Kuşadasi to Ayvalik: 144 Miles

Monday 9 – Sunday 15 May

To begin a new week, we walked back into the old town to meet Mikail again before his day’s work began, as the previous evening he had very kindly offered to show us the best shopping for fresh provisions in the town.  Interestingly, it turned out to be the shops we’d noted on our way to our rendezvous for the ubiquitous çay (chai) before embarking on this stock-up, and our bags were soon full of a good range of fruit and vegetables, eggs, bread, local cheeses and olives, and a few meals’ worth of meat for our carnivorous skipper.

It was almost tea time before we finally got going from our berth, hampered as we were by uncooperative marina staff who proved less than helpful in explaining their peculiar arrangements for pump-out.  Eventually we made our way out between the red and green lights, and into a big sea, where we started off in a Westerly F3-4 with full main and genoa on a beam reach for the first hour.  Frustratingly, thereafter the wind veered, backed and increased so we reduced sail to the staysail with the main, but on starboard tack into waves of around one metre we stalled repeatedly, so we furled the foresail and reintroduced the iron tops’l.

It took us a cold and tedious five hours to make 14 Miles into Cam Limani, and in pitch dark at 2200 we took pot luck about what the anchor landed on, ending up uncomfortably close to a gulet on his own mooring buoy, almost invisible against the shoreline.  Skipper dropped the dinghy into the water to take a line ashore and secured it around a large rock, but when we tested with our usual pull back method, the anchor slipped and we had to start all over again. 

Meanwhile over on the beach, a group of guys were clearing up after an evening picnic, and decided to bring their vehicle down onto the sand to speed up the packing process.  Are you ahead of me here?  The wheels got stuck in the soft sand, and the hard and repeated revving of the engine wafted across the water to us, along with a sharp fragrance of burning rubber.

By the time we were confident we were securely attached to the sea bed and shore, all was quiet again, and in the morning the vehicle was no more, so they must have succeeded eventually, but I can only surmise that outdoorsy, competent and overrun with initiative in any kind of Scouts/military way they definitely were not.  Skipper’s final observation was “it would have been easier in daylight” – I think he spoke for all of us.

Too close for comfort

The following morning revealed a beautiful setting, but when the gulet left its dinghy on their mooring, we were practically on top of it, and anyway, we expected better shelter a further 10 Miles on to the Northwest, so we set off on another leg of motor sailing, using the mainsail for a lift: having it set, even when our course is too close to the wind, fills it enough that we sit more firmly on the water, which smooths out the waves and increases our speed just a little.

A couple of hours later we were happily settled into Körmen Adasi, with a line to a rock on the beach again, and the whole cove to ourselves.  After a late lunch we paddled the dinghy over to the corner of the bay to investigate the rumoured hot spring…which turned out to be a lukewarm rock pool with occasional columns of tiny rising bubbles.  Not the best jacuzzi I’ve ever sat in, but the view was fairly spectacular.

Although one other boat joined us, they maintained a polite distance, and we enjoyed two quiet days to complete a few small jobs, and for Mate to return to the dinghy cover, and enjoy a relatively long swim.  In spite of sailors’ superstitions, on Friday 13 May we set off early in a light variable breeze to motor a further 10 Miles to Siğacik, which is an attractive mediaeval walled town with a distinctly Greek look.   We anchored in a sheltered shallow bay, and took the dinghy to the town quay to tie up among the small open local fishing fleet.

We walked a hot and dusty track up to the ancient city of Teos, and were pleasantly surprised to find a small amphitheatre and heaps of boulders scattered across an area of around five square kilometres.  According to the archaeologists, there is evidence of a harbour, an acropolis at the top of a hill, and a temple to Dionysus, but our visit revealed evidence of excavation in organised groupings of columns and sections of carved lintels, rather than obvious ruins lying where they fell during earthquakes and years of neglect or lack of habitation.  A colourful flock of goats was ushered languorously through the site, adding to the pastoral charm and the impression of contemporary rural life continuing among the ancient stones.


Returning to the walled town, we wandered along narrow alleyways designed to appeal to cruise ship tourists, and struggled to find basic food provisions.  We chatted with the friendly marina staff about a possible Winter berth, but soon decided it has too many cons and not enough pros to be suitable.

Starting early again on Saturday morning, we began a run of all day motoring in very light winds.  Last Autumn we passed this way from Chios in Greece to Çeşme in Turkey, where we purchased a new dinghy.  This time we continued North to anchor for the night in a narrow bight that appeared to be the base for the local fish farming industry vessels, Egri Limani.  The highlight of the day was a brief glimpse of a dolphin.

Tucked in and cosy in beautiful peace

On Sunday we hit repeat and covered another 50+ Miles, following the channel between Lesbos and the Turkish mainland, as far as Ayvalik.  Today’s wildlife spot was a turtle.  At the end of a very tedious weekend of constant engine noise but good progress, we ended up in the beautiful ‘lake’ of almost enclosed water that is Kumru Koyu, in this mini archipelago that offers a perfect rest point between Izmir and the beginning of the Dardanelles channel, where we enjoyed a very peaceful, sheltered night.

Bodrum to Kuşadasi: 101 Miles

Tuesday 3 – Sunday 8 May

On Tuesday morning we followed a local boatman’s directions to follow the ‘channel’ between two swim areas to land on the beach, and secure the dinghy’s painter to a line that followed the water’s edge…for no apparent reason, but it was tethered and obviously used for the purpose.  We dusted the gritty sand off our feet and waited with a large Turkish family group and some Scottish tourists for the next dolmuş, the national bus service that uses small minibuses.  These will often stop on request, both to pick up and deposit passengers, which must catch out unwary drivers behind them.

Decorative tree pots in Bodrum

We wandered around the promenade area and through the very chi-chi shops adjacent to the marina, enjoying the tree pots along the roadside more than the selection of shopping on offer.  In the main pedestrianised shopping precinct, we chose a pleasant pavement restaurant for lunch, before Mate decided to be a tourist after all and treated herself to a rather fetching navy straw hat and some leather bracelets.  We wound our way through the quiet residential back streets up to the main road that runs along the cliff top above the town, expecting to find a Carrefour supermarket for provisions.  We did, and it was probably the worst we’ve ever visited, but by chance just before we arrived, we stumbled over a fabulous delicatessen-standard cheese shop, which also offered all sorts of interesting goodies: sourdough bread, olives, charcuterie, eggs, preserves and sweet treats…a little bit of foodie heaven before the disappointing comedown of an unusually grubby, poorly laid out and inadequately stocked grocery store.

On Wednesday afternoon the wind was quite strong, and our anchor dragged – fortunately as we had anticipated this might happen, we were onboard and able to deal with it promptly.  We finally settled in a beautiful spot out of the bay and around the corner, just North of a well-known anchorage called ‘The Aquarium’ – even on the charts.  There were a few trip boats when we arrived, but by evening the wind moderated and we had the peace and quiet almost to ourselves.  It was pleasant enough to stay the following day and say hello to the local pair of greylag geese as they paddled by.

On Friday 6 we were away around sunrise into a brisk North/Northwesterly F4-5, which soon veered to the Northeast, so we set the main at second reef and balanced this with the staysail.  We made some long tacks to beat to windward, and mid-morning were able to shake out the second and reset at first reef in the mainsail.  Hoping for less contrary wind behind the pair of islands that lie off Turgutreis and Gümüslük, we managed to mess up a tack completely and lose all the ground we’d just made on the previous leg.  However, we were cheered up by the perfect timing of a lone flamingo, which flew low across the sea ahead of us, its pink wings and legs clearly visible.

Eventually breaking free of Gümüslük channel, we found the wind now backed to North-northwest and reaching F6+ in the gusts, creating a lumpy sea, so we reefed back down to second and settled onto a port tack (wind coming from the left side of the boat).  After only 42 Miles in nine hours’ sailing, we found an overnight stop just East of Didim marina and Altinkum in the very shallow Kürürik Bükü, a pretty enough and sheltered spot.  The only disturbance was from a small racing yacht behind us, whose mainsail had apparently been blown out and ripped: the lower section was bundled against the mast, but the upper reaches blew like a shredded flag whilst there was any wind.  The campers on the beach were no trouble at all.

Saturday was another early start for our next goal of Kuşadasi, which began with main and genoa set and the engine helping us into a NNE F3-4, until we rounded the corner, were buzzed by the Coastguard but only from a curious short distance, and changed down to staysail to enjoy a pleasant close reach, on course.  Mid-morning the wind led us its usual dance, veering slightly to NE F4-5 before backing to NW F4: first reef in, take it out again, find ourselves heading for Greek waters and Agathonisi, an island we stopped at last Autumn.

Skipper did some research at some point during this long trek up the Turkish coast, as it proved difficult to sail in the prevailing winds without encroaching territorial waters, and there is a concept known as Right of Innocent Passage, which says that if we are neither a warship nor a submarine, we are free to sail anywhere we reasonably need to.  We have heard the Coastguard warning vessels off their border lines over the VHF radio, and must conclude these are fishing boats, who obviously have to contend with quotas and boundaries.

BIG wind shifts in the narrow passage
between Samos and Turkey

We gradually made our way North to the South shore of Samos, and slipped past Pythagorion, another pleasant stop last Autumn, to make a fast passage through the strip of water that separates Greece and Turkey by less than a mile at its narrowest point.  Coming out into Kuşadasi Korfezi (Bay) we rolled across big waves and eventually into the path of the ferry, before slipping into the very shallow bay under the walls of the castle, but there was no room for us.

On arriving into Kuşadasi Setur Marina at 1900, we were lulled into a false sense of security by a warm and helpful welcome from the marineros in a RIB, who tucked us comfortably into a stern-to berth on a convenient pontoon.  Skipper was not a little frustrated at the inordinate time it took the office boy to check us in, and unprintably horrified at the cost: 120€ per night, with water, electricity and waste tank pump out all additional.  Yes, the facilities were the best we’ve enjoyed since the Olympic marina in Weymouth on the English South Coast, but the final straw was delivered by a member of the local feline community, ON THE TOP OF THE SPRAYHOOD.

Mate decided just to laugh when offered DIY laundry for “around” 300₺ – approximate because the machine is metered and the office wasn’t sure how long it would take.  Having been there and done that, she took their advice and paid a visit to a unit in the adjacent boatyard for a service wash: three bags for a grand total of 150₺, around £7.50.  Whilst this was being dealt with, Skipper gave the boat a thorough wash and scrub down to remove the worst of the caked-on salt and sandy grit, shutting Mate down below with the cleaning cloths and dust removers.

After all this exhausting activity, it was time to find a celebratory supper in the Old Town.  Following some questionable reviews, we walked in and straight back out of our first choice, unwilling to suffer the background football commentary (local and unintelligible, even if we understood the game) and action on huge screens in every direction, the harsh lighting and harsher language of a group of (sadly) English tourists already the worse for wear.  Karma being what it is, just around the corner was a delightful spot called The Green Garden, a leafy roof sheltering a quirky rustic restaurant where we were warmly welcomed and looked after by the lovely Mikail.  Not only did he speak excellent English, and encouraged our attempts at his language, he also spoke vegetarian, and recommended a tasty dish for Mate, as well as the house special flambé, a sizzling platter served over burning coals, for Skipper.

Eating out in the countries we visit is always an experience, and Turkish food has proved tasty and cheap.

Marmaris to Bodrum: 91 Miles

Saturday 30 April – Monday 2 May (UK Early May Bank Holiday)

On the last day of April, we were up and away by 0700 under an overcast sky in a light NW, which soon developed into a Northerly F4-5.  As we were heading Southwest, ultimately towards our next main goal of Bodrum, this gave us a lovely broad reach, definitely L’Escale’s favourite point of sail, at seven knots…for about half an hour, until the wind dropped dramatically and veered Southeasterly, necessitating another stretch of motorsailing.  That was not the end of the changes though, and after another 30 minutes we were sailing again, first with main and genoa but soon changing down to staysail to reduce heel as we close reached into a Westerly F4.

Tricky wind shifts (green/red line graph)

We reduced the mainsail to first reef, then shook it out again, then the wind went all over the place in both strength and direction, resulting in big confused seas and not a little discomfort aboard.  However, on the bright side, we proved the worth of the new mast track in quick, safe, engine-free reefing and hoisting, and the winch monkey had a good workout.  For added entertainment, the Turkish coastguard came close alongside to ask us by radio our destination and the number of people onboard, but apart from poor timing as we needed to put in a tack at that moment, and Mate promptly messed it up, they wished us a good watch and continued on their way.

After such an early start, by 1400 we were ready for a break, and decided to call it a day and attempt a narrow entrance into a steep-sided inlet shaped like an orca’s tail.  As it was still gusting 25+ knots outside, Mate was apprehensive that it would be safe to go into, and sheltered once we were in there, or whether there would be a ‘katabatic’ effect from the wind accelerating down the steep hillsides, but with the engine on, the staysail furled and the main dumped for tidying later, she followed the chart on the plotter screen carefully, and found plenty of space and a sandy bottom in Serçe Limani.  Another 30 Miles closer to Istanbul…

Serçe Limani – the orca’s tail

We remained at anchor in the sunshine on Sunday 1 May, treating ourselves to a lovely relaxed lunch at Osman’s open-air restaurant at the far end of the bay.  With good English he welcomed us warmly and asked us what we’d like to eat and drink: no menu, no prices, but fresh home-cooked delicious food and a beer in a peaceful setting.

We made an early start the following morning to round the Southernmost of the three peninsulas of SW Turkey, the fingers that stretch towards and surround some of the Dodecanese Islands of Eastern Aegean Greece.  You’re never far from land sailing in this part of the world, but it can make it difficult to stay in the appropriate territorial waters when the wind doesn’t want to cooperate.  Today was our first taste of apprehension about whether the coastguards would notice or care about the course of any particular yacht in their area of jurisdiction, and in a reasonable Easterly F3-4 under another overcast sky, we achieved a combination of motorsailing and sailing in and out of Greek waters, to round Simi without attracting any official attention.

Rather than stop in Datça, we decided to continue with our good progress and round the second peninsula to cross Gokova Körfezi, past the Eastern end of Kos.  In the early evening we enjoyed reaching under mainsail and genoa at seven knots once again.  The wind built quite quickly to Force 6, a yachtsman’s gale, but we reefed down, changed to staysail and then reefed the main again, and were still creaming along at between seven and eight-and-a-half knots: our notional hull speed (supposed maximum) is nine!  Just before sunset, with a respectable 61 Miles under our hull, we anchored off the town of Gümbet, a sort of suburb of sprawling Bodrum, hoping we would be sheltered from the forecast winds.