Greece III: Turkey


Turkish delights...

It was coming to the end of our trip again. Time to head back to the slip and slope off to the airport. After having wasted most of the day going through the hoops of Turkish border control in Marmaris, we were keen to find a quiet spot for our last evening before heading back to ΡΟΔΟΣ (Rhodes).
The crossing to Greece needs careful timing as it would mean running straights where the wind seldom drops below F4, with a good fetch. Once in harbour it would be a frantic wrap up procedure ready for winter. Greek hospitality and a bottle of ouzo had secured our welcome to Colonna, the little fishing dock tucked in under the marine gate of the old town. Canal flat water in the centre of town, perfect! De-rigging is not possible at the only slip on the island as a gypsy shanty town has sprung up on the half built marina. But all this is another story.

So, back to the Middle East. The police pontoon (£12) where one is obliged to take ones boat as part of the process was placed broadside to the prevailing wind, so yet again I stayed with Restless as she jumped and danced on the lines while Amanda collected another plethora of stamps, greasing the beaurocracy to a total cost of £160. We had spent previous the night on anchor as I had no wish to pay the marina another £33 for a nights stay, or even the 1/2 day charge of £20 for the pleasure of tying up for a couple of hours.
Finally we got the all clear and set off. Boat was a bit messy as we had left in a bit of a rush but no worries, we were only going 10 miles or so and I'd put everything in order before our dawn crossing.
The coast line of Marmaris and the peninsula reaching over towards Rodos are spectacularly rugged. Mountainous peaks tearing up from the sea in almost all directions. Any little cove invariably had a gulet locked in on huge lengths of chain and a couple of stern lines to shore (we learnt rapidly about the necessity of shore lines! All local boats are kitted out with drums on the stern). The few small bays on the way would be filled with more gulets and hordes of day tripping boats blaring top 40 tunes and smoking BBQs. We were quite relieved to be heading away from it all.

The wind was a gusty NW, so I motored a bit and played with the genny. At times we would be flying along on half a foresail, then for no apparent reason becalmed. No great rush, progress was averaging at 4.5Kts so I kept the sails out. Past Turunc the winds were really stop-start. I watched the gusts rippling across the water, collecting the sail and accelerating us up to 5-6Kts in 20s, then listen to the flog of limp cloth. A particularly strong one had me reduce the sail to about a third, then the next one came! It pulled the boat over, beyond the scream point of the tilt-ometer (confirmed by loud noises from the cabin) by which time I'd already released the sheet. The gust picked up, I had no steerage, the tilt alarm language was now becoming abusive coupled with an assortment of cabin objects clattering from starboard to all over the place. I watched the boat pick up speed going sideways at about 45-55 degrees. The weight of the wind lifted and calm returned. I fired up the old stroker, reluctantly, in order to guarantee steerage. The ploy settled everything down. We were low on fuel, not sure exactly how much in the big inboard tank thanks to the useless fuel guage.We had 20L in the reserve can ready for tomorrows' trip. We came up towards Noname and began to turn the corner. Heading close to wind there was little point in trying to squeeze anything out of the sail so I wrapped it up and issued a hatch closed order. Not a popular command in this heat. The final headland came up. As I approached I saw a cloud of spray shooting out. Must have been a freak wave/gust combination. We rounded the point.

    26x sailplan            


Suddenly we were in a different world. A severe chop appeared like nothing I had ever seen. 1.2m waves but packed in like sardines! Was this possible? there was only a 2 mile fetch! Ok, shouldn't take too long to get through this so I powered up the engine a little more and headed for the lee of the cliffs dead ahead. A short while into this I witnessed an thoroughly bizarre sight. A spectre of spray burst out of the sea a short distance ahead off the starboard side. It looked like a huge ghost in the sunlight. The water beneath it like a thousand inverted shower heads were feeding the writhing mass above it as it grew into the shadow of some mythical titan. Before I knew it we were in it. The force almost took my breath away. In T-shirt and trunks, I was instantly soaked. We heeled heavily, followed by the 150% genny deciding to unfurl straight out to port. Ooops.. looks like we're heading for a knockdown here! Grabbing the line and pulling as hard as I could did nothing. I looked at the sail flogging at such a frequency that it was buzzing. I also noticed the sheets were off... (probably a good thing) I heard my name being howled out from the cabin, the tone bearing the harmonies of extreme fear. I glanced inside as my name turned into a scream. She pointed behind me. I looked round just in time to see the tender disappear, vertically. It had decided to take up parasailing and leapt joyfully to new heights. However I had no time to enjoy the spectacle as it was about now I heard the engine tone starting to choke. I frantically scanned the decks for any sign of trailing lines and made a snap decision to lift the engine and check the prop. Better cut through a loose knot than tighten a stranglehold further. We were beginning to broadside now, the waves were a little bigger and coupled with the wind were eagerly washing the topsides. While the engine was coming up the squall eased back and I managed to get half of the shreds of our foresail in.
The tender flopped back upside down, and with a some relief I saw the prop was clear. Back in it went as I made a silent prayer that we weren't out of fuel. The vision of trying to syphon 20L out there would in all likelyhood have resulted with petrol all over the boat and brine in the tank. Without a useable foresail. Even my back up engine was off limits. Even if I could drop it into the lower bracket, I remember the petrol tank sitting in the now inverted tender, with its' 5m stern line trailing.
I primed the bulb and the reassuring growl of the old Hat (tohatsu) brought us back into wind. I got the rest of the sail in and gunned the throttle. As the speed picked up to about 5kts everything smoothed out! The waves were packed so tight we were just riding through them. Perhaps some more speed and this would be easily conquered. No such luck. A glance behind showed the tender was now trying to play at submarines. The attachment point impressed me. As did the bimini frame. In order to minimize drag I usually clip the painter onto a loop near the top of the frame. How all of this had held... the thought of all of that flailing around didn't bear consideration.
The next sea monster was fast approaching. The perfect rhythm of a moment ago went completely out of phase so Restless was bucking like a rutting gazelle again to the tune of engine cavitation and cabin howls. At least we were little better prepared for it this time... if only mentally. I took huge washes on the helm, starting to chill. Every other minute reaching down to squeeze the bulb as the engine called for more fuel.
My first officer asked if we were going to die. I smiled and said of course not! She tried to pull the hatch over, oblivious to the solar shower and dive gear bag lashed down on top of it. I gave myself another mark down for bad seamanship. That covers about the first minute. Amanda was just crying now, thinking of the children she would never see again, then got on to more practical matters. She tried to give me a life jacket, that I flatly refused. Letting go of the helm for even a second was a no go. Trying to chase the straps of an auto lifejacket would more than likely have whipped a buckle in my eye or fouled. Another squall. The dinghy whipped up again jarring the poles, this time coming down right side up. I was so glad to have good wrap-around shades on. At least I was spared stinging eyes. Amanda tried to get a bit of video with my phone, but sadly it had already had its fill so Poseidons little tantrum couldn't be recorded.

Very slowly the waves reduced, though the squalls kept appearing randomly all over the place. I had heard of catabatic winds, and these were real knock down specials. They seemed to hurtle down from the cliffs, bounce off the sea then scream off on any direction, peeling the surface off the sea like tenacious strip wax, sending curling arms out whipping anything in its path. At one point a small column began to form.. was this a waterspout growing right in front of me? It twisted in its ghostly form, then spread out what looked like wings and faded away. Completely surreal. At last we were out of the chop, the horseshoe bay ahead with the island at its mouth looking well protected. Over on the far port side were some pontoons well filled with yachts. A valley ran from there through the mountainous surroundings and huge dust clouds were hungrily enveloping the moored boats. I could hear the pennants and frantic slapping of halyards from over half a mile away so decided to anchor up rather than play reversing games, only then to get pushed about by the 40 footers tight on either side.
We were through. Mandy donned mask and went for a swim, checking the anchor set while I got the BBQ fired up. Gusts were still coming in, though nothing by the standards of what we had just left behind. I ran a mental list of all the things I had done badly. I'd lost the fuel tank for the 8hp aux/tender engine, inflatable thwart and half an oar. The genny was ruined. It could have been so much worse. I couldn't get the auto lifejacket on, all the straps in that wind?? there were unsecured ropes that could have fouled the prop, the hatch couldn't be closed. The bimini by rights should have been torn off and the dinghy lost, we could have run out of fuel.
We waited out the next day. A flotilla came in with two shredded gennies and one with a wrecked bimini.
The rest of the trip went easily enough, and all too quickly we're back in 12 degrees looking at the grey skies feeling rather out of sorts on steady ground again.