"Getting away from it all" is a phrase that many people use to describe the cruising life. Unfortunately, Rick and I seem to have taken a lot of "it all" along with us, both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, every locker onboard Aisling is overflowing with spare parts, tools and miscellaneous items that might, some day, be needed. In a more general sense, the internet and our cellphones, which are such a blessing in terms of staying in touch with family and friends, also keep us connected to many of the responsibilities and worries of our everyday lives. Rick, in particular, often has to set time aside to deal with work-related issues, and last week he spent several days worrying about a difficult lease negotiation for one of the stores. By the weekend, he was ready for a change of scenery, and we decided to sail down the coast to Ekincik.
In order to leave Yacht Marine, we first had to get a "clearance document" from the marina office. We had heard horror stories from other cruisers about how lengthy this process can be, particularly on weekends, so we were prepared for the worst, especially since this weekend was an important holiday in Turkey. Seker Bayrami or "Sugar Holiday" is a large three-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan (actually called Ramazan in Turkey) and everything pretty much grinds to a halt. The marina office was running with reduced staff, so I was pleasantly surprised when it took less than five minutes to get the clearance paper. Unfortunately, when I returned from the office, Rick had some bad news- the fridge had stopped working again. After some discussion, we decided to leave anyway.
Leaving the marina, I had the same feeling of freedom that I often get when we sail out of Halifax harbour toward Rogue's Roost or Mahone Bay. This time we really would be getting away from it all, since we would have no internet connection after leaving the marina and by now our cellphones had been blocked by Turkcell so we could not make any outgoing calls.
It was a beautiful (motor) sail down the mountainous coast to Ekincik, where we anchored in front of the long sandy beach, just off a small cluster of cafes and the shell of a partially-constructed hotel (a long-abandoned project). The scenery here is the kind you see in travel brochures, with multi-coloured cliffs and glorious bright-green pine forests against deep blue and turquoise water. Unfortunately, within two hours of our arrival, the wind died and a big swell rolled in, making things rather uncomfortable onboard. And we still had the problem of the fridge to deal with.
We decided to use the "hit it with a hammer" strategy that has served us so well in the past. This first required the unloading of a huge pile of stuff from the aft cockpit locker, in order to get access to the refrigerator motor. Spare lines, empty diesel containers, snorkeling equipment and the unwieldy piece of plywood that normally covers the refrigerator motor: all were now piled on the cockpit seats. The good news was that the motor responded well to the hammer technique; the bad news was that Rick had to keep hitting it at regular intervals, otherwise it would gradually run more slowly...still more slowly and then.....stop. After about two hours of beating it into submission, the temperature was back down to an acceptable level, but Rick decided that it was pointless to replace all the gear in the locker, since we would have to continue this process twice a day until we got it fixed (or ate all the food in the fridge, whichever came first). The general disarray seriously detracted from the ambience in the cockpit, as well as the overall mood of the one of us who detests having clutter around. All in all, it was not one of our better evenings. But the next day would surely be better, because we planned to go up the river to Dalyan to see the ruins at Kaunos and the Lycian tombs along the banks.
The next morning we got up bright and early, optimistically packed guide books, cameras and water bottles in preparation for a big excursion and motored over to the mouth of the Dalyan river in the dinghy. We had read that the local tripper boats could be hostile to anyone taking private dinghies up the river, but we were hoping to keep a low profile and slip past them. As we slowly approached the beach at the mouth of the river, we saw a large turtle in the shallows and recalled that the beach is a nesting site for the endangered loggerhead turtles, called "caretta caretta" here. Passing near the shore to avoid another shallow spot, we saw a large sign that said "Entry prohibited to seed boats". Seed boats? We mulled that over for a while, concluded that our dinghy probably wasn't a seed boat, and continued on. But when we passed a large dock where several tripper boats were docked, the jig was up. We were hailed by one of the skippers and informed that the area was protected and that we could go no further. Hmm, maybe our dinghy is a seed boat after all. "You can dock your boat here and hire one of our boats for the cruise" he said helpfully "250 lira (nearly 200 dollars) for six hours." We replied that we couldn't afford to pay that much and he said "OK, 200 lira". Still too much. We decided to go to the small marina near the anchorage and ask if there were any less expensive options.
"Mymarina" is an enchanting little place. The main business is a restaurant, with dock space provided free of charge to the restaurant's clients. The dock has laid moorings and there are toilets, showers and a small market ashore. It's almost like a Canadian-style rustic hideaway, but with olive trees, palm trees and flowering shrubs. In spite of the chickens and rooster roaming the grounds, it is quite upscale, as evidenced by photos of previous clients that included Princess Carolyn and Dustin Hoffman.
The restaurant is pricey by Turkish standards, but overall it would not be a bad deal, considering that a free night in the marina is thrown in. Unfortunately, no one there was able to provide us with any advice on how to get up the river other than that, perhaps, we could walk as far as Caunos. We wandered around admiring the grounds, bought a loaf of nice-looking fresh bread in the market, then motored over to the beach to see if we might have better luck getting information from one of the restaurants.
As we approached the "Ship a Hoy" restaurant, a smiling man greeted us, asked what country we were from, offered us a seat and insisted that we have tea. In spite of our protests, we were brought two cups of Turkish tea (chay), which we were not permitted to pay for, because we were his guests. When I asked his name, he wrote it on my palm with a pen ("Niyazi") and told me that he would call me "sister" (a sign of respect in Turkey). "Foreign tourists are very important to our government", he tells us "If I make a problem for you and you report me to the police, I could lose my license for ten years". He brought me a flower that looked like a small white lily and told us that these flowers are protected by the government and the seeds cannot be taken out of the country. "What is this flower called?" I asked (wondering, at the same time, whether I should think twice before wandering around carrying a flower that has been given protected status). He hesitated. "It looks like a lily" said Rick. "Yes, that's right, a lily" he replied. Then he pointed out a large tree with beautiful blue flowers similar to lilacs. "What is that called?" asked Rick. "Oh, it's another kind of lily," he replied. Twenty minutes later, we have received a line by line comparison of the cost of his menu items versus Mymarina's, but we are none the wiser about how to get to Kaunos and Dalyan.
Finally, at the hotel next door, we are told that it is possible to make arrangements to have the local "Boat Cooperative" pick us up in one of their many 45' converted fishing boats for a tour up the river to Dalyan. The cost, we are told, is 200 lira to hire the entire boat, but if other cruisers in the anchorage wish to join us the price will drop. The Cooperative is called and agrees to come to our boat at between 6 at 6.30 p.m. to make the arrangements. At 6 p.m. they pull alongside Aisling and we sign on for a six-hour river cruise, departing at 9 the next morning, for 50 lira each (about 40 Canadian dollars), provided that they can find two other passengers to accompany us
At 8.45 the next morning, a Cooperative boat pulls alongside the charter boat nearest us, picks up half a dozen passengers and then leaves. Another Cooperative boat appears, goes to another charter boat and also motors away. Rick is convinced that they have forgotten us, and that certainly appears to be the case. He lowers the dinghy and says "I'm going over there to talk to ask what's happening". As he is roaring away, I decide to call the Cooperative on the VHF and they immediately reply, saying not to worry, another boat is on the way to pick us up. And sure enough, I can see them coming, but Rick is now nowhere in sight. I get out an air horn and blow it several times, with no result other than startling everyone in the anchorage. To my great relief, I finally spot him returning to the dinghy just as the boat pulls up beside Aisling. Crisis averted. Four Germans will be joining us for the tour and we are told that our cost will still be 50 lira per person-which doesn't seem to be quite right based on what we had been told the previous day, but we decide not to argue and were glad we didn't, as it was well worth the money.
The river tour was an incredible experience, twisting and turning through the maze-like channels separated by 12' bull rushes. The tour deserves an entire blog entry of its own- and that will be our next posting (hopefully tomorrow). No time to do write more today, because we are busy removing sails and beginning the process of putting everything away for the winter.
On a final note, when we got back to Yacht Marine, we had drinks with our new Canadian friends Deborah and Brian onboard their boat Chinook, and mentioned the "seed boat" sign. "Oh" said Brian "they probably meant speed boat". Amazing. Now why didn't we think of that?