December 13th, 2020Out of the frying pan…
Dash to Turkey
Lockdown lifted on June 21 in La Linea, Spain. We discussed the situation with our Australian buddies on Boomerang. Should we stay or go? We decided to go to Turkey because it is one of the few countries you can get a resident visa while there.
We left on the morning of August 2. We both had an extra crew member for the overnight passages. We took a young Spanish fellow. He’d done his Yachtmaster but had little experience, knew everything and hated washing up.
After a great passage overnight we anchored 30 miles from Cartagena. Just about to drop the anchor only to find it wasn’t working. We rafted up to our buddy while we found the tripped fuse and went off to anchor. Then our solar panels started overheating. We had them fixed in Cartegena. Overnight to Formentara in the Balearics, this passage included a loss of steering at 2am when a cable unscrewed itself. Ibiza was the next stop, anchoring in the bay where the series White Lines was filmed.
Mallorca, then Menorca where we left for the 31-hour sail to Carloforte, Sardinia. A COVID test to enter Italy was required, all negative. There was only one more overnighter to Sicily and then we could offload our Spanish lazyboy.
Guillermo disembarked in Trapani and we continued on to Palermo. Palermo is a beautiful city with a tarnished reputation of being the home of the mafia. We treated ourselves to dinner at a hatted restaurant near the marina, exceptional even if it meant we would be living on very little for a few weeks.
Next stop Cefalu, where we anchored in front of the old city, a spectacular backdrop. Then Ocabo d’Orlando to jump to the islands of Lipari and Stromboli. Stromboli was a visual treat, the black sliding slope contrasting with the green mountainside and smoke in wisps escaping from the summit.
The Messina Strait was next. We timed it for a good tide and current to traverse. Radioing ahead we requested permission to enter. The Messina Strait demands respect but as we entered we wondered what all the fuss was about. Half an hour later we knew why. It was rough. Never have I been happier to leave a stretch of water, until we rounded the corner of the toe of Italy. It was even rougher.
We stopped at Porto Bolaro. This could be the smallest marina in the world. Boomerang backed in wedged next to a monohull. We went bow first and tied up side on, the marina was full. The season had finished so we got takeaway pizza and sat in the deserted outdoor restaurant.
We were a bit of a novelty; the owner poured us a glass of the local drink, Liquore alla Liquirizia, and told us about the area. I wish we had more time to spend in that region. Calabria is known for its simple pastoral-based cuisine relying heavily on vegetables.
Roccella Ionica was the next anchorage, on the instep of Italy; from there we cross the Golfo di Squillace to the heel.
Next morning was perfect, flat conditions with a nice breeze on the beam. Two hours later it turned into a churning mess. Waves were breaking over the side and Shelley thought we had a water problem but it was a large wave breaking on the starboard hull. I slowed to 3-knots to stop the roller coaster. This means it will take us longer to get there but will be slightly more comfortable.
La Costello, the anchorage has a castle but to be totally honest I am very much over castles and churches, boats and travelling. Next stop Cretone. We pull into Cretone Marina after another rough passage.
Should we cross to the heel of Italy or just make a run to Corfu? The boat that joined us a week ago decided to go to direct to Agostoli, further south, and got caught in a medicane (Mediterranean hurricane).
We decide to cross from Cretone to Corfu, it is 152 nautical miles, which means we need another crew member. The only person available was a delivery captain. It was expensive but he took charge of the boat and I had a rest.
Corfu, I love you, but not Greek paperwork. We spent two nights in Mandraki Marina, situated at the base of the 15th century Venetian fortress and a short walk into the town. Here are beautiful pastel-coloured Venetian buildings and narrow cobblestone streets where you could wander for hours.
The Lefkas Canal runs about 3.5 miles through the low-lying land at the northeast end of the island of Lefkas, dividing it from the mainland. The bridge opens on the hour and we just made it.
The experience was amazing and emerging at the other end we were confronted with the most beautiful scenery. Another anchorage, not the one we had planned but a tiny one that took just our two boats, you could have been the only people in Greece.
Morning saw us in the Corinth sea on our way to the Rion-Antirion Bridge, one of the longest span bridges in the world. Approaching, we radio bridge control giving our air draft, they advise which span to go under.
The wind was picking up, the waves were building but it was a following sea so not uncomfortable. It was early so we decided to do the canal.
The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. Started by Emperor Nero but wasn’t finished until the mid 1800s.
You tie up and pay at the end. All set to come aside, Shelley throws the line around the bollard but fails to hold onto the end. Panic ensues. Someone grabs the line and throws it back but I can’t keep the boat in position. We get blown off; I miss hitting our buddy boat by inches. I am now blocking the entrance. I do a 360 and approach again. I hear on the VHF the canal authority telling the boats entering to wait (for us to move). This time our two friends are waiting for the lines and we tie up. We pay our €270 for 4 miles and leave. We anchor around the corner. We don’t talk, we are too traumatised.
Korfos, Epihadros then Kythnos where we received a warning on the phone that it was a COVID hotspot. We stay on the boat like just about every other stop.
The beautiful island of Paros was the next. Nothing has changed since our visit 13 years ago.
The beautiful islands of Amorgos then Astipalea, the gorgeous butterfly-shaped island with only a few goats wandering round and water so clear you could see the sand in 10-feet. Tilos was the last island before Rhodes.
Rhodes is an island steeped in ancient history. It was here that we had to check out of the Schengen Zone. There is no travel between Greece and Turkey, not only has COVID stopped it but the constant arguments between them keep the border closed. We have heard that they will not let us leave if we are going to Turkey.
The immigration officer is eating lunch. She puts it aside, sighs and flicks through our passports. She looks at us and asks where we have been; I burst into an explanation about not being able to go home and the pandemic and how far we had come and how our government is awful.
She looks at me and throws her arms up and says “OK but you cannot come back for 90 days”. She also asks where we are going. Cyprus. We head to the customs and then the port police. It had taken three hours but we can leave in the morning, we go straight and sneak across to Turkey.
We motored into Fethiye, around weekend sailors and the tourist gulets. A boat drifts in 100 metres of water with two old blokes naked jumping off the back. We altered course to avoid them and their wobbly bits.
Fethiye was an absolute treasure. There was a beautiful bay with plenty of spots to anchor. Next morning we motor over to the Coast Guard dock to check in. All went well and they allowed us two hours to race to the Turkcell shop to organise SIM cards.
We had dinner with sailing friends that we have corresponded with but have never met. It was lovely to meet them and they took us to a small family restaurant. The fish, prawns and calamari come from the shop next door, the mother and father cooked and it was delicious.
The last stop before our Winter home was Kas. This will be remembered for the great Deva (our Bengal cat) leap. After a little celebratory dinner we went back to the boat and let Deva out. It was dark. There was a loud splash.
Shelley grabbed the net and I grabbed the torch. We walked around the boat shining the torch onto the water. No sign of her. I jumped onto the pontoon, Shelley follows. I move towards the boat next door and call her, this is the time I am grateful that she has a very loud howl. We scooped her out and take her in for a warm fresh water rinse.
We warmed towels in the microwave and wrap her up to dry her and stop the shivering. An hour later she has totally recovered and is not the least bit grateful.
October 24 we arrived in Finike and it was time to tie up for Winter. Eighty-three days, 2180nm, four countries, one COVID test, many masks, 45 days anchoring, 38 days in marinas. Many lessons learned, many mistakes made and a global pandemic. And now another lockdown.
- Jill de Vos – SV Eucalyptus