Thursday, May 14, 2009

Turkish turn around

With each successive haul-out, the job list mounts and it seems to become progressively harder to make it back into the water. Fortunately the prospect of Mark (of Freespirit fame) arriving still to find Kika unpainted and in-pieces focused my attention on the most pressing tasks. When the "top-end" sailor arrived he found a newly anti-fouled, polished hull, with new upholstery and sprayhood. OK so the decks had yet to be cleaned from the collected grime of the boat-yard and the dusty cabin remained true to the month in the sandy Red Sea - but at least we were more or less ready to depart.

Not only was it great to see Mark again after nearly 3 1/2 years, but as a bonus he also bought spares for the stove and a pilot guide to Greek waters. Mark set-to dismantling the stove and soon returned it to full working order with two reliably functioning burners rather than the one I'd be struggling with for the last few weeks. He also arrived with an embryonic cruising plan - something I'd been too busy too even consider. It would be a full-on two weeks - island-hoping through the Aegean Sea to the Corinth Canal then making our way into the Ionian Sea where I'd meet my next crew. Ambitious but achievable, especially with two ocean-hardened sailors onboard.

A slight complication was where to make our first port of call. Ideally we'd head straight to Greece but after consulting a few of the yard's old hands, it appeared that arriving directly from northern Cyprus would be a significant risk, with scenarios ranging from delays, fines, or even having Kika impounded. Greece doesn't recognize northern Cyprus as a legitimate country, and refers to the presence of Turkish troops in the north as an illegal occupation. The safe option is to head to Greece via Turkey. We decided to play safe and set a waypoint to Kemer Marina on Turkey's south coast.Three of us set off from Girne/Kryenia. Our third crew member, Oscar, joined us for the trip to Turkey. Oscar has learnt to sail in dinghies and his enthusiastic questioning reminded us of our first ventures onto the water. For example, Oscar was used to helming while holding the mainsheet so that it can be released the instant a gust hits the sail. On Kika the main is cleated-off and despite my reassurances about the keel preventing dinghy like capsizes, he kept close to the sheet should an unanticipated squall approach.Unfortunately we needed more assistance from the engine than emergency sail easing, although the calm conditions gave me an opportunity to reinstall the autopilot which had been re-engineered by northern Cyprus's finest machinist. After struggling with the pilot for the last-half of the Red Sea it was magical to see the wheel turning automatically again. Sadly my celebratory dance of joy around the deck proved premature as shortly afterwards the over-current protection switch tripped and Kika circled back towards Cyprus. Optimistically I reset the switch and crossed my fingers, but once again the pilot cut-out after a few minutes of holding a course. Time to rethink. The repair had replaced the worn Lucas motor (used as a windscreen wiper motor in Landrovers) and replaced it with a Bosch motor (used as a windscreen wiper motor in Mercedes cars). I measured the current draw of the new motor verses the original and sure enough the more substantial replacement drew almost twice the current. Time to rethink, it appeared my options would be to either use the gearing of the Bosch motor on the old motor, or upgrade the electronics to cope with the power-demands of the replacement. Swallowing spiders to eat flies or pulling threads and ending up with an unraveled cloth, started to cloud my optimism. Still at least the pilot would work for a few minutes, a marked improvement and could be used while cooking, putting the fenders out or climbing the rigging to check the path ahead.

The 28 hour trip to Turkey was uneventful, mostly motoring interspersed with a few hours of sailing. We did our best to give Oscar the full sailing experience the highlight being dolphins swimming off the bow but the excitement of the day must have worn him out as despite our best ship light identification tuition, he seemed quite happy to sleep through the night watches. I let him off as he'd praised my tortilla as even better than his father's (sorry Julian).

We arrived mid-morning in the marina and I hoped we'd be able to leave the same day for Greece. I explained to the marina official that we'd arrived from northern Cyprus, wanted to check-in and check-out of Turkey on the same day with the additional complication that Oscar would be leaving the boat. Her face dropped with horror at the thought of the endless forms and slow-moving Turkish bureaucracy she'd have to help us negotiate. "But why did you come to Turkey?" [and create all this work for me] "Ah northern Cyprus? I see..."

Half an hour later I headed into the marina office to check on progress and found the marina staff carefully studying a fax. As they saw me enter, they began to quiz me. "What were your last 10 ports of call, and dates", as I reeled them off, they checked with the fax and consulted each other. What was going on? I started to feel a little apprehensive. Had Interpol sent out a "reward for the capture of this vessel" bulletin? Firmly and slightly worriedly they said we all needed to head back to the boat, remain on the boat and if anyone asks we haven't left the boat. I racked my brain for any misdemeanour which might solicit such a change in tone, but although I was convinced of my innocence, couldn't help but feel anxious. Amanda arrived while we were imprisoned onboard, and fortunately soon afterwards a face-mask wearing port health official turned-up and the reason for our confinement became clear. One by one, we were invited off the boat, given face-masks and our temperature taken. Fortunately we were all within the healthy range, and deemed clear of swine flu.

I rushed around trying to organise the check-in/check-out, 3rd party insurance for Kika (which I'd learnt on the trip over was essential for Greek cruising), transfer money between accounts and take on water and food. Our first Greek anchorage was 75 miles away, perfect for a night sail, and our ambitious plan didn't allow for bureaucratic delays. Mark seemed slightly bemused by my manic activity and gently hinted that one option would be to relax and stay the night. Relax? Did he think we were on holiday? Reluctantly I accepted the inevitable and we planned instead to leave first thing in the morning.

Frustratingly it wasn't until mid-day that we finally left, replenished with food, beer, water, fuel and the all important Turkish clearance. We left with a head-wind which resolutely followed our course around each head-land. As the day progressed, the difficulties of a night entry into Kastellorizo become apparent, and my sea-legs started to feel shaky while I was down-below making raspberry jam steamed pudding. Scanning the chart I found an anchorage on the Turkish coast where we could rest and cover the remaining 20 miles in the morning. Mark enthusiastically endorsed the change of plan and we arrived with just enough light to see our way into the anchorage.

13/5/09, Kemer: N 36deg 36' E30deg 34'
14/5/09, Night anchorage: N36deg 12.6' W29deg 53.7'

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