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.
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…
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.