Blue Voyage: Day 6 … the Storm

[Catch-up Post]

Thursday, 17 October
Fethİye, Turkey

What a ride we had today … at times rather terrifying!  But now we are safely anchored in the sheltered waters of Fethiye Harbor, and can breathe a sigh of relief and put the trip here from Gemiler Adası [Island of Boats] out of our minds.

At the conclusion of yesterday’s post we were anchored between the two boats in the picture to the right, seeking shelter in the lee of the island.  At least that was the case until after breakfast this morning.  That was when we moved to the middle of the channel to ride out the worst of the storm at anchor… a safer alternative since the boats on either side of us were at times too close for comfort.

Still shots don’t show the ferocity of the storm we endured today — especially since I refused to go out at the height of it to take pictures.  The video below pretty much sums up our experience — from Gemiler to Fethiye — although it, too, doesn’t show the worst of it.  What can I say … Mui was holding on for dear life and didn’t have a free hand to operate the camera ;-)  You can watch the video, and skip the story.  Or, if you are bandwidth-challenged, you can skip the video, and read the story.

Stormy Weather … and I don’t mean the song!

Even in the sheltered channel between Gemiler Island and the mainland, we had a pretty rough night — can’t imagine what it was like out in open waters.  We woke up to the sound of the generator and the engine at 3:30a.  Wondering what was going on, we threw on some clothes and went topside to find the crew and Hakan working the ropes and re-positioning the anchor so that it would hold more securely in the face of strengthening winds.  At 4:30a they repeated the task.  It was then that we noticed a boat, unable to tie up to shore, trolling the channel.  Captain Apo said that it had been sailing up and down the channel since arriving late last night.  It was too dangerous for him to take the zodiac across to help them then, but he did so at first light … and again later when he saw that they were dragging their anchor.

Yılmaz and Captain Apo go over to help fellow-boaters with their dragging anchor.

The storm at its worst in the channel!
It might not look bad; but trust me … it was rough!

With the cushions from the aft and fore decks piled inside, you sit where you can ;-)

At its height, the storm was a Force 9 gale, packing 47-54 mph (75-88 kph) winds and waves reaching up to 30 feet (10 m) in height.  We didn’t have it nearly as bad inside the channel.  The worst of it passed over us between 10:00a and noon.  As forecasted, patches of blue began appearing to the west around 3:00p; half an hour later we were having afternoon tea on deck and discussing whether to stay put or leave Gemiler.

Blue Voyage Day 6.17 Oct 2013

in the clear — at least inside the channel!

The concern at hand was a second storm heading in our direction from the east that would keep us on lockdown for another day.  By this time, all the other boats had already left the channel, so we decided to follow suit.  Rather than head to Ölüdeniz, which was closer, but where there was little shelter, we decided to brave the still rough seas and sail to Fethiye.

Bidding goodbye to Gemİler Island and the ruins we explored yesterday

… we decide to head back to Fethİye.

With 25-30 mph (39-49 kph) winds coming off the bow, we had following seas as we left the channel.  Even with the bow pitching rather wildly, the ride wasn’t too bad — at least not at first.  We even enjoyed the company of dolphins riding the bow wave for a while.

Then we made the turn to get around the peninsula, and all h-e-l-l broke loose!  With the waves and winds hitting us broadside, the boat started to roll and the ride suddenly got VERY — and I mean VERY — rough.  In the back of our minds, we knew that the boat was built to handle the 9- to 13-foot (3-4 m) waves we were battling, and that Captain Apo knew what he was doing.  Still, it was hard not to be terrified.  At times the mast would roll to an angle that we didn’t think was sustainable, but within seconds it would be upright — only to roll again … this time in the opposite direction.  On and on went this roller coaster ride until we rounded the peninsula.  Heading north, conditions improved almost immediately.  Not that we were in smooth waters, but we were able to let out a collective sigh of relief.

Rays of Sunshine = Rays of Hope.

Left: water spout heading towards land.
Right: Not looking good in Göcek!

During the roller coaster ride, the boat suffered some minor damage — an unsecured microwave fell off a ledge in the kitchen, plates and glasses were broken, a couple of the shower stalls in the en suites came off their tracks, and the awning frame on the aft deck was bent, with one piece breaking off.  All easily fixable.  Though nerves were frayed, we all survived the storm intact.  And amazingly, none of us were seasick despite the rough conditions we endured during the 1½-hour trip to Fethiye.

Another 20 minutes and we’ll be anchored in Fethİye Harbor.

Looking at the map a few paragraphs above, one might wonder why we didn’t seek shelter in one of the bays or coves on our way to Fethiye.  Simple answer — some of them were too open to the elements; the tie-ups in others were already taken.  Remember … though it’s late in the season for boat trips, this is a holiday week in Turkey, and there are plenty of boats of all sizes out on the water.

The rough journey behind us, we can smile now.

Despite the mess in the kitchen, and our assurances that we’d be more than happy with a simple soup and sandwich meal, Hilmi Usta insisted on preparing his usual feast for dinner.  The news on TV was filled with reports of storm damage up and down the coast, and conditions far worse than what we had endured — one town was hit by a twister that blew off the roofs of several houses and a hotel, broke windows, tossed trees around, and sunk four boats in a marina.

No one is ready to laugh off today’s storm.  Not even us — and we’ve been in a small vessel before, battling 30-foot (10 m) seas in the furious 50s of the Southern Ocean.  But someday we will laugh at these memories; and in the meantime, we sure do have a ‘sea story’ to tell!

Blue Voyage: Day 5 … We Add Variety and Explore Byzantine Era Ruins

[Catch-up Post]

Wednesday, 16 October
Gemİler Island — Fethİye, Turkey

Our five-day run of blue-skies and sunshine has ended!

The weather took a turn for the worse this evening.  At the moment, it’s not too bad; but the forecasters are predicting the storm will be getting steadily worse.  The upside is that the clouds that moved in late this evening were unable to hold on in the face of near gale force winds (31-38 mph [50-61 kph]), so we have a star-studded canopy overhead and a near-full moon to shed light on the choppy seas in which we are anchored.

The storm is going to be tomorrow’s story, so let me backtrack to the great day that led to the here and now.

Our anchorage in Martılı Koy [Seagull Cove] gave us a quiet, restful night … not even a whisper of wind to rock the boat.  Up early, I enjoyed the breaking dawn bathing the seascape around me in pastel colors that turned into a vivid gold as the sun crested the mountain sheltering us.

Our plans for the day called for us to transit the Gulf of Fethiye and anchor not far from Ölüdeniz.  To stay ahead of the storm that was brewing off shore, Captain Apo weighed anchor even as we were eating breakfast.  The calm gulf waters made for a relaxing trip, and by 10:30a we were at anchor in the narrow channel sheltered by Gemiler Adası [Island of Boats] on one side and the mainland on the other side.

View of Gemİler Bay, and the mainland beach area, from our anchorage in the channel.

Once the boat was secured, we wasted no time taking advantage of the calm before the storm … swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking … all followed by another luncheon feast.

Leaving my book behind, I take to the kayak for a tandem paddle with Mui.

After lunch, we huddled with Captain Apo to make an important decision — stay and weather the storm at Gemiler; or leave and find a cove closer to Fethiye on the other side of the peninsula.  The consensus was to stay put in the sheltered channel after moving the boat to an anchorage in the lee of the island.

The plan is to move across the channel to the lee of Gemİler Adasi
when one of these day-trippers leave.

Around 2:00p the weather started to change, but not enough to deter us from our afternoon activities — some more successful than others.  Our attempt to take the zodiac over to Ölüdeniz didn’t work out — the rough seas around the tip of the peninsula separating the channel from the mainland proved to be too much of a challenge for the fully-loaded dingy.  But, Hakan, Mui, and I did manage to go ashore after high tea to explore the Byzantine era ruins of a once prosperous city.

Ece Arİna at anchor in the lee of Gemİler Adasi.

The island, which I have thus far referred to as Gemiler, is also known as the Island of St Nicholas — that’s Saint Nick of Santa Claus fame.  According to medieval sources, St Nicholas’s remains are thought to have been buried at a church here after his death in 343 AD.  Around 650 AD, the island came under repeated attacks by Arab pirates and most of the inhabitants fled to the mainland.  At that time, St Nick’s remains were transferred to nearby Myra, and from there to Bari, Italy in 1087.

The apse of church II, which dates back to the 7th century, is relatively well preserved.

People came to inhabit the area, referred to as Symbola by some, in the early Byzantine Period, and continued to live here until the 12th century.  According to the signage at the entrance to the ruins, the city they built became an important port of call, especially for vessels carrying pilgrims from the Italian states and other western Mediterranean countries to Jerusalem and the sacred lands of Palestine.

The mast on the far right is that of our gület.

Yılmaz took us over in the zodiac and dropped us off at the rickety pier leading to the ruins, which are under the protection of the Turkish Ministry of Culture.  Hakan and Mui both had their Müzekart, so neither of them had to pay the 8.00 TL [~$4.00] per person admission.  I hadn’t had a chance to replace my card, which had expired at the end of September, but I had Aylin’s bank card, which was just as good for free admission.  Once inside, we hot-footed it up the steep trail, leaving the people from the two excursion boats behind.  By the time we were on our way down, they were long gone and we had the ruins mostly to ourselves.

Church III is said to have been where St Nicholas was buried after he died in the 4th Century AD.

Peek-a-boo view of Church III.

This long, covered passageway — which dates back to the 8th century — …

… connects Church III and Church IV.

Peek-a-boo view through an arch in the passageway.

Not the greatest photo … but proof I made it to the lighthouse at the top of the island.
And it also shows the calm before the storm!

Hakan displays the fearlessness of youth at the …

… graveyard, where we find a whole bunch of empty tombs.

Church II — peek-a-boo view through the windows of the apse.

It was 6:00p by the time we returned to the boat.  Despite the temperature dropping like a rock, we decided to have our happy hour on deck.  As the setting sun left the landscape awash in lovely pastel hues, boats started streaming in, looking for safe harbor from the brewing storm.

It was too cold to dine on deck, so we ate in the dining room for the first time on this voyage.  As usual, it was a feast of a meal.  Aside from all the dishes that preceded the main course, the menu featured grilled çipura (bream) and potatoes au gratin.  We did Hilmi Usta proud and didn’t leave a crumb on our plates.

We have battened down the hatches, and are ready for the storm.  I can hear the wind screaming outside the windows of our cabin.  Keeping fingers crossed!

Blue Voyage: Day 4

[Catch-up Post]

I am adding onto the original teaser post which featured the photo of Ece Arina framed by a tree.
If you left a comment back in October, don’t be surprised to see it attached to this post.

Tuesday, 15 October
Martili Koy — Göcek, Turkey

Today was the mid-way point of the Blue Voyage we embarked upon last Saturday.  It doesn’t seem to matter if we are doing a lot, or a little.  Time is simply flying by.

The weather  continued to cooperate beautifully today, with plenty of sunshine and blue skies ... the turquoise waters continued to invite many amongst us to swim and enjoy water activities, while others savored the tranquility of the small coves from the comfy sun beds on the foredeck.  My favorite time of the day is the early morning hours when the sun bathes the landscape in a golden hue, and peaceful quiet reigns all across the water.

Pre-departure snorkel in a cove of Göcek Island …

… and trash clean-up before we weigh anchor — good job Hakan.

Our only neighbor at this overnight anchorage was this motor yacht,
which is being restored by an American couple.

Once those who wished to partake of water activities had their fill, Captain Apo pointed the bow towards a narrow passage between Domuz Adası [Pig Island] and Tersane Adası [Shipyard Island].  The course set, Mui took over the wheel, navigated the boat through the passage, around the tip of the peninsula, and into the open waters of the Gulf of Fethiye.

Captain Mui at the helm.

Yılmaz set out a box of chocolates as a sweet treat for the
first day of Kurban Bayramı [Feast of the Sacrifice].

This time we anchored in an unnamed bay, which provided not only a beautiful setting for lunch, but also opportunities for hiking and zodiac rides.  I opted for a shorter hike by myself, while Mui and Hakan went for a longer and steeper hike with Yılmaz.

While I hike on the rocks on the left side of the beach, the guys follow
a dry creek bed and hike up to the ridge on the right side.

From my camera …

When I was ready to go back to the boat, Murat and Aylin came to pick me up with the zodiac and took me to a cove where they had found a narrow arch when they were out exploring earlier.

The cliff in the background causes the arch to blend in with the rocks,
making it nearly invisible unless you’re looking for it.

Aerial shots from the guys’ cameras …

Bird’s eye view of the unnamed bay IN WHICH we’re anchored.
[Ece Arina is the smaller of the two GüLETS at the head of the bay]

Panorama of the bay on the other side of the ridge.

We were quite content to spend the afternoon in this bay when Captain Apo received a phone call from one of the owner’s of the charter company.  We understood the call to be an invitation to join a few other boats that were anchored at Domuz Adası … for afternoon tea and socializing.  Turns out that wasn’t the case at all.  He apparently wanted use of the water toys — particularly the inflatable towable — we were carrying.  To make matters worse, we were almost at the designated meeting spot when the captain got a second call asking him to reverse course to another island; one that was much closer to where we were to begin with.  To say that we were unhappy when we found out the real reason for the call is an understatement.  We decided to be good sports about it all, but let our displeasure be known before we took our leave an hour later.

No recordings from today’s ‘towable ride’; but here’s one from when we were in
Martili Cove on Sunday and two of our guys went bumpity, bump, bump on the water.

Saying a curt goodbye, we made our way to Martılı Koy [Seagull Cove].  This time luck was on our side and we found a perfect anchorage for our overnight stay.  That we were there early enough to enjoy the rest of our afternoon in a quiet cove was a bonus.

This is the gull for which the cove is named.

Might not look like that cave is too far above the surface of the water, but it is …
and it requires considerable agility to climb up to it using the rope someone has rigged up.

While Murat and Hakan were swimming, Mui and I went for a zodiac ride, returning in time for happy hour.

Mobile vendors drive from one cove to another with groceries to help boats
reprovision without going ashore.  You can see this one coming from a mile away.

We had another feast for dinner tonight.  I forgot to take photos, but I think I’ve shared enough of them from previous meals that you know there was plenty to sate our appetite.  Hopefully, we’ll all be able to fit in the car for the return trip back to İzmir when we disembark the boat on the 19th ;-).