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.
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.
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.