13-18 April 2022 – Easter Weekend in the UK
Back in 2018, whilst sailing around the Baltic Sea, we were lucky enough to be befriended by a couple of French girls who currently live in Oslo and sail a smaller aluminium yacht called Saltimbanque. The skipper aspires to something larger and more suitable for long-term living aboard and cruising, even though (or because?) they completed an Atlantic circuit in their current boat ten years ago. Notwithstanding any yacht envy, we have become lasting friends, and this Easter we were delighted to be able to welcome them back, after two years’ thwarted plans, to enjoy exploring this beautiful area of SW Turkey with us, whilst their home cruising grounds up in Norway are still a little chilly.
After a somewhat challenging journey across Europe, they finally arrived into Dalaman airport later than expected on Wednesday evening, and soon settled into our guest cabin. Thursday morning saw us all raring to go, and after breakfast and a brief manoeuvre for evidence we were adhering to Turkey’s strict rules for dealing with yacht waste, we cleared the marina and set full main and staysail for a pleasant 17 Miles across the bay in a W/SW 2-4. We reduced the mainsail to first reef to help reduce the heel as we were making water as we went, dropping anchor in 16 metres of water in Sarsala Koyu, a beautiful bay South of Goçek. One guest was in the water almost before we’d come to a stop, and returned eventually, refreshed if a little numb around the extremities.
Saturday 16 April saw us don sturdy footwear for a crazy scramble up a river gorge in search of the local ancient ruins. The pilot book had warned us the main access path was from the cove to our left, but our intrepid guests, 15 years our junior and familiar with this kind of ‘exercise’, made light work of it and certainly put Mate to shame, more so with their care and concern for the stick-gripping old lady in their midst. It was worth the effort of the steep sides and dry, loose sand and stone, to discover an ancient hidden community, now inhabited by a few farming families. Evidence can still be found of former systems of irrigation in this arid land, among the carved and cut sections of column and wall.
We were also lucky to come across a beautiful lacewing, usually only seen between mid-May and late June, when the temperature is at least 17 degrees Centigrade and there is no wind. The species is distributed throughout the Balkan peninsula, specifically Bulgaria, East Thrace, Greece and Northern Macedonia.
Relieved to follow the marked track back down to our cove, and enjoying the stunning views across Fethiye Körfezi (Bay), we enjoyed a relaxed lunch in the cockpit before leaving our crew to sail us back to our starting point in a similarly flat and sparkling sea, allowing us to show off L’Escale’s glorious smooth slipping through the water under full main and genoa. Before we were ‘home’ the wind died to nothing: “c’est pétol” according to our guest skipper, but it gave us a calm night.
Tortoises and tombs
We ‘celebrated’ Easter Day with a brief exchange of chocolate-orientated gifts, before making the most of the calm before the (forecast) storm of strong winds with a run ashore to explore the historical attractions of this key port of the Lycian coast. Fethiye was formerly known as Telmessos, and its ancient amphitheatre can still be viewed from a footpath up the hill behind the town, on the way to the famous collection of rock tombs. The most important of these is that of Amyntas, easily recognised as i) it’s the only one for which there is an ‘entrance’ charge to walk another uphill path ii) it stands apart from the collection carved from the adjoining cliff face and iii) its façade is embellished with Ionic columns and portico, that have withstood time and weather remarkably well. Meandering among the wild grasses and, in our Northern eyes, Summer flowers like vibrant poppies, we spotted a couple of tortoises, remembered by Skipper’s mother from a visit here back in 1994. Sadly, a hind leg of one of them was caught in a redundant plastic bag, all the more heart-breaking as it was inside a fence that rendered rescue impossible.
After a fortifying lunch at a waterfront restaurant we already knew offered a good menu for this difficult-to-please customer, we made our way back onboard, just as that threatened wind materialised. Within moments we were all on full anchor watch, and observed from a thankfully safe distance as a neighbouring yacht proceeded to drag its anchor several hundred metres, before being ‘caught’ and eventually repositioned safely. In the end, the wind blew itself out as quickly as it had arrived, and we enjoyed a quiet final night before our guests were up with the lark (alarm) on Monday morning for a repeat in reverse of their outgoing journey. We were glad to hear they’d arrived home safely in time for a celebratory ‘utepils’ – beer outdoors, albeit in several more layers.