We returned to Marmaris, from Amsterdam, four days ago - unpacked, cleaned the dirt off the deck, put the sails back on - and got away from the marina today. The wind was gentle, but began to pick up as we headed west and south along the peninsula outside of Marmaris. It ended up blowing force 5-6 (gusting to over 30 knots - the famed Meltemi) on the nose with a nasty chop, so after several hours, we looked at each other and decided to turn tail (SO mature). It was a lovely sail, on jib alone, the 6 miles back to this cove, where there are gusts funneling between the hills, but the water is calm. We'll see what tomorrow brings. What we love about this life is we can stay here if we have to or not, as we want. What is one day or more towards our destination?
We are trying to get back into the cruising mode after six weeks ashore: the first three in the States for a whirlwind visit and wonderful wedding festivities, the second three in Northern Europe.
Our purpose in Europe was to visit friends at a time when we would avoid the scorching sun and midsummer heat of the Eastern Mediterranean. Of course our timing was such that we caught Europe's worst heat wave ever. However, it was less oppressive than August in Washington, D.C. and far cooler than Turkey. Still, the Northern Europeans were just not used to such heat.
The heat wave notwithstanding, we had a wonderful time visiting various sailing friends in London, near Oldenburg, Germany. Then on to other sailing friends, who live in St Martin Aux Buneau, near Fecamp in Normandy. From there we traveled with our hosts to Belgium and The Netherlands, where we stayed with family members and toured Bruges, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and spent five days in the absolutely charming (16th century Nantucket-like) beach town of Domburg, the western most point of Holland.
Staying in friends' homes or friends' relatives' homes made this a very special time. We were so graciously hosted and welcomed and made to feel so much a part of the family that our experience was one of daily life in their worlds, rather than as tourists staying in a hotel and viewing the social and business activities as an outsider.
And, once again, we were impressed with a feeling that life in Europe is just easier, and conducted at a more reasonable pace, with far greater civility than in the U.S. Also, the Europeans' sense of social responsibility for the good of the whole community seems so much stronger than ours. And we were certainly convinced, once again, that the infrastructure in the countries we visited is in much better shape than in the USA.
A few of the highlights
of our travels:
- The drive from The Seine-Maritime part of Normandy with its sheer cliffs and flat, verdant fields through Dunkirque and Calais to Le Somme, further north and east with less rugged seaside and more rolling hills and then down into broad expanses of flat marshland, the Polderlands of Belgium.
- A stroll through the magnificently preserved medieval Flemish city of Bruges, with sunshine and fluffy white clouds belying the Belgian reputation for bad weather and, of course, a taste of hot waffles and pommes frittes with mayonnaise.
- A late afternoon cruise on a small motorboat on Lake Loosdrecht and through its connecting canals (just outside of Amsterdam), where we passed close by snug huts, thatched weekend cottages; camper-barges; and were accosted with flowers flowing out of the bushes and into the waterways.
- A harbor tour of Rotterdam to observe one of the largest and most modern ports in the world. An amazing amount of cargo comes through Hamburg and Antwerp, but Rotterdam dwarfs them all.
- A fifteen mile bike ride in the delta area of the westernmost part of Holland, the island of Walcheren. Along wooded bike paths, on top of inner dykes built atop and between fields of flowers and vegetables and fruit trees, and yes, windmills, and through charming, flower bedecked towns, where the people are housed in immaculate structures from the middle ages. The Dutch Reformed reside here and their churches do not soar like Gothic Cathedrals, but impose themselves in the middle of the villages with a solid and stern face. When you realize the effort the Dutch have always had to exert to keep the North Sea from inundating them, you appreciate the serious mien.
- A tour of the Neeltje Jans Delta Works and Museum which highlights the 1953 flood disaster which killed 8,000 people and instigated the largest project of dykes and locks and storm surge barriers ever attempted in the world.. This phenomenal undertaking is as comparable in chutzpah and technological knowledge as was putting a man on the moon. It protects all of The Netherlands from the rage of the North Sea.
- Spending time with each of our friends in their own homes, and with our friend's family in a universal style beach house. Hospitality was stretched to house and feed the multitudes of young adult family members coming and going, as well as extraneous guests like us. Domburg is an historic beach town, with clustered cottages built to withstand the North Sea winter winds and with virtually no honky tonk! We enjoyed the experience of swimming off a beach (even though Sid hates sand) rather than off the boat (there are few sand beaches in the Med), and we were in the company of friendly and wonderful people.
And now we will stay in the lovely bay of Keci Buku for a week or so, where we await the fabrication of a stainless steel arch for our radar and solar panel on the stern of the boat, to replace the jungle gym of pipes we have now that began as an attachment for an awning and grew like Topsy. Next week we hope to begin heading north to explore the many reportedly beautiful coves, harbors and villages around the next peninsula in the large bay on which the resort town of Bodrum is situated.
As we ghosted along on the jib exploring an area that looked like something out of an Adirondack lake, we spied our Japanese friends (last seen last May in Sicily) on their Grand Banks Trawler and had a lovely two day catch-up with them.
We had only one set of visitors during this time, except for the RAT which got aboard while we were docked alongside our Japanese friends (We poisoned our uninvited visitor successfully within two days of his arrival. Everyone else seemed scared away by the war which was no where near where we were). But we had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful and rural Bodrum Peninsula by car and exposing our dear friends (successfully) to sailing life for the first time.
One autumn weekend, we found ourselves surrounded by a multinational group of circumnavigators and had a great barbecue on the beach organized by the Australians. The scene was out of a movie set complete with music around the bonfire, made by a beautiful Turkish woman with a haunting voice, a banjo playing Canadian accompanied by a Welshman on guitar and harmonica.
After a week of hard work in autumn weather that was too hot, DOVKA was finally hauled, covered and put to bed. We wended our way to Istanbul and had a wonderful time exploring this fascinating city (really so large it is a city of many cities) for the fourth time, hosted again by our kind friends from the US Consulate. One of the highlights was spending a Saturday night at a Mehane: a Turkish drinking establishment (with great food also) where traditional music is played and sung all night. The tables were occupied by young and old Turks celebrating birthdays, office parties etc. Everyone (but our party of five - the only non Turks) sang along and every now and then a number of tight jeans and sweater clad young women spontaneously rose and performed traditional belly dancing at their places. It was a warm and friendly environment where everyone was having fun and no one got out of hand.
On one of our last days in Istanbul, we were treated to a fantastic boat ride on the Bosporus. We toured both the Asian and European coasts almost up to the Black Sea on a classic, 80 year old motor launch, viewing the magnificent old 'summer' homes that line the banks. Many are restored and lived in today. Others are crumbling palaces of another era. Topkapi Palace viewed from the water, as well as the ancient city walls, the mosques rising out of the modern architecture all create a unique skyline as modern ships, ferries, and small fishing caiques bustle about in the harbor and along this phenomenally important water thoroughfare.
And then we flew home, arriving to fall weather and the aftermath of Hurricane Isabelle. We were very fortunate with only some water in the basement and are now just settling back into life ashore.
We return to DOVKA the end of next April and hopefully will head west to Croatia (G-d willing, enshallah, wars not withstanding), for the next installment.