Helicopter gunships and tourist “invasion”

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.

One of the helicopter gunships that flew over our boat

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 weapons were clearly visible

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.

Later calm was restored to the anchorage (Sunday is the closest mast)

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?

Kas is a pretty town with massive cliffs rising behind

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 seas were relatively calm as we left Firnaz Koyu and the tourist boats were out in force
The scene coming into Kas

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.

The tourist boats were all tied up round 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.

Our dinghy at the wobbly wobbly 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.

There was a short scramble up a winding, dusty path to the road (where the bougainvillea and a lamppost can be seen)

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!

I know it doesn’t look crowded but believe me it was!

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.

Away from the seafront Kas was a delightful town

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.

Amazed to see a broken off stalactite or stalagmite outside a restaurant
Parts of the town reminded us of Greece
It was no surprise to learn that it had been mostly inhabited by people of Greek origin pre 1922

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.

There are sarcophagi scattered throughout the town
These were off a path we took back to the boat

The most famous of these sarcophagi is the Kings Tomb, that lies just a stone’s throw inland from the harbour.

The Kings Tomb, also known as the Lions’ tomb

This is also known as the Lions’ Tomb because of the two carved lion heads on the lid of the sarcophagus.

The two carved heads on the lid to the sarcophagus
You can see inside the tomb but there’s not much to look at!
Night falls in Kas

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!

On one side of the boat was Kas in Turkey …..
……while on the other was the Greek island of Kastellorizo

We hadn’t realised how close we were to the disputed territory – no wonder the helicopter gunships came so close!!

To illustrate how close they are: the land in the foreground is Turkey, in the background is the Greek island of Kastellorizo

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.

The massive Greek warship less than a kilometre away.
Quite by chance I think I captured a drone in this shot
This lovely yacht was just this side of the Turkish border

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.

So many ruins at Kekova Roads
Gulets with their day visitors in Woodhouse Bay
Soon they were gone and this was our view

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.

Apparently there was a path somewhere up there
The icecream seller visiting a gulet
The crystal clear turquoise waters washed our anxieties away

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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