Chance meeting mid-sea “like ships that pass in the night”

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.

At least we were close to everything – including the mosque!
A dramatic sunset always lifts the spirits

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 busy ferry taking passengers to the Gallipoli Peninsula
View from our boat of the Trojan horse used
in the movie “Troy”

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.

Sue and John arrive in Çanakkale on Catabella

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.

Çimenlik Castle, which houses some of the Navel Museum’s exhibits

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.

The replica of the minelayer Nusret

It was this defeat that precipitated the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign.

Replicas of mines that were laid by “Nusret”
Models of Turkish sailors in the “mess”

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.)

The lemon painted mansion which
housed an exhibition on Ataturk and
sketches by war artists

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.

One of the sketches showing Çanakkale in ruins

From the mansion we walked through the castle grounds in which there were many shells, cannons, mines and other instruments of war on display.

There were many instruments of war on display in the grounds of the castle
More guns!

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.

The castle entrance

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.

A mock-up of a hospital trench from the time of the Gallipoli invasion
The museum was very atmospheric
All the characteristics of a castle
were still in place

The exhibits included short films, dioramas, uniforms, paintings and models.

One of the costume exhibits
A painting of Ataturk on horseback

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.

The enormous wooden horse used
in the movie “Troy”

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.

Entering the small marina

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 had to wiggle our way into a small space with none of the usual help

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!

I think the diver had been inspecting damage below the waterline on this old girlSetting off from

We set off from Çanakkale with our companion boat Catabella and our journey up the famous, 61 kilometres (38 miles) long, Dardanelles Strait continued.

Setting off from Çanakkale

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 Dardanelles Strait is a crucial international waterway for ships like this

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”.

One of the forts built to guard the Strait
We weren’t sure what these were but guessed they were oyster or mussel beds

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 World’s longest suspension 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.

The newly opened 1915 Çanakkale Suspension Bridge is 4,608 metres (15,118 feet) long
Plenty of room for our mast!
It is quite a feat of engineering

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!

Looks like Catabella’s mast won’t fit
under the bridge!
This is Sunday going under (plenty of room!) thanks Sue Done for the photo
Plenty of room – even for cargo boats
It’s a fine looking bridge but with hardly any traffic on – not surprising considering
the cost of the toll

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.

The dot marks us entering 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.

Fancy meeting someone you know in the middle of the sea!

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.

“Like ships that pass in the night”
Not another boat to be seen except for Catabella in the far 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.

Anchored outside Kemer, a
modest fishing village
Kemer, not the most salubrious of places
There was fair amount of industry
on its fringes
But the sunset was still glorious!

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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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