High drama as sail rips and drowning woman rescued

It was such a great relief to have our daughter and husband safely with us on board Sunday after an anxious wait beforehand wondering whether new travel restrictions would be initiated or their PCR tests returned positive.

Juicing wonderfully sweet local oranges aboard Sunday
Skyping Pieter’s godson in the Netherlands on his birthday

Their arrival had been quite dramatic with terrible bushfires along the coast and lots of smoke and ash everywhere blocking out the usual intensely blue skies.

There was lots of smoke and ash everywhere blocking out the usual intensely blue skies.

The contrast in temperature between the Netherlands (less than 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit) and the extreme heat in Turkey (over 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit) was incredible but being able to jump off the boat and cool down in the beautiful clear water helped a lot!

Being able to jump off the boat and cool down in the beautiful clear water helped deal with the extreme temperatures a lot

After a couple of nights in Bozburun we pulled up the anchor and motor sailed to Bençik – a beautiful, peaceful, inlet on the Datça Peninsula that Sue and John on Catabella had found.

Sailing passed a rocky island on the way to Bençik
A beautiful and peaceful inlet

There was nothing there except trees and the remains of a holiday camp which had been defunct for many years.

Such a restful place to be
No shops nearby but the ice cream man paid a visit
Enjoying our ice creams!

After a restful couple of days swimming, eating, relaxing and catching up, we headed for our next stop – Kuruca Buku, a large bay on the west side of a point with a holiday village around the shore.

On our way to explore on land

After a short walk across an isthmus we found Çiftlik – a small village on another large bay which has a handful of restaurants, a small supermarket and lots of holiday houses.

Enjoying our first lunch out together for a very long time

We had a good lunch at one of the restaurants there with Sue and John. What a pleasure it was to eat out at a restaurant with Hannah and Pieter! When we left them at the end of February the Netherlands was still in lockdown after several months. We hadn’t been able to enjoy a meal out together all the time we were staying with them (from mid-September until we left).

What a pleasure it was to eat out at a restaurant with Hannah and Pieter!
A beautiful sunset after a lovely day

The next day we were off again – this time to Datça, which lies in the middle of the long and narrow Datça Peninsula. The journey was marred by the smoggy atmosphere, caused by the forest fires that had been wreaking havoc over the previous few days.

The journey was marred by the smoggy atmosphere, caused by the forest fires

The sky at 6pm was as dark as it was under normal circumstances at 8.30pm and the sun gave off an unearthly glow.

The sky at 6pm was as dark as it was under normal circumstances at 8.30pm

It was great to walk along the “promenade”, past all the feet-in-the-sand restaurants (where a beer cost almost as much as a whole meal in other restaurants!) and enjoy the holiday atmosphere.

It was great to walk along the “promenade”, past all the feet-in-the-sand restaurants
There was a real holiday atmosphere along the promenade

We found a very nice little restaurant overlooking the harbour where we had a very enjoyable traditional Turkish meal.

Getting back into the dinghy after a dinner out in Datça

Datça is a popular tourist spot and despite Turkey being on the “red list” in the United Kingdom, the little town seemed bustling – there were quite a number of Turkish holiday makers and a good few Russians and Ukrainians too.

Datça is a popular tourist spot

Our stay in Datça was rather eventful. It all began when a large turtle popped it’s head up close to the boat. Then we saw it again and once again, and then realised that there were multiple turtles feeding on the thick weed near to the boat.

Hannah and Pieter set off in the dinghy to explore

Hannah and Pieter donned their snorkel masks and jumped in the water to see if they could see them close-to. We were surprised to find firstly that there were six turtles feeding and secondly, they were totally unfazed by their presence. Jonathan and I both jumped in too and were thrilled to be swimming near these beautiful creatures.

Hannah and Pieter swimming with the turtles (unfortunately not visible!)
They stayed out there for ages watching the turtles feed on the sea grass below
A turtle comes up for air

Later, the wind changed direction and it’s strength increased. Our anchor was put under load and lifted. Normally this would not be a problem as our trusty Rochna resets itself in these circumstances. However, on this occasion it reset in the thick weed which meant it couldn’t get a proper grip on the seabed.

Our anchor reset in thick weed which meant it couldn’t get a proper grip on the seabed.

We suddenly realised that we were gradually floating off towards the Greek island of Simi!

We were gradually floating off towards the Greek island of Simi (in distance)

There be wasn’t any panic, we just pulled up the anchor and reanchored with no dramas. By this time the wind was around 30 plus knots and gusting higher.

A little later we were quietly enjoying a pre dinner drink when we heard an enormous snapping sound – like a massive whip being cracked or a high pitch thunder bolt. It sounded so close that we wondered if something had happened to our boat. A second crack sent us scurrying on to the foredeck and off towards the shore. Straightaway we could see the problem – the wind had caught Catabella’s light foresail (called a code zero) and caused it to start unfurling. The loud cracks were the sound of the sail flailing in the high wind.

Jonathan immediately launched the dinghy and got the motor going. Unfortunately he didn’t get very far as the wind was blowing so hard that the bow of the dinghy started to rear up which was scary to watch from the safety of Sunday.

The wind had caught Catabella’s light foresail (called a code zero) and caused it to start unfurling (Photo courtesy of nearby but unnamed boat)

Jonathan stopped the bucking by steering slightly off the wind but the small outboard was struggling and he started to head slowly (and backwards) out to sea! Fortunately he managed to get back to Sunday but it was very frustrating not being able to help the crew on Catabella.

In the meantime, Hannah was looking through the binoculars and called out in alarm “there’s someone in the water!”

Not knowing what else to do I got on the ship’s radio and put out a “person in the water” message to alert all the boats in the anchorage. We learnt later that other boats had picked up the message and had tried to launch their dinghies but like us, were unable to fight the wind and swell.

We thought that maybe someone had been knocked off the boat by the flapping sail but it turned out to be an older Turkish lady swimmer who found herself unable to get back into the beach and was slowly getting swept out to sea.

The rescue team goes to the aid of the lady swimmer (photo credit Sue Done)

Fortunately two boats anchored near to Catabella, closer to land than us, had been able to reach them and were already assisting with getting the sail under control.

They jumped into their dinghies and went to the lady’s assistance. She was in shock and exhausted and too weak to struggle into a dinghy even with help, so in the end her rescuers towed her to Catabella.

The poor swimmer was exhausted and couldn’t get into the dinghy even with help (photo credit Sue from Catabella)

It wasn’t easy to get her aboard but eventually she was safely on Catabella where she drank three big glasses of water and recovered somewhat before one of the rescue team (a professional skipper) took her back to shore in the ship’s tender.

Trying to get the lady aboard Catabella (credit Sue Done)

According to Sue she couldn’t speak English so they didn’t discover exactly what had happened to her but they were very glad to have been able to save her despite being in the midst of their own drama!

Eventually the rescuers managed to get her
aboard! (Photo Sue Done)

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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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