Waking gently to the sound of seagulls, takes me back to our hometown in Devon, England, and that was not a good reminder! You assume the sound takes you to the ocean and these gliding, majestic gulls soaring over clifftops above beautiful sandy beaches. No......... that is not my image at all, having lived alongside them for many years the word headache comes to mind! Noisy, dangerous, damaging and down right nasty when around towns. They steal food from your hand, take food from newly vacated tables, one even landed on our BBQ grill ( it was still lit!!)
So, to wake to a more sedate, 'proper' sea gull, is somewhat more enjoyable. The subtle lapping of water against the hull, a fishing boat engine chugging quietly through the waveless sea brings us into another balmy day. Stepping out into the cockpit bleary eyed, cuppa in hand, nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking sight of sun dancing on the water. A slight haze floats eerily above the water level as the heat draws it upwards. Neighbouring vessels begin to rouse from their slumber, one by one, each coming alive with people unfolding slowly as the sun warms their sleepy skin. The beginings of chatter coming from not only the boats, but the beachfront too. Time seems to be no issue, it is only 07.45, yet I am longing to cool off in that welcoming pond of glitter below us. A few bodies have slipped into the cool clear water, waking with the invigorating experience. By 08.00 I am in, now that is impressive, and just to top that, I entered the water within a minute which is brilliant for me. Yes, you guessed, another of my bravery awards :) Ask anyone who has witnessed my pathetic attempts to ' just get in' well I normally do, get in, just in my own painful, millimetre by freezing millimetre, wincing with each skin cell that touches the offending brutally icy water. This year, one of my personal challenges is to be a little more elegant when bathing outdoors! So far so good, just don't judge my 'balancing on a stony beach' attempt to ' just get in' that is a separate issue altogether!!
Today our plan is to clean 'Kejstral' it is as any other piece of property, a constant battle to maintain that glossy exterior, shiny chrome work and dust free cabins. Then there is the tender, she may have to wait, Zoe as we have named her, is rather battered, as she is an ex charter boat, (a zodiac) Zoe has endured a lot of stick.
Together we assemble cloths and buckets, while catching glimpses of the gentle awakening of our neighbours, aware that it is still pretty early. We work through until we cannot tolerate the heat any longer, then jump, ( ok, slip slowly) into the inviting water. You have no idea just how good that feels!! :) Around us, little tenders are skimming the waters surface, heading for shore, each one filled with excited passengers eager to sample a little of Yalikavak town.
After lunch and now that Kejstral' looks glowing once again, we take our place within the steady stream of 'tender' traffic. Negotiating our way around yachts and beautiful gulets, and the odd fishing vessel. We find ourselves gazing at the fabulous scenery, completely forgetting to watch out for rope and obstacles that might damage our engine, and have a few near misses en route! Safely on shore at the far end of the bay, the heat once again hits you like a wall, breezeless and sticky. By the time we reach the belediyesi (council cafe) we crave fluids, I cannot image how the people following Ramadan are coping. The beginning of June saw the start of Ramadan this year, which normally would be a good month as the temperatures are easily tolerated. However, this year we appear to be having the worst heatwave for a long time. 57 degrees has been recorded in Antalya, we have seen 46 degrees so far. Many of the Muslim faith abstain from certain pleasures during the 9th Islamic calendar month. Food and water must not pass their lips within the hours between sunrise and sunset, that is probably the most difficult of their challenges. During the hottest months of the year, that must be unbearable. As we have an exceptionally hot June, this surely must be extremely dangerous for some.
We are not planning to follow suit, therefore, we order water and of course a refreshingly cold, tastebud tickling beer. The cafe is busy, families gather talking noisily, council workers, swarms of them, are diligently cleaning around us. The most recent achievement by Bodrum / Didim Council, which has amazed us is the clean up. We have never seen so many workers gardening, cleaning and litter collecting over the 10 years we have visited Turkey. What a fabulous job they are doing, beavering away in this profound heat they seem dauntless. Whilst we sit nearby sipping on our icy beer, feeling rather guilty :(
While we endured our refreshments, we watched in awe as a blood transfusion centre inflated before us, literally!! A white van with the words 'Kan Nakli', drew up alongside the play park to our left. Instead of the 20 or so giggling energy filled children occupying our vision, we now had a white van man!
Miraculously within a few minutes, an inflatable, bouncy castle looking construction grew before our eyes. We were mesmerised, not quite sure what was going on. The construction team suddenly became the medical staff. Trolleys and drip stands, tables and chairs, together with a cay (tea) urn and boxes of biscuits all appeared from this awesome white van. Within about 20 minutes there were people lining up waiting to be a donor, absolutely fabulous. :))
Our evening continued with a wander around the lovely marina. As you enter the atmosphere changes dramatically from Turkish family chatter to utter disbelief and hushed tones of wonder. Each building is marble coated and filled with luxurious boaty items, or the alternative for those people without a water vehicle, fabulous interior designed home decorations. There are buzzing restaurants and coffeehouses embellishing the waters edge, enhanced beautifully by the setting sun.
Gradually, as you make your way through the busy shopping / eating area, the boats are luring you further towards the decadent, high end, multi million pound floating hotels, each with a price tag to scare any bank account. The boats grow in size further around the marina, daring you to peek at the lavish interiors and opulent design. Crew stand guard, looking trim in their designer attire, each wearing their walkie talkie as a fashion accessory. They almost will you to ask, "who is on board", " who owns this masterpiece", but silently they tidy, clean and polish. Some crew serve the occasional owner/ renter on board, it is another world. Kevin and I agree, that being on a more normal sized, traditional yacht and working with the sea and wind, is by far a more exhilarating experience that those superyachts can possibly imagine. However, they are stunning!!
We make our way back around the bay on foot until we reach Zoe, our tender. Sun bleached and hot she lays surrounded by the street dogs, trying to find a cool spot to doze. We head back to 'Kejstral' for a glass of the red stuff before retiring for the evening.
Our mission, and we have chosen to accept said mission, is to spend two nights out in a bay testing the power! The things we have to do ! :)
One of the bays near Yalikavak, called Gumersluk, looks very pretty. However, each time we have either driven or sailed past, it has been rather busy. Today we are going in!
The morning was very hot at 08.00 hours, hoped it would be a little cooler so early in the day :( never mind, as previously mentioned in my blog, the Meltemi wind usually begins in the late morning, picking up to a peak mid afternoon. So hopefully our sails will benefit from a good old breeze.
We planned on two nights away, therefore, clothing and food were the main things to organise, most other things are already on board.
Now that the weather is quite hot, 35 degrees (shade) yesterday in our garden, it's only June !!! One main item to bulk buy is bottled water, we can go through 5 litres in 24 hours and that is just to drink. Salads are ideal meal choices, saves on gas and easy to consume in the heat. We do try to plan carefully in our budget, as money is, and always will be, limited. Therefore, with a huge fridge and small freezer, we can be well equipped and eat both healthily and at a sensible cost. We also have a two ring gas cooker with an oven, all perfect for long journeys away.
I digress, sorry, I love managing the budget and food!
Now that our boat is stocked, hatches secure and cocks closed, we drop our lazy line (anchor rope) loosen the stern lines then set off.
Leaving Akbuk bay is always exciting, never quite knowing how the wind will welcome our little boat, or how the sails will play to the winds fickle ways. Today we had the Genoa out within the first 10 minutes, weather reports have highlighted 18 to 20 knot winds later today. With the mainsail reefed, we tentatively take our place in this huge ocean. The sea is calm, slight swell on top and very gently we manage to win over the wind, 5.5 knots carrying us south westerly. It is such a magnificent feeling to travel using the power of wind alone :)
Two hours into the journey, we lose the power, well the wind at least! I feel we have been betrayed, bringing us out here then stealing our source of movement. We started the engine with a forlorn look at the now furled sails. It was only playing tricks on us thankfully, 30 minutes later, with 12 knots of wind and increasing, our sails were happily flying free and looking pretty awsome. We tipped the speed at 7.3 knots which is really quite fast for our design of boat, heeling slightly but comfortably we finish the 4.5 hour journey at Gumersluk. As we round the headland into the narrow bay, which faces north west, we are surprised to find no respite from the now 20 to 25 knots of wind!
Hmmm not what we anticipated or wanted, we did drop anchor in 16 meters, let out around 45 meters of chain and settled with a coffee. The swell was a little annoying, therefore Kevin took a stern line, quite a hefty rope, out to the rocks for a little more stability. Although the wind was persistent, we managed to relax, snoozing in the shelter of our canopy, before tackling a few jobs. At around 7 pm, I had just plated up tea when I hear, Dee, get up here! So on climbing into the cockpit I immediately see the issue. We had drifted towards the rocks which had stabilised us so well. The stern line was holding fast, however the strong gusts of wind were now coming from a different direction, which in turn dragged the anchor out of its steady position ! Swiftly I ran to release the anchor, whilst Kevin started the engine, in addition he tried to loosen off the stern line. Unfortunately he ended up cutting it, just to prevent us being taken towards the rock. Once free, we pulled forward into a more open space before resetting the anchor. Phew, another anchor issue averted! Back into the tender as we had to rescue our now abandoned stern line, which was still securely tied!
We tried to decide if we could have prevented the problem, however, we didn't and probably couldn't have planned for the wind direction changing. So, now what to do! The idea that it could all happen again, encouraged us to head to a more sheltered, secure bay. There was very little space within our current location. Yalikavak was our next choice. We were acutely aware that the sun would be setting within the hour, which obviously becomes a concern when dropping anchor in new surroundings, so the clock was ticking ...... on leaving Gumersluk, the wind kept up its force, and together with the swell around the headland, we were taking a little battering. Not too stressful, just not what we had planned. An hours travelling time all on the engine, as our need to get there, out weighed our wish to play with the sails. Yalikavak is pretty much one of our favourite places in Turkey, so far anyway. Fortunately we are also familiar with the sheltered spots and fairly good anchorage potential. Soon, we were snuggled into our sanctuary, anchored, relieved and settled with a glass of wine. Now relaxed, we can enjoy a calm sea with very little wind, together with our new watery neighbours. There is a very pretty beach club within the bay, which played a lovely compilation of soothing tracks, lulling us into a gentle slumber.
The fitting turned out a lot less stressful than we had anticipated, Kevin and Nigel (our friend) planned well and managed to have them fitted within the day. The wiring was no more complex, then came those batteries, remember that small space? Well, it took a lot of manouvering, cutting wood, adjusting and remanouvering!! However, they are in, just won't be getting them back out again soon!
Having wired them to the solar and the original two batteries, we were confident to leave them overnight. Not sure how many times one of us said " they won't fry the boat, will they". The next morning we head off very early to ensure the boat is intact, and not frazzled to a puff of smoke, to our relief, all was perfect.
For the next few days we enjoyed a little more of our local delights, aware that we plan to journey further from home, very soon.
Bafa lake, is a beautiful spot around 12 miles from home. The more traditional Turkish villages and farmlands can be experienced. Donkeys are still used daily to transport various crops and animal feed, and are an equally invaluable form of transportation for the farmers in the dazzling hot sun. Crops of corn and wheat are grown successfully in this waterless land, only bore holes (drilled wells) are their constant nourishment, maintaining their lush and very green state.
Beehives line the mountain sides, painted blue one assumes, so they can be easily found in the crispy brown, rocky landscape. A tractor will trundle past carrying most of an entire household, grandma, children and the dog, not to mention the farmer and his wife, out for a jaunt through their fields and crops. They wave and smile, looking thoroughly pleased with themselves that we have taken the time to capture them on camera.
Our destination is a pansion, high on a rock face, overlooking the lake and an ancient monistary built precariously on a rocky outcrop.
What a tranquil place for a Turkish breakfast ( kavalti) for a whole 50 lira, or £12.50 the two of us eat and drink for the next few hours!! Cucumber, tomatoes, eggs, salami, fresh bread (unlimited) olives, sigorta ( pastry cheese cigars) together with a very tasty selection of cheeses, jams and of course that gorgeous local honey. Fabulous experience, not to be missed.
It works perfectly, the solar is keeping us powered!
We cannot believe the difference, not having to worry about starting our engine twice a day, just to keep the fridge working, brilliant :) Obviously that wasn't the only benefit, the windlass continues to drain our power, which can be overcome mostly. When dropping anchor, my tendancy was to use the controls, mainly because that chain running so fast when let out manually, scares me lots ....... yes I know, what a girl! I am becoming a little more brave now, I can use the handle to let out chain, I cannot however, stop the bloody thing!! So yes we might only require 30 meters to be deployed, but guess what........ you get the whole damned chain ! I am beginning to handle it better now, I just fear for my delicate little fingers :( I am also gaining confidence in some other thing too, which we will touch upon a little later !
Sorry I have wandered off the point ........ when I feel so relaxed stretched out in the cockpit with a coffee, listening to our fellow boatees whilst Kevin is off snorkeling about, looking for the ever elusive fish. I can't help but rabble on :)
So, back to the solar, we have two hand held tablets for communication, navionics and various other uses (writing this and playing games) additionally, we both have laptops. Items such as cameras, razors, hair appliances, not to mention boat instruments. These all rely on our power, in the next week, Kevin plans to fit our fans, as it 30 degrees in the salon at this moment :(( If you bear in mind that from the moment we stop the engine, our little batteries have to take all of the strain. When we arrive at an anchorage at lunchtime, we would normally have to restart the engine at night for at least one hour. This ensures that we maintain energy until around 07.00 hours next day. When yet again we restart that engine. It of course it lots of wear and tear on it, as well as the inconvenience of noise and disturbance for any neighbouring boats.
Therefore, having spent an entire 24 hours without switching it on is an immediate success :))
Our chores now took our attention, and kept our mind from the furball :((
We had discussed the need for an energy source on board. Our present status is three batteries, two of which are domestic and one for the engine. Each battery is 74 amps, which we know is much less than we require. Problem is, the space within the aft cabin where they are placed is very tight. Room for larger sized batteries would mean revamping the whole cabin floor! We are not ready mentally, physically or financially !
Therefore, whatever we decide upon must be easy to install and cost effective. Various trips to the different chandlers, gave us a huge range of ideas, our followers on social media have been a fantastic resource too. The decision was made to install 3 x 100 watt solar panels, together with two additional batteries of 74 amps each. We realise we could probably do with larger batteries, but again, the space was the limiting factor.
With help from our good friend Nigel, Kevin got to work sourcing the frame and fixtures. They decided upon aluminium, which would tolerate the weather, high winds and strong sunlight, yet be light in weight.
The solar was ordered, batteries measured and remeasured ( remember that tight space!) Then were finally on their way by cargo from Izmir.
A new fender, Turkish flag and various stainless steel bolts, nuts and bits were gathered in preparation for the fitting and next part of our journey.
During all this organisation, we managed to capture some of the local Turkish culture and lifestyle.
I feel we cannot bypass our surrounding areas, there are so many places to see and sights to capture Turkey at its best. One of the first places worth a visit, is the local town of Didim. It's golden sandy beach, Altinkum, is outstanding Altin (gold ) kum (sand) There are in fact three substantial beaches in a row, 1st, 2nd and 3rd beach! Along the whole coastline are bars restaurants and shops, each of them drawing you inside with their gentle persuasion, dazzling colours, not to mention their yummy menus!
Stone seats follow the entire waters edge, giving an ideal vantage point for a spot of people watching and a chance to be absorbed into the holiday atmosphere. The variety of dress code is unimaginable, from fully covered ladies ushering their brood past the giggling, bikini clad, young European girls. To the traditional Turkish gentleman, dressed in shirt, tie jumper and jacket, with his worrybeads in hand, strolling alongside the young tattoo covered lads in garish, colourful swim shorts wearing shiny jewellery, clutching their iphones.
It plays out like a cartoon or sitcom, over which you can sip on a beer lazily in a well padded, probably, well used wicker chair. Enjoying the protective shade of the essential awnings, whilst summoning the energy to join the passing crowd in the sizzling heat of the sun.
In the background, invariably there will be a couple of locals talking in their rather harsh almost Arabic language, they can sound a little aggressive at times, which initially can be a little frightening for the newcomer. This is their culture, they can be very demonstrative and quite loud, especially whilst on their phones!
The town is separated into sections, Altinkum s the lower, beachfront area, whilst Didim is the main upper town. Busy and bustling business deals, banking and bartering, all take place in Didim, there are many eating places to choose from, however, at the upper part of town, the more traditional Lokantasi (eating house) is commonplace. There you will also find the local cay (tea) houses, these are filled with men of retirement age, sitting in groups catching up with each other's day. Strictly for the local men, there is no alcohol consumption in these little places of culture, and women tend to gather at their homes for a natter and cuppa. Didim has been a tourist destination for many years, however, in the last 18 months, a new mayor has been busily changing the somewhat tired town into a vibrant new holiday hotspot. It really is amazing what has been achieved here.
The belediyesi is our perfect coffee stop, directly in front of the sea, this well finished, attractive wooden construction, houses the local council cafe. Filled with chatty, families and small groups of friends, the place exudes happiness. Children play nearby on one of the many well designed play areas, leaving their exhausted families to relax with their cay. Looking out towards the many decorative gulets (traditional wooden boats) and the little fishing boats lined up against the harbour, you will see the marina D Marin.
The marina stands grandly on the west side, next to second beach. Some rather fabulous super yacht's, stand bare on the hardstand awaiting their bottom clean and repaint. Many more float serenely next to the pontoon, all waiting for a summer clean up. Owners climbing into golf buggies off to collect various new parts and laundered bedding and cushions, plenty to watch from the numerous bars and restaurants above. The shopping area within the marina holds many pretty and useful items for a restock and provision. Essential maintenance can be carried out along with painting and refitting, obviously it does become busy in the winter months, as most marina's do.
A spot of lunch at the lower restaurant ' Key-f', gives us the sustenance required to continue our day. Chicken wraps with chips, gorgeous.
Within the next few days our solar was delivered, batteries collected and we were ready to begin the mammoth task of fitting!