Çanakkale wasn’t the most comfortable of anchorages – in fact at times the swell was quite annoying – but at least we were close to all the town has to offer.
Being the gateway town to the famous ancient ruined city of Troy and also the much fought over strategically important Gallipoli peninsula, we thought Çanakkale would be heaving with people but actually it didn’t seem crowded at all.
The day after we arrived Sue and John caught up with us after having had an extra day on the island of Bozcaada. Rather than anchor out they decided to tie up inside the small public marina.
Later that day John, Jonathan and I headed for the very interesting naval museum, some of which is housed in the 15th-century Çimenlik Castle.
Before entering the castle we boarded and looked round an amazing replica of the minelayer Nusret which played a pivotal role in resisting the Allied invasion of the Dardanelles in World War One. The Nusret laid 26 mines in an “unexpected” position just before the ill-fated invasion in February 1915 which sank, or left severely damaged, a significant number of British and French ships.
It was this defeat that precipitated the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign.
Nearby to the replica vessel lies a graceful pale lemon painted mansion that beckoned us in. Downstairs there was an exhibition with a lot of information about the rise of Ataturk ( the founding “father” of the Republic of Turkey.)
Upstairs was an exhibition of sketches made by a Turkish War artist who drew what was happening during the chaos of war. Although they might lack artistic merit, (maybe because the artist often sketched sitting on the back of a horse!) the pictures capture the devastation surrounding him. Several of them depicted the aftermath of a shell fired from the English naval ship Queen Elizabeth which fell in Çanakkale causing a big fire and widespread panic.
From the mansion we walked through the castle grounds in which there were many shells, cannons, mines and other instruments of war on display.
Inside the castle the exhibitions were mostly depicting the events of the Gallipoli campaign or as it is known in Turkey, the Battle of Çanakkale.
This section of the museum was interesting and extensive with exhibits displayed on two levels. Upstairs was very atmospheric as the lighting was subtle and all the low doorways, passageways and other characteristics of a castle were still in place.
The exhibits included short films, dioramas, uniforms, paintings and models.
On the way back we saw the the enormous wooden horse which was used in the 2004 movie “Troy” and is on display on the seafront.
Before leaving Çanakkale we decided to go and fill up with fuel at the dedicated dock in the small marina so we radioed in to see if the fuel dock was free and were told to come on in.
When we got there, a large motor yacht was refuelling which was annoying as we were happy to wait outside until the dock was free. Instead we were obliged to worm our way into a small space with none of the usual assistance from a dock worker in a dinghy.
We eventually did get in but managed to get one of the marina lines caught in the starboard engine propellor. Then unbelievably, without telling us, the marina management asked a diver who was working on a nearby boat to go down and cut the line while we were still trying to settle the boat! The consequences of this could have been utterly disastrous for the diver and we wondered why on earth they hadn’t tried to tell us. There was no indication anywhere that there was a diver working below which seemed to us as being potentially dangerous and very slack!
We set off from Çanakkale with our companion boat Catabella and our journey up the famous, 61 kilometres (38 miles) long, Dardanelles Strait continued.
It is difficult to think of another stretch of water (except maybe the Suez Canal) that is as significant from both a strategic and commercial point of view.
The Dardanelles Strait is a crucial international waterway which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean via the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. This allows maritime connections from Black Sea ports belonging to, for example, The Ukraine and Russia, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and onwards to the Atlantic Ocean via Gibraltar. From there goods can travel on to the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal.
The importance of the Dardanelles Strait has been highlighted during the current conflict between Russia and the Ukraine when massive ships containing wheat have been prevented from safe passage to the “outside world”.
The highlight of our passage along the Strait was travelling under the world’s longest suspension bridge. Yes that’s right, the newly opened 1915 Çanakkale Suspension Bridge is 4,608 metres (15,118 feet) long with a main span of 2,023 metres(6,637 feet) which beats (by 32 metres (105 feet)), the length of the previous longest, the Japanese Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
The toll (one way) on the bridge is 200 lira ($15.64 Australian dollars or a tick over £9). A Turkish person earning the minimum monthly wage of 4,250 Turkish lira would have to spend 14 per cent of their monthly income for one round trip on the bridge! No wonder there was scarcely any traffic on it.
Watching Sue and John approach the bridge it really looked as though Catabella’s mast wouldn’t fit under it but of course, the bridge’s height above the water is a massive 70 metres (230 ft). As they got closer to the bridge we could see the space opening up!
It took us roughly an hour and a half to get to the end of the Dardanelles where the strait opens up to become the Sea of Marmara.
Just as we entered this inland sea which covers 11,350 square kilometres (4,380 square miles) we received a text message from Alper who had been the project manager for our new bowsprit built at Didim Marina. He had spotted Sunday from the yacht on which he was sailing as crew heading towards Marmaris.
A few minutes later and we were alongside having a quick chat. What a strange place to meet up and what a coincidence that we were sailing so close to each other – “like ships that pass in the night”! It was especially strange as there were literally no other vessels in sight right then, except for Catabella ahead of us in the distance.
Our anchorage for the night was in Kemer, a modest fishing village with a fair amount of industry on its fringes. Not the most salubrious of places and it had a bit of a swell going on too so not surprisingly we departed early next day heading for the Marmara Archipelago, a group of 21 islands where we hoped to find some great anchorages.