Heading up the “difficult and potentially dangerous” Dardanelles

The long haul north before heading up the internationally significant Dardanelles Strait – the narrow waterway that links the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara was almost over.

The internationally significant Dardanelles Strait, with the island of Bozcaada bottom left

The day before we left for the Turkish island of Bozcaada – our last stop en route to the Dardanelles – we moved from the safety of the landlocked bay, Çamlik Koyu in the Ayvalik archipelago, to nearby Cunda (Alibey) Island. This was to give ourselves a head start when we set off the next morning.

We stopped for the night at Cunda Island

Soon after we arrived at Cunda Island, we hopped into our dinghies to explore the village ashore. On our way over John and Sue noticed a dolphin playing with the anchor chain of a motor boat.

The dolphin was playing around this
motor boat

We caught sight of it too and went over to the boat to have a closer look. We had heard from other yachties about a lone dolphin that often likes to play around anchored and moored boats in the bay.

Sue from our buddy boat Catabella managed to get a shot of it

As we approached, the playful animal moved on to have a look at Sunday’s anchor chain but then disappeared again as we approached our boat. Later on that night we were woken up by thumping noises on our hull – I think it was a call to play from the dolphin but it wasn’t the right time for us sleepy people.

The dolphin moved on to our boat (Sunday) but as soon as we got near it disappeared

The village – which we had visited the day before with our guest Jackie for her farewell lunch – was very beautiful but the terrible history of the island involving the killing of several hundred of the Greek islanders and the displacement of many hundreds more, before the population exchange of 1923, still haunts this place.

The village was very beautiful
Sue exploring the old town

It was an early start for us the next day – our anchor was up before 6.30 am which was unusual for us although many (maybe most?) yachties would claim that it was the “normal” time to leave!

The sea was like glass and there was a beautiful rosy pink glow as we motored out of the anchorage. “We should get up this early more often” we said. However, unless we have to, we don’t! Just not early birds I guess.

Early morning departure!

We motored most of the way to Bozcaada Island but had a bit of a sail too. Along the way there was plenty to look at – including various coastguard vessels speeding to and fro (something seemed to be going on but we didn’t find out what), and a huge cargo ship steaming across our bow (the picture below looks dramatic but we were not in danger at any point!).

There were various coastguard vessels
going to and fro
Something seemed to be going on but we didn’t find out what
On Catabella’s navigation system Sunday looks like she’s heading straight for this
rather large cargo ship
Taken from Catabella – looks like Sunday is heading for a collision

In order to save a considerable amount of time, we cut the corner and sailed into Greek waters for a while, just skirting the north of the island of Lesbos. Apparently this is quite acceptable – both the Greek and Turkish authorities appear to turn a blind eye to boats taking the short cut.

We entered Greek waters to cut the corner

As we sailed close to Lesbos I really wished we could pop in for lunch in a Greek taverna but that just wasn’t possible.

Lesbos looked absolutely beautiful
We sailed very close to Greece!
Wish we could have stopped for
lunch in a Greek taverna!

We approached Bozcaada mid-afternoon and judging by the large ferry that we narrowly avoided, it is a popular holiday destination.

Dodging the ferry!

The first thing we noticed were the Greek windmills on the cliff top (Boscaada was previously known as the Greek island of Tenedos famed for being the place that the Greek fleet hid while a small number of their troops entered Troy hidden in the Trojan horse).

Look closely and you’ll see the remains of some Greek windmills

We also had a great view of a very fine castle which dates from 1455 but had been remodelled in the 17th and 19th centuries.

The very fine castle was first built in 1455

Our friends from Liberte, Liz and Steve, who had left Cunda even earlier than us, were already anchored and settled by the time we arrived in the compact anchorage.

The only settlement on Bozcaada

Before long we were also snugly anchored and ready to go and explore the town which is the only settlement on this 39.9 square km (15 square miles) island.

Catabella and Liberte anchored in the shadow of the castle

Despite its size, the island has always been strategically important due to its proximity to the entrance to the Dardanelles. It has had a rich history with many invasions and has been under the control of a succession of powers over the centuries.

A closer view of the castle
Checking out one of the many restaurants

During the 1923 population exchange the Greeks in Bozcaada were (unusually) allowed to stay and the majority of the population was Greek until the late 1960s/early 1970s, when a large proportion of them left the island.

This one looked tempting

Walking through the streets you could still see and feel the Greek influence. There were many restaurants and lots of wine shops.We learnt that Boscaada is famous for its grapes and has a burgeoning wine industry.

A beautiful “hot dog”

We stopped for a quick tasting at a “cellar door”- the varieties we selected weren’t great so we didn’t end up stocking up our wine cellar on this occasion.

The wine wasn’t the best but these
cakes looked delicious

Later on we (Jonathan and I and our sailing buddies Sue and John) met up with Liz and Steve and had an enjoyable dinner at one of the many local restaurants.

This was where we eventually had dinner
Sunday, Catabella and Liberte at anchor

Due to the possible threat of strong northerly winds coming and the hope of having a decent sail before they did, Jonathan and I decided to get going the next day while Sue and John made the decision to have a rest and catch up with us the following day.

Night time in Bozcaada
A lovely sunset
The same view first thing in the morning
See ya Catabella!

We had a good trip but we were intrigued by the strange currents around the entrance to the Dardanelles that slowed us down by almost a third of our normal speed.

Great to get the sails up
Hard to photograph but the currents were definitely visible

It was quite a thrill to “turn right” into the famous Strait which apparently is considered “one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous waterways in the world.” (Wikipedia)

It was quite a thrill “to turn right” into the Dardanelles

We didn’t really find it hazardous and it was much less busy than the Singapore Strait which was definitely a little daunting! (Read all about crossing it here: https://dotsailing.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/nail-biting-experience-through-singapore-strait/ )

The Dardanelles link the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara and at the other end the Bosphorus leads out to the Black Sea

Although the strange currents persisted, alternately slowing us down and then speeding us up again, we pottered along quite well – now under motor (sailing in the Dardanelles is not allowed unless permission has been granted).

We should have been going over six knots but the currents were slowing us down.
The entrance to the Dardanelles

Sunday was heading for Çanakkale, a small seaport on the southern shore that sits at the narrowest point of the Dardanelles and is the nearest major urban centre to the ancient city of Troy.

Along the way we sailed past the Gallipoli peninsula on the northern shores of the strait. We could see in the distance the impressive war memorials to the fallen soldiers of the Great War. One of them commemorates the service of about 253,000 (56,643 of whom died) Turkish soldiers who participated at the Battle of Gallipoli (1915–1916). Another commemorates the Anzac troops (11,025 who died).

The impressive Turkish Memorial
The Helles Memorial built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Gallipoli peninsula is actually the point where the continent of Europe ends while on the other side of the strait the beaches constitute the start of the continent of Asia.

Coming into Çanakkale we were impressed by the huge figure of a 1915 Turkish soldier carved in white on the hillside. In one hand he holds a rifle while his other arm is outstretched towards an inscription engraved into the hillside. Translated, the words form the beginning of the famous Turkish poem by the Turkish poet, Necmettin Halil Onan. The poem starts “Stop wayfarer! Unbeknownst to you this ground You come and tread on, is where an epoch lies; Bend down and lend your ear, for this silent mound Is the place where the heart of a nation sighs.”

One of the massive cargo ships we encountered in the Straits
The huge figure of a 1915 Turkish soldier carved in white on the hillside
An unusually cloudy but nevertheless
glorious, sunset

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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.

2 thoughts on “Heading up the “difficult and potentially dangerous” Dardanelles”

  1. Looks amazing! Glad you made it through the Dardanelles Strait without too much difficulty – I’d be terrified!


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