Gladlee of Guernsey

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May 1994 - June 1994

21st - 31st May 1994 Continued...

Next day was still clear, though with a slight haze, and the wind was light but firmly from the N, so we had to motor again up towards the entrance to the Dardanelles.  There was less of a current than we’d anticipated, and we got past the evocative landmarks in good time – the twin tumuli, supposedly of Achilles and Patroclus, on the Asian shore near Troy; the obelisk of the British memorial on Cape Hellas, commemorating one of the bloodiest landings of the Gallipoli campaign, and the squat open-sided cube of the Turkish Memorial at Anit Liman.  Off Kum Burnu we tried reaching for 20 minutes or so, but soon we had no wind and were hugging the shore to try and avoid the stronger currents as we made our way up the strait to Çannakale, where we dropped anchor in the bight north of the harbour shortly before 16.00 – the yacht moorings looked to be quite full, and we didn’t need any facilities anyway.  Nigel dinghied ashore later on and had a long and abortive search for meat in the rather scruffy town: lots of promenaders on the quay opposite in the pleasantly warm evening.

Meat shopping was a little more successful (a rather scrawny shoulder of lamb) early the following morning, and we set off for the second leg of the Dardanelles passage just before 09.00 on another calm and hot day.  We were more of less out of the strait be lunchtime, and we decided to push on to the anchorage at Kemer, on the S side of the Sea of Marmara – dolphins about in the distance as we motored on, fetching up off the shore outside the small harbour at Kemer in the late afternoon.  An attractive spot, this, with a delightful wild walk over the headland to the N, interesting birds, and a riot of wild flowers in the hedgerows.  We walked into the village early next day – a crumbling place, with an unusual number of old (but many derelict) houses, and a certain sort of charm for not being totally blighted with nasty new jerry-building.  By mid-morning it was very hot again, with scarcely a breath of wind, as we pushed on towards Karabiga, pausing for lunch and a swim in a cove SW of Ince Burnu on the way.  There were lots of dolphins about again, and we were passed by a group of four Turkish yachts we’d previously seen at Bozcaada – we found them rafted to the quay at Karabiga when we arrived later in the afternoon, having skirted Kale Burnu with its massive remnants of mediaeval wall.  The Turks left just before dusk, and we stayed alongside on the quay, while fishing boats came and went round us.  Meanwhile the butchers had no meat, presumably since everyone was still finishing up their sacrificed sheep, so we stopped off for an excellent kőfte and salad at a lokanta on the waterfront – an unsophisticated and pleasant village, friendly and natural people.


At Çanakkale looking over the Dardanelles to Kiltbahir

Kemer on the Sea of Marmara

In the morning we had a great walk up to the headland and the spectacular ruins, passing on the way back a shack surrounded by vegetable patches, chickens and what have you from which a surprisingly un-peasant-like gentleman greeted us (a fellow escapist, perhaps?).  More lovely wild flowers about, and pools full of terrapins just behind the beach, plus magnificent views through the haze towards Paşalimani and Marmara islands.  Returned to town to find still no sign of meat – had a brief conversation with the local schoolteacher, found a helpful youth who tracked down some home-made butter for us, bought honey from the local shoe-shop (sic!), and eventually settled for sardines from the little fish market for supper – we finally found a frozen chicken just before we left.  Just in time, as it turned out, since a NE breeze was picking up and starting to blow  coal dust over us from the nearby loading quay.  With only a short distance to cover to Paşalimani and a nice afternoon breeze we decided we might as well beat our way across the channel.  A couple of well-judged tacks saw us ready to lower the sails off one of the coves on the south side of the island, whereupon the engine declined to start – a few anxious moments later it fired, but we still needed forty minutes or so to set the anchor satisfactorily before we could settle down for the evening.  The anchorage proved to be no great shakes, with litter all over the beach and a bit of swell creeping in – the only bird life about was a flock of crows in a nearby field.

The ruins on Kale Burnu, Karabiga

The following day saw us exploring the area round Paşalimani in light, mainly NNE breezes: a nice lunch stop in the large bay on the E side of the island, and a couple of hours’ sailing in the afternoon to get round the N end of the island and down the attractive channel on its E side to the bight off Paşalimani village – the Turkish quartet and a French ketch were already in the anchorage.  We finally got round to trying out the outboard after its winter service in Antalya and found the choke apparently jammed – managed to get it started  eventually, but it kept cutting out.  A hazy evening, but a fine view N towards Marmara Adasi.  By morning the NE wind had freshened, and we had a wet crossing across to the mainland straight into a short chop and eventually a good F5.  We found plenty of room on the quay at Ilhankőy, a nice little hamlet with a tidy harbour but no fresh food available; we gratefully accepted a lift to Narlikőys and back to get a large leg of lamb for dinner.  Later we walked out along the coast road to the N, with fine views across to Paşalimani and Marmara islands, stopping for a beer at the harbour café on the way back – the wind picking up steadily.  It blew all next day, and company arrived in the shape of “Bidarka”, an American double-ender with Geoff and Phoebe on board, a German ketch and a small Turkish yacht from Istanbul.  We walked S out of the village in the afternoon, passing the odd cow on the road and enjoying the masses of wild flowers and the roses in many of the gardens.  Later chatted to the Mukhtar and didn’t quibble about a slightly excessive “donation” requested for our mooring charge (he was obviously trying to improve the facilities, and we liked the place anyway!)  Geoff and Phoebe invited us on board “Bidarka” for a drink, and we found that they were also headed for Istanbul and might eventually be wintering at Antalya – nice straightforward people.

1st – 6th June

We had a useful week’s stay in Istanbul, built round the mechanics of getting first Bulgarian, then Romanian, visas.  The process proved impossible to complete without staying over the following weekend, but we found plenty to do without taking any time out for sight-seeing, what with tracking down someone to refill our gas bottles, replacing a couple of flares, adapting the binnacle to take our new Autohelm 400 drive unit, fixing the outboard motor and stocking up at the excellent Migros supermarket just up the road at Kiziltoprak.  Looking for a particular chandler up the road from the marina we bumped into Gűlcan Alparslan, an old friend from Ankara, out walking her dog Peanut; once we’d got over the initial mutual astonishment we discovered that Gűlcan had a flat more or less overlooking our mooring, and she duly came round for breakfast the next morning and entertained us to dinner the night before we left.  We also called on Jonathon Beard, a business known to Nigel in his capacity as Honary Consul at Iskendurum, and a keen sailor to boot.  Jonathon was tickled to pink to find us on a yacht in Turkey and gave us some useful information on Bulgaria and Romania.  We bumped into Ian Lancaster on the street near the Consulate-General, but sadly a misunderstanding frustrated a planned weekend meeting with Dominick Clissold.  Phoebe and Geoff turned up on “Bidarka” with reverse gear out of action; we helped them in, and later we had a joint barbecue lunch on a very hot Sunday.  We also renewed our brief acquaintance with Norman and Jean Fowler of the CA, berthed for a couple of nights across the way on “Astra”.  All this against the backdrop of an enjoyable few days rediscovering the hustle and bustle of Istanbul on foot, ferries and busses, while getting increasingly irritated with the noisy and untidy marina, not to mention the inefficiency and general apathy of its management.  A final hectic day getting our Romanian visas, checking out of Turkey, last minute shopping and mail, a call on Jonathon, a haircut for Julie and dinner with Gűlcan, and we were at last ready to move on.

Gülcan and “Peanut”

Phoebe and Geoff  of “Bidarka”

7th – 12th June

Having checked with the marina office on the opening time of their fuel berth we were none too pleased (if unsurprised) to find that at 09.00 there was no diesel – a delivery was “expected” in he course of the morning.  We hung around for a while, then set out with three cans and our trolley towards the nearest petrol station, only to discover that they didn’t sell diesel at all.  A further mile or so’s walk took us to Petrol Ofisi, on the other side of the marina, where we collected our 30 litres and hauled them back to the fuel berth (still no delivery).  With a reasonably respectable amount now in the tank we took our leave, almost three hours later than planned, and headed up the Bosphorus.  We had to keep our eyes open heading past the breakwaters of Kadoköy and Hayadarpaşa, with ferries dashing in and out on their way across to the European shore, and we altered course sharply when we seemed to be running out of water trying to go inside Leander’s Tower.  The view from the water was hardly a novelty, and the weather was relatively dull, but it was still quite exciting to be sailing our own boat through such a historic waterway.  By the time we reached the first suspension bridge the ferry traffic was behind us and we could relax a bit, though still keeping a good watch for the big ships in the narrower parts of the channel.  Hugging the Asian shore we seemed to keep out of the worst of the current, and we had some splendid close-up views of the old and newly restored houses overlooking the water.  We made rather better time than we’d expected, and shortly before 16.00 we were anchored off the beach inside the breakwater at Poyraz, within sight of the Black Sea: it was grey and cool by this time, and only a few hardy souls were about on the beach.  Later the breeze picked up, steady rain set in, and for the next 36 hours or so we had a gusty NNW wind and an almost continuous downpour – nothing to do but batten down and get on with jobs below (Nigel worked on an article about Algeria for the CA’s “Cruising” magazine).  Thanks to advice from “Bidarka” we were able to start tuning in to the East Mediterranean Mobile Maritime Net, which was to provide us with very useful weather information (Athens Radio’s forecasts for the Aegean and Black Sea) over the next few weeks.

Heading up the Bosphorus, Üsküdar to the left and Topkapi and Ayasofia in the background


The weather finally cleared up, and after our second night at Poyraz we got ashore in the morning to buy bread.  Locals taking their morning çay on the terrace under the trees at the top of the village invited us to stop for a glass, and we enjoyed the fine view over the small harbour, back south down the Bosphorus and across to the fishing port of Rumelifenen.  We left after an early lunch into a light to moderate NNW wind and a tiresome choppy swell, dodging the incoming traffic across the Bosphorus entrance and then following the shore past what looked like open-cast mines on the beach, eventually fetching up at Karaburun in the late afternoon.  Having dodged the buoyed rock in the middle of the harbour we were waved to a berth alongside a freshly painted fishing boat in one corner.  Various friendly locals called, including Arif the lighthouse keeper (who invited us to visit the following morning) and Ibrahim, the lame owner of the Marti restaurant, who suggested we eat his newly opened establishment.  We thought we might as well eat out, so walked round to the Marti, where Ibrahim (a retired Turkish Navy Special Forces diver) sat and chatted while we ate our way through an excellent dinner.  We were genuinely taken aback when any payment was refused – Ibrahim’s invitation to dinner had been just that!  Next morning we were confronted with an indignant elderly neighbour, who pointed out (quite justifiably) that our warps had rubbed some of his new paint off as we bounced about during a slightly swelly night.  He was quite mollified when Nigel offered profuse apologies and a couple of packets of cigarettes, almost to the extent of refusing the gift!  Meanwhile we walked up the hill into the nondescript little village and paid a visit to the lighthouse, where Arif and friends showed us their lifesaving tractor and the certificate of commendation given to their predecessors for rescuing the crew of a German freighter in the 1930s (the lighthouse turned out to have a British-built lens).  A little bit of shopping on the way down included the best cherries of the season.

We called up our friends at the lighthouse as we motored round the headland the following morning, still into a light NW breeze but in reasonably fair conditions.  We sighted two lots of  dolphins as we made our way up the low-lying coastline, calling at Kaşatura Koyu in mid-afternoon (depths a bit dodgy, swell getting in, and full of jellyfish).  An hour later we felt our way into the very shallow harbour at Kiyiköy, eventually settling for a berth alongside a small fishing boat on the corner of the quay.  We didn’t bother trying to find the village, but had quite a pleasant walk up the river just behind the harbour (lots of frogs, and the odd water snake, but not many birds about) before stopping at the bar on the quay for a beer.  Our night’s sleep was interrupted by the noisy arrival of a big trawler servicing the offshore mussel beds, which was particularly unwelcome before an early departure to catch the Saturday morning market up the coast at Iğneada.  We actually had the genoa out for a bit (15 minutes!) in a faint SW, but by 09.00 the wind had swung round to NW again, and we packed up the sails for the remainder of the short passage – by 11.00 we’d refuelled at the Petrol Ofisi berth outside Iğneada harbour and were berthed on the quay just behind the Coastguard cutter based there.  The CG at Iğneada have a reputation for welcoming passing yachties, and this crew proved no exception (help in getting water and tea with the skipper), but meanwhile we had a pleasant bike ride through pine woods along the shore to catch the tail end of the market and have a good köfte lunch overlooking the beach, posting an article off to the Cruising Association and phoning James from the PTT, surprisingly open on a Sunday.  We said our farewells and thanks to our Coastguard hosts before a barbecue dinner and a relatively early night.

Fishing boats at Karaburun, on the north Thracian coast of Turkey

13th – 18th June

Off at first light, and a marvellous view of a school of dolphins against the sunrise off Koru Burnu at 05.30 in flat calm conditions.  It was one of those frustrating mornings when the wind refused to blow consistently, and we had the genoa in and out (and the engine on and off) three times before 08.00 – meanwhile we’d arrived in Bulgarian waters.  Another large school of dolphins escorted us past Micurin, and by late morning the breeze started to veer towards NNE.  Just before midday we got the genoa out again, and we were soon making quite good progress under sail in ENE steadily freshening: by the time we were in sight of Burgas and in touch with Port Control we had F5 and would have been thinking about reefing.  As it was we got the sails down and accepted an offer of a lead in to the port from a passing pilot boat (a rare courtesy for a small yacht!).  Once inside we were directed to a none-too-comfortable space on an oily quay, subject to wash from passing tenders.  Nothing happened for a while, so Nigel went in search of immigration to check in and was asked to wait on the boat.  Eventually three officials turned up and processed us courteously enough, seeming to raise no objections to our cruising plans for the next fortnight.  As we were about to settle down to dinner yet another official turned up, but he was evidently just being sociable: when we asked about the local yacht club he insisted on taking us way across the harbour to find it, chatting away meanwhile in a mixture of broken English and Bulgarian.  We duly found the yacht club and made our number with secretary (not much seemed to be going on there), and once back at the boat we invited our friendly immigration officer on board for a glass of wine.

In the morning we ventured outside the harbour entrance to change money and buy some bread: the surroundings looked pretty dreary, and we were accosted by touts and a gypsy boy begging.  Calling for our passports at immigration on the way back we were flatly refused permission to go anywhere with the boat except Varna, and after a bit we gave up arguing and went back to the boat.  Shortly before midday we cast off and set out of the harbour, but were called on VHF and ordered to report back to immigration, where our passports were stamped to show us cleared out and Nigel was instructed to wait for official permission to leave from the port authorities.  The latter proved to be a burly, pleasant English-speaking individual who introduced himself as the Director of State Shipping and enquired whether Nigel wasn’t feeling well – Nigel replied that he was feeling fine but very angry!  Explanations followed, and we had an unexpected ally (it turned out that he’d been in the fishing business and had spent a good deal of time in Scotland).  Nigel was taken up to meet the Port Captain, and the two officials volunteered to raise the plight with the Director of Immigration at a meeting that afternoon.  Nigel turned up at the Port Captain’s office later with evidence (reports and harbour plans) of previous visits by yachts to the places we wanted to visit, but in the end we got no joy.  The friendly State Shipping man duly signed us out of Burgas and escorted Nigel back to the port (it was very sad to hear his apologies “for my unhappy country”).  We decided to head for Varna and hope for better luck there, and we left again without incident soon after 16.00.  The weather was quite threatening as we headed NE out of Burgas Bay, but as rain clouds caught up with us we got a comfortable NW breeze and could get the sails up.  We had several wind shifts over the next few hours, as thundershowers passed across and occasionally sent the instruments berserk, but eventually it settled into the W as we rounded Nos Emine in occasional flashes of lightning and drizzle.  Patchy wind in the early hours gave way to a reasonably steady breeze on the beam, which took us past the anchored shipping off Nos Galata and into Varna Bay by 08.00.  Light drizzle didn’t encourage us to investigate further, so we got breakfast and waited to see what might happen next.

Not long afterwards Penko, the manager-cum-boatman of the club turned up and welcomed us to Varna: we met a couple on a Dutch boat (“Seevogel”) moored nearby, who’d had an even worse experience than ourselves in southern Bulgaria, and later we all trooped off to the immigration police, who stamped us back into the country without further ado but were still remarkably vague when consulted about our travel plans.  (Penko waved aside the authorities’ behaviour in Burgas – “they’re still Communists there”, but it emerged later that it was the Varna people who were officially out of line, in turning a blind eye to foreign yachts’ cruising the coastline while technically still in Varna – hence the latter’s evasions when asked specifically where we might or might not go!).  We moved across to the corner of the basin nearest to the clubhouse – and to the ferocious guard dog – and managed to plug ourselves in to a rather rickety electric socket.  Later we wandered up the long harbour breakwater and into the city for a preliminary look round and a beer at a street café.  Pleasant first impression of comfortable grey town houses along shady streets, and a bustling central pedestrian area with some quite smart shops, as well as an extraordinary number of sales points for ice-cream (much of it expensive stuff like Mars Bars and Crunchies).  The weather was still quite unsettled, with thunder and rain later.  Next day we had a lazy morning before going out shopping with Ivo, a genial fellow who was looking after “Andromeda”,  one of the club’s four large but elderly schooners.  Ivo took us and Micki (off “Seevogel”) to a couple of markets and to the rows of shops behind one of the markets selling Bulgarian wine (and various other goodies) at amazingly low prices.  The markets weren’t bad – plenty of fruit and vegetables, limited meat (though good pork), but generally most of what we needed.  We spotted “Sainsbury’s Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon 1982” at one of the wine shops and took half a dozen for starters, along with a few other bottles friend Ivo recommended (in the event none of these turned out to be particularly brilliant, but we found plenty of excellent wines over the next couple of weeks).  Later we met Hristo Tzvetkov, Hon. Sec. of the Yacht Club and, as we subsequently discovered, promoter of the yacht harbour at Balchik and Cruising Association Honorary Local Representative for Bulgaria.

Over the next couple of days we settled into Varna a little, with long walks to markets in fine warm weather, more wine shopping, and several useful chats with Ivo.  We met 9briefly) the young couple off an Austrian catamaran moored at the end of the dock who’d come down the Danube, hit a storm on their first venture into open water, damaged one of their rudders and lost an engine, called for a tow from a fishing boat and were now sitting waiting to settle an enormous salvage claim……  (She seemed to be spending much of her time making jam, and very good it was too).  Ivo turned up with a girl from one of the local radio stations who asked to interview us on a live Sunday morning programme.  The object of this was partly to broadcast our impressions of how we’d been received at Burgas, and so to try and help influence the relevant authorities to change the system, so we were happy to agree – date fixed for the following weekend.  Meanwhile we got on with various odd jobs on the boat and planned our mini-cruise for the following week.  Saturday was a particularly bright day, and it was nice to see the locals out and about in the attractive park overlooking the bay, and the smart youth of Varna promenading about the pedestrian areas in the centre of town.  People on the street didn’t seem particularly outgoing or interested in us, but we put this down to unfamiliarity with foreigners and a lack of a common language as much as to any native reserve.  The Yacht Club (Ivo and Penko, at least) certainly couldn’t have been more hospitable.


Varna Yacht Club

Nesebar, Bulgaria



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