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THE START OF THE 2004 SEASON - May to July, 2004

Departure from Turkey and Across Greece

Sunday, May 29th 2004
Another lay day waiting for weather gives us a chance to begin our 2004 cruising log as we sit in the marina on the Greek Island of Kos. Yesterday we left Turkey. When we arrived there, in August, 2002, the harbor-master offered us baklava as we checked in. This time the Customs official plied us with strawberries as we checked out. The lure of this special place will beckon us back sometime, we are sure. For now we are off through the Greek Isles across the Aegean, into the Ionian and up into the Adriatic to cruise Croatia this summer and fall.

Our first 'passage' was a nine mile journey to Kos, to officially check into Greece. Our experience with Greek officialdom had been less than positive in the past, but perhaps the Olympics has helped shape them up, as this time they were efficient and polite and did not overcharge us. The transition from one culture to another is always one of anticipation and apprehension. Excitement over the new adventure about to begin is tinged with nostalgia for the experiences accumulated in a now comfortable environment. We finally understand the most basic words of the language, have developed a primitive cultural competency, know how to shop for food, and then we leave. While we are now at a marina catering to cruising yachts from Germany, France, England etc., our first sense perusing the marina store and wandering the historical Venetian town, was that Greece is a somewhat more westernized and prosperous country than Turkey. And we are superficially struck by the gruffness of the Greeks, as opposed to the sweetness of the Turks in our dealings with them. Historical activities notwithstanding.

To backtrack: A month ago we once again left our Falls Church, Virginia home and flew back to Istanbul and then on to our home on DOVKA. She was waiting for us, once again, held up by sticks, on the hard (out of the water), on the southwest coast of Turkey, in Marmaris.

The usual routine of cleaning and preparing her for launch was leisurely and enjoyable with good company from several British boats surrounding us and unseasonable, pleasantly cool weather. The Turkish people were as delightful as ever. The only unsettling occurrence was a comment from a yard worker who, when he learned we were American, said, "You are very brave." The unspoken we interpreted to mean 'considering how the world feels about America today,' which, as everyone but George Bush knows, is not exactly friendly.

The only difference in our preparations this year was the wonderful addition of assistance from our old friend Fil, who joined us the second week in May. His company is always appreciated, as are his sailing skills, especially as Rebecca adjusts her activities after her back surgery last winter. Sid and Fil met when sailing in the South Pacific in the mid 60's and lived together in Sydney almost 40 years ago. He is a member of the family.

Using our two sets of guests as an excuse, we spent the last few weeks of May revisiting some of our favorite spots: Gocek Bay, in the area called the Turquoise Coast by the tourist brochures, with its myriad coves surrounded by pine forests and mountains, provides protected crystal clear waters and lake like sailing. We left one set of company there to wend their way back to Israel from a nearby airport and then started beating our way west to meet another couple in Bodrum.

The winds were kind to our guests, if not to us. We found ourselves hard on the wind for several days, so stopped for a farewell visit to our favorite hang-out in Keci Buku, the eastern corner of the Hisaronu Gulf. The Buk Restarant had done serious remodeling over the winter and looked very different, but the free dockage, electricity, showers and warm welcome were all there for us. It was a nice "homecoming" catching up on the childrens' exploits, the politics and the gossip of the village of Orhaniye.

Two incidents occurred during that week which reminded us of the fragility of life and how quickly everything can change for any of us, for all of us:

One morning we turned on the Mediterranean Cruisers' Net (every morning at 8:30 on the shortwave radio, boats all over the Med check in to hear the weather forecast and to connect with each other). This morning we heard a MAYDAY from a boat we had met several times. "This is Marie on the sailing vessel ZELDA. Terry has had a heart attack. I think he is dead." He was dead and had been for several hours. All Marie's calls on the emergency frequencies on SSB and VHF radio were met with silence from the Greek Coast Guard or anyone else and her only assistance came from the cruisers on the net, who kept her company for the next several hours as she sailed the boat to port. We all felt awed by her calm competence. And shakened by the intrusion of reality into our fairy tale lives.

The next incident involved us more intimately. Several days later as we left the Buk Restaurant to sail to Bodrum to meet our second set of guests, we found ourselves beating into choppy seas with 25 knot winds. Then we heard a PANPAN call (boat in danger, but not life threatening yet) from a boat about five miles from us, halfway between the Turkish town of Datca and the Greek island of Simi. The vessel ANTARES had lost its rudder and was taking on water quickly. Sid radioed a nearby marina and then phoned the Turkish Coast Guard to request assistance. We then relayed calls to and from the distressed boat, on the VHF radio, while we altered course to motorsail to them.

We arrived at the boat in distress along with the Coast Guard boat, which had no pumps and could do nothing for them, but did call another boat to tow them into port. Once we had the towboat in view and were assured that the situation was under control, we turned and spent four hours bashing into head winds and seas to get to a protected anchorage. We did not make it to Bodrum, but our guests were able to drive the two hours to us more easily than we could sail two days into the wind to get to them. We figured the choice between meeting them as planned and helping a vessel in distress was no choice at all. Once again, the adage "give guests a time or a place, but not both" proved a truism for the sailing life.

And once again we attempted to show our guests some of the anchorages, fishing villages and Turkish charm that had captivated us during the past two years. Every stop was a farewell for us as we prepared psychologically to leave Turkey. We spent our 35th wedding anniversary at a lovely dinner with our friends at an elegant hotel overlooking the harbor at Yalikavak. It was our goodbye to them as they returned to the States and our goodbye to Turkey. And now the journey continues as we enter Greek waters.


Friday, June 4
We are sailing on a beam reach from the lovely island of Syros to Cape Sounion. The boat is rocking gently with a quiet rhythmic whoosh as the water goes by our hull. There are smudges of grey lumps on the horizon around us - the islands of the Aegean, and no other boats in view, right now. We took a lay day in Syros to reprovision and to buy a Greek cell-phone account. The main town, Ermopoli, was once an important Venetian port and the capital of the Cyclades Islands. The remaining Venetian influences are a lovely town square, interesting architecture and even a tiny replica of the La Scala opera house.

Cape Sounion, on the bottom of the Attica Peninsula, is crowned with the impressive sight of the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon. We are ¾ of the way across the Aegean already, having used the long daylight hours to sail long days and make some distances between ports this week.

Our journey from Kos did not start out auspiciously. Raring to go, we left at 6 AM on Monday, heading west with light winds. The winds built and by mid morning we had 18 knots of wind,were heeled over and moving along beautifully. We were thrilled to be really sailing and on our way. Then we heard a strange thumping down below. Sid went down to investigate. He yelled, "The head port is gone." We came about immediately and ran down wind. The water was over the floor boards and the carpet was floating - not a comforting sight. But the electric bilge pump and Fil with the hand bilge pump got rid of most of the water in about 15 minutes. We broke out the storm boards, we had made for just such an emergency prior to the Atlantic crossing, and fitted a set on the 12 x 4 inch opening left when the plexiglass window's hinges failed and it was swept out to sea.

We reluctantly gave up the 20 miles progress we had made and returned to the Kos Marina, to clean up and dry out. We were back by 3 PM and went to work like people possessed. By 10 pm, we had everything washed and dried and restowed. Without the low humidity, sunshine and high winds, this would have been impossible. We were exhausted, but ready to set out again the next morning and with very clean bilges. Yet again, we were made aware that we all are like 'fiddlers on the roof', living a tenuous existence. For the present, we are enjoying the music.


Friday, June 25
DOVKA sits under a 13th century Venetian Fort guarding Corfu Town on the northernmost Ionian Island, poised to make a 200 plus passage to Croatia. We are moored in the funky Corfu Sailing Club at the base of the fortress wall. There is a music conservatory in the fort and Grieg's "Wedding Day at Trolhagen" is wafting down to us as the band practices. To go ashore, we have to pass through a series of portals in the fortress wall, through the fort, out the main gate and across the bridge over the moat.

To reach Corfu, we retraced our steps of our 2002 eastward trek, heading west through the Corinth Canal and taking a week to pass through the Gulf of Corinth and then onto the Ionian Islands. We revisited favorite stops and found several new wonderful anchorages where the water has finally warmed so swimming is delicious. In fact, in the past two weeks summer has arrived in the Med and we are slowing down in the afternoon as the Greeks do. Everything is closed from 2-5 and dinner is being prepared aboard DOVKA later and later in the evening.

The highlights of these past weeks have been exploring, by motor scooter, the northeast portion of the Peloponese Peninsula with its green mountains and wonderfully preserved Greek amphitheater at Epidauros, and the impressive Byzantine fort in the port town of Nafplion. In the Corinth Gulf, we poked DOVKA's bow into the magnificently preserved, tiny medieval harbor at Navpaktos. The fortress walls and towers above it looked like a beautiful painting from a children's book. Mostly, we have been moving quickly (for a sailboat) and trying to make some mileage.

Now we will spend a bit more time in Corfu before taking off north. It is an interesting island, large, green and densely wooded. Its main town, Corfu Town, is large and filled with interesting Italian, French and English architecture and cultural influences. We have also had the pleasure of anchoring in some of the island's lovely coves surrounded by green covered cliffs and tall mountains. We have enjoyed our passage through Greece again, but found the Greeks, in general, to be much less cheerful, clean, organized or hospitable than the Turks. We are anxious to move on.

In both Turkey and Greece, the wildflowers everywhere have been a jumble of red poppies amid swathes of blue, white, pink, purple and yellow flowers on the side of the roads and painted across the hills. Here in lush Corfu the hillsides and mountains are dense with green bushes and trees guarded by the spiked, deep green cedars standing like tall, thin sentries among them. We will miss the tumbling pink bougainvillea, ubiquitous white and pink oleander, occasional purple jacaranda and the exotic and delicious jasmine as we head north.