Turkey – the Aeolian coast.

After leaving Port Alacati in Turkey on Monday 16th July 2018, we passed the Greek island of Khios to port, and then saw a NATO warship patrolling the strait between Greece and Turkey. We were now entering the Aeolian coast as we sailed past Cesme. The wind was in our favour and with main and jib up, we averaged 7 – 8 knots to take us to Foca bay for a 52 nm day. Foca is at the mouth of the Bay of Izmir, but we decided not to sail into Izmir as it is now a huge commercial harbour – also my brothers and I travelled overland from Istanbul to Izmir in 1975 and we didn’t find much of interest on the Anatolian plain, or in Izmir.

Dikili – our last Turkish port of call.

Our next stop was Dikili harbour where we planned to clear out of Turkey, before sailing the 11 nm across to the Greek island of Lesvos. The harbour was chockers, so we tied up next to a number of big fishing vessels at the harbour entrance, requiring an interesting climbing/walking trip over 5 vessels to shore. Tuesdays are the big fresh fruit and vegie market day in Dikili, when the farmers bring their produce to town. Annie was in her element buying fresh produce at a smidgen of Sydney prices. A pain getting this all back on board.

Tied up next to the fishing vessels.

Market.

More market.

Overflowing on the streets.

In the afternoon we set off to find the harbourmaster which is your first stop in clearing out. Dikili not being a tourist town, had very few English speakers, resulting in us crisscrossing town before we eventually tracked his office down. He had decided to take the afternoon off, so his secretary called him on his mobile to ask what to do. His English was passable and he told us to call around at 8am the next morning to process our documents. So we spent the afternoon sightseeing and shopping at Migros for food, wine and beer.

Dikili town square.

Next morning at 8am, we were back at the harbourmaster’s office – his secretary serving us tea until he arrived at 9:10am. From here on, things picked up – he only took 45 minutes to complete all the documentation, before giving us instructions of how to get to customs and the harbour police, who processes passports. This was completed in 15 minutes and then we had to return to the harbourmaster to drop off his stamped copies. He then wished us a speedy return and we took our leave without having to pay a Turkish lira.

This then completed our 8-week cruise from Anamur in the east of Turkey, to Dikili in the north west, during which time we covered 768 nm (1,422 km) and enjoyed the hospitality of the friendly Turkish people, saw some amazing historical sites and made many new friends.

Our Turkish coastal route.

As an aside, I had completed Andrew Mango’s definitive biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which strips away the myth to show the complexities of the man beneath. Ataturk was a man who enjoyed his tipple – when his secretary Hasan Riza Soyak urged him to cut down on his drinking, he replied: “I’ve got to drink, my mind keeps on working hard and fast to the point of suffering. I have to slow down and rest at times. When I don’t drink, I can’t sleep and the distress stupefies me” …… On hearing this, Annie decided to call me Atadurk!

Final chuckle – first the seagull phone, here we have the dolphin phones!

Our next post will start in Lesvos, Greece, from where it will be downwind sailing through the Eastern Sporades and Dodecanese islands – we will catch up in due course.

Turkey – the Ionian coast

First up, apologies for our website going down about three weeks ago. Our hosting company in the USA told me, that some plug-in used on the site, malfunctioned. This could only be fixed by paying a developer on their side AUD 112 to trouble shoot and sort it. Evidently, I need to update plug-ins when alerted to do so. After that came the news that we had a random malware attack on the site, which cost another AUD 584 to clean up and be given a clean bill of health for the site – let’s hope all goes well for the next couple of years!

The concrete coast.

Over the past three months I have spent a lot of time alone in the cockpit while making passages, as Annie spends all her spare hours down below, doing an intensive course in French, to brush up on her school French of many years ago. I would occasionally invite her up on deck to do sail changes or to look at once in a lifetime scenery. There was no need to call her up much, as we left Gumusluk to sail east around the Bodrum peninsula – the reason, as mentioned in our previous post, the “Concrete coast” stretching on for miles.

Entrance to Iassus – the Byzantine tower with the fort on the hill above.

Still, there is a blessing in these developments being limited to about 4-storeys, fragmented into smaller blocks and painted uniformly white. It did get a bit boring though, so we took a shortcut across the Gulf of Korfezi, to anchor in the ancient harbour of Iassus, which is entered though a narrow passage between the ruins of a Byzantine tower and a sunken breakwater. We were welcomed by two German yachts who invited us over for drinks. They had sailed from Germany via the Black Sea to visit this site, their furthest point south.

The harbour entrance tower from the hill.

Iassus was colonised from about 900BC around this harbour and has remains of the Agora, theatre and houses on the hill on the eastern side. The substantial fort on top of the hill was built by the Knights of St John, during the Crusades. We were able to explore this magnificent site the next morning, the only people about, marvelling at intricate floor mosaics, more than 2,000 years old and still in good condition – we wondered which type of tile adhesive they used! Some of the wall murals still intact. The site is enchanting.

The fort built by the knights – note the recycling of materials.

Floor mosaics.

View down to Iassus village and anchorage.

From here we motored through numerous marine (fish) farms, directly to Altinkum on the north side of the gulf, to get into the lee of the land and out of the Meltemi. This proved to be a bad choice, as the locals had decided to challenge Bodrum for supremacy in the doof-doof music stakes – until 4 o’clock in the morning. The mosquitos in town couldn’t handle the noise and decided to fly out to sea and seek refuge on Esprit!

Fish farms.

Bleary eyed, we left Altinkum after an early walk ashore, to tie up at the Didim marina, a mile to the west. We had to make this stop as the Turkish “Mavi” or blue card requires us to have our two black water holding tanks pumped out and logged, once a month – or face a huge fine. Good on them for their effort at minimising waste pump outs in their beautiful anchorages. We can only hope the day tripper boats and gulets with their hundreds of punters on board, does the right thing. We also filled up with water and diesel.

Cheerio Altinkum.

An early night in a secluded bay at Cukurcuk with one other yacht followed – with no music or mozzies.

More fish farms.

Going north from here to the narrow strait between Turkey and the Greek island of Samos, there are dozens of fish farms to navigate, until you reach the small anchorage of St Nikolas, 21 miles to the north. This little anchorage presented us with the worst challenge in anchoring since we left Sydney. After 11 attempts, the anchor eventually bit in a sandy patch between the luxurious seaweed on the bottom. All of this accompanied by loud outdoor voices – thankfully, there were no other yachts in the anchorage. Although only midday, this necessitated a few calming Efes beers, as soon as the GPS confirmed we were stationary.

St. Nikolas anchorage.

The next morning, we motored through the Samos strait, slightly less than a mile at the narrowest part – the closest Turkey and Greece get to each other. We took the shortest route to Setur marina in Kusadasi harbour, as this west facing bay is in the teeth of the prevailing westerly Meltemi and there are no other anchorages between the strait and Kusadasi. We took the bikes out and cycled through Kusadasi, which is a quaint town, focussed on tourism. The old caravansari and the castle in the harbour were really worth the visit.

The Samos strait.

Entering Kusadasi.

Kusadasi town – colourful housing.

Visiting the castle.

It also gave us the chance to take a taxi early the next morning to Ephesus, about 18km inland. Ephesus is home to some of the most impressive ruins in Turkey. Originally occupied by the Lydians, until the Ionians arrived in 1,000BC. Ephesus survived Alexander the Great’s conquest and later as the Roman capital of the province of Asia, entered its greatest period of prosperity. It was sacked and destroyed by the Goths in AD 263. The site today is impressive – you can walk down the marble streets and see the ruins of the theatre, agora, library, odeon, stadium, gymnasium and even the brothel, the bones of the ancient city laid bare. It takes little to visualise what life was like here. After a two-hour walkabout, the taxi took us back to town.

Entrance to Ephesus.

The Great theatre could seat nearly 24,000 people.

Inside the theatre.

The Curetes street.

Temple of Hadrian.

The Celsius library.

Celsius library detail.

Gate of Mazeus to the Agora.

Vicinity of the State Altar.

The Nike of Ephesus.

Inside the hillside houses – marble wall cladding.

Frescoes on the higher walls.

Seeing that it was still mid-morning, Annie decided decided on some retail therapy. She noticed that ladies clothing and swimsuits were very well priced compared to Sydney. Turkish ladies also have fuller figures and therefore she could buy bikinis for gals, with more than a handful. I managed to buy a 665 page English biography on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the much revered father of the modern Turkish Republic. Afterwards, we set sail for Cam Limani and had a robust 14-mile sail in a building north easterly, to anchor in a small bay.

Kusadasi marina.

One of the new bikinis.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The good sailing continued the next morning until we rounded the Doganbey Cape to set course for Teos Limani, when a 25 knot northerly hit us. After tucking in two reefs in the main and furling the jib to 50%, we were still overpowered. With only the reefed main, we managed to motor sail into an increasing swell to reach Teos anchorage at around midday. The anchor bit well the third time in sandy patch and we enjoyed lunch and a beer watching the board sailors screaming past us in the pumping northerly.

Strong wind sailing.

Fun, fun, fun – longing back to those days at Big Bay in the 80’s.

The plan was to sail around the Teos peninsula to Sigacik to visit the old walled town, but the wind was still gusting 25 knots the following morning. We were confident that the anchor had bitten well in the sandy patch amongst the seagrass, so we went ashore and walked across the peninsula through the remains of ancient Teos. It was a pleasant 3km walk through ancient olive trees and citrus orchards, and it took 40 minutes to reach Sigacik. After walking through the walled town, we had brunch and coffee at a bakery, before walking back along the 3km dirt road. The dinghy and boat were still there. We slept well that night.

Inside Sigacik walled town.

Another pretty street.

The weather forecast indicated two more days of a strong Meltemi, so we upped anchor and had an exhilarating sail in 25 knots of wind on the beam, with only the jib up to reach the lee shore of Kirkdilim bay. Beautiful clear water with not a soul in sight – but unfortunately a swarm of bees came to visit us at sunset. Annie tried some earlier advice and burned ground coffee, which, together with my frantic swatting, drove them away. The following day’s sail to Port Alacati was a replay of the previous day, minus the bees. We sailed out of the Ionian coast area when we passed Cesme the next day to enter the Aeolian coast.

We will report on the Aeolian coast in our next post. Cheers for now!

Turkey – the Carian coast

Having dropped Karen off in Sarsala Bay to catch a taxi to Dalaman airport for her flight to Istanbul, we set sail for Marmaris. Or so we thought – the westerlies had started kicking in, resulting in the wind on the nose, a confused sea and much motoring to make headway. The first night we found shelter at the jetty in Asi Koyu, where we enjoyed dinner at the restaurant, in return for the tie up at their bouncing, floating jetty.

Carian coast.

This time around, we decided not to visit the ruins of ancient Caunos and their rock tombs on the Dalyan river again, because like Machu Picchu in Peru, the tourist numbers have skyrocketed. Across, in the bay of Ekincik we found a beautiful anchorage in Semizce cove, before motoring into Marmaris the following day. We would spend a week in Marmaris, the first four days at the Marmaris Yacht Marina, with its 600 berths and 1,000 dry berths. A well run marina with all the facilities and reasonably priced. We had a lot to do.

Marmaris Yacht marina.

Our original three-year-old anchor chain, had come to the end of its useful life. It had been re-galvanised twice, in Darwin and in India, but was again badly rusted and worn. We purchased 80m of 10mm short link galvanised chain at a very reasonable price (by Sydney standards). Also on the shopping list, was a 6.5l engine oil draining vacuum pump for our periodic engine services and an industrial type pop riveter. After five broken pop riveters in my lifetime, it seemed the sensible thing to buy. The other items required were two stern reels with 50m webbing for the med style mooring here – no more tying halyards and lines together!

The name is Blond – James Blond, correction – James Grey.

Stern webbing reel.

Webbing reel in action.

Lucky for us, we could refill the gas bottles, but we will probably have to dump them when we get to the EU countries, as they don’t refill the Aussie bottles. We also found a sailmaker to sew new Sunbrella edging fabric to leech and foot of the jib sail– he also reinforced the spray dodger which showed signs of wear. I rust treated the anchor and painted it with cold galvanising, as the nearest galvanisers were in Istanbul. Then there was the usual replenishing of water, diesel, petrol, wine, beer and food. In between, we spent time at the pool, at the bar and walking around Marmaris old town, still recognisable, but much modernised.

Marmaris harbour – the castle and old town on the hill.

The old town mostly unchanged.

The bazaar area now paved with sculptures.

New paving and landscaping.

Social media has a lot to answer for – Sunday the 24th June 2018 was election day for 56 million eligible voters in Turkey, for a new government and president. As a result of misinformation, many sailors left for Cyprus and Greece to be away from this perceived catastrophe. Everything went without drama and we spent the day at the library and later, having a few drinks with friends. The Turks were mostly non plussed.

Byzantine church ruins above Gerbekse Cove.

From Marmaris sailing west, we will be on the Carian coast. We anchored at Gerbekse Cove, Bozuk Buku and Bozburun over the following three days, as we wanted to re-visit these anchorages to climb some hills for exercise and visit their Byzantine ruins. Bozburun is the heart of the timber boat building industry where most of their traditional gulets are built. Five years ago, while sailing with Dave Bruce, we visited a huge shed here where some Russian oligarch was having a 100m long timber gulet built. We didn’t call again, as security was tight – maybe the oligarch was now spending time in Siberia as one of Vlad Putin’s guests.

The massive uncompleted fortification at the entrance to Bozuk Buku.

The view down from the fortification.

Huge stone blocks, perfectly hewn and placed.

A refreshing beer after the climb up and down.

Anchored off Bozburun town.

Anchoring in Selimiye, we caught up with Soul again and had a great dinner with them on Esprit. Selimiye is a pretty town offering walks along the shore with waterside cafes and shops. The next day we anchored in Keci Buku where the dedicated rock-hounds on Soul and Esprit climbed up to the fort on the island for sundowners – leaving the climb down not too late, as the climb down was as difficult as the one going up.

Selimiye beachfront.

Cozy cafes along the beachfront.

Colourful bougainvillea on the streets.

For the Vespa enthusiasts.

Keci Buku – the fort on the island.

Sundowners with the Mason’s at the top.

View of Keci Buku from the top – note the people walking out on the sandbar.

Our next stop was Datcha which has retained much of its charm despite the substantial growth of this beautiful town. Annie had to buy more data for her SIM card in town and I did shopping for fresh vegies and other provisions at the Migros supermarket. The sail from Datcha to Knidos was quite lively in a strong westerly. The anchorage in the ancient harbour of Knidos was crowded but we found a spot and explored this ancient city early the next morning. Knidos was one of the six cities of the Dorian Confederacy.

Anchored in Datcha.

Fish statue in Datcha – hard to resist for our fishing enthusiast.

The town was famous for the statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles one of the great Greek sculptors. In the 4th century BC, the statue was one of the first of a naked woman, only male statues having been naked until this time. The sexy Aphrodite was believed to bring good fortune to seafarers. Although the ruins of the city are overgrown, it is easy to pick out the skeleton of the city in this grand setting. We set sail after our hour walk around the site and had a fast sail past the Greek island of Kos to Aspat Koyu, 5 miles west of Bodrum.

View over part of Knidos to the harbour.

The theatre.

Clay amphora for grain storage.

Amazing detail on these lintels.

Even more amazing.

Although Bodrum is quite a lovely but very busy town, the reason we gave Bodrum a miss was the memory of 5 years ago when we sailed out of there with Dave Bruce. To quote Rod Heikell from his Turkish Pilot: “Several discos assail the night air with the latest dance music to keep the novice sailors happy into the late evening. In the height of summer, bars and clubs around the harbour compete for ascendancy in decibels and the incessant beats, reminiscent of a cardiac monitor in overdrive, can go on into the small hours.”

The start of the Meltemi season appeared earlier this year and we had a night of 20-25 knot winds in Aspat Koyu, requiring constant checks of the anchor during the night. An early start the next morning in lighter winds got us to Gumusluk, which is a more sheltered bay and very quaint with its village on the shore. Thanks to strict planning laws, little has changed here for 20 years. Despite the intense housing developments to the north and south, which had earned itself the moniker of the “Concrete coast”. Lots of opportunities for exercising here, with walks up to the ancient ruins of Myndus and the lookout at the top of the hill.

View of Gumusluk bay from the hill.

Gumusluk waterfront restaurants.

Gumusluk village.

Lively restaurants at night.

Here you can keep your feet cool.

The wines of Myndus were said by Athenaeus to be salty in taste because they were mixed with salt water, a practice believed to eliminate hangovers and aid digestion. Others have said it was mixed with salt water because the wine was so bad. The local wines we had at the restaurants here, were in fact most palatable. Gumusluk also has an excellent bakery where we bought delicious spinach and feta pies, baklavas and rice puddings after our walks. After waiting for two days for the winds to subside, we set forth to round the Bodrum peninsula, leave the Carian coast behind and enter the Ionian coast. Our aim was to explore the coast going north to Kusadasi harbour and then visit Ephesus, site of the most impressive ruins in Turkey.

Next to us in Gumusluk: “Young men who sail” – who said 22ft is to small to sail from Australia? Half the length of Esprit.

We will report on the Ionian coast in our next post, around the end of July. Cheers for now!

Turkey – the Lycian coast

The Lycian coast.

Our stop in Kemer was very brief, as this was holiday central for Russians. Friendly, robust and loud people enjoying their new found freedom on jet skis and pirate boats with very loud doof music. We anchored a few miles further west at Phaselis, a picturesque site which was founded in 690BC by colonists from Rhodes. It quickly grew into a prosperous trading city under Roman jurisdiction with many structures remaining. Phaselis is thankfully a preserved site, in contrast with the lack of grace and balance of the walls of reinforced concrete hotels along the rest of the coast. The next morning, we explored the ruins in the town.

Phaselis – aqueduct.

Phaselis – theatre.

Phaselis – main street, all quiet now.

Finike harbour 42 miles to the west was our next stop, where we anchored outside the marina. We had a midnight visit from the Coast Guard who wanted to inspect our documentation – all very courteous. The girls went shopping for provisions in Finike the next morning, while I topped up our diesel tank with 80l of diesel from our jerry cans. Late morning, we motored west to enter the Kekova Roads, a lovely sheltered and indented coastal area behind Kekova Adasi, a four-mile-long island. We anchored at Kale Koy, where a magnificent castle is situated on a steep ridge behind the hamlet below. A fabulous place to explore.

Approaching Kale Koy.

Climbing to the top of the castle – a small theatre inside the walls.

View of the village through the castle wall.

View from the flagstaff at the top.

Lycian sarcophagus near the castle – the hills are littered with these sarcophagi where the dead were interned.

Esprit tied up at the Likya cafe down in the village.

The village.

We then motor sailed to Bayindir Limani, a bay opposite the town of Kas, where we had dinner at the La Moda restaurant. The owner, a friendly and soft spoken retired investment banker from Zurich. We detoured past the harbour of Kastellorizon, a Greek island barely 2 miles off the coast of Turkey. We planned to enter Kas harbour the following morning, but found it packed with tourist tripper boats and gulets. The girls wanted to visit Kas town, so we motored around a peninsula which took us to Kas marina, where there is an anchorage close to town. The girls went sightseeing and shopping, while I started this post on board.

La Moda restaurant.

Kastellorizon harbour.

Kastellorizon town.

Our journey continued west to overnight in Kalkan, have lunch the following day at Butterfly Bay and med mooring at Olu Deniz the night after. Olu Deniz is at the foot of the high Taurus mountains, providing an ideal high altitude launching pad for paragliding enthusiasts, with dozens of parachutes floating down to the beach from early morning to sunset. At night the beach throbs to the moronic beat of popular dance music from the numerous discos and bars – not really the yachties’ scene.

Butterfly Bay.

Julia enjoying the water.

The island of Gemiler Adasi was our last stop before Fethiye. On the slopes of Gemiler Adasi are the extensive ruins of what must have been a sizable Byzantine community and it is interesting to wander around the remains. Part of the island connecting it to the mainland, sank 20m below the sea after an earthquake. There are the remains of no less than four Byzantine churches. Evidently St Nicholas (Santa Claus) visited or stayed on the island.

Background information.

Partially collapsed tunnel connecting two of the churches.

Small theatre at the top.

The girls with the mainland behind.

Darby & Joan at the top.

In Fethiye, we tied up at the Classic Yacht Hotel marina, so that Michelle and Julia could catch their respective flights to Istanbul and London. In Istanbul Michelle would catch a train to Bulgaria, where she would meet up with Karen at the “Meadows in the Mountains” festival. We enjoyed dinner at the hotel with live music provided by a chap on guitar, playing Spanish and Brazilian music faultlessly.

Dinner at the marina.

Annie and I then had a leisurely exploration of the large bay north-west of Fethiye, anchoring in five different bays over five nights, before tying up at the Skopea Marina in Gocek. Gocek is still as pretty as always, but the growth in the number of tourist boats and yachts, have resulted in no less than six packed marinas in this relatively small bay. This has resulted in strict pollution controls on boats, to preserve water quality.

Skopea marina in Gocek.

Gocek town.

Before tourism, Gocek’s mainstay was chromium mining and agriculture – Ataturk in the centre.

32 years ago, in 1986, we chartered a yacht in Rhodes with six friends, to explore the Turkish coast and sailed west to Kusadasi and then east as far as Fethiye. In subsequent sailings, we haven’t sailed further than Gocek, six miles west of Fethiye. This time, we were pleased to have explored the coast further to the east. The changes in this area over time have been remarkable – sometimes not for the better, but generally resulting in better infrastructure and employment for the locals in their vast tourist industry.

Annie & Karen hiking up a mountain.

Destination: Some Lycian rock tombs.

Karen arrived from Bulgaria on the 12th June to spend a week with us on Esprit, while we cruise to Marmaris. Having the girls join us from time to time has been most rewarding, as we have been able to learn of their pursuits in more detail than we ever did in Sydney. For the week she spent with us, we visited numerous bays in the Gulf of Gocek, before she caught a taxi to Dalaman airport to fly to Istanbul for w few days and from there to the Greek island of Corfu.

Esprit anchored med style to the shore.

Another beautiful bay where we tied up at a restaurant jetty.

The friendly restaurant owner who couldn’t do enough for Karen.

An old farmhouse – the people must have been small.

Migros and Carrefour have supermarket boats visiting the anchorages!

More exercise – another bay.

The last stop before Marmaris.

On reaching Marmaris, we came to the end of the Lycian coast. We will spend a few days at the Marmaris Yacht Marina, to do some work on the boat, stock up with food and wine and catch up with Darryl, Mike and Sarah who are also in the marina. Our next post will take you from Marmaris, further west. Cheers for now!

Turkey – the Pamphylian and Cilician coasts.

Note: The Turkish Waters Pilot uses the ancient titles for the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, rather than the modern ones such as the Blue, Turquoise, Emerald coasts etc. We will use the ancient.

After checking out at Latchi harbour in Cyprus, we did a short 10-mile sail to Pomos fishing harbour in north-western Cyprus, to reduce the next day’s sailing distance to Turkey to 53 miles. We had a pleasant dinner at a restaurant overlooking Pomos harbour.

Pomos harbour.

Pamphylia and Cilicia.

The conditions for the crossing to Turkey were perfect, with a flat sea and starting with an easterly wind, which by midday had swung 180 degrees to a westerly – both on beam reaches. We anchored off Cape Anamur in Turkey at 4:30 pm and had a swim in crystal clear water before sundowners. At 7 am the next morning, we motored 6 nm to the east to anchor at Anamur Kalesi, to visit the castle of Mamure Kalesi. It was built in the 12th century and is one of the best preserved castles on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

Sailing to Turkey.

Old castle on the left, the main section was restored by the Ottomans.

The landward side has a moat and drawbridge.

View inside the restored castle, from the old castle.

Old castle and old man, both falling apart.

An hour was enough to explore the castle, before we motored back to Cape Anamur to visit the ruins of ancient Anemurium, founded by the Phoenicians in the 4th century BC. It reached its heyday in the 1st to 4th century AD during Roman times. In 580AD an earthquake damaged the aqueduct and many buildings. Still, it is amazing to walk around the baths, the theatre, the remaining houses and a large necropolis for the inhabitants.

Soul motoring to Cape Anamur.

Anemurium information.

Sarah, Mike and Annie ready to start the long hike.

The theatre – Mike taking a bow after addressing his friends and fellow Romans.

Audience of one.

Sarah and Annie in the tunnels below the theatre.

The aqueduct.

The baths.

Inside the baths.

Fortifications on the hill.

A lot of the buildings were clad in limestone – some of the remnants.

Finally, the cemetery – a grand affair.

We set sail in the afternoon and anchored at Yakacik (ancient Charadus), about 20 miles to the west before motor sailing to Alanya to tie up in Alanya marina the following day. The checking into Turkey through an agent went smoothly, albeit expensively. Turkish transit log cost AUD 155, visa for Australian passport AUD 75, visa for UK passport AUD 25. It gave us the opportunity to wash the boat down, after a dust storm from Syria hit us on the way. We bought local SIM cards and Annie went to have a filling repaired at a local dentist. The marina chandler had passerelles (gangplanks), so we invested in a 2m folding model for local use.

The new gangplank.

Alanya – these guys take their pirate history to the limit.

After two nights we headed west and anchored off Side in a bay between the old town and the modern tourist strip. An early morning walk through this charming old town showed its various stages of settlement, from the early days when this strip of coast to Alanya was a pirate stronghold, until the Romans drove them out and settled here. There are remains of the Temple of Apollo, Roman baths, Theatre, Aqueduct and Agora. Also Byzantine structures like churches etc. All in all, a town worth visiting – can’t get enough of old stones.

Plan of Side.

Temple of Apollo.

The Agora with the theatre in the background.

A house in the old town.

Traffic free street in the old town.

Very sensible – new shopping development with glass paving to show the history below foot.

Dinner at the Cuba bar.

Mehmet the owner married a Cuban lady – we promised we will visit them in Havana.

Our next stop was Antalya, where we tied up in the fishing harbour on Monday the 28th May – just in time for Michelle and her Kiwi cousin Julia, to fly in and hop on board to join us for 10 days of cruising. Or so we thought – they only arrived the following day! We got the date wrong, but it gave us the chance to explore the beautiful old town of Antalya and watch the tourists coming down to visit the quaint little harbour.

40 m high waterfall of the Demer river, just before Antalya.

Approaching Antalya harbour.

View of the harbour from the old town.

View of the harbour from Esprit

The old town.

We are not through with the pirates yet!

Hello, is this the Society for the preservation of Seagulls’ dignity?

Once the girls were on board, we set sail the following day for the Lycian Coast to anchor in the bay south of Kemer Marina.

More in the next post, until then, cheers for now!

Cyprus – Coast.

Esprit’s Cyprus coastal route.

Before we realised it, twelve days had passed in Larnaca marina – at the very reasonable cost of 13m x E0.60 = Euro 7.80/day, which equates to AUD 12.48/day. Having done all the sightseeing inland, jobs on the boat and cleaning, we set off again on Monday the 7th May, motor sailing to Limassol, 38nm to the west. We anchored outside the marina, which is very modern and expensive and out of the wind. The next day was spent exploring the marina and the surrounding city area, before motoring 4 miles to Ladies’ Mile Beach.

Limassol, approaching the marina.

Limassol marina houses.

Limassol marina boats – check the scale of the guy washing the decks.

Black boat: “You may be bigger than me, but I have bigger Mickey Mouse ears!”

Sign in a Limassol supermarket – fortunately, I found a youngster to buy me some Retsina.

Let’s dance!

Next day, sailing around the aptly named, Cape Aspro.

The following day we sailed around the Akrotiri Peninsula to anchor in Pissouri Bay, taking shelter from the strong westerly wind. It should be noted that the prevailing wind on the south coast of Cyprus, is a westerly wind, which starts at about 10am and builds up to 25 knots in the afternoon, before dying down again in the evening – leaving an uncomfortable swell in unsheltered anchorages. The coastline is dotted with windfarms of dozens of wind turbines, providing clean energy. Our next stop was to be Coral Bay, but one look at all the Jet skis and tourist boats with blaring music, had us hot footing it to Lara Bay – quiet and undeveloped.

Pissouri Bay

The reason we left Coral Bay.

Esprit anchored in Lara Bay north.

Lara Bay north – turtles come here to lay their eggs to hatch.

Lara Bay south – Van Gogh could have painted this scene.

We motored the 8 miles from Lara Bay to Cape Arnauti, the the north western tip of Cyprus, before anchoring 3 miles down the east coast of the peninsula, at Aphrodite’s Beach (According to legend, Aphrodite comes from this area). Our anchorage opposite Ttakkas’ restaurant was in crystal clear water, on sand, 1.5m under the keel. The fold up bikes were taken ashore and we cycled into Latchi town, about 5 km away, over an undulating landscape of olive trees and wheat fields. Latchi is quite a pretty town, built around the harbour.

Aphrodite Beach – Ttakkas’ restaurant.

The beach in front of Ttakkas.

On the Sunday, we cycled to the 300-year-old village of Neo Chorio, pushing the bikes up the steep hills for the last kilometre, before enjoying fresh pomegranate juice and baklava at an elderly lady’s small taverna. The ride down was quick, so we pushed on to Aphrodite’s pool to look at where the goddess reputedly bathed. Arriving back at Ttakkas’ restaurant we sank a few refreshing Keo beers, before going for a swim.

Stopping for a welcome drink, going up the mountain.

300 year old Neo Chorio mountain village.

Annie inspecting the menu at the Taverna where we stopped for refreshments.

View from Neo Chorio down to Latchi town and harbour.

Arriving at Aphrodite’s bath.

Me and my Aphrodisiac at Aphrodite’s Bath.

Ttakkas’ Sunday special lunch of lamb Kleftiko, which he starts at 6am with lamb cuts and potatoes on top of green Carob branches, bakes in a sealed clay oven for six hours. At 12:30 the Kleftiko oven was opened and we sat down for lunch with Mike and Sarah, who arrived on Soul that morning. The food, wine and company was excellent. After the very smooth house red wine, we had a Nanna nap in the afternoon.

Ttakkas’ uncle plastering the oven closed.

Ttakkas opening the oven 6.5 hours later.

Inside the oven -yum!

Lamb Kleftiko with Mike and Sarah.

View from our lunch table to Esprit and Soul.

Tuesday the 15th of May was a milestone for us – it marked two years since we set sail from Sydney and when I threw away my $7.95 Aldi Limited Edition watch. During this time, we have covered 16,739 nm (31,000 km) by sea, via Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt and Cyprus. It has been a wonderful experience for us, meeting the local people in the countries we have visited, as well as sailors from all corners of the world. Health providing and with no grandchildren on the horizon, we estimate our circumnavigation of the world, will keep us busy for the next five years, maybe more. A great transition from work, to eventually chillaxing in retirement.

Latchi harbour approach.

Latchi on the north-west coast was our next stop. Panos, the harbourmaster at Latchi harbour, allocated us a berth at 9 Euro/day, including water and electricity, for 5 days – an absolute bargain, in a lovely harbour/marina. A coastal cycle/walkway leads to Polis town, a couple of kilometres away, where we shopped at the local Papantoniou supermarket. We cycled back with the bikes laden with wine, vegies and believe it or not, some excellent “boerewors” from the butcher, who once worked in South Africa.

Our marina berth with Mario’s furniture to relax on.

Dramatic cloud build up over Latchi every afternoon.

Our neighbours on the marina, Malcolm and Ann from Oxford, came around for drinks and we made a good impact on our white wine collection. Mario the other neighbour, lives on board and has an outdoor patio setting and an excellent collection of 60’s and 70’s hard rock music. The next morning after her morning walk, Annie cycled to Polis again for a haircut, while I dismantled Esprit’s winches to clean the gears in diesel, from the dust from the Red Sea and lubricate them. Quite a messy job and tricky to re-assemble.

Cycling to Polis – old farm buildings next to the road.

Cycling to Polis – prickly pears next to the road.

Sampling the prickly pears.

Polis church.

The winch stripped bare.

Right, all clean, now let’s put this together again – repeat this 4 times!

We have now almost spent a month in Cyprus and would be happy to spend another month here. But Turkey beckons – so on Monday the 21st May we will set sail for the Turkish coast – only 55 nm away.

Until later.

 

Cyprus – inland.

After our second Suez Canal pilot Alec, was picked up by a pilot boat at 6pm on Monday the 23rd April, we set sail from Port Said for Cyprus, 225 nm to the north-east. The conditions were as good as was predicted, with a light 10-15knot wind allowing us to close reach on a rhumb line course to Cyprus. By 2am on Wednesday the 25th we spotted the loom of the lights of Limassol on the south coast of the island.

Map of Cyprus.

At 9am we made contact with the marina in Larnaca, where we had booked a berth and after a 40-hour transit, we were tied up to a berth at 10am. Soul arrived shortly afterwards and was allocated a berth, directly opposite us on the B-finger. We checked in with the friendly marina staff, then customs and finally the marina police, who handled the immigration formalities. All friendly and efficient and very European. We then went to buy SIM cards for our mobiles with sufficient data for our internet and email use.

Larnaca marina.

The afternoon was spent catching up with sleep, before we hit the town with Mike and Sarah for a fantastic dinner of Cypriot food and wine. The following day was spent cleaning our respective boats inside and out of the layers of desert dust. Next thing, the bikes were taken out and we set off first up, to the tourist information office where a friendly lady supplied us with maps and information about the Republic of Cyprus.

Restored warehouses outside the marina.

Cyprus is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean and a member of the European Union. It is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, north of Egypt and east of Greece. It is roughly 213 km east to west and 126 km north to south. The Republic of Cyprus is partitioned into two main parts; the area to the south, comprising about 60% of the island’s area, under control of the Republic, and the north, administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Cyprus, after the occupation by Turkish forces in 1974. The occupation is viewed as illegal under international law and is recognised only by Turkey.

Old stone buildings in Larnaca.

For us wine lovers, it was good news to find out that the wine history of Cyprus has been alive and ongoing for something like 6,000 years. There are 41 modern wineries presently on the island which produce not only the well-known French white wine varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, but also indigenous Cyprus varieties like Xynisteri, Mavro, Spourtiko and Ofthalmo.

Very old Greek orthodox church just outside Larnaca.

Best of all, these Cypriot wines sell from AUD5.50 to around AUD10.50 for good quality blends in the supermarkets and you aren’t made to feel like a criminal buying wine and beer, as you did in India and the North African countries we passed through. Supermarkets are well stocked, prices are reasonable and the people are friendly and fashionably dressed. There are also a number of yacht chandleries where we could buy the required Navionics SD cards for the Med, cruising guides and all manner of yacht fittings.

Inside the very old church.

We decided Cyprus was definitely worth a 3-4-week visit, inland and cruising along the coast. The 28th April came around, as did my 71st birthday. Annie treated me to a new pair of Ecco shoes and we celebrated suitably with a BBQ on board Esprit with Mike and Sarah. Annie had bought some Cypriot meat dishes with baked potatoes and salads and desserts. Over dinner with bottles of wine, we all agreed that our present lifestyle should continue for as long as our health continues. We do indeed feel fortunate about the present.

Beautiful stone masonry in the old church.

A rental car for three days, shared with Mike and Sarah, allowed us to explore the mountains and wine regions. The first day we headed west along the coast to Zygi and then inland between Larnaca and Limassol to the mountain village of Lefkara, famous for its lace and silver smithing.  We explored the narrow streets and shops and had lunch at a taverna, before driving back to Larnaca. The second day we went east to Agio Napa and Cape Gkreko, an area on the east coast popular with Russian and British tourists, packed with hotels and holiday apartments. You could be in any generic tourist destination in the world – not for us.

Approaching Lefkara.

Lunch with Mike and Sarah.

Lefkara street scene.

Agio Napa beach.

The third day we headed west to Limassol where we had to pick up pilot books at a chandlery and some other yacht spares. Then we headed north into the mountains and wine producing areas, tasting wines at the cellar door and buying some indigenous varieties. We had lunch in Omodos, a beautiful mountain village where we explored the narrow streets and visited the monastery. We turned back after visiting Mount Olympos, the highest mountain in Cyprus and popular for snow skiing, before driving back to Larnaca.

Highway to Limassol – colourful Oleander on the verges.

Chapel on the harbour.

Baby girl to be christened in the chapel.

Walking street in Nicosia.

View from our lunch table in Nicosia.

Whilst we had the car, we did a major shop at the local hypermarket, stocking up with local and imported products, wine and beer. The local retsina wines which Annie and I enjoy, sells for about AUD 1.80 per 500ml, so we stocked up! I took the opportunity to borrow Mike’s oil sucking vacuum device, to drain the oil from Esprit’s 54 hp Yanmar, replace the oil and fuel filters and fill up with 5.5 l of fresh oil. While on a roll, I drained and replaced the oil on the 5 hp Mercury outboard and replaced the worn sacrificial anode.

Omodos village.

The monastery in Omodos.

Gents from the monastery.

Street scene Omodos.

Another street scene in Omodos.

Annie on top of Mount Olympos.

Tomorrow we set sail for Limassol. We plan to spend a week to 10 days exploring the south and west coast of Cyprus, before checking out at Pafos and sailing to Turkey.

We will tell you all about the coast in our next post. Cheers for now.

Gulf of Suez, the Pyramids and the Suez Canal.

Be careful of the reefs – a wrecked German yacht near Port Ghalib.

We departed Port Ghalib after checking out at 4:30 pm, on Thursday 5th April, in the company of Darryl Laurin from Canada, on “Vimy”, a Beneteau First 47.7 which he has sailed around the world singlehandedly.

Vimy – Beneteau First 47.7

As you sail north in the Red sea to Suez, particularly in the Gulf of Suez, the prevailing north westerly winds blows continuously against you at up to 30 knots, for days on end. This results in long waits for sailors, for the right weather window to sail north. The various forecasting models, six of which we use, predicted a four-day window of light north westerlies starting that evening, hence the sunset departure.

The Gulf of Suez is littered with oil and gas rigs.

Well, as experienced many times before, these models all proved inaccurate, because as we headed out of Port Ghalib, the wind picked up to 20 knots – straight on the nose. This resulted in a bone jarring all-nighter of choppy 2m swells, which we tried to motor sail into obliquely with waves breaking over the boat, crawling along at 2 to 4 knots. So jarring in fact, that one of the ceiling panels in the saloon dropped down! 11:30 am the next morning the wind and the swell decreased, allowing us to sail.

Ceiling drop down – took hours to re-assemble the switches!

It was a relief to sail into Marsa Abu Makhadiq at 5:30 pm. Having only covered 119 nm in 25 hours. We had a good night’s sleep, setting sail again at 5:30 the next morning to take advantage of the lighter winds. A difficult day’s sailing is usually followed by a good day, so we were able to sail across the entrance to the Gulf of Suez in a 16-18 knot wind averaging 7 – 9 knots SOG. The coast of Africa was left behind and we were able to cross the busy shipping lanes between ships, heading for the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Marsa Abu Makhadiq.

Goodbye Africa.

A brisk sail.

After 40 miles, as we approached the Sinai coast, the wind petered out, so we started the cast iron genoa to make as much northing as possible, before the next N-W buster was predicted to come through at midnight. This got us as far as port El Tor just after sunset, having covered 87 nm. This time the predictions were correct and at midnight the wind started howling, putting strain on our ground tackle. We were surprised to find “Salima 2” a Bavaria 36 at anchor, with an elderly French couple (read, older than me) on board, who have sailed around the world. We first met them in Darwin and have caught up in different ports along the way.

Salima 2 in El Tor.

Port Ghalib to Suez.

Sunday was spent relaxing, servicing the anchor winch, tightening the jib furler and other maintenance items while the wind continued blowing. On the beach was a hotel with water sport equipment and the board sailors were flying past us. We had internet via our phones, so were able to catch up with emails. Also made some calls via satphone to the rellies. The wind pumped continuously through Monday and Tuesday, but on Tuesday after lunch with Darryl at the Moses Bay Hotel, we walked into town to buy fresh produce and provisions. It was a long walk, but we found more or less what we needed in small shops and markets.

Remember when we were addicted to this?

Le Tor shopping precinct.

On Wednesday we bit the bullet and motor sailed across the shipping lanes in an 18 knot NW to Ras Gharib, where spent the night in a very rolly anchorage, hardly able to sleep. The next day, we zig-zagged back to Sinai to anchor at Ras Malab, 60nm up the coast. Here we had Egyptian soldiers with AK47’s inspecting our documents and passports, photographing everything, as evidently, this was a military post!

Approaching Ras Malab.

Just as well Karen & Michelle caught a bus to Cairo in Luxor, as they would have been a week late for their flight to South Africa by now. They were being spoilt in Cape Town by their godmothers and friends. The Adelbert’s lent them a car to drive up the Garden Route and visit the Afrikaburn festival.

Karen & Michelle in Cape Town.

Vimy in the meantime had developed electrical problems – it appears either the alternator or voltage regulator had packed up. So with his batteries running down, Darryl had to manually steer his boat, hoist the anchor by hand and had no instruments or VHF. We escorted him to Suez, where he hoped to get it sorted. Finally, on Friday the 13th April, the wind died and we motored the last 48 nm to Suez city over flat seas. We were by now over the dust sifting down, and the wind coating the boat in a crust of salt and dust.

Vimy ahead of us.

Port control gave us permission to motor to the Suez Sailing and Rowing Club, despite the southbound convoy coming down the canal, with the first ships already exiting the canal. It was intimidating squeezing past these behemoths with barely 60m to spare in the channel. We were met at the yacht club by Karkar, the offsider of Captain Heebi of Prince of the Red Sea, shipping agents. He deftly tied us to a buoy and pulled Esprit’s stern to the small jetty and tied us up. Soon after, the larger than life Captain Heebi appeared and relieved us of USD500 for Suez Canal dues, port clearance, agent’s fees and 160l of diesel, which was promptly delivered the same evening.

The Suez mosque next to the canal.

On Vimy, Darryl cracks open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate our arrival in Suez.

Captain Heebi also arranged a minibus to drive us into Cairo to see the pyramids on the Monday for USD70 per person including entrance fees and lunch. The Saturday was spent cleaning the boat with fresh water whilst being inspected in turn by Customs, Immigration, The Canal Authority and the Army at 8pm! The Canal Authority makes quite a meal of measuring your boat to determine the fees due, to transit the 162 km long canal. Ours was calculated at USD200, which didn’t seem much, when we were told the big Maersk container vessels pay between USD500,000 to 800,000 to transit the canal. Good revenue earner for the Egyptian nation.

The rundown Suez yacht club.

Karkar and Captain Heebi.

Esprit and Soul tied up to the jetty next to the canal.

After coffee Sunday morning on Soul, we walked a kilometre to the nearest supermarket which was very modern, having opened in January. Surprisingly, the supermarket and two others, are ventures of the Egyptian 3rd Army. The shop assistants are all national servicemen/women doing their one-year military service after college! The manager (commanding officer) delegated Abu, who spoke English fluently, to accompany us through the shop and answer any questions – not many products have English text on it. We were quite a sensation – they have not had any customers spending AUD70 on groceries.

Mike waiting for the supermarket to open.

Not aware the supermarket has opened – Sarah and Annie.

A novelty person for local kids at the supermarket.

The trip to Cairo on the Monday was interesting in many respects. All along the road from Suez to Cairo, the areas on both sides of the road were pockmarked by piles of building rubble and rubbish. It appears there are no demarcated rubbish tips and the people therefore dump everything next to the roads. Cairo has a metropolitan population of 21 million people, living in a large rubbish dump, with half built buildings as far as the eye can see. The dreary dust covered structures are relieved by thousands of billboards along the roads, providing the only colour. The Nile flowing through Cairo.

Urban architecture.

But then you arrive at the Pyramids of Giza: These 5,000 year old structures are truly amazing. It begs the question how such an advanced civilisation from so long ago, building such complex structures, could have degenerated into the chaotic and unplanned city that Cairo is today. Mike and Sarah from Soul, Darryl from Vimy and ourselves, negotiated a guide and camels at $25 per person to take us around this vast area, having espied the sandy terrain we would otherwise, have to negotiate by foot. The camel ride is an experience in itself and not recommended for persons suffering from hemorrhoids. You do walk like an Egyptian after extended periods in the saddle.

Camel train.

Walking like an Egyptian.

Khafre’s pyramid. The limestone cap is what remain of the cladding, which was stripped by later generations for buildings.

Close up of – Khafre’s pyramid, 143m high.

The ladies had to touch the great pyramid of Khufu.

Ahab and Fatima with their camel called Clyde.

Our tickets also included a visit to the Sphinx and the museum underneath it. Then, there was a bit of a frisson with our guide about the size of his tip – everyone tries to milk you for every piaster they can get. Afterwards, we had a lovely lunch, compliments of Captain Heebi, before fighting the traffic back to Suez, where we arrived at 5pm. Thoroughly parched and aching for beers, we decamped to the spacious deck on Soul, where after the beers, many soothing wines were consumed with gusto.

Below the Sphinx.

The Sphinx guarding the entrance to the pyramids.

Bye-bye Clyde!

The Suez Canal

We were planning to stay in Suez for four days, but we ended up staying for nine days, due to very high N-W winds off Port Said and on our route to Cyprus. This gave us the chance to do some maintenance work on the dinghy outboard, the deck wash pump and also do a couple of loads of washing in the yacht club laundry. It also provided a non-stop view of all sizes of vessels steaming past us in the canal, a 100m away.

American warship heading south.

Container vessel making the warship appear like a Dinky toy.

And then, “Majestic Maersk”, when launched in 2013, at 400m, the longest ship in the world. (20,566 TEU containers)

We also braved the streets of Suez city on our bikes in search of a chandlery. Not recommended, as we saw not a single other bicycle and our presence on the road resulted in rubbernecking by vehicle drivers, causing near collisions. Also, in a city where the burqa is quite common, a woman on a bike dressed in shorts and a shirt, raised some lecherous banter from the Arab studs in their clapped out cars.

Suez canal route.

Ahmed, a canal pilot came on board Esprit on Sunday morning at 10am, the 22nd April and after the main convoy of ships had passed, we headed north in the canal to Ismailia where we arrived at 6pm for a compulsory overnight stop for yachts. Ahmed wasn’t backward in coming forward: As soon as we departed Suez, he asked for a pair of sunglasses and a packet of cigarettes and matches. Five minutes later it was for coffee (only drinks Nescafe) and cake. Annie offered him biscuits, which he grudgingly accepted. There followed a string of requests for orange juice, tea and lunch, which he woolfed down, but didn’t enjoy!

Ahmed.

Ahmed was proud to tell us that he had been working for the Suez Canal Authority for 21 years, that they paid well and that he was arranging for his son to get a job there as well. On arrival in Ismailia, the usual arguments then ensued about baksheesh, which really puts a damper on everyone’s Egyptian experience. The four yachts who were transiting together agreed to provide food and water, and tip the pilots USD10 each plus a packet of cigarettes and clothing. They were after all earning salaries from the SCA.

12:00 and a warship leads the southbound convoy.

Esprit carefully passed these monsters.

We were warned about Somali pirates, but not about the Egyptian pirates. The pilots demanded between USD20 – 50 each for their eight hours of work. The guy who caught our lines at the jetty, demanded USD5 and the SCA yacht club manager wanted to rip us off for more than the standard SCA, USD21 per night.

The well maintained SCA yacht club at Ismailia.

The next morning at 5am, when we were supposed to depart Ismailia for Port Said, we were informed that a warship was transiting the canal and that we will be informed later when we could leave. We phoned Captain Heebi who, after numerous calls managed to get us back in the canal after the warship had passed, at 11am. A new pilot Alec, came on board to accompany us to Port Said where we arrived at 6pm. Since the wars with Israel, the Egyptians have put numerous rapid deployment canal bridges in place – see below:

Mk. 1 bridges.

Mk. 2 swing bridge.

Mk. 3 floating bridge.

The new high bridge – still no traffic on it!

To summarise, for sailors who may be planning a similar trip – April 2018 costs for the Suez Canal in US$:

Suez marina 9 nights @ $21: $189

Canal Authority for a 44’ (13m) monohull: $200

Port clearance: $40

Agents fee (Prince of the Red Sea): $80

Ismailia marina 1 night: $21

Baksheesh pilots: $20 plus cigarettes, food, drinks and clothes.

Total: $550

 

Cheers, next post from Cyprus.

 

Port Ghalib and Luxor.

Dolphins enroute to Port Ghalib.

Midnight Wednesday 28th March and we tied up at the Port Control and Customs jetty in Port Ghalib, Egypt. We had sent emails advising the authorities of our ETA and tried to call by sat phone to find out if a night entry into port would be in order. No response, so we navigated in to find a couple of officials waiting for us on the jetty and welcoming us warmly. We gave them our passports, ships rego and crew list and were told they would be back the next morning at nine, with all the paperwork. We had a celebratory drink with Mike and Sarah on Soul who had arrived with us, went to bed and slept like logs after the 43-hour passage.

Dust storm – Port office and Esprit.

The winds were kind to us as we had 15 knots of easterlies on the beam for the 280nm route – blogs often report winds of 35 knot northerlies on the nose, blowing for days on end. We woke up on Thursday the 29th March, four weeks to the day since we left Cochin in India, to find that the wind had turned west overnight, bringing in dust from the desert, covering everything under a blanket of dust. The sun could not be seen through the dust cloud and we decided to chill for the day, or until the dust cleared, before cleaning up.

Port officials with Mike of Soul.

Esprit covered in dust.

At about 2pm the dust started clearing after a wind change to the north east. Our visas, customs clearance and other formalities were completed after 5 hours. Lots of paperwork, but very friendly officials. We were allocated two stern to tie ups on the long break wall of the bar and restaurant strip – right in front of the “Hakuna Matata” bar where people partied until the wee hours. We had a late lunch and stroll through the commercial centre next to three huge resorts. Sundowners with “Soul” and “Vimy” was followed by dinner on shore at very reasonable prices. We bought data for our modem and reserved a guided tour to Luxor, about 4.5 hours inland on the Nile river.

Girls on land in Port Ghalib.

Sundowners with Mike & Sarah opposite the boats.

Paddle boarding.

Snorkeling.

Haircut for dad.

Saturday at 5:30am, Abdul the driver picked us up at the marina and set off at a cracking pace through the desert. Annie had a similar Kia Rondo in Sydney but never drove it at more than 100km/h. Not Abdul – he put pedal to the metal and cruised at 160km/h, on roads with potholes, negative camber and overtaking on blind corners. I wished I had a handful of Valium to relax or fall asleep.

Formula one Kia.

Some greenery in the mountains.

Miraculously, we arrived in Luxor intact. We picked up our guide Bahy, who took us to the Valley of the Kings – a vast necropolis where many kings from 2000 BC onwards were buried. The story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the boy-king Tutankhamun in 1922 is well known. We visited his tomb, as well as the tombs of Ramesses 5 and 6, and Horemheb.

Entering the valley of the Kings.

Tomb of Horemheb.

Sarcophagus room of Ramesses 5.

Two friendly guards showing Michelle how to wrap her scarf.

Walk like Egyptians.

The Colossi of Memnon.

After lunch we drove to another valley where the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut was located. The adjoining temple of Mentuhotep 2, was not rebuilt after the earthquake of 27BC.

Temple of Hatshepsut.

See, we were there!

The colonnade.

We checked into the Lotus Luxor hotel where our room balconies looked down on the Nile. We had a swim, showers and sundowners before bedtime. Lunch was late and huge, so we skipped dinner.

Dhows on the Nile – from our balcony.

The following morning after breakfast we set of to the Karnak temple, the largest temple complex in the world, comprising 25 temples, built over thirteen hundred years. I was gobsmacked by the scale of this site. In my first year of architecture, we had to acquire Banister Fletcher’s bible “A history of Architecture” and I used to marvel at this temple complex, hoping one day to clap eyes onto it – well, here I was, overwhelmed!

Walking to the entrance of Karnak.

Hieroglyphics.

The hypostyle hall – 134 gigantic columns, 21m tall.

One of the two remaining obelisks – each carved out of one piece of granite.

Reconstructed statue of a Pharaoh.

For an encore, we visited the Luxor museum where a lot of the treasures of these sites are on display – many though were installed in the museum in Cairo, which we hope to visit when we go to see the pyramids.

Luxor museum.

Pharaoh no. ? (There were 30 dynasties)

Amenhotep 3 with the god Sobek – 18th dynasty.

The middle coffin of Ramesses 6.

We also visited an artisan community who still produce artefacts in stone, in the traditional manner.

Craftsmen at work with traditional tools.

Finally, we were treated to a cruise on the Nile before heading back at breakneck speed to Port Ghalib, compliments of Abdul – with me now ensconced in the back seat, my eyes glued to a book. Karen and Michelle took a bus from Luxor to Cairo from where they will fly to South Africa, for the “Africa Burn” festival in the Karoo.

Obligatory Nile cruise.

Michelle & Karen on their way to Cairo.

Racing back through the desert.

The boat felt empty without them on board, but we started cleaning up the dust, bought groceries and wine (surprisingly palatable Egyptian wines) before giving the Port Captain 48 hours’ notice of our departure to Suez on Thursday – he has to keep the Coast Guard happy, hence the timeous notification.

The friendly Port captain.

View from the port captain’s office to the harbour entry – note the reefs.

View to the marina.

View to the resorts.

Across the marina, the desert.

The modern souk shopping precinct.

More shops.

A tourist boat.

Cheers until we post a final blog on Egypt, after the Suez Canal and before sailing to Cyprus.

The Sudan.

Sailing from Massawa, using two chart systems: Navionics and OpenCPN, because of the sparse charting.

Leaving Massawa in Eritrea at 10:00 on Monday the 19th March, there was a perfect 10-12 knot wind from the east to take us up the coast on a broad reach. We decided to use the wind for as long as it lasted and sailed through the night and the following day, to anchor at Talla Talla Kebir island after 215 nm. This left us with a short 53nm sail to Suakin in the Sudan the following morning. We phoned Mr Mohamed the agent, on the sat phone to advise him of our arrival. He was waiting for us at 4pm when we anchored in Suakin.

Mr Mohamed.

Mr Mohamed was fluent in English and within 30 minutes he had completed the paperwork for shore passes etc. and organised two 10GB SIM cards with enough data for our emails and for Karen to complete her UM Uni assignments. He also organised and delivered 400 litres of diesel at 70c/l to fill our tank and have 300l spare in jerry cans. The government derives a good income from yachties (Sudan desperately needs it), so we parted with USD210, including Mr Mohamed’s fee. We had a quiet evening with all of us catching up with our emails and admin –  our minute Huawei modem linking all four laptops via Wi-Fi.

Karen contemplating her dinner menu.

The following day, the ladies on our boat set out for the markets, suitably attired for this strict Muslim country. The patriarchy is alive and well here, with very few women seen on the street or at the market – it’s a man’s world. If you do see a woman, she is covered from head to toe in fabrics. Annie and the girls were stared at by the men and felt uncomfortable. We thought Massawa in Eritrea was a sad sight, but this place is a dump – a country where the economy has been crippled by years of civil war between north and south (read Muslims and Christians). I stayed on the boat, filling the water tanks and defrosting the fridge.

Walking to market – Karen searching for a bin to put our rubbish.

Down the main street.

Buying vegetables.

Buying hooks and lures – the merchant was happy.

One of the two ladies they saw – with child.

Two big yachts, “Cannonball”, 77ft and “King’s Legend”, 65ft arrived, full of young people of Karen and Michelle’s age. We were invited to Cannonball for drinks and left later for more drinks on Soul. The girls went out with the young people to dinner and an all-night party on King’s Legend. They arrived back the next morning with hangovers, after which Annie and I lifted the anchor to motor to Sanganeb Reef, 43 nm north east of Port Sudan.

Cannonball.

Karen – last visit to the old town.

Michelle – ditto.

This turned out to be a good spot to relax with lots of reefs for snorkeling and a lighthouse to visit. The lighthouse keeper was happy to see visitors and allowed us to climb to the top.

Motoring to the lighthouse.

Lighthouse built by the British.

View across the lagoon to Esprit in the background.

The light.

The stairs going down.

Walking back to our dinghy.

Good snorkeling at the drop off by the end of the boardwalk.

We had just finished lunch after snorkelling, when Cannonball and King’s Legend dropped anchor. Our girls were a bit more cautious for a change and we enjoyed a quiet evening.

Kings legend.

After coffee with Mike and Sarah from “Soul” the next morning, we set sail in a 10-12knot N-E to reach north west for an overnight sail to Khor Shinab, 120nm from Sanganeb reef. The sea was steep and lumpy after a strong north easter, so by sunset we started the motor and headed straight into wind. The boat was slamming hard into waves, almost dislodging the fillings in my teeth. We arrived at Khor Shinab the next morning at 8am and dropped anchor in the deepest bay of the marsa (lagoon).

Karen on bommie lookout as we enter the marsa.

The day was spent exploring this lunar landscape, walking up a wadi and climbing some of the hillocks.

Runners on for the hike into the hills.

Walking across the wadi.

Top of the first hill.

Nice colours, but very little grows here.

View down to the marsa with Esprit in the background.

The girls hiking to the next ridge.

Well done! They made it to the top.

Afterwards the girls did their washing.

Laundry on the life lines.

Some fishermen arrived late afternoon and asked for water and we asked if they had fish to sell. We bought two red snappers with the currency of a kilogram of sugar and rice each, a packet of cigarettes and two bonus caps. Although I detest smoking, we were advised on numerous blog sites to carry cigarettes as these were as valuable as dollars. Hence, a carton of cheap lung cancer bought in Langkawi. We invited Mike and Sarah from Soul over for a fish barbeque and enjoyed a pleasant evening in their company.

Red snappers – Frank, I was thinking of you!

The next morning at 5am we lifted anchor at Khor Shinab (across the narrow Red Sea from Jeddah and Mecca in Saudi Arabia) and started motoring north to Port Ghalib in Egypt, passing the disputed border between Sudan and Egypt by midnight. Does this sound familiar? – most borders in this region are disputed. This then is a short account on the Sudan – we will report again from Egypt. Cheers for now.