Sunday, July 05, 2009

Turkey’s Carian Coast

Tranquil Levitha may not know which island group it belongs to but noisy and barren Kalymnos is certain that it is part of the Dodecanese. It has been the sponge fishing centre of Greece since ancient times. Natural sponge is over fished in the area and the fleet has to go to North Africa now where they spend six months before returning to Kalymnos. In the Past many fishermen drowned or died of the bends due to their crude air apparatus. The trade is dying now due to sponge blight and lack of demand.
It was in Pothia harbour, Kalymnos, that we had our first experience of ‘crossed anchors’ where someone lays their anchor and chain over yours when they berth stern or bows to the dock. Three charter yachts managed to lay their chains over ours and when they came to leave in the early morning we had to instruct each of them how to untangle the anchors and chains as they had no clue whatsoever.

It is remarkable that Kos Island, the home of the illustrious lettuce, is green and fertile whereas Kalymnos, just a few miles to the north, is so unfruitful. We experienced the epitome of Mediterranean, or should I say Aegean, sailing with 22 knots of wind and throwing in a reef only to be becalmed half an hour later.
Kos Marina, the model Greek marina, has excellent facilities including personal shower rooms at 20€ per night all inclusive. The magnificent 14th to 16th century castle of the Knights of St John dominates Kos town but perhaps the town’s most notable claim to fame is that it was the 460BC birthplace of Hippocrates, the ‘father of modern medicine’. He originated the Hippocratic Oath ‘to cure rather than harm’ still sworn by medical practitioners today and is said to have written it under a plane tree, a descendant of which grows in the spot today.

The Turkish shore is less than three miles from Kos and that of their neighbour and adversary, Greece. A flag the size of a house on a prominent hill greets one on the Turkish side of the straights while the Greeks have just painted their flag on rocks on a low hill and rather badly at that!
Turgutreis Marina is large and has superb facilities that even extend to a leisure club with a swimming pool and tennis courts but one pays for it at the extortionate rate of 42€ a night plus electricity and water at about 3€ each per day. If this were not enough to pay we had to fork out 15€ each for customs and immigration (this has to be paid in currency other than Turkish Lira) and 45€ for our Transit Log. Finally to make us feel absolutely fleeced we had to pay an Agent 75€ for doing the entry formalities for us, the Government having decreed such just two weeks before! So we paid a total of 150€ to enter Turkey, the most we have paid in any Mediterranean country.

The wild, mountainous coastal region of the Carian gets its name from the indigenous people that populated the area before the beginning of the first millennium BC.

The Gokova Korfezi, or Gulf, extends eastward from Bodrum, the northern shore comprising sheer cliffs of up to 1000 metres high and the southern coastline in stark contrast much indented with quiet coves and inlets within mountainous pine forests.
English Harbour in Dergimen Buku, from where the SBS operated during World War II, is one such delightful landlocked creek surrounded by a forest of pine interspersed with deciduous trees which are in the main Fragrant Amber. We anchored and took a long line ashore, only the third time we have performed this manoeuvre which involves dropping and setting the anchor with sufficient scope and Miggy rowing a long line to the shore which she ties to a chain she clips around a tree, rock or bollard. We will have to do it frequently in the future as most of the Turkish coast is steep to and swinging to anchor in such deep water just isn’t feasible.

After just over an hour from leaving Degirmen Buku we were in the anchorage at Castle Island in the Sehir Adalari. This island, measuring just 700 metres long by 300 metres at its widest point, was the site of the ancient town of kedrai, or Cedar, as, at that time, it was covered in cedar trees. Shipbuilding no doubt put an end to the cedar forest which has now been replaced with olive groves. This is the only place within the pine forests of the Gokova Korfezi that we have seen olives but that is not surprising bearing in mind that the Romans were here during the second and first centuries BC. It is said that Cleopatra regularly holidayed here with Anthony and that she had sand imported from North Africa to make a beach on which the two of them could frolic! Someone has proved that the sand is not of this region but resembles that found in Crete but, of course, it is extremely doubtful that the lady ever set foot on the island! The anchorage is idyllic with clear turquoise water but the day trippers who apparently make this place unbearable in the summer were starting to make their presence felt.
Miggy caught a Dorade (Dolphin Fish) about half a metre long but it got away just as we were landing it onto the bathing platform having tipped a little Gin into its gullet to kill it. The spring clip holding to lure onto the line came unclipped. It was a beautifully rainbow coloured fish that would have made extremely good eating but it was not to be!

Another of the superb anchorages to be found along this coast is East Creek in the Yedi Adalari, or Seven Islands. The water had suddenly reached about 25°C and Miggy was swimming a lot and relishing it in the crystal clear water of our totally sheltered and solitary cove. The air temperature is hotting up to about 30°C in the shade at midday but it was alright as an enterprising chappy with his son made the rounds of the anchorage in their ciaique selling Walls ice cream!

We made the trip from our anchorage in the Yedi Adalari to Kormen further west down the coast and wish we had not. The wind, which rose to force 6, was on the nose and the sea created by it was short and steep boat stopping stuff. It took five and three-quarter hours to make twenty three miles.
Kormen is a strange harbour that hosts the ferry terminal from Datcha to Bodrum. It is out on a limb but has a restaurant at the seaward end of the quay. The harbourmaster was very welcoming and charged us 10TL for a night inclusive of water and electricity.

In rigging the long boarding ladder from the stern of Bella to the dock I managed to break one of the wind generator blades. We took the hub off the wind generator with some difficulty. In fact we had to resort to the ‘puller’. Undoing the bolts in the hub holding the blades was equally difficult due to salt encrustation but we made it in the end due to Miggy’s endurance. Why don’t people smear a little grease over things before they put them together! We managed to stick the blade back with epoxy adhesive and to grease everything before we reassembled the hub and rotor.

While waiting in Kormen for the strong winds to blow through we took the one and a half hour trip to Bodrum on the ferry. We had previously shunned the town as being too large and full of tourists but in fact it is quite a delightful place despite being the first town in Turkey to develop a tourist industry. The castle of the Knights of St John, the Crusaders, is very well presented despite having been virtually totally rebuilt after the French bombed it to ruins in 1916 for some reason. The five towers housed the ‘Inns’ of the nationalities that were represented here, the English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. The interior of the English tower was quite atmospheric. Fine colourful gardens and shady courtyards embellish the interior of the Castle.
We had an excellent ‘Doner’ lunch, the lamb Doner roll having been made by the German restaurateur and marinated overnight in oil and spices. During the afternoon we spent an hour sweating and relaxing in the Hammam. After donning the ‘pestamel’, a colourful checked cloth wrapped around the waist, and laying for twenty minutes or so on the heated marble slab one is rubbed down with a course hand pad. It is incredible to see how much dead skin and dirt roll off the body. A shower is followed by a massage in soapsuds and another shower. Then one can relax on the slab for as long as one wishes before taking a final shower and drying off.

We motored from Kormen along the north side of the Datcha peninsular as far as Knidos were we were able to bear away and sail eastwards along the south of the peninsular albeit in 23knots of wind on occasions. Bella was tramping along at 7 to 8 knots on a beam reach quite happily with one reef and a roll in the genoa. Our destination, Palamut, is a sleepy place with a few restaurants, a couple of shops, houses and holiday homes tucked in amongst the trees. We would have liked to have stayed for a day in this sheltered harbour but the young disrespectful ‘harbourmaster’ and the prices put us off. We paid 30TL for the berth and, if we wanted it, a further 10TL for water and electricity. Although in pound sterling terms this does not appear expensive at £12 a night and £4 a night for water and electricity, in comparison with Kormen at £4 a night inclusive, it is exorbitant.

The Greek island of Symi is very close to the Turkish coast. One should check out of Turkey and into Greece at recognised ports of entry but, illegally we regret, we didn’t. Doing so would mean the inconvenience of the formalities and perhaps the cost of re-entry. We just change the courtesy flags halfway between countries as does everybody else!

We anchored in the landlocked Panormitis bay surrounded by barren rocky hills studded with maquis and the occasional pine tree and olive grove. It is strange that anyone settled on Simi as it has no source of fresh water. This is the home of the Moni Taxiarchi Michail Panormiti, a monastery famous for its icon of Archangel Michael, the island’s patron saint and the guardian of seafarers and a place of pilgrimage for Greek sailors from worldwide. Like most icons with alleged miraculous powers it attracts enormous wealth in the form of gifts from those wishing favours or protection. Good business if you can get it! It is good to know however that some of this wealth is used to help poor families by way of financial support and work as well as providing scholarships to poorer students.
The monastery buildings are plain but classical 18th to 20th century. The central cloister has a choklakia courtyard of zigzag pebble mosaics and an arcaded balcony off which are the monk’s cells. It seems doubtful that many monks s reside here now; we have certainly seen none around. It may be that they live in more modest surroundings further up the hill. In the main now the cells accommodate a home for the elderly that offers shelter for those in need and holiday rooms. The monastery is dominated by an elaborate bell tower built in 1905 as a copy of the famous Agia Foteini in Izmir. From afar it appears to be a beautiful stone structure with contrasting brick arches and infill panels. In fact, close up, it is a rendered structure painted somewhat gaudily and imperfectly in blue and ochre.
We relaxed at anchor for a few days and at times were entertained by the anchoring antics of new arrivals particularly a Frenchman who dragged every time he laid the anchor. We had 45 knot squalls one evening and this Frenchman’s yacht dragged its anchor to fall down on us astride our chain and against our bow. He had no idea what to do to get out of the situation and we managed to hold his boat off Bella and tell him to raise his anchor and not motor. Needless to say he did both and was lucky not to lose his prop on our chain. Surprisingly we did not drag after this episode thanks to our Delta anchor. This idiot then came back for more but with the combination of our 5 million candlepower searchlight and vocal discouragement from all boats in the vicinity he finally went away to play somewhere else. We got to bed at about midnight like most others in the anchorage and soon after the wind eased.

The short sail to Gialos, the capital port of Symi involved transiting the narrow Steno Nimou passage that has a depth of only 4.5 metres in the fairway. That is of course no problem for us with a draft of around 2 metres but the bottom is sand and rock and the water is so clear that the seabed appears to be just below the surface. Keep looking ahead and not down advises the Pilot Book!
Berthed in Gialos at a fee of 5€ for an indefinite stay the picture postcard Venetian village of Chorio rises in a steep amphitheatre above the harbour. The two and three storey brightly painted mansions, once the homes of merchants and captains reflect Symi’s prosperity under the rule of the Knights of St John in the 14th century when shipping and commerce, sponge fishing, boat building and other crafts flourished. The islands population grew to 30,000 only to be reduced to 3,000 by mass emigration during the harsh Italian occupation in the early 20th century. The island now thrives again on the back of tourism. In the cool of the morning we walked up the five hundred steps of the Kali Strata lined with the former mansions of the merchants and captains to the village of Chorio. The village has an identity entirely separate from the Gialos harbour settlement with its own community, shops, Tavernas and church. From Chorio we had magnificent views over the harbour and over Pedhi Bay on the southern side of the headland on which there are twelve somewhat dilapidated windmills. One has a new life as a restaurant however and no doubt others will be restored for similar uses as time goes on.
Another courtesy flag change and we were back in Turkey and had a very pleasant downwind sail, yes we sailed all the way, to Semiliye in the Hisaronu Korfezi. We sailed through the narrow passages between the mainland and the off lying islands from Dirsek northward which made for some spectacular scenery, the mainland being mountainous and the islands 100 to 200m high. There is an appreciable amount more vegetation on the hillsides than there is in Symi.
We berthed stern to with a laid line to the town pontoon where we were met by the mooring man, Roguish Osman, ‘008 the man with the golden teeth’ who has a permanent broad smile to show off his fine mouthful.
Outside us on the pontoon was a British registered motor yacht called ‘Shangri La’ which was apparently built for Robert Mitchum. We had a merry wine slurping evening on board in the company of her owner, Alan, and his hostess Jo.
The little village is very pretty being set in fruit orchard and olive groves with the backdrop of maquis clad rugged mountains. The slopes of the mountains at the northern end of Selimiye bay are covered with thick pine woods down to the water’s edge. It is a beautiful spot.
To Miggy’s delight the weekly open air clothes, household goods and fruit and vegetable market was open. We bought some peppers, nuts of various types and a thin, cool cotton long dress which looks really good on her.

We enjoyed the sail from Selimiye to Ohaniye on a run in light airs averaging just 2 knots with headsail alone. One has no worries of an accidental gybe of the mainsail!
The deep bay of Keci Buku, or Ohaniye, carves its way into the pine forested mountains quite magnificently. We anchored in 7 metres of water in sticky mud which gives excellent holding. It is not crowded here and so is very relaxing.
It is however a little more commercialised than Selimiye mainly because of a ‘sand’ spit that extends 300 metres or so from the beach that is only calf deep. It appears as if people standing on the spit are walking on water. The spit is formed by residue from the river that enters the bay here so they say. Miggy doesn’t agree and thinks it is the remains of an ancient sea wall protecting a large harbour. Her premise is that the spit is in the wrong place relative to the river mouth , the ‘sand’ is not sand at all but broken red rock the likes of which is not evident at all in the river valley and the sides of the spit are steep to. The third and more romantic explanation is the best however and that is that the spit was formed by a girl carrying sand in the hem of her skirt to lay a pathway in the water to her lover who was at sea. She kept walking as the sand ran out and so drowned. Miggy swam out to and walked along the spit. She didn’t run out of sand thank goodness!
We left Ohaniye early to avoid headwinds in the Hisaronu Korfezi and so we did arriving through the shallow Kizil passage, which was not as fearful as the Pilot Book makes out, to anchor between Kizil Adasi and Kiseli Adasi. Whilst it is a delightful anchorage it is not one of clear water over a sandy bottom as stated in the Pilot. In fact the water is quite murky and the bottom is weed and rock with sandy patches. We were surrounded by the ruins of buildings, probably of the Byzantine era, and were fascinated by a pair of eagles nesting on Kiseli Adasi one of which was hovering in thermals above the island looking for prey.
The ‘Meltemi’ is a summer wind that can blow up to gale force for days on end in these parts. Such a wind is forecast so we decided to shelter in Bozburun harbour until the strong winds abated.

The Bozburun of today is very much different from the Bozburun that Miggy remembers from 30 years ago. The village has grown, not to dramatic proportions yet, and the shipbuilding and the smell of wood pervading the air that Miggy so enjoyed all those years ago has all but disappeared. The town still retains its charm however and we shall enjoy our few days here. We were welcomed by friendly and relaxed port authorities, so unlike their somewhat officious Greek counterparts, and we paid for three days stay at 30TL a day inclusive of electricity and potable water.
That evening a 40 metre gullet (traditional wooden Turkish sailing boat many of which ply these waters with up to a dozen passengers) , the captain of which was neither seamanlike nor professional and would be hard put to obtain a licence to drive a rowing boat in Northern Europe, forced himself into an impossible berth next to us. To add insult to injury the passengers insisted on talking loudly on deck directly adjacent to our sleeping quarters until 0200 despite my having politely asked them to be quiet at 0000. They then summoned the police after Neal had made bitter complaint to them which, after intense provocation, included questioning the legitimacy of their birth. Neal thought he should have been the one to call the police but he guesses inconsideration is not an offence; neither is probing their parentage we believe. It transpired that this was a group of doctors one of whom told me he was drunk; we were under the impression that taking alcohol was an Islamic sin! If this is the inconsiderate and deceitful manner in which the professional class of Turkey behave then God help the remainder of Turkish society. To be fair however every other Turkish person we have met has been warm, friendly and charitable and so we surmise that the doctors were suffering from holidayitis and alcohol.
We are back amongst large yachts having felt that Bella was holding her own against the smaller yachts encountered in the Cyclades islands. It seems that it is the charter yachts and those owned by foreign nationals keeping them in marinas close to airports that are the large ones. Although there are of course exceptions it seems to be the cruising folk like us that tend to go for the smaller models.

Marmaris, our resting place for our summer break back in the UK is a couple of day’s sails around the headland west of Bozburun. After lolling around in a couple of anchorages on the way, we plan to be there on the 12th July ready for our flight home on the 15th July. We look forward with great excitement to seeing family and friends during our stay.