
We had sailed from Marmaris to Ekincik Limani and were trying to anchor/moor in a little bay called Kargi Koyu. It was all the more daunting as there was a stiff breeze blowing and our neighbours were a superyacht on one side and a traditional Turkish fishing boat on the other.
It took us a while but eventually we worked out the correct distance from the shore to drop the anchor, how long our lines needed to be, how to hold Sunday steady and what was the best shape of rock to tie up on.
Once it was all done we felt that our newly acquired knowledge and experience had definitely increased our power and that our fear of Med mooring had decreased significantly.
In the midst of our efforts we were very happy to see Coastline, Salacia Star and (the other) Sunday motor into the anchorage.
The following day we had an excellent beach barbecue with the crews of the three boats – expertly cooked by Ryan from Sunday.
After a couple of restful days, swimming, eating, relaxing and socialising we decided to move on to our next destination – Skopea Limani, part of the Fetiye-Göcek environmental area.
We had only been going a few minutes after dropping our lines when we heard an engine roaring towards us coming up in our wake. After the initial “fright” of having a boat chasing after us at high speed we realised it was the tender from an extremely flash superyacht that had been moored close to us.
The first mate was a Kiwi and had seen our New Zealand flag the day before and had stopped by for a quick chat.
He was chasing us to let us know that he had taken some aerial shots of Sunday and would send them to us via email – he just needed our address!
There are many stunning anchorages in the Fetiye-Göcek environmental area but despite Covid-19 it seemed very crowded to us. There were luxury yachts and Gulets (traditional Turkish two or three masted sailing yachts now used for tourism) as far as the eye could see.
After being so spoilt in Greece where we had almost every anchorage to ourselves, it was a real shock to see so many vessels competing for space.
We did a bit of a tour round and eventually ended up in a less crowded spot called Seagull Bay (named for the large seagull painted on the rocky shoreline.)
This time we handled the Med mooring much more efficiently and with less fear but to be honest, it still felt daunting – the process of backing your precious home towards jagged rocks just doesn’t feel natural!
Nevertheless, once we were settled with a gin and tonic in hand, watching the goats make their way to their homes for the night, listening to the tinkling of their bells and gentle bleating, and gazing into the immensely clear turquoise water around us, we did feel a sense of relief and achievement.
It was such a relief to wake up on our catamaran Sunday and realise that we were safely in Turkey and had nothing pressing to do, nowhere we had to be – and yet free to travel virtually anywhere up and down the coast!
After being locked down in Athens for almost three months because of Covid 19, then being told we had to leave Greece when we tried to extend our time there, and having to rush through the islands to avoid fines for overstaying, we ended up actually feeling relieved that we had escaped the clutches of Greek bureaucracy.
We woke up that first morning in Turkey really luxuriating in the feeling that we could just take our time to relax and recuperate from the relentless schedule of the last few weeks.
However, there’s no peace for the wicked! On our first morning while I caught up with a few jobs on board, Capt’n Birdseye took up a kind offer from Ryan (from the OTHER yacht named Sunday!) To take the dinghies from İçmeler where we were anchored, to Marmaris, so Ryan could show him the area in which all the engineering shops, suppliers of “boat bits” etc were situated.
Jonathan came back very happy as he was able to buy a bunch of stainless steel shackles for the equivalent of seven Australian dollars! Ryan also showed him a good place to eat where he had a doner kebab, chips and a drink for only three dollars. Excellent value!
Later that day we met Ryan’s other half, the delightful Canadian born but now Australian resident, Brittni, and the lovely crews of Salacia Star and Coastline.
These three boats had met enroute to Turkey and had spent lockdown together going through lots of adventures with many ups and downs. Look out for them on Facebook and YouTube!
We also had a great catch up with our old pal Phil Shand from Paseafique who we first met five years ago on the Sail to Indonesia rally and who we had last seen with his wife Lesley (who is stuck in Melbourne due to Covid 19) in Thailand, over two years ago.
After dinner that evening we had a surprise delivery of choc ices dropped off by Brian from Coastline. Such a thoughtful gift!
The next few days passed in a blur of making water, socialising and some rest and relaxation.
One day we took our dinghy up one of the two canals that run perpendicular to the beach at İçmeler. It was such a pretty ride and we easily found somewhere to tie up the dinghy before having a meander on foot around the area.
Walking down a side street we saw a lovely looking cafe/bar with lots of cool greenery around it.
I don’t think it was really open but the owner, a well travelled and erudite Turkish man in his 60s, called Özer, welcomed us in anyway.
He kindly refreshed us with some water melon that he had just received from a friend who had grown it in his garden. Delicious!
Over a beer we chatted and heard Özer’s tales of working as an engineer in the oil industry in many different countries over the years and about his time living in Canada.
The guys from the three Aussie/Kiwi boats had highly recommended the massive “English” breakfast served very cheaply at a cafe called – rather incongruously -“Florida”. Quite by chance we stumbled on Florida and Jonathan was persuaded in by the mention of fish and chips!
We had a little speed wobble when the waiter took our temperature with a digital thermometer and found Jonathan’s was over 38 degrees! He wanted to send him to hospital! It took us a minute to realise Jonathan’s forehead was extra hot from wearing his hat pulled well down as we walked along! Another check – this time on his neck – returned a normal reading!
One of the downsides to being anchored close to a beach lined with hotels was that there were a number of speed boats whizzing around in the anchorage, many of them towing scaring looking “rides”.
Some of the operators seemed to delight in heading straight for one of the anchored yachts at high speed and only veering away at the very last moment. I was terrified that one of the rides was going to end up slamming into the boat – thankfully that didn’t happen while we were there.
After the very welcome rest and some reprovisioning (so much cheaper than Greece!) we decided to head over to take a proper look at Marmaris and to meet up with some more people we had met first on the Sail to Indonesia rally, Bill and Natalia from Island Bound.
Over a good long coffee catch up Natalia offered to show me a really excellent handmade shoe shop while Bill took Jonathan to register for what used to be called a “Blue Card” but was now just a piece of paper with a barcode.
This is a necessary bit of kit when staying in Turkey as it is used to record the dates and amounts of “black water” that has been pumped from your holding tank(s). You can empty your tanks if you travel several kilometres out to sea ( and your log verifies this) but apparently you can get fined for not having them emptied frequently enough at pump out stations.
Marmaris is quite a charming town with a pleasant old quarter, a castle and a very modern seafront with some engaging sculptures and a really nice vibe.
Bill and Natalia took us to a wonderful restaurant down a side street – how they discovered it I don’t know! Our waiter suggested some dishes and brought us a delicious meze to share before our main courses arrived.
After a few days in Marmaris we were sufficiently recovered from our dash through the Greek islands and decided we would set off to explore the wonderful sailing grounds of Turkey.
Before we left we decided to fill up with diesel and have our first “pump out”. The guy at the fuel station in Netsel Marina told Jonathan to “arrive around 9 – 9.30” and we arrived a few minutes after 9.30.
There was one boat before us that we had seen tie up about ten minutes earlier. We thought that he would be another ten minutes tops but an hour later we were still waiting!
Eventually, we were able to go alongside and after calling out for several minutes, someone came to catch our lines. It took us almost an hour to fill up with diesel, fill our jerry cans with petrol for our outboard and have our tanks pumped out. The attendant wandered around very, very slowly until a big motor yacht came in and suddenly he was buzzing around it being Mr Efficient!
Eventually, we pulled out of Marmaris, heading south towards a new chapter of our cruising life.
Our last task before leaving the Greek island of Kos to make our way to Turkey was to hand in our transit log at the Customs department.
We were not looking forward to this as the last two visits had been excruciating but we gritted our teeth and walked in with our documentation which had already been stamped by the port police the day before.
Thankfully the officious Mr Shouty, as we had dubbed him, who had whipped up an atmosphere of confrontation, intimidation and uncertainty, wasn’t there. Instead, Maria who had interviewed us on our previous visits and the other young lady who had also spoken to us, both came out to see us.
This time they were all smiles and perfectly charming, telling us about their planned trips to Australia and wishing us well
They apologised for what we had been through and told us that we had been “caught in the middle”. Caught in the middle of what, we wondered. Mr Shouty getting one over on his colleagues in Athens who gave us a longer transit log than was required? Or Mr Shouty’s misguided ambitions to try and get money out of us? Who knows.
Anyway Jonathan told them that they were the future of Greece – bright, educated, computer literate and with fantastic English skills.
“Your boss is a dinosaur,” he said (giggles from the two young women). “He can’t use computers, he can’t speak an official language of the EU, and he treats his female colleagues appallingly by yelling out commands while they were talking to clients (us!)”.
We were on a roll now!
“If Mr Shouty worked anywhere else in the EU or Australia come to that, he would be sacked for the way he speaks to you,” I chimed in.
Sadly in Greece, it is almost impossible to be sacked from public service jobs which explains a lot about the crumbling bureaucracy dominated by older people (mostly men) who often don’t have the necessary up-to-date skills to successfully run their departments.
It felt good to have had the chance to say that and judging by their smiles, they didn’t disagree.
We felt so relieved that finally we could leave Greece unimpeded but sad that our memories of the island of Kos would for ever more be tainted by the treatment of the authorities there. We still love Greece though!
The following morning we headed for our last Greek island of this trip – Symi, where we were going to rest for the night before heading to Marmaris in Turkey.
We had a fantastic sail there bowling along with the wind behind us under headsail only. We were going over 7 knots so we were glad we hadn’t raised the mainsail.
We entered the lovely, enclosed, Panormitis Bay, around 4 pm and as we were the only yacht there we could drop our anchor in the very best spot.
Once settled we dropped the dinghy and motored in and tied up right in front of the Venetian style monastery (restored in 1783) which boasts the highest baroque bell tower in the world.
The monastery is dedicated to the Archangel Michael who, we learnt, is the protector of mariners so it felt very appropriate that we should visit this tranquil place as live-aboard cruisers.
The monastery chapel had some amazing artifacts, including a collection of massive chandeliers and an impressive silver icon of the Archangel Michael.
After a walk round the monastery we strolled along the water’s edge enjoying the peace which was only broken by the gentle bleating of goats and the tinkling of the bells round their necks.
The following day we were up and off early as we had been advised by our agent to arrive in Marmaris, in Turkey where we were checking in, by 2 pm to allow time for all the checks etc.
Soon we were delighted to have crossed the border into Turkey! We arrived in Marmaris in good time and managed to locate the customs dock with no problem.
On the way there we messaged our agent to let him know our ETA and received a message to say he would unable to be there at 2 pm (despite the fact that was the time he had suggested) and his brother would come instead.
We were tied up by a couple of customs guys who were intrigued by our flag. They asked where we were from and we told them the boat was registered in New Zealand. “Aah” they said and then went back to other duties. After a couple of minutes they came back and asked again where the flag was from.
“New Zealand – you know, in the same region as Australia “ we said. “Aah yes Australia” they said happy to have identified at least roughly where we hailed from.
At 2 pm a woman came up and handed us latex gloves and masks which we duly put on. She gave us some paperwork to fill in which we were a little puzzled about as our agent had already sent us paperwork which we had filled out and returned.
We were unsure who she was as her English was very minimal and our Turkish non- existent. Eventually we gathered she was there on behalf of her husband who was our agent’s brother.
She asked for our passports and ship’s papers as she would take them to Customs and Immigration for us. In the meantime Jonathan was inside battling with the health form as some of the questions were quite confusing to say the least (correct meaning lost in translation!)
The quarantine official took our temperatures (we had to lean over the side for this as our feet were not allowed to touch the ground until we had passed the temperature test.)
Soon after, our agent’s brother’s wife with very little English returned and said “All done but port police at the marina, I take your papers there”.
At this Jonathan told her very firmly that our papers were to be returned to us and that we wouldn’t be leaving the customs dock until we received them. There was no way that we were letting our passports and ship’s equivalent leave without us!
What if our agent’s brother’s wife with very little English wasn’t who we thought she was? What if she went missing with our passports and ship’s papers?
By this time the weather was blowing up and we didn’t really fancy trying to dock our new-to-us boat in high winds when we still felt such novices. Anyway, we didn’t really want to go into a marina when there were several really good anchorages close by.
Also, as customs and immigration were done, there was no need for her to hang on to our passports so where were they? Oh, they were in her pocket.
So our agent’s brother’s wife handed them over and called someone – our agent? – and then she disappeared. Ten minutes afterwards she returned with our transit log and our ship’s papers and we were free to go – once we had paid our bill.
We did a quick search of the pilot and decided to make for a comfortable looking anchorage in the tourist resort of İçmeler across the other side of the vast Mamaris harbour.
It was about 5pm by the time we arrived and as we approached the anchorage we were amazed and very happy to see that there were three boats already anchored there – and they were all Aussi or Kiwi boats! The most incredible coincidence was that one of them was the OTHER Sunday – registered in Australia with video bloggers Ryan and Brittni and their dog Jackson and rescue cat Finn on board.
Ryan popped by to say hello and later came aboard for a drink that first night. We were amazed to meet him on our first night in Turkey!
Our Corona lockdown buddies in Athens – Silke and Tim from Polykandros – had mentioned the OTHER Sundays to us. They had watched some of the sailing videos Ryan and Brittni had produced and then had been chatting to each other on-line.
It’s a small world but no more so than when it comes to the cruising community!
The Greek island of Kos is a fascinating place steeped in history but for us it will always be remembered for the anxiety and stress caused by officialdom there.
We were checking out of Greece to go to Turkey as our 90 days visa free Schengen period was well over – due in large part to our extended Covid19 lockdown stay in Athens.
Our first preference was to stay in Greece as it was very safe compared to Turkey from a virus viewpoint, plus exploring the Greek Islands had been a long-held dream. What could be better than to do this post-lockdown when hardly anyone else was cruising this amazing part of the world?
To this end we decided to go to the Immigration department to enquire whether we would be allowed to take a day trip to Turkey leaving on our Australian/NZ passports and return on our British passports.
The port police told us that the Immigration Office was a short walk away round the bay and we would see it on the right hand-side.
It was extremely hot and by the time we had walked to the building that we thought was the Immigration Office, we were feeling sticky and uncomfortable so we were dismayed to see a big queue of people and no shade to wait in.
Fortunately it didn’t take us long to realise that this was actually a building belonging to the electricity company and we still had a way to go!
When we arrived at the ferry terminal where the Immigration Office was situated, we asked the security guard to direct us. He looked at us and said “Immigration is closed, there is nobody here” and after a phone call advised us to go to Customs which was back round the bay near to where Sunday was moored under the shadow of the 14th Century castle.
So we went round to Customs and as we walked through the door the guy at the front desk held his hand up in the universal sign meaning “Halt” and shouted “masks, masks”.
That was quite fine with us but it was a little disconcerting being yelled at in such a rough way before we had even approached within three metres of the guy (also he didn’t have a mask on and there was a glass screen between him and us. )
We asked if we could talk to someone about our visa status and suddenly the quiet office erupted into mayhem. One man (the boss we learned later) started yelling on the top of his voice – barking instructions to the staff.
A lady who, we gathered from Mr Shouty, was called Maria, came to the reception area and asked to see our bill of sale, our transit log and proof of payment for the cruising tax (tepai). For some reason she was insistent that she wanted to see the actual receipt for the tepai even though we had the certificate to prove we had paid it. All the while her boss was yelling out instructions from an out of sight cubicle (I never did get to see what he looked like!)
Eventually we remembered the Greek lawyer that had been employed on our behalf had sent us the receipt and we were able to show it on our phone.
We then asked about the possibility of returning to Greece on our British passports and before we knew it, Jonathan as skipper, was whisked off to an office and asked to list all the places we had been to in the last few years. As we had been travelling for over five years by land and by sea this was a mammoth exercise. Feeling puzzled he did his best and then said he would have to consult with me as he couldn’t recall exactly where we had been at what time.
All this while, the uncouth boss was yelling out instructions to “Maria” in Greek – often shouting (yelling) over her so we couldn’t hear her questions. It felt very threatening and uncomfortable especially as we really had no idea what was going on.
Then we received a drubbing from Mr Shouty via Maria for having been given a transit log for six months (instead of one month) as though we had been responsible for this “reprehensible behaviour.” In fact, the Customs guy in Athens had done this as a favour in the hopes we would be able to negotiate an extension to stay in Greece (due to Covid) or to leave and return using our British passports.
This transgression would have to be investigated and the Athens Customs questioned by phone we were told.
In the meantime after more excited yelling from the loud but unseen boss, the list of countries and times spent in each was copied, stamped and squirrelled away.
We left feeling mystified and none the wiser about whether we could come back to Greece on our British passports although we had gathered that right then there were no ferries going to and from Turkey so it didn’t look at all likely. We were no longer wondering if we would be given an extension to stay on in Greece – it was quite clear that this just wasn’t going to happen.
We were told that the boss would call Athens Customs about the transit log and we would have to come back the following day. Jonathan quietly suggested that he didn’t need a phone as they could probably hear him in Athens the way he was yelling.
I think that might have endeared us to “Maria” because as we left Customs she told us that it might be an idea to let our lawyer know what was happening. When we rang her she nearly had a pink fit!
“They are cat-fishing you” she said. “They know you have British passports and want to try and prove that because you have been out of Australia for a long time you are no longer a resident there and therefore liable to pay VAT on your boat in Greece, get out as soon as possible!”
We felt utterly sick. What if they impounded the boat and started the process to try and get us to pay the tax?! We knew that we legitimately didn’t have to pay in Greece as Australia is definitely still where our home is, and ultimately where we would have to pay the relevant sales tax if we entered on board Sunday but we didn’t know to what lengths Mr Shouty was prepared to go to.
What a nightmare! Neither of us slept well that night thinking about the rabbit hole we had inadvertently taken ourselves down.
The next day we went in search of Immigration so we could check out of Greece ASAP. The people at Customs told us to go the Police station in the massive Italianate building on the sea front.
So off we went and on arrival were conducted through a beautiful courtyard to an office marked “Immigration”. We were met by a lanky, very young man with bad teeth, dressed in ripped jeans and an old t-shirt.
We said we had come to check out. He made a phone call, hung up and said as he casually started to roll up a cigarette “You are not allowed to leave.”
With a sinking heart and a feeling of panic we said “We have to leave otherwise we will be in big trouble.”
Mr Lanky made another call. “My boss says you definitely cannot leave as the border with Turkey is closed.”
“So what you are saying? That one government department has told us we must leave Greece but another says we must stay?” we questioned.
“No, I did not say you must stay, I said you cannot leave “ he replied.
At this Jonathan and I just cracked up and started giggling as this really sounded completely ridiculous. He started laughing too as even he realised that the situation was ridiculous.
We told him that Turkey was opening it’s borders in the following day or two, we had our visas and an agent was expecting us and would handle all the paperwork. Could he not just stamp our passports and let us leave?”
Then Mr Lanky said “Well I have no stamp so you had better to go to the Immigration department near Customs and see what they say. “
Feeling just a tad exasperated we walked back to Customs and after asking around found the correct building (right next door to Immigration- why didn’t they send us there first?!)
We walked into another courtyard which had beautiful proportions and asked directions to Immigration. Once at the window we waited ten minutes for the lady on the phone to attend to us (there was a man doing nothing at another desk but he studiously ignored us.)
We went through our story again and were asked many questions and had to have our documents once more gone through with a fine tooth comb. Eventually it was established that we had been directed to the wrong place yet again.
This Immigration office was mainly for refugees looking for temporary visas. On our way out we realised that there were no notices indicating the location of the office we had just visited – just a big sign saying “WC”!
Finally, we were directed back to Immigration at the docks where we had gone originally and found the office closed. On the way we dropped in at the Port Police to get our transit log stamped by a delightful port policeman who was very kind and who we thanked profusely for his kindness and efficiency (which worked in our favour later on.)
This time, at Immigration there was a nice smartly dressed officer on duty who ushered us into his demountable office and actually offered us a seat (everywhere else we were left standing).
He went through our passport forensically trying to match up the stamps and make sense of them. They of course, made little sense as last year and earlier this year we had been ducking in and out of multiple countries in our camper van – some within the Schengen area and others not but often where there was no passport control and therefore no stamps in our passport to chart our progress.
“I’m sorry, I have to do this, I don’t want to get into trouble,” he said.
We had also been to Australia and back and again although there was no stamp because eye recognition was used. There were several trips to England made (the UK is not in the Schengen group) but yet again our passports weren’t stamped as we arrived and left by ferry.
It was a bit of a muddle to be sure but had we been able to leave Greece after picking up Sunday in March, instead of being trapped in lockdown for almost three months, we would have been OK. Certainly there were no questions raised about overstaying when we left from Amsterdam airport in 17 March.
Eventually, he phoned the port police and as luck would have it, he spoke to the kind guy who we had thanked so profusely.
He came down to the port and the two of them went through the passports together. All this time, after learning the hard way that offering information can get you into trouble, we had kept totally quiet, just answering questions and not offering information.
Eventually, Jonathan told them we had spent a couple of months in Australia last year (we had been back for our son’s wedding) and suddenly they seemed happy with that and decided to stamp our passports.
They were actually very nice and really didn’t want to fine us for overstaying and after another ten or so minutes while they searched for a blue ink pad (theirs had dried up from lack of use and our black one was the wrong colour) our passports were finally stamped!
We felt such a sense of relief as we trudged back round the bay once again. We celebrated with a nice lunch and a walk round the interesting but ramshackle archeological site of the ancient agora which was discovered after the catastrophic earthquake of 1933 destroyed Kos city centre.
What a few days it had been. We felt exhausted after all the stress and despite loving the Greek islands, we couldn’t wait to put Greece and the treatment dished out by Greek bureaucracy behind us.