Bye, bye Loki

Loki is now all safely packed up in Gocek, Turkey and it is time for us to head home. This is the view she will enjoy over the next seven months. We’ve had a fabulous trip and have thoroughly enjoyed our travels, but we are also really looking forward to getting home. We will spend the weekend in London, before stopping overnight in Singapore en route to Melbourne. Looking forward to all the catch-ups and hearing your news with great anticipation!


Homeward Bound

They have the most unusual traffic islands in Turkey. But then again, what else do you do with a 4th century BC sargophagus when its in the middle of the street? We’ve been travelling along the Lycian Way, the stretch from Marmaris to Antalya, where rock tombs and sargophagi are strewn about everywhere. They are sunken in harbours, they’re littered along the rugged coastline, or they’re in the main street. Until relatively recently much of this coast had been inaccessible by road, which probably explains why so many ruins abound. It’s the sort of place where the waterfront restaurant has an underground Lycian cistern, where water, wine, oils and other foodstuffs were stored more than 2000 years ago. Turkey is a truly fascinating country, with a rich history of Byzantine and Ottoman empires, yet the Republic itself so young, born in 1923.

Did you know that Santa Claus was Turkish? I didn’t before I visited Demre, where St Nicholas was bishop in 3rd century AD. The story goes that he wanted to provide a dowry for the daughters of an impoverished family, climbed onto their roof and dropped a bag of gold coins down the chimney. The daughters had been drying their stockings fireside, into which the booty dropped. Where the sleigh and reindeer fit into this story, I’m not quite sure, but it makes for a good yarn. Although the church dedicated to the saint is somewhat disappointing, some original Byzantine frescoes and mosaic floors have been maintained. St Nicholas is apparently the patron saint of both sailors and pawnbrokers. An odd combination, or did he perhaps forsee the cost of running a boat?

The real pleasure of visiting Demre was going three streets back from the church, away from the shops selling tourist tat and being instantly in real regional Turkey. I found a gozleme place (savoury Turkish pancake) where no-one spoke English except for the 8, 10 & 12 year old kids playing in the street. I am ashamed to say their English was alot better than my Turkish, but there were gales of laughter and much guffawing as these kids practiced their English. This provided a much better memory of Demre than Noel Baba.

Not all the ruins here are of Lycian or Byzantine origin. I also visited the “ghost village” of Kayakoy, abandoned after the religious-based compulsory population exchange between Greeks and Turks as part of a deal brokered following Turkish independence in 1923. The Christian Greeks living in Anatolia had to pack up and leave, whilst the Muslim Turks in Macedonia copped the same deal. As a result this village ended up deserted. Kayakoy is the inspiration for Louis de Berniere’s novel “Birds Without Wings”. Guess what I’m reading at the moment?

I  now have an idea of what it might be like to be a gulet sandwich, which thankfully didn’t happen. If you’ve not sailed in the Med, gulets are the cruise boat tractors of the sea, albeit some are very well appointed. We were at Gemila Adasi, anchored stern-to the shore with gulets either side. Very nasty squally weather, with a building beam-on breeze. We’d been keeping a regular watch on deck. It was late and I was finishing reading a chapter of my book and contemplating bed when I heard a fair amount of ruckus outside, poked my head on deck to be greeted by crew from the 80′ gulet next door saying: “YOU MUST LEAVE, YOU MUST GO NOW, YOUR ANCHOR IS EMPTY!”

Well! We hadn’t dragged anchor (although  it did look a tad iffy for a bit) and we didn’t leave, but the gulet on our starboard side certainly had dragged and took off at a rate of knots, with cushions flying off their aft deck, as they narrowly avoiding being blown down onto us. They were pushed to weather as they went by the very helpful guys in a RIB  from the gulet on our port side, and thankfully ended up not hitting us. Two yachts in the anchorage lost their dingys that night, but they were happily reunited come daylight. Not a great night’s sleep. Why does the bad shit always happen at night?

Despite all that the cruising around Turkey is spectacular and some of the best we’ve done in the Med. We’ve been as far east as Finike (then bused up to Antalya), but all good things must come to an end. After about 2,700 nautical miles Fitzy now knows how to say: “my keel is 3 metres deep!” in 6 languages and it’s time for us to head home soon. We are back in Gocek in boat maintenance and pack-up mode, getting ready to put Loki to bed on the hard-stand for the winter. We’ll be home in about a couple of weeks. And really looking forward to seeing family and friends, both on the way home and when we get back. Hope all is good with you and yours. Bye for now, Kate.

On the downhill run

Not many more posts to come now, as we approach the last stage of our trip.

We’ve spent some time exploring the southern Aegean islands on our way to Turkey. Many people have heard of the legendary ampitheatre with the perfect acoustics where a coin dropped or a piece of paper being russled on the stage can be heard up in the top row. This ampitheatre at Epidhavros, which seats 14,000, was known in ancient times not as a theatre but as a place of healing. The site dates from the 4thC BC and is associated with Asklepios, the god of healing, his symbol of the snake entwined around a staff still used by the medical profession today. We witnessed the acoustics first hand. Apparently the angle of incline, approx 26.5:1, provides the optimum angle for soundwaves to reach the top row without any reduction in strength. Goodness only knows how they figured this out two thousand years ago!

We next visited the brown, dry, sun-scorched  islands of the Cyclades. It’s not surprising that agriculture has given way to tourism as it must be hard to try and scratch a living out of these barren lumps of rock. The harbours are lined with caiques, the local fishing boats, whilst the island capital is usually positioned on top of one of the hills, apparently a defensive location from marauding pirates in times gone by. From a distance it looks like the brown hills have been dusted with icing-sugar. You could be forgiven for thinking the only two man-made colours here are blue and white, the colours of the Greek flag. The villages are typically made up of white cubed buildings, with blue trim and of course the ubiquitous blue domes of the many, many churches. The laneways are often decorated with painted motifs of flowers, fish or boats and donkeys are still used to cart in anything from beer to building materials to where the cars simply can’t go. Harbourside, freshly caught octopus can be found drying in the sun.

You know you’re in a windy place when you see modern wind farms dotted everywhere, together with the remains of old windmills scattered along the island ridges. Whilst we were waiting for the meltemi to blow through we left the boat in Paros and headed down to Santorini. We were amazed by just how spectacular it is. The cliffs, dotted with boxy, white towns, soar some 300 metres above the submerged caldera. As you’re approaching the harbour it’s awesome to think that you’re sailing across the middle of a dormant volcano. Further across in the Dodcanese we hired a dune buggy in Kos to explore around the island (they drive them on the road there!), so that was a bit of fun. Simi, famous for it’s sponge-fishing (which apparently is now conducted in a sustainable way) is a quaint little place.

We are now turning our minds to where we will leave Loki for the winter and are looking at various options in Turkey. It was great to catch up with Brownie & Trish in Marmaris and enjoy the conviviality of the marina and the likeminded yachties there. Today we sailed down from Marmaris to Fethiye, a bit of a blast with gusts up to 38 knots along the way. Thankfully we were heading in the right direction!

Beam me up Scottie!

I have been taken by aliens. They came in the middle of the afternoon, when I thought they most likely would. They took me to a place that was a lot like a lunar landscape. You could smell it before you got there. Rotten eggs? Yep. Then they encourage you to get into a pool of hot, slimy, sulphuric mud. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Luckily I was prepared with my 2 euro knickers and the oldest bra I could find, both trashed immediately afterwards. (Do not wear your new swimsuit!) The island of Vulcano is best known for its therapeutic mud pools. After a 20 min soak you then repair to nature’s ultimate jacuzzi. Walk 10 metres to the beach and choose which bit of bubbles you’d like to wash the mud off with. The beach near the mud pool is the best natural spa you’ll find anywhere in the world. Warm water just bubbles up underneath you. Perfecto!

When we first arrived in the Aeolians we were greeted by the impressive sight of Strombolicchio, a steep islet with interesting rock formations about 1 mile NNE of where we anchored off Isola Stromboli. Stromboli may well be the world’s oldest lighthouse, mentioned by Homer as guiding Odysseus towards the perils of Scylla and Charybdis (the northern entrance of the Straits of Messina).  Apart from the plumes of smoke and ash billowing forth you are constantly reminded of the volcanic nature of these islands by the tsunami warning signs. The beaches are black sand, but the stark white cubed houses make for a pretty sight against the azure blue sea with splashes of bougainvillea for colour.

We also visited Panarea (famous for its night life), Salina (famous for its Malvasi wine), Liapri (famous for its capers) and Vulcano  (famous for its smelly mud pools).  Before saying goodbye to Italy we headed down to the Straits of Messina to Reggio di Calabria to pick up water and fuel. Unfortunately the water wasn’t potable and the marina fuel station was “broken”. Time to get the water-maker fired up. We managed to get fuel from the local “fixer” character, Saverio.  We were greatly amused by the sword-fishing boats in the Strait. The migrating swordfish apparently “sleep” on the surface during the day and the fishermen sneak up on them in their boats with enormous masts and bowsprits, the captain being perched at the top of the mast.

The next day we set sail across the Ionian headed for Greece. After a couple of days and 250nm we arrived at Cephalonia where we had arranged to meet up with all my siblings, their partners and three of my nephews, the first time all six of us have been together in 9 years. They had booked a couple of houses nestled on a hill with a little bay of sparklingly clear water below. From there we were able to explore Fiskardo, Assos, Sami, Argostoli, nearby pristine beaches, assorted restaurants and even take the crew for a sail or three. A fabulous time was had by all.

 After a couple of weeks chilling out it was time to leave the Ionian and head for the Aegean. We had arranged to pick up Bondy at Corinth at the western end of the Corinth Canal, but when we got there a rather boisterous nor’ easterly was blowing, the harbour looked decidedly uninviting, so we collected Bondy and decided we may as well go through the Canal without delay. The Canal is 3.2 miles long, 25m wide and the limestone sides soar to 79m at their highest point. Our timing was perfect. We noticed a ship and a couple of yachts milling about near the entrance and radioed Canal Control to request permission to transit the canal. They responded: “follow that passenger ship”, which was great because the traffic is only one-way and we’d heard you can wait around for up to 3 hours at times. We will now island-hop east across the Aegean and continue to take in the delights of the Greek Islands.

Thinking of you all and hoping everything is good with you. We hear it has been cold in Melbourne. We’d love you to drop us an email if you have time.



Ciao, tutto bene con voi?

We are now fully immersed into Italian sailing, and meeting some nice people along the way. Have been exploring the islands skirting the Bay of Naples before heading south. Visited Ischia, world renowned for it’s thermal baths. What a treat for Kate! We contemplated going into the marina at Capri but later were somewhat relieved when they replied to our email to say they were full. We subsequently heard that it can be around 500 euro a night for a berth for a yacht our size. One of the charter boat skippers in Procida gave us the good oil and confirmed that the bay on the southern side of Capri was a good anchorage in settled conditions, if a little deep.

We anchored here with 80 metres of chain out. Spent a few days in good company with the likes of Veshelda rafted up against her mothership “Bystander” (138′) and a few dozen other boats 100 foot plus. It was here that we ran into Bill Westerbeek and Lauraine (from RBYC), who are looking after an 86ft Jongert, and spent a pleasant day in their company. The visit to the beautiful Blue Grotto was the usual chaos, with shouting and much gesticulating as the tiny boats all jostle for position at the opening. Only four passengers to a boat and you all have to lie down so you don’t hit your head going in. The island is full of upmarket hotels and swank shops and restaurants, beautiful homes with well-tended gardens and lots of lovely walks. Very much lifestyles of the rich and famous.

From there we headed along the Amalfi Coast, described by our Lonely Planet guide as “one of the most breathtaking coastlines in Europe”. The coast is rugged and dotted with lemon, white and terracotta coloured towns spilling down to the sea. First stop, the picturesque Positano, then Amalfi, both of which are hillside towns with a tangle of stepped laneways instead of streets. This area makes me think of the colour yellow: for lemons the size of a small child’s head, for zucchini flowers, for lemon granita sold in the streets (Nonna’s recipe), for limoncello and for sunshine. An enterprising lot, the Amalfians. I didn’t know they used to make paper from pulped cotton, a technique they borrowed from the Arabs they traded with back in the 13th century.

Moving further east along the coast we decided to base ourselves at Salerno for our visit to Pompeii, and spend a couple of days doing boat stuff. It was interesting to see what a bakery was like in 79AD, with the wheat poured into the top of the millstone and beasts of burden used to grind it to flour. The stepping stones in the streets were apparently required because effluent flowed freely along them. The Romans got water right, but not sewerage. Hmmm.

Salerno has a gritty, grungy feel to it, but we really liked the place. In the old town the smell of fresh washing hanging from balconies mingles with the whiff of old drains. There’s quite a bit of street art about the place too. If you go into town mid afternoon you could be forgiven for thinking that the aliens have turned up with a big vacuum cleaner and hoovered up all the people. Everyone, apart from a man and has dog, has disappeared. (A  few days later I came across a local wearing a T-shirt that lends support to this theory). Come back around 6pm and its a bustling metropolis again. The shops and restaurants are open, people milling around everywhere. Despite experiencing the siesta in Spain and similar in France, the afternoon shutdown is more keenly observed here. As one local said to us: “southern Italy is more traditional than her northern counterparts and VERY religious”.

 In this part of the world death notices are still pasted on street corners, Saints’ days are enthusiastically celebrated, with elaborate decorations made by locals and the occasional coffin is carried through the streets to the church. (No, I didn’t take a photo of this). In Agropoli our arrival coincided with the festival dedicated to Madonna di Constantinopoli, THE BIGGEST SHOW in town. The streets were still crowded at 11pm for the celebratory procession and thousands lined the harbour for the fabulous fireworks display at midnight. From here I also visited the ruins of Pasteum, a town settled by Greeks, dating back to 600 BC. Found some interesting statues there, but I suspect they weren’t ancient Greek.

So, what’s happening with you? We are keen to hear your news, so post a comment or drop us an email. Hope all is good.