We had heard horror stories about the Greek island of Rhodes, particularly the conditions for cruising boats in Rhodes Town. The word was that the main harbor of Mandraki is impossible to get into, as it is filled with tour boats and charter fleets. And when one could find an open space on the dock, the experience was chaotic, with crazy boat drivers and crossed anchors. There is talk of a new marina, but after years in the making, it has never been completed. And, according to sources, there is no place to anchor, cruise ships abound, and the island is "touristy." Imagine that. "Don't go there" was the advice we received.
But we needed to check into Greece, Rhodes was in the right location for our planned cruising path, and we wanted to see one of Greece's most popular and most visited islands. So with a little research, we found a "super yacht" agent who was willing to help a little boat like Berkeley East. We've never used an agent before for fear of the associated expense, and they typically just want to work with "super yachts" which BE definitely is not. But we had recently heard about a yacht that did not follow procedure when clearing into Croatia and was scolded then charged a whopping 600 Euros per person; we figured using an agent might cost a bit more than we're used to, but at least we'd be legal.
After an uneventful sail from Turkey, we arrived in Rhodes Town to two of the agent's representatives at the harbor entrance smiling and waving us in. Two more caught our dock lines. Need a rental car? The agent had one delivered to the boat. Want a good restaurant? The agent got us into the best. So far it was painless, but we really had no idea how much this hospitality was going to cost us. We asked, but they never really answered. They took no money up front. They did, however, keep our boat papers.
It is rumored that one of the 7 wonders of the world, the 100' bronze statue, Collosus, straddled the entrance of the harbor. Unfortunately no one knows for sure as the statue fell in the earthquake of 266 BC.
We put the fear of having to empty our bank account to pay the bill out of our minds and set out to see the island of Rhodes. The capital of the Dodecanese island group, Rhodes was part of both the Roman and Byzantine empires before being conquered and occupied by the Knights of St. John from 1306 to 1522. Ottoman and Italian rulers followed, which explained why sometimes it felt more Italian than Greek. We spent five days exploring the big, beautiful island, all the while keeping one step ahead of the cruise ships and tour buses.
The Old City of Rhodes is surrounded by 2 ½ miles of medieval walls with seven gates. The walls were built over 200 years and are 40-feet thick and surrounded by a moat that was 70 feet wide. The impressive Palace of the Grand Master is a medieval castle built in the early 14th century by the Knights of Saint John now houses medieval relics, ancient sculptures and mosaics. Unfortunately much of the beauty of the old city is masked by tourist shops and restaurants.
The Archaeological Museum is housed in the medieval Hospital of the Knights constructed in the mid 1400's. The building itself was impressive, as was the Mosaic floors from the Hellenistic and Early Christian periods.
A central industry in Rhodes is their wine production, located mainly in the mountaintop village of Embonas, in the shadow of Mount Attavyros. Here, several small family wineries produce some excellent wines. Most of them labeled the bottles as we bought them. At one, they actually filled the bottles from the tanks after the purchase.
There is a beautiful monastery at the top of Filerimos hill, originally built in the 14th century and then rebuilt in the 1920's by the Italians, after being destroyed by the invading Ottoman's in 1876.
Ancient Kamiros on the north-western shore of Rhodes, runs dramatically down to a cliff that overhangs the Aegean sea.
Only the shell of Kritnia castle, built by the Knights in the 16th century, survives today. It sits atop a hill, with a breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea and the island of Chalki . Unfortunately our selfie blocks the breathtaking view.
Spectacular Lindos is so popular, we passed numerous buses at the entrance but by the time we found a place to park, the town was quiet (you gotta love cruise ships and tour buses with their quick-moving schedules). Some time at Pallas Beach, a walk to the Crusader castle and acropolis, a wander through the winding lanes of the town, lunch at a real Italian restaurant; a perfect afternoon.
And we thought our neighbors in North Carolina had a lot of cats!
During our time in Mandraki Harbor, we saw boats come and go, next to us and across the harbor, without any of the bedlam that had been described. Was it because we were on the inside of the harbor where the agent secures their boats, or were we just lucky? We'll never know.
When it came time to leave, we nervously went to pay our bill. And to our surprise, the agent's fee, along with the charges to enter Greece, five-days dockage, plus electricity and water were far less combined than we have paid many other places for the dockage alone. And they took our credit card! Perfecto!
We asked for assistance leaving the dock and two smiling men arrived on scooters, threw off the lines then raced around to the harbor entrance to wave goodbye. BE is not a super yacht, but on Rhodes she certainly was treated like one.
When we first checked into Turkey two years ago, we were told that we had to purchase a Blue Card. Turkey's Blue Card Scheme is designed to keep the country's coastal waters clean by requiring people on recreational boats to use holding tanks and pump out at designated stations at frequent intervals, or face consequences. The Blue Card program was really created to deal with the huge number of Gulets (traditional two, or three-masted sailboats) in Turkey that carry hundreds of people on day trips and weeks-long holidays.
It is always a good practice on a boat to use holding tanks. And whenever we visit a country, we work hard to make sure we follow the rules and regulations; we are, after all, just guests in their land, and we have no desire to end up in jail with Russian prostitutes. While the goals of the Blue Card Scheme are noble and the whole thing probably sounded good on paper, it doesn't work well in practice. The law requires that all grey water from showers and sinks, and black water from toilets, be held in tanks and later pumped out. Most boats, even new boats, do not have the plumbing systems and tanks to do this. Also, you need infrastructure to pump the tanks out and transfer the discharge to treatment facilities, of which few exists in Turkey. Berkeley East has grey and black water tanks, but our showers drain over the side, so meeting the Blue Card requirements was challenging. Luckily it was warm enough to swim when we were at anchor.
At this point, much of the country does not follow the Blue Card Scheme, but we had heard that it is truly enforced in the south, and fines can be stiff, huge fines up to $6,000. So upon entering Southern Turkey this year, we diligently followed the Blue Card restrictions, wanting to not only obey the law, but help the environment as well. After a few days in some beautiful anchorages, we searched out the closest station to empty the holding tanks at a marina in Fethiye. We had been told, by other cruisers, that the waters in this area were pristine, so imagine our surprise when we entered the marina and saw water as filthy as any place we have ever been. Even if boats were pumping out, they were forgetting to throw their rubbish, plastic bottles and cigarette butts in the trash rather than into the water. We did our duty and pumped out Berkeley East's holding tanks, then took a slip in the marina for several days to see the area. During that time, we only saw a handful of boats come into the station. It didn't look like the scheme was working.
Luckily, the town of Fethiye was an interesting place that caters to tourists without losing its charm.
We quickly found a restaurant on the water, actually on the road across from the water. If you closed your eyes, you could almost believe that the traffic noise was really the sound of the sea. It was a family place with excellent food and the best bread, shaped like a football.
We always like to try different places in a port, but we would return to the football restaurant three times before leaving Fethiye.
There is a lot to see in Southern Turkey, but since we had decided this would be our last stop in the country, we would have to pick and chose sites that could be visited in one day of rental car touring. We were both reading the novel "Birds Without Wings," a story about the impact of religious intolerance, over-zealous nationalism, and the war that often results, so a visit to Kayakoy, the town that is central to the story, was at the top of our list.
From there, we chose to hike along a section of the Lycian Way. It was a short stretch of this historical trail that follows the Mediterranean shores of Turkey through breathtaking landscapes along crystal clear water for over 300 miles. Now we could see the beautiful water that our fellow cruisers were talking about. Perhaps the Blue Card scheme was working after all.
Our hike ended at one of the most picturesque beaches is the Mediterranean, Oludeniz, which translates to Blue Lagoon.
The only problem was that our car was still in Kayakoy, so we while we would have preferred to sip another Mango smoothie, we needed to hike back over the mountain to our ride.
Oludeniz is regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide due to its beautiful panoramic views and the ability to land right on the beach.
As we were leaving Turkey the next morning, we saw several boats out early, heading up the coast. One powerboat, however, was moving offshore and we assumed, like us, they were going to Greece. But after a while, we heard another boat call on the radio asking where they were going. They responded and said they were going out to empty their holding tanks. They were still in Turkish waters, but it was much better to go offshore than to dump their holding tanks in the bay.
Preparing to leave the marina for the first time after a winter away is always challenging. Trying to make sure that you remember to do everything, install everything, fix everything and purchase everything that you might need for the season can be overwhelming. But over the years we've read, researched, made lists and listened to other cruisers on the importance of preparedness, and the consequences of forgetfulness. Check anything and everything that anyone else has touched, test everything that hasn't been used in a while, don't motor away without checking the transmission oil, make sure the dinghy is not forgotten in Bermuda when you cross the Atlantic, and never, ever leave the dock without your spouse. This actually happened when one cruiser thought his wife was below in the cabin when she had, in fact, stepped off the boat to toss the trash. He threw off the dock lines and sailed away leaving her on the dock without a phone, money, or even shoes. And he forgot to turn on his cell phone or the boat's radio, so he could not be informed of his blunder. He did come back for her, eventually.
Luckily, we have never made such an egregious error, yet. So with both the Captain and Admiral and the dinghy on board, we moved Berkeley East out of D-Marin Didim, her home for the past two winters. It was exciting to be off, but also a bit sad to be leaving such a great winter marina not knowing if we would return or not. Our plan was to head to southern Turkey with a couple of stops in Greece; first for fuel in Kos, then an overnight in Simi at a favorite anchorage.
By day two we were back in Turkey at a beautiful new spot Ekinicik Limani.
Day three brought concerns of weather (just like old times) so we moved quickly to Skopea Limani, a large gulf protected by a chain of islands with many beautiful anchorages. We chose Sarsila on the western shore, where we grabbed a mooring and proceeded to settle into the cruising life.
While cooking the first dinner at anchor we discovered we had forgotten something: tomatoes. But as luck would have it, a little boat came by selling crepes and tomatoes! Imagine that. How much would we pay for a tomato? In this case, we paid 20 Turkish Lira (about $7) for two beautiful tomatoes and two delicious crepes, delivered to our boat. And we got to help support the locals. What a deal.
We spent four days on that mooring in Skopea Limani, bought more crepes and more tomatoes. Then there were also the fish, and the ice cream, boats; which we felt obliged to support.
We even had a sea turtle that would come by Berkeley East regularly to check on us.
The cruising guide tells us that there is a four-day limit on any mooring and eleven days total allowed stay in all of Skopea Limani. And we can understand the restrictions, as one could live there. It was difficult to break away from this paradise.
On Sunday our quiet anchorage was descended on by charter boats that had left Gocek and where looking for their first night's anchorage. Fortunately most of them went to the dock/restaurant in the cove next to us and out of site.