Post covid lockdown dash to Turkey! 2020
The Purpose of this overview
Jill was approached by The Local, a Central highlands Victorian, Australian magazine that had featured us leaving the district during 2018, to see if we wanted to update our travels, given the Covid lockdowns. They knew we had been in Europe. Could we write an article in 400 words? Well, Jill tried to restrict the words, but they just couldn’t fit without leaving too much out. The final accepted version in print in 2020 was 1600 words. This version here is the full version before Jill truncated it. Despite sending updated photos, the Local decided to recycle the old photo upfront. I’ll use the current photos the Local used online in the story below plus a few more photos I took along the way. I am not changing a single word of Jill’s story
Jill has videoed the stages of this journey, and they will include much more detail on individual pages. This is the overview .
Covid considerations Spain
We had taken a 12-month contract with Alcaidesa Marina in La Linea in Spain, because there was so much uncertainty around Europe with the covid situation. La Linea is not a bad place and just over the border was Gibraltar where we had spent 5 months over winter.
Lockdown lifted on June 21 in Spain and our Schengen clock was restarted (90 days out of 180). We constantly discussed the situation with our Australian buddy boat, Boomerang.
A large concern for us was the 20% Spanish Matriculation tax. Spain is the only country in the EU with this tax, and we were very close to the time threshold. I sat down with Boomerang and we nutted out our options.
We could rent an apartment in Gib and leave the boat in La Linea because it is the owner not the boat that the time is counted. We all thought we had done our time there and it is expensive living.
Lets go direct to Turkey we decided. It’s not that far!!
We leave, assisted by…
We left on the morning of August 2. Both boats had an extra crewmember as there were going to be a few overnight passages. We had a young Spanish fellow who had done his Yachtmaster but had little experience and still knew everything but hated washing up.
Our first stop was a little bay 30 miles from Cartegena. We were ready to drop the anchor only to find it wasn’t working. We rafted up to our buddy while we found the tripped fuse and then went off to anchor alone. Then our solar panels were overheating so we would have to get that sorted next stop.
Cartagena then Islas Baleares, Spain
We had all this fixed in Cartegena where we stopped for 3 days. Another overnighter took us to Formentera in the Balearics, couple of nights there then to Ibiza, Mallorca then last stop in the Balearics was Menorca where I will remember for a little grounding of the boat, another first for us. It would have been lovely to spend more time in the islands but we had to use all the good weather windows.
Sardinia, Sicily & Aeolian Islands
Leaving Menorca we had another overnighter to Calorforte in Sardinia where we had to have a covid test to enter Italy. It was pretty exciting to arrive in Italy, the land of gelato and pasta in the stinking hot weather. The cat also had to get her 2nd rabies shot. There was only one more overnighter to Sicily and then we could offload our Spanish boy.
Guillermo disembarked in Trapani and we continued on to Palermo. Palermo is a beautiful city with a tarnished reputation of being the home of the Mafia. We treated ourselves to dinner at a hatted restaurant near the marina, which was one of the best meals I have ever had but it meant we would be living on fresh air for a few weeks.
Next stop Cefalu, we anchored in front of the old city, it was a spectacular site. Cabo Orlando was our next stop to jump off to the islands of Lipari and Stromboli to see the volcano. Sailing around the base of Stromboli was a visual treat, the black sliding slope contrasting with the green where the lava had not flown for years.
Here is the video that corresponds to this point of the journey
From Stromboli we had a quick sail to anchor at the western entrance of the Messina Straits ready for a good tide and current to traverse them.
We radioed to advise of our plans and were given the go ahead. The Messina Straits have a reputation and as we entered we wondered what all the fuss had been about. That lasted for half an hour. It was horrific. Wind over waves made it rough and we still had to cross to the other side in a transit lane. Never have I been happier to leave a stretch of water, until we went round the corner of the toe of Italy. It was even rougher, we were banging into the waves and we still had miles to go. I am beginning to dislike this form of travel.
There was only one place to stop, Porto Bolaro, we decided to try to stop there. It was quite possibly the smallest marina in the world. Boomerang backed in first and was wedged next to a monohull. I went in bow first and tied up side on and the marina was just about full. The season had finished but we were able to get takeaway pizza and sit in their deserted outdoor restaurant.
We were a bit of a novelty; the owner poured us a glass of the local drink, Liquore alla Liquirizia, a strong licorice liquor made from the root of Calabria’s licorice plant and told us about the area. He came back and gave me a Bergamot orange, which I used in a G and T some days later. I wish we had more time to spend in that region, as it is renown for its simple yet pastoral based cuisine relying heavily on vegetables. But onward we went.
We still had about a thousand nautical miles to go. We were about half way to our destination.
Base of Italy
Rocella Ionica was our next anchorage, which is on the instep of Italy; from there we could cross the Golfo di Squillace to the heel of Italy.
Next morning we crossed in what started in perfect flat conditions with a nice breeze on the beam, which made it perfect to use the headsail with one motor. The conditions lasted for a couple of hours and then it all turned into a churning foaming mess. Waves were breaking over the side and Shelley thought we had a problem with a bilge but it was a rather large wave breaking on the starboard hull. I slowed to 3 knots to try to stop the ghastly roller coaster. 3 knots means it will take us a month to get there but at least we will be not subject to the discomfort. We are on a catamaran so its usually pretty good stability, I’m laughing at how that did not seem like that in the moment. The Deva cat takes up a position in the centre of the salon where it is most comfortable, after her one day of seasickness in the beginning she now takes it all in her stride.
The feeling of relief to get into a quiet anchorage after a harrowing trip is hard to describe and it only comes after the also harrowing time of anchoring. Sailors say, “I didn’t mean what I said during anchoring”. Well, actually, I did. Seriously, the only one on this boat that doesn’t get cranky is Deva the Bengal.
So that night was at La Costello at anchor. Apparently there was a castle but to be totally honest I am very much over castles and churches, boats and travelling.
1000 nautical miles done, 1200 to go. 43 days since we left. Getting testy now.
A few dilemmas and decision to go
A new days dawns and we leave for an anchorage near Cretone, best laid plans, blah, blah, not going to happen. We don’t make the anchorage but pull into Cretone Marina. We come in last after another rough trip. We are put on the end next to Boomerang. We can’t get off without going over their boat onto the pontoon. We spend quite a bit of time keeping Deva off their boat and Patches, their cat, off ours, Patches is not a friendly cat to anyone except Michele who is the other half of Boomerang.
There are big decisions to be made in Cretone. Should we cross to the heel of Italy and stay in Marina de Leuca to cross to Corfu or should we just make a run to Corfu. The boat that joined us a week ago decided to go to direct to Agostoli and got caught in the centre of a medicane (a Meditterean hurricane).
To cross from here to Corfu is an overnighter, which means we need another crewmember. The only person available was a delivery captain. It was expensive but he took charge of the boat and I breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t even have to do a night watch. It just meant we don’t eat for another month.
Oh my goodness, Corfu, how I love you, but not all your Greek paperwork. We spent 2 nights in Mandraki Marina. The marina is at the base of the 15th century Venetian Fortress and is a short walk into the town through the fortress. Here are beautiful pastel-coloured Venetian buildings and narrow cobblestone streets where you could wander for hours.
Syvota was our next stop. It is a delightful village on the mainland set in crystal clear green water. We took the dinghy to a little beach then into town for some traditional Greek fare.
Two lovely nights and then on to the Lefkas Canal that saves you some time if you are heading south. The canal runs about 3.5 miles through the low-lying land at the northeast end of the island dividing it from the mainland. The bridge opens on the hour and we were racing to make the opening. We made it and another milestone was ticked off. The experience was amazing and emerging at the other end we were confronted with the most beautiful scenery. Another anchorage, not the one we had planned but a tiny one that took just our two boats, you could have been the only people in Greece. One night and off we go again.
Missalonghi was a funny stop, a long slow motor down a strange little canal to the anchorage. It was here we caught up with our very traumatized friends that left Crotone before us, they ended up in the hurricane that went through Agostoli. They really should have stayed and come to Corfu with us.
Here is the video that covers the next part of the journey https://eucalyptusleaves.com.au/post-lockdown-dash-to-turkey-video-2/
Rion- Antirion Bridge
Next morning we were back in the Corinth Sea on our way to the Rion Antirion Bridge, one of the longest span bridges in the world. On the approach we radio bridge control and give our mast height and they advise which span to go under. It all very exciting and we had plenty of room.
The wind was picking up, the waves were building but it was a following sea so not too uncomfortable. We had intended to anchor and do the Corinth Canel in the morning but we had made good time so we all decided to do it now.
The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. Apparently it was started by Emperor Nero but wasn’t finished until the mid 1800’s but don’t quote me. I can tell you the 4 miles cost us 270€ to go through. It was quite amazing and very narrow and I used the autopilot, as it is way more accurate than my helming.
It got interesting coming out of the canal. You tie up and go and pay. We were all set to come aside and my partner would throw the line around the bollard. We have done this before. She throws the line but fails to hold onto the end. Panic ensues. Someone grabs the line and throws it back but I can’t keep the boat in position. We get blown off, I miss hitting our buddy boat by inches. By this time I am in the middle of the entrance of the canal and blocking it for the boats heading in. I do a 360 degree turn, catamarans are good like that, I approach the concrete dock once more. I can hear on the VHF the canal authority telling the boats entering to wait, obviously for me! By this time I have our 2 friends waiting for the lines and we tie up. For sale, 1 catamaran.
We pay, we leave without further incident and anchor around the corner. We don’t talk because it has been a traumatic experience but all part of the adventure, apparently.
Here is the link that corresponds to the third video. https://eucalyptusleaves.com.au/post-lockdown-dash-to-turkey-video-3/
Korfos was the next stop, then Epihadros both lovely little harbours. Off then to Kythnos where we received a warning on the phone that it was a Covid hot spot. We didn’t go ashore.
The beautiful island of Paros was the next stop and we spent a relaxing 3 nights there. We had been to Paros 13 years ago and it was exactly as I remembered.
Time to keep moving ever closer to our winter home in Turkey. The beautiful island of Amorgos was the next stop, we anchored overnight so didn’t go ashore.
Astapalia, was the next stop, the gorgeous butterfly shaped island with only a few goats wandering round and water so clear you could see the sand in 10 feet of water. We had an impromptu sing along with our friends, we played the music from our boat and we all sang along and had a bit of a dance until they put on that Williamson fellow. I called it quits then.
The island of Tilos was our last stop before Rhodes, which would be the last Greek stop before Turkey.
Rhodes, Greece. Last stop
We sailed into Rhodes marina, quite a new marina with concrete pontoons! The facilities were good and Rhodes is an island steeped in ancient history. It was here that we had to check out of the EU Schengen Zone. We check out 24 hours before we leave. There is no travel between Greece and Turkey, not only has Covid stopped it but the unending arguments between them keep the border closed. We have heard that they will not let us leave, eventhough we have overstayed our 90 days in the Schengen Zone. We have a stamp in our passport from when we left Morocco in November 2019 and one from Spain and France when we house sat in Montmorillon for Christmas in 2019. Apart from that we have no proof of not overstaying even with the pandemic lockdown in Spain.
Immigration at the port is not busy, because there are no ferries, but the officer is eating lunch. She puts her lunch aside and sighs and flicks through the passports. She looks at us and asks where we have been; I burst into a piteous explanation about not being able to go home and the pandemic and how far we had come and how our government is awful. She looks at me and throws her arms up and says ok but you cannot come back for 90 days. She also asks where we are going. Cyprus I said, anywhere that is not Turkey, I didn’t say. We head to the customs and then the port police. It had taken 3 hours but we can leave in the morning. To Cyprus, no not to Cyprus, we will not turn left we will go straight and sneak across to Turkey.
Apart from the Greek and Turkish navy patrolling next to each other it was a slow no wind sail.
We motored into Fethiye, around the numerous weekend sailors and the tourist gulets. There was a mono I thought was anchored but it was drifting along in 100 metres of water with 2 blokes stark naked jumping off the back. Lithe young fellows they were not. We altered course to avoid them and their wobbly bits.
Fethiye was an absolute treasure. I thought it was going to be a nightmare anchoring , there are sooo many boats. Blood pressure increases, heart rate increases and we round the corner to see a beautiful bay with plenty of anchoring places. You have no idea how good that feels.
We anchored without any drama but we knew we had to do it all again the next day as we had to go to the coast guard dock to check in.
Next morning we arrived at the check in dock, our buddy boat was already there. Just as an aside, we had no phone or internet so we had been screaming across the bay to see what time we were supposed to be going.
When I say we arrived what I actually mean is that I motored over and tried to work out how I would get in. I timed it perfectly, all lined up to turn the boat around and drift in. I turned the boat around, the wrong way. Should have turned left not right. Another circle, what’s not to love about the spinning around on a catamaran. We got in, I’m not sure how much more stress I can take.
The Deva cat is howling like someone is trying to murder her inside because the engines are off and that is when she can come out, but not on this dock. Our agent is waiting for us to do the immigration and customs clearance. It was €150 well spent.
All that went well and they allowed us 2 hours to race to the Turkcell shop to organise SIM cards. We made good time but it is was so hard not to stop and admire the pomegranate juice stalls and the aroma emanating from the many restaurants along the water.
Ignore them we did and got back to the boat to head to the anchorage once again.
We have some sailing friends here that we have corresponded with but have never met. Our buddy boat picked us up to meet them for dinner.
It was a treat to meet them in real life, they took us to a small family restaurant that gave us quite possibly the best meal I have had for years! They get the fish, prawns and calamari from the shop next door, the mother and father cooked and it was absolutely beautiful!
Turkey is wonderful, the people are friendly and helpful, it is clean and welcoming!
We stayed 4 nights in Fethiye then it was time to move on, edging closer to our winter home in Finike.
Here is the final video of the the dash to Turkey https://eucalyptusleaves.com.au/post-lockdown-dash-to-turkey-video-4/
But first a stop in Kaş for a week at one of the sister marinas of Finike. Our buddy boat had to have a haul out. It sounds very easy but involves manoeuvring the boat into a very tight concrete space and they put a sling around and pull you up with a whopping great lift thing.
All went well and we spent a lovely few hours at one of the very nice restaurants next to the marina. Now it feels like we are living the dream. Until they had to take the boat back to the berth. For a start I couldn’t get on so I said I would catch the lines, the wind had increased and it almost went pear shaped. Not living the dream now. Those nice dream moments are brief.
The great Deva leap too far
Kaş will also be remembered for the great Deva leap too far.
The very first night in Kaş, we went out for dinner with Boomerang, our buddy boat. A celebration of an awesome achievement. We had a lovely night and being of a certain age it was not late when we went back to the boat.
We get back and let the Deva out, as we always do. It is dark, the days are now shorter. We sit and look at our phones. There is a rather loud splash. We both jump up and say “the cat”.
Shelley grabs the net, I race in and grab the torch. We walk very fast around the boat shining the torch onto the water. No sign of her. I jump onto to pontoon, via our passerelle, Shelley follows, I’m shining the torch around the boat. I move towards the boat next door and call her, this is the time I am grateful that she has a very loud howl. I grab the net from Shelley and luckily I can scoop her out.
I jump back onto our boat and wash her with warm fresh water. We warmed towels in the microwave and I wrap her in them to dry her and stop her shivering. 1 hour later she has totally recovered and is not the least bit grateful.
After 3 nights in Kaş it is time to do the last leg to our winter home in Finike.
Finally our winter home- Finike
We arrived in the small town of Finike on Sunday October 24. It was time to tie up for winter.
2180 nautical miles, 4 countries, 1 covid test, many masks, 45 days on anchor, 38 days in marinas. What an epic journey. There were many lessons learned, many mistakes made but we did it through a global pandemic.
Never would I have thought when we left Glenlyon that we would have been capable of achieving this, was it fun? Some of it. Were there times I should have been home knitting or something? Yes. Can I knit? No.
We have settled in here in Finike where the Covid cases are on the increase and we are heading into another lockdown.
2020 the year that is best forgotten.
Jill de Vos words. Photos and captions Shelley Beer