This will be our last post from Turkey for a little while as we have hauled “Sunday” at Kas Marina while we travel to The Netherlands for our daughter’s wedding and to do some land travel (Covid permitting).
A few days before leaving we decided to have a day off from “winterising” the boat and had a fantastic morning at the ancient Lycian port of Andriake and then later at the Museum of St Nicholas in Demre (see my last blog entry).
In the afternoon we decided to drive back towards Kas and on through Kalkan to Patara, where the ruins of another important Lycian city lie.
Patara was famous for its temple and oracle of Apollo, apparently second only to the oracle in Delphi. Later, in 333 BC Alexander the Great captured the city. After many occupations and invasions it was eventually annexed by the Roman Empire in 43 AD.
The ruins of the city which was deserted around 1340, are numerous and spread out over a wide area.
Visiting them in the late afternoon with that beautiful light that you get around sunset in Turkey, we found the ruins to be really atmospheric.
The amphitheatre, built in the time of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (born 86 AD) was in remarkably good condition. It was only excavated in 2007 having been buried under tonnes of sand for hundreds of years.
Even more impressive was the “bouleuterion” – the parliament building where the elected representatives of the Lycian League (the first federation in history) met.
The building has rows of stone seats arranged in a semicircle. Its stone-vaulted main entrances are intact, and so is the thronelike dais where the elected Lyciarch, the president of the League, sat.
While we wandered up and down the rows of seats it was easy to picture the chamber full of representatives from the 23 city states (one, two or three from each – depending on the size and importance of the area) listening to speeches and debating important issues.
There were many more beautiful buildings and a stunning column-lined Main Street to enjoy.
While we were wandering around we heard the tinkling of bells in the distance and soon we saw a small herd of sheep stepping daintily along the dusty pathway.
Watching over them was a beautiful massive but gentle dog – we think it was a Turkish Kangal, otherwise known as an Anatolian Shepherd Dog. These dogs are specially bred to be flock guardians rather than as herding dogs. They live with their flock of sheep and actively fend off any predators.
We were fascinated to see a 14-metre boat made almost entirely from reeds on display in front of the bouleuterion.
The boat was built by German archaeologist Dominique Goerlitz, as part of an experiment to show it was probably on this type of vessel that Egyptian traders reached the port of Patara and other ports in modern day Turkey in in ancient times. It was modelled on the Egyptian reed boats seen in paintings from antiquity.
The trip back to Kas along the incredibly winding coast road – just as the sun was dipping into the ocean – was fantastic.
The wonderful sunset views over the sea would remain firmly in our memories while we were away from Turkey in the coming weeks and months.
Back in Kas there was as always, a flurry of activity at the end to get our boat prepared for the haul out. Some things had to be done just before we left, like deflating the dinghy and storing it inside (it takes up a lot of room so that was very much a last minute thing!)
Haul out day finally arrived and fortunately everything went very smoothly and the workers were extremely professional.
Jonathan did a great job of steering into the narrow pen (with just a few centimetres to spare on either side) and very soon we were settled in our spot propped up safely on the hard.
Despite all our preparations we were still working until the very last minute, flushing out the toilets, bringing in anything and everything that was on deck that could either blow off or be lifted off.
We also had to run around paying our last bills, chivvying the marina to turn our water on, looking for our sails which were meant to have been delivered and doing lots of last minute jobs.
Finally it was time to flop into the taxi that was taking us to Dalaman Airport.
On the way we stopped for a quick break and had some delicious gozleme filled with spinach and feta cheese.
Soon we were up in the clouds and on our way. Up, up and awayThe trip wasn’t too bad, people were generally good at social distancing and everyone wore masks.
We stayed the night at the airport hotel in Istanbul and the next morning we took off for Amsterdam and an emotional reunion with our soon-to-be-married daughter and her partner.
The flight was made so much more pleasant because no one was allowed hand baggage and passengers had to stay in their seats until the people in front were on their way out. There was no leaping up immediately the plane had landed, no pulling bags down on top of other people’s heads and no one’s back packs shoved in other people’s faces! One good outcome of Covid!
It was such a relief to arrive in the Netherlands in plenty of time to enjoy the lead up to our daughter and her partner’s wedding. With the expected second hike in Covid infections we could have so easily found ourselves stuck in Turkey and unable to attend this very important event!
Our tickets to The Netherlands were booked and “winterising” and cleaning the boat was almost completed so we decided to give ourselves a day off.
We hired a car and headed for the Demre district round about an hour from Kas where there were several ancient sites that we thought sounded fascinating. The first was just a few kilometres south of Demre town – the ancient harbour settlement of Andriake.
Dating back to the Lycian Union in the 3rd Century BC, this hugely important harbour and trading centre of what was once called Myra (present day Demre). The port of Andriake became particularly significant around the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at the turn of the 2nd Century AD.
The river silted up and gradually trading stopped and the port ceased to function. The remains of this once thriving community have now become an open air museum with some buildings restored and with many ruins spread out over a large site.
There were lots of what had been shops, homes, at least two churches, several bath houses, a synagogue and an agora (market place) with an amazing restored underground water cistern which you could climb down into.
The tank was 24 metres long, 12 metres wide and 6 metres deep and the immense amount of water it contained must have kept all the businesses, shops and homes built in and around the agora well supplied with copious amounts of fresh water.
The highlight of our visit was the fabulous museum which was housed in what had been a granary in Lycian times.
Its seven rooms has been carefully and sensitively restored.
Within its ancient 56 metre by 32 metre walls, are displayed many fascinating treasures and information about the Lycian civilisations.
After an intriguing morning we drove into Demre for lunch and then made the pilgrimage to the birthplace of St Nicholas (Santa Claus).
Now I hear what you’re saying, – Santa Claus comes from the North Pole – but I’m sorry to tell you that’s just not true.
Saint Nicholas, a Christian Bishop and patron saint of young children and sailors (and others including pawnbrokers and prostitutes!) was born in Demre in the year 270 AD. His legendary habit of gift giving (often through windows but sometimes down the chimney) was the inspiration behind the much loved figure of Santa Claus or Father Christmas.
Around 200 years after he died, the Church of St Nicholas in Demre was built over the site of the church where he had served as bishop. It is now a museum and still a sacred place of worship, much beloved particularly by Russians as St Nicholas is also patron saint of Russia (as well as Amsterdam, Aberdeen and a host of other places).
He was buried on the site of the original Church but in 1087 most of his bones were taken to Bari in Italy. The remaining fragments were taken to Venice during the first Crusade.
Excavations at this ancient site have been going on since 1988 and have revealed some treasures including some beautiful frescoes, vibrant mosaic floors and a desecrated sarcophagus, thought to be the original burial place of St Nicholas.
There were a couple of big Russian tourist groups going round at the same time as us which was a bit confronting in this time of Covid as there wasn’t much social distancing going on!
From there we were heading to the famous rock tombs just in the outskirts of Demre but decided that there were too many tourist groups with the same idea so instead we headed to the ancient city of Patara, on the other side of Kas.
Perhaps too much history for one blog so look out for photos of this wonderful site in my next blog!
Despite his dramatic slip on the rocks ( see previous post) Jonathan was not about to give up on the lovely anchorage in Karaloz Liman on Kekova Island – however, after an influx of wasps, the right decision to evacuate was made as the persistent buzzing around our heads was driving the crew mad!
While pulling up the anchor I was literally swarmed by the little critters. It got so bad that my great-niece’s boyfriend had to squirt me with bug spray while I heroically operated the electronic anchor winch!
Finally we were away from the buzzing hordes and we motored gently back to lovely Gökkaya Liman – the first bay in Kekova Roads that we had taken my great niece and her boyfriend to.
The following day we headed for Kas just a few hours sail down the coast to give our guests a couple of days in a more urban setting before they left Turkey to head back to England.
Fortunately, while in Finike a week earlier, we had negotiated a year’s contract with Setur Marinas which enabled us to stay for a certain amount of days without payment in any Setur marina in Turkey. We also organised for Sunday to be lifted and stored at Kas Marina while we spent a few months away to attend our daughter’s wedding to her lovely Dutch partner and also do some land travel (Covid permitting).
So we were able to stay in Kas “for free” in comfort and our guests were able to enjoy the delights of the beach club just a few minutes walk away where they could swim in the pool and in the sea, and lie on sun beds and drink cocktails for a couple of days. As residents of the marina we were entitled to a generous discount off the entry fee.
The entry into the marina was so easy and smooth – most of the work was done by the efficient and capable marina employees who picked up the mooring lines that were threaded through a chain on the seabed, attached them to a long line on board Sunday and then gently manoeuvred us in.
We were very impressed by the marina which was very clean and well kept. There are several restaurants, a pub with a blues band several nights a week and even a supermarket within its precincts (much better to use than risking Corona virus from the tourists in town)
We had a couple of pleasant meals out in the town (sitting outside of course) and Jonathan and I started to organise the process of readying Sunday to leave and looking at possible flights to The Netherlands.
All too soon it was time for our guests to return back to England and rather than send them off in a taxi we decided to make a day of it and hired a car to drive them to the airport in Antalya. The trip was an enjoyable opportunity to see a little more of the interior of Turkey.
Once our guests had left we seriously go down to the getting our boat ready to leave and organising our trip to The Netherlands. It was quite an anxious time as we were concerned that the influx of travellers (particularly from Russia – 40,000 just in the first two days of Turkey opening up to tourists) would bring more Covid cases and subsequently possible closure of borders between Turkey and other countries (particular The Netherlands!) We were terrified that we wouldn’t make it to our daughter’s wedding which would have been heartbreaking – especially as along with her partner’s parents, we were the only guests.
The heat was relentless while we were working on the boat which made it all the more exhausting but thankfully we were able to swim in the clear cold water (the entire marina appears to be fed by icy streams off the mountains behind) in a roped off section off the hard stand area.
We also organised for some of the bigger jobs like taking down the sails and cleaning, drying and folding them ready for storage down below, to be done by the workers from the sail loft.
As the saying goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” so we decided to have a day off and hire a car to do some exploring on land. Watch this space to hear more about an amazing day.
The most remarkable part of our trip from Finike Marina to Kekova Roads – apart from the wonderfully dramatic Turkish coastline – was sighting a Turkish gunboat steaming past us the other way, leaving a massive wake behind it.
Having already witnessed helicopter gunships flying overhead on three separate occasions, the existence of the naval ship reminded us yet again that hostilities between Turkey and Greece over drilling rights were of grave concern.
But we had no time to worry about that! We had our guests from England – my great niece and her boyfriend – on board and we had a lot of fun planned!
Our first stop was a lovely inlet in the stunning Gökkaya Liman (Bay) near the tiny island of Asirli at the Eastern end of Kekova Roads.
After anchoring and a wonderful swim we took the dinghy over to the island to see the famous Blue Cave – so named because of the dazzling hue of its water.
It is also known as the Pirates Cave, as supposedly, once upon a time, it was used by pirates to lay in wait for trade ships that journeyed along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
Near to our anchorage there were some poignant ruins – not the usual Lycian tombs or Roman remains – this time they were from a Byzantine church.
Much of this coastline had been populated by Greeks for hundreds of years but in the 1922 population exchange they were moved out and Turks previously living in Greece were moved in and almost all the Churches were left abandoned to crumble back into the landscape.
During our swim we were surprised how cool the water was but then we learned that a cold water spring flowed into the bay. No wonder!
We decided to head up the creek to see if we could discover the source but weren’t able to locate it but it was fun trying!
We wanted to try and show our guests as many different highlights of this beautiful area so we quickly moved on to the village of Kaleköy – accessible only by sea- where we anchored just for a few hours while Jonathan and our guests walked up to the fort – built in the Middle Ages by the Knights if St John.
I stayed on board to keep watch as the holding at this anchorage isn’t very good and there are nasty looking rocks everywhere you look!
After the climb we reconvened for a light lunch at one of the restaurants at the water’s edge where we could keep an eye on Sunday.
We motored to a great spot just outside Üçağız, the sweet little village we had visited (and loved) previously.
The bay here is completely landlocked with three small entrance channels that lie between low rocky islets – hence the bay’s name – Üçağız which means “three mouths”.
We anchored just east of the village right in front of several sarcophagi and other ruins. Apparently they are thought to be the remains of ancient Teimiussa which used to be the administrative centre for the region.
My great niece and her boyfriend then had a chance to hone their driving skills when they took the dinghy to check out Üçağız. Later we all went again for another delicious meal at Hassan’s restaurant (discovered on a previous visit).
Our next “tourist destination” was to the sunken ruins over the other side of the bay at Kekova Island.
The ruins were once a vibrant ancient town called Dolchiste which was destroyed by an earthquake during the 2nd century AD.
The water there was turquoise and clear as gin and as we drifted slowly by we could see the shapes of walls, stairs and walkways.
We had heard that Karaloz Liman, a completely landlocked cove on the south of Kekova Island, was a beautiful, sheltered anchorage with wonderful clear water water for swimming and snorkelling, so we headed over there to anchor for the night.
What we didn’t realise was the cove was absolutely tiny and it was already quite full when we arrived. We tried to anchor and put a line ashore in one spot but after several unsuccessful attempts to get our anchor to grab before getting dangerously close to the rocky shore (and a neighboring tourist boat) we gave up and found the only other spot suitable for our sized boat – just inside the cove.
All seemed fine until Capt’n Birdseye decided to readjust the long line so we would be more comfortable if a swell came up in the night. Unfortunately while doing this he stepped on a very sharp rock, cut his foot, lost his balance, fell down into “a hole” and lost his glasses.
I saw him on his hands and knees, blood pouring down his face and not moving. Thinking he was concussed my great niece’s boyfriend (egged on by us!) dived in and swam to the rocks to “rescue” him.
Fortunately he was absolutely fine and was just looking for his glasses! The good news is that he found them – the bad news the glass in one of the lens was completely shattered! Fortunately he had a spare set on board – always a necessity for cruisers!
The anchorage close to the sweet village of Üçağız was as still as a lake but unlike the limpid turquoise waters we had experienced elsewhere in Turkey, the water here was opaque and green. This probably accounted for the fact that we had the whole anchorage to ourselves.
We didn’t stay to savour the sense of isolation for too long as we were on a mission – my great-niece and her boyfriend were arriving shortly from the UK and we needed to get up the coast to Finike so we could meet them from Antalya Airport.
It was very exciting to be having more visitors from the UK – despite Covid restrictions – but rather strange when friends and family in Australia and SE Asia were still quite severely limited in their movements.
We had an uneventful trip from Kekova Roads to Setur Marina in Finike and the entry into our berth was made very easy and stress free by the excellent assistance we received from the marina staff. We were also fortunate to have a big space next to us so there was plenty of room for manoeuvre.
Barbaros, the manager of Setur Marina, was extremely welcoming and helpful and we really liked the marina in every way.
We were considering leaving Sunday on the hard there while we left for our daughter’s wedding and during the winter months. Unfortunately it didn’t have a travel lift big enough to take Sunday but Barbaros very helpfully helped us negotiate a year’s contract with Setur Marinas and for their marina in Kas to lift and store her for an equivalent price to the one quoted by Finike.
Having all this organised set our minds at rest as time was ticking by and we really needed to organise flights to the Netherlands before all the rules changed again and countries started closing down due to the predicted “second wave” of Corona virus infections.
Our boat guests were arriving in Antalya in the evening so we had the whole day in which to enjoy the car we had hired.
We decided to take “the scenic route” to Antalya which took us through the Taurus Mountains and right past the wonderful remains of the ancient Lycian city of Arykanda.
Built on a series of terraces, high up on top of a mountain, Arykanda had stunning panoramic views. Set amongst glorious cedar trees whose needle laden branches sounded like the sea as the breeze ruffled through them, it was easy to imagine what an incredible place it was to live.
We were so fortunate to be the only visitors there for much of our visit so we could easily visualise what this incredible town would have looked like in its heyday – without the distraction of modern day people wandering into our view and interrupting our imaginings.
Some of the archeological finds date as far back as the the 6th century BCE but the excavations are mainly from the Hellenistic and Roman times.
There were some fabulous highlights such as the almost intact row of windows of the Roman bath complex and an excellent theatre, built during the 1st century BCE which had 20 rows of seats, divided into 7 sections. At the edge of every row are holes that were used to support protective awnings.
The town was eventually abandoned in the 6th Century AD after of a series of destructive earthquakes made life there untenable.
After a few hours of wandering through the fascinating site we set off once again for Antalya.
We were amazed just how sprawling and highly populated this city is but later learned that its metropolitan population alone is over one million people and in 2019, 13.6 million tourists passed through the city.
We eventually met up with our guests but only after waiting at the International terminal and then finding out there was a second international terminal just a few minutes down the road (no signs to indicate this whatsoever!)
The next morning we left Finike to head back to Kekova Roads with our guests. It was a sparkling day and Finike with its beautiful mountain backdrop looked gorgeous. We agreed that we would definitely have to return there to explore further next year.
Headlines along the lines of “Aussie couple disappears in Turkish countryside – boat found abandoned” were running through my mind as we pondered where we had gone wrong.
We were on a hike in Kekova Roads starting in Woodhouse Bay where we had anchored Sunday.
We hadn’t been off the boat for a few days due to high winds and seas to match so when we reached this beautiful, calm bay we were raring to go!
Our cruising guide mentioned a track which started right behind the spot where we had anchored although it was really difficult to make it out from the boat.
Once we had tied up our dinghy we scouted around and followed what did in fact turn out to be the trail although we were definitely dubious to start with.
Despite the heat it was great to be going for a hike (more of a scramble really!) after being cooped up in the boat for a few days.
After a laborious climb we reached the top and came to a more defined track – apparently there was meant to be a deserted, tumbledown, village somewhere on this path but we obviously chose the wrong direction to take (we turned right!) and managed to miss it!
After a walking for a while in the rugged terrain we decided it was time to turn homewards. We walked back the way we had come for what seemed rather a long time and gradually became aware that we were travelling through unfamiliar scenery. We had managed to miss the turnoff for the rough path back to the boat!
While I had visions of spending the rest of the day wandering back and forth trying to find the track back down to Sunday, Jonathan retraced our steps the way we had been.
Being a former Boy Scout with a bushcraft badge he had, unbeknownst to me, left a sign using small stones a short way before our turn off.
Unfortunately, it was so well camouflaged that he completely missed it on the way back. Luckily he found it second time round!
Eventually using his sneaky sign we were able to find our route and followed the red markings painted on the rocks all the way home!
Later that day we took the dinghy to a small cove where apparently, there was a fresh water spring. The cove narrowed to become more like a large creek which was cool, rather mysterious and so peaceful.
Craggy rock cliffs topped with trees towered above us on each side and from time to time low shrubs clung tenaciously to the rocky outcrops at eye level. It felt like we were in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark!
We motored further up the creek and the banks became bushier and less rocky. As we swished through the green water we became aware that the bottom of the dinghy – where our feet were – was deliciously cold. Aha, we had found the fresh water spring!
A little further along we spotted a very clear pool of water which was surrounded by submerged rocks. We could just make out trickle of water bubbling over the rocks – this was definitely the spring!
Jonathan was very keen to get to taste this beautiful crystal clear water so he waded through the ice-cold pool to collect some in his drink bottle.
He took a sip and then gave me some to try – it was revolting! Yes it was icy cold but it also tasted horribly salty and not in the least like we had imagined!
Keen to explore some more of the Kekova Roads area, we set off again the next day. Despite there being a fair number of tourist boats moored in the bays the huge harbour felt gloriously empty as we sailed across, passing the little village of Kaleköy which nestles beneath the mighty Byzantine castle – built in the Middle Ages to fight against invading pirates.
We sailed deeper into the harbour to outside the sweet village of Üçağız – described rather disparagingly in the Turkish cruising guide as “a ramshackle little village”.
It is true that it is very small but ramshackle isn’t accurate – Üçağız is a charming village steeped in history with welcoming locals. It is just such a charming place to visit once all the day trippers have left for the day.
As we strolled through the narrow streets we marvelled at the ancient sarcophagi from Lycian times dotted around the place – some in a car park, another on a street corner, one with hens living in it!
We also saw a crumbling old building that looked like a Christian church – later we found that the village had been inhabited mostly by Greeks until the population exchange of 1923 and that the building indeed had been a Church.
We had a long and very interesting chat with the manager of a Turkish carpet shop – the smell and the colours inside the shop were intoxicating and it looked like an Aladdin’s cave.
We would have loved to have bought a carpet but where on earth would we put it?!
We had tied our dinghy up outside Hassan’s restaurant (he had seen us looking for a spot and called us over).
He wore a magnificent black chef’s hat and was so welcoming that we decided to have dinner at his restaurant.
We had a delicious meal of fresh fish which he filleted at the water’s edge next to our table. As he was working a huge turtle came to visit.
One of his daughters had excellent English (she had been working in Berlin before Covid) and she showed us several foreign magazines and other publications in which her father and his restaurant were featured.
Apparently Hassan’s restaurant has been renowned in yachting circles although more recently they hadn’t seen many yachting visitors at all. We think this was because the once plentiful yachting charter boat companies had closed down. The Covid-19 crisis had made things even worse.
We ended up leaving with a bag of plums, a huge bunch of freshly picked basil and a home made bracelet which Burcu, Hassan’s daughter had made and put on my wrist before we left.
What a great evening we had!
So yachties, if you’re in the area, do go to Hassan’s and you’ll receive a very fine welcome!
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.
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 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.
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?
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 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.
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.
A short scramble up a winding, dusty, path which snaked up the hill to the road and we were on our way into town.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The most famous of these sarcophagi is the Kings Tomb, that lies just a stone’s throw inland from the harbour.
This is also known as the Lions’ Tomb because of the two carved lion heads on the lid of the sarcophagus.
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!
We hadn’t realised how close we were to the disputed territory – no wonder the helicopter gunships came so close!!
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.
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.
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.
The worst thing about boat guests is having to say “goodbye“ so quickly after you’ve said your “hellos”.
My sister Julia’s week-long visit was over in a flash but we had packed a lot in to a short space of time. Our final night together was spent at anchor in Göcek and a meal out in a restaurant on the pretty water front.
Earlier that evening Julia was having one last dip in the ocean when a dinghy drew up and we heard a big “Aloha” from its occupants.
Donna and Ross from Intrepid Kiwi had seen our New Zealand flag and dropped by to say “hello” so we invited them to come over the next night for sundowners on Sunday which they did and we had a lovely time setting the world to rights.
The waterfront of Göcek is dominated by six marinas and it was difficult to find a spot to park our dinghy without having to pay a fee. We ended up finding the perfect spot however, a little outside the town but very close to the Migros and Carrefour supermarkets so we were able to stock up for the next little while very easily.
Then we were off again to do some more exploring. We headed south under motor but soon we were having a lovely sail and passed Fethiye travelling between 5.5 and 6.5 knots with winds of about 15 knots.
Close to our destination the wind turned dead ahead so we motored the rest of the way to Darboğaz Bay hampered somewhat by an unpleasant cross swell but it was nevertheless enjoyable as the scenery was stunning.
As we turned to enter the bay we were surprised to see that at its entrance was a tiny island littered with ruins. Turkey is covered in relics from the past and I suppose if you live here you tend to become blasé about them but they continue to amaze us every time!
Before long we were tucked into this calm and beautifully sheltered bay on the east side of the isthmus on the Bozdoğan Peninsula.
The bay was quite a popular tourist spot with day trippers arriving by foot and a couple of groups camping on the beach.
The following day a massive gulet loaded with (non socially distancing) tourists anchored/moored right next to us and we had fun watching them jumping off the boat and being taken for a whirl on a very scary looking water ride towed by a speedboat.
We went for a fabulous walk along a track that started at the small sandy beach and hugged the coast for a long way. We walked until we reached the narrowest point of the isthmus and were able to enjoy spectacular views on both sides.
Along the way we found some amazing ancient tombs (thankfully empty) and also some tumble down houses which might possibly have belonged to Greek Orthodox families at one time.
Where we were moored was not very far from the famous deserted village of Kayaköy where Greek Orthodox Christians lived peacefully until World War I and the rise of Turkish Nationalism. In 1922 when there was a massive population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the Christians (who had avoided the massacres) were forced to go to live in Greece and the village was deserted.
According to local tradition, Muslims refused to repopulate the place because “it was infested with the ghosts of Livisians (the Greek name for Kayaköy was Livissi) massacred in 1915”.
Leaving this bay fortunately proved to be easy – Jonathan swam to release the the strap that was tied round a big rock while I wheeled the webbing cable in. Then the anchor came up easily and we were ready to depart.
Soon we were enjoying a lovely sail with the wind behind us “goosewinging” – the main sail turned one way and the foresail turned the other way. There was a good steady blow at a moderate 12 and 14 knots. We were going well and enjoying surfing down the occasional big wave.
After a while the wind increased to over 20 knots and we started to speed along a little too fast.
When you are sailing in a monohull it is easy to tell if you are over canvassed – for a start your boat would be leaning over more than is comfortable. In a catamaran there is no tipping over so you don’t get that warning and as this was one of the first times we had been in a bit of a blow with big seas we reduced our sail area.
First we reduced the headsail and then had to wind it right in as we were still travelling around nine knots which is fast for Sunday.
Then the wind increased to 30 knots so we decided this was a good time to see if the reefing system on Sunday’s mainsail worked OK. We were feeling a little apprehensive because on our previous boat Bali Hai, until we got them fixed, the reefing lines used to jam up and cause us all kinds of anxiety – always in the roughest conditions of course.
Fortunately, everything worked really well and we managed to put two reefs in the main and we were now sailing comfortably between 6.5 to 7.5 knots.
We arrived at our anchorage in Firnaz Koyu opposite the town of Kalkan by mid afternoon and although it was very sheltered the wind was still howling through at around 25 knots.
We anchored quite a way out as there were many other vessels (mostly tourist boats) which were anchored and with a long line to shore. Even if there had been room for us I don’t think we would have chanced trying to get in with the wind the way it was so we just anchored with heaps of chain out.
Annoyingly we realised that the holding wasn’t too good which was dodgy in such a blow so we started over and this time put out 100 metres of chain in about 12 metres of water – luckily the anchor held well.
Later on a couple of yachts stopped to ask how much chain we had put out and we suggested to one, a Jeanneau 44i like Bali Hai – flying a German flag but the skipper sounded Canadian – that we would listen out for them on a certain channel on the radio in case they had any problems anchoring. It was that kind of night when things can go wrong and because the holding was not brilliant and there were high winds, it was better to be safe than sorry.
Much later that evening we turned the radio off as everyone seemed happily settled. Jonathan was checking round the boat as he does each night when he suddenly yelled out “there’s somebody in the water!”
Then Jonathan realised that the Jeanneau’s dinghy was missing and the guy had jumped in to rescue it. It was such a rough night that we feared for his safety so Jonathan quickly got our dinghy down off its davits and into the water. Meanwhile I tried to radio to let them know assistance was at hand but there was no response.
As he started up the outboard I signaled the other boat with a high powered torch and yelled out that help was coming. We learnt later that they had tried to radio us but we must have just switched our radio off.
By the time Jonathan had reached the yacht the skipper had swum back empty handed. The wind was so strong that it moved the dinghy like lightening towards Kalkan.
The other skipper quickly jumped into our dinghy and using a spotlight followed the direction of the wind and waves and eventually located the runaway runabout. The skipper wriggled across and started its outboard and soon they were both on their way back.
It took about 10-15 minutes to get to the dinghy but a lot longer to get back battling the wind and waves. High drama!
The following day the skipper and his crew of one left quite early but as they left, they swung by to thank Jonathan for helping to rescue their recalcitrant dinghy.
That day we decided to stay out and catch up with our washing – it was perfect drying weather after all!
The road leading to Dalaman Airport in south-west Turkey was uncannily empty – especially for a Saturday night. We had scarcely seen another pair of headlights since we had left Fethiye.
We were in a hire car which we had rented to pick up my sister Julia from the airport – an hour’s drive away from where we were anchored on the edge of the old town.
When we arrived, the airport approach was also eerily quiet – I had honestly never seen an airport so devoid of bustle – very few cars, no buses, one or two taxis, hardly any people and no planes landing and taking off!
It was so empty that while we waited for Julia’s flight to land we were able to park very close to the terminal building in a bay normally reserved for airport executives and VIPs.
It was so exciting to have our first boat visitor on Sunday – our Lagoon 420 catamaran – since taking possession of her in March 2020.
We had bought this particular boat – more like a floating apartment than a conventional sailboat – so that we could share our life aboard with family and friends. Then Covid-19 hit, no one was able to travel and we were rattling round in this lovely spacious boat wondering if we had made an expensive mistake.
Fast forward to the end of July/beginning of August, when many European countries opened their borders and travellers from the UK weren’t obliged to quarantine on their return, and my switched-on sister Julia quickly made the decision to fly to Turkey and join us for a week.
It seemed rather strange that while family and friends in Australia (where there are many, many, fewer cases of Covid-19 than in any country in Europe) were still unable even to cross the state border, let alone fly out of the country, hundreds of thousands of Europeans (and Russians who have scarily high numbers of virus cases) were pouring into top holiday spots such as Turkey and Greece. It is/was very confusing.
Putting our fears and doubts aside but ensuring we “masked up”, we spent the following day in the old quarter of Fethiye buying a few gifts for Julia to take home and on a mission to find coffee flavored Turkish delight for our sister Sarah whose source in London had dried up.
At each shop the assistant insisted on us having a taste test – pistachio, rose water, vanilla, apple, pomegranate and every other imaginable flavour of Turkish delight – except for coffee!
Some offered other sweets that were coffee flavoured. At one shop the shop keeper said he had coffee flavoured Turkish Delight in another shop and sent out his colleague to collect some for us. The colleague came back with a massive silver tray of “plain“ Turkish Delight that had been tossed in coffee powder. Not what were after at all!
We gave up on our quest after many attempts and feeling slightly seedy after all the sweets we had consumed in the name of research decided to go for lunch at the fish market before heading to the Lycian Rock Tombs – carved into the mountainside high above the sprawling town of Fethiye.
These amazing edifices look like the entrances to ancient temples but are in fact facades of tombs dating back to the 4th Century.
Apparently the Lycians believed that their dead were carried to the afterlife by magical winged creatures and so they placed their dead in geographically high places such as the cliffside – for ease of take off I guess.
The most important tomb is the impressive construction built for Amyntas in 350 BC which has a Greek inscription on the side of it which reads “Amyntou tou Ermagiou”, which translated means “Amyntas, son of Hermagios”.
That evening we had a delicious meal specially prepared for us as promised by “Ryan” the friendly waiter who watched over our dinghy for us while we were exploring the town.
There was no wind to speak of when we set off the next day to our first destination with Julia – a beautiful bay between Fethiye and Göcek called Ciglik Koyu.
Julia and I spent many hours enjoying the clear cool water, swimming round and round the catamaran while Jonathan listened to our chatter getting quieter as we swam to the bow of the boat and then louder and louder as we neared the cockpit where he was relaxing.
We were very close to the beach but in deep water and successfully tied off with our new long line on a reel which made the whole process so much easier! Mind you, there were only a couple of other boats in the bay so that in itself meant it was much less stressful!
We went for a nice but steep (and hot) walk along a track behind the bay and took some shots of the anchorage and of the ocean beyond.
Our next stop was Seagull Bay (Yavansu koyu)- one of the quieter bays in the Göcek area and one in which we had enjoyed for a few days a couple of weeks previously.
The water here is so clear that you can see right to the bottom even in 12 metres of water – just extraordinary and so gorgeous to swim in.
One day we took a dinghy ride and visited the underwater ruins in Cleopatra’s Bay and then sat and had a drink in a restaurant just a short ride over the water.
It was so beautiful gazing across the water watching people swimming and on paddle boards and the beautiful gulets (charter vessels based on traditional timber fishing boats) and other craft skimming by.
One of the things we loved about Seagull Bay was hearing the goats walk past the back of our boat on their way from Seagull Bay to goodness knows where.
First we’d hear the dull tinkling of the goat bells and then the gentle bleating as the older goats encouraged the younger ones to keep moving and not get distracted by some bramble or an interesting looking rock.
On a beautiful evening when the heat was less intense we decided to dinghy in to the rickety jetty in Seagull Bay and have a bit of a wander. Hopefully we would see some goats close to.
After tying up at the broken down timber jetty we stepped onto the small promontory and walked up the steep hill that sweeps up behind.
There we met a small herd of very cute goats who didn’t seem the least bit perturbed by us. Further on there were lovely views over this beautiful environmental area with all its stunning bays and inlets.
Closer to us we could see our catamaran Sunday anchored/moored under the protective shadow of a towering cliff.
We wandered back towards the jetty and on the way met the owner of the restaurant which we thought was derelict. He encouraged us to have a meal there but as we had already prepared our dinner we said that we could come the next day. “Yes, yes you come tomorrow, I will give you meze, fresh fish, everything…”
So the following evening we tied up at the rickety jetty once again with the plan to go for a walk before dinner and then have a meal and watch the sun go down at this unusual restaurant.
We walked up to let the owner know that we had arrived but we were going for a walk first and we noticed a huge fire burning in the stone fireplace. “Aah, heating up the coals to cook our fish,” we thought – although there was absolutely no one there.
We took the track that cut across the little beach and which meandered along the water’s edge behind where Sunday was moored and where we had seen the goats wandering – one way in the morning and back the other way in the evening.
As we walked towards the beach we saw three guys under a tree. What on earth were they were up to? Then it hit us – they were slaughtering a goat. Was the restauranteur planning a meat course too?
We waved, they waved, we walked on quickly. Around 40 minutes later we reappeared and found a small group of people sitting round a table, all very friendly and telling us to sit anywhere.
Our friend from the previous night came up and asked us if wanted a beer to which we said “yes” thinking that a pre dinner cold drink would be very welcome.
We drank our beer revelling in the golden light that is always so glorious as the sun goes down at the end of each day in Turkey.
There were no signs of food arriving and disconcertingly we noticed that our host was now having a full body wash (thankfully at least partially clothed) using a huge tank of water and copious amounts of soap not too far away from where we were sitting. He was extremely thorough and left no part unwashed – a detail which we would have preferred not to have been made aware.
Once he had completed his ablutions Jonathan approached him to see if he was planning to feed us or had he forgotten our conversation of the previous night ….?
Sadly it was quite clear that he was not planning to be the cleanest chef in Turkey and had completely forgotten we were coming. However, he went straight into damage control and instructed Jonathan to go and choose some fish from the fisherman sitting in the bay in his brightly coloured boat.
We were on a roll now and before long we had some beautifully cooked fish, a big salad, bread and a little later a plate of chips (but no meze!). The fisherman even came up to check we had enjoyed the fish.
As the sun sunk over the horizon we cracked the bottle of red wine that we had brought and tucked into the delicious meal, agreeing that we wouldn’t have changed a thing about the evening and that it felt as though we had eaten like “Kings”. Such a tremendous experience – a real Turkish delight!
After a pleasant few days in Sarsala Koyu we dropped our lines and motored the short distance to the small town of Göcek.
It might be a small town but it had a big harbour with plenty of room to swing at anchor which we happily took advantage of. Anchoring close to shore with a long line mooring still doesn’t feel natural to us!
Really Göcek is one massive marina (there are actually six of them spread along the water’s edge.) Unfortunately, a lot of the foreshore is fenced off as a result which we thought spoilt the ambiance.
It also means that if you anchor out, the choice for spots to leave your dinghy is limited. We were very fortunate that the guys at the fishing cooperative let us park on their rather ramshackle dock when we went ashore.
The whole Göcek area was declared a Registered Area of Special Protection in 1988 to help protect the surrounding glorious bays, rocky islands and coves which has meant the town itself has no multi story buildings and all development has been reasonably low key.
There is a pedestrian only shopping street with some tourist shops but also with a couple of supermarkets and lots of eateries and cafes.
We were feeling excited as we had just heard that we were about to receive our first boat visitor since taking ownership of Sunday! My sister Julia had made the decision to travel to Turkey from the UK while she could and was arriving in a few days to stay a week on the boat.
So we spent our short stay in Göcek researching the best way to to the airport, possible places for tying up the dinghy late at night and potential sightseeing opportunities.
The following day we headed for the port town of Fethiye and on the way poked our nose into some lovely bays that potentially could be somewhere to take our visitor.
The entrance to Fethiye is relatively narrow considering the massive harbour within. As we went in there was a massive hotel on one of the headlands that looked completely empty, obviously because of the Covid restrictions.
We anchored where the cruising guide book told us – way out of the way of the commercial boats and the marina arms but we hadn’t been there long before the coast guard boat was circling us and telling us to move! Even though we were hundreds of metres away from the Coast Guard mooring we were anchored in line with it and I suppose they thought in an emergency they might hit us – I really don’t know how this could possibly happen but we didn’t argue and anchored further out.
Finding a place to park the dinghy was much easier than in Göcek – we tied up between a couple of fishing boats at the quieter end of the waterfront – not far from the old quarter.
As we drew up a waiter from the nearby juice bar who spoke perfect English after living in the USA for many years, helped us tie up. We got to know “Ryan” quite well during our visits to his cafe where the best tasting and most refreshing juices were served (and some great food too!)
Our first walk through the maze of shops in the fascinating old quarter convinced us that this was a much better place to bring my sister after her late night flight especially as our dinghy was quite safe outside the juice cafe.
The following day we were delighted to see the “other” Sunday who we had last seen in Kargi Koyu was once again anchored close by.
We had a great catch up dinner on Aussie (the other) Sunday and were delighted to also meet fellow Aussies Catie and Michael of S/V Alys who had been in Turkey since 2018 and were full of ideas on what to do and where to go in Fethiye.
The following day Catie and the two Sunday crews hit Fethiye- first stop the chandlery store! After a good browse round and the purchase of a roll of webbing on an easy-to-feed-out wheel for long line mooring was purchased, we hit the amazing fish market.
It was quite a spectacle to see the huge variety of fish and seafood laid out on wet slabs on four sides of a square with individual fish mongers lined up behind selling their wares.
Brittni and Ryan from Aussie Sunday had brought with them their animal carrier back pack that they use to rescue street animals and take them to vets or shelters whenever they see a creature in need.
Just a couple of days before they had seen a tiny little sickly kitten in the fish market and now they were hoping to capture it and get her/him examined and desexed by a vet.
The little cat was very determined not to get caught but one of the cafe owners in the fish market kindly donated a fish and Ryan and Brittni successfully captured her. To find out what happened visit their video channel (see link below).
Travel not only presents us with new challenges (like the one I described in my last blog) but also enables us to experience many new things that make us laugh, surprise us or enrich our lives in some other way.
During our stay in Seagull Bay near Göcek we had some great new experiences and the first of these was a visit to some submerged ruins in a nearby bay.
Despite there being many sites like this in Greece and Turkey – due to seismic activity throughout history – this was the first time either of us had seen one with our own eyes.
These evocative ruins languishing in the turquoise waters of Cleopatra’s Bay were indeed beautiful.
Legend has it that the ruins were of an ancient hammam (bath house) where Cleopatra bathed in the warm spring that bubbles up from the sea bed.
Probably more accurately, they are believed to be ruins of a medieval monastery that sit half submerged in this lovely bay. However, records show that Cleopatra did indeed visit the area – twice – once in 46 BC and again in 32 BC on her honeymoon with Marc Antony.
Another slightly more prosaic first was having our rubbish (garbage) picked up by a boat instead a truck! We happened to arrive at the garbage bins near a restaurant just as the boat arrived. Very good timing. (Note garbage boats smell just as bad as garbage trucks!)
We had a visit from our friend Phil from Paseafique on our second morning at Seagull Bay. He had motored on his dinghy from another bay in the environmental area called Sarsala Koyu and wanted us to join him there so we could meet some other friends of his who were due to leave the following day.
So off we went, towing his dinghy behind Sunday until we reached Sarsala Koyu. It was pretty crowded when we reached Paseafique but there was still room for us and with having a third pair of hands it was going to be much easier- wasn’t it?
Well all was going pretty well until the rock that Phil had tied Sunday’s line to decided to break off, just as we were reversing towards the shore.
In a split second everything went to hell in a hand basket – Phil reversed into his dinghy painter and we managed to get the line that pinged off the rock caught in our portside propeller.
Phil kindly volunteered to dive down and cut the rope which he did and fortunately there appeared to be no permanent harm done.
Soon we were safely tied up on a stronger rock and peace was restored. Later on, Phil’s friends and travelling companions in Africa and through the Red Sea, Ian and Melian who like us, were originally from England but had lived for many years in Australia, moored next to us and we had a very convivial evening aboard their catamaran Indian Summer.
The following day they dropped their lines and were heading off towards Malta as they had been in Turkey during the worldwide Corona Virus lockdown and were by then, running out of days from their visa allowance.
Phil also introduced us to Australians Daryl from S/V Medea and Bridget and Mal from S/V Eternity who had also spent much of lockdown in Turkey and many interesting stories to tell.
So from meeting new people back to new experiences – one extremely novel experience was going supermarket shopping on a boat!
This wasn’t some small craft selling a few vegetables or ice cream – this was a really big boat with a proper supermarket on board!
It was such a strange feeling drawing up to the floating supermarket in our dinghy, being helped up by one of the employees and walking round with a trolley as the supermarket chugged its way across the bay at snail’s pace.
It had everything you could need including a good array of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, tinned and dried goods – even beer!
After our shopping experience we decided to go for a walk as we hadn’t done much walking for a while (although we had done lots of swimming in the crystal clear turquoise water.)
To my surprise, just round the corner from where we were moored there was a restaurant with a reasonable sized jetty where a number of yachts were tied up. We arrived by dinghy and were dressed for walking rather than dinner out, however, our lines were taken courteously and the young man directed us to the footpath.
After a few false starts we found our way onto the track which ended up being more of a scramble than a walk so after about half an hour we decided a beer at the restaurant was looking like a good idea.