Turkey is Not Southeast Asia or the Pacific

20160526_104731Sophie is currently moored in Sarsala in the Skopea Limani area of Turkey’s Lycean coast, just 5 miles south of Göcek. It is a pretty bay with a beach and a stunning view of nearby mountains. It feels like Desolation Sound back in British Columbia, except there are more tourists here. We will likely stay in the Göcek area for a week, focusing on Sophie school and boat projects. It’s quite a pleasant location.

Now that we have been cruising in Turkey for a couple of weeks, it’s time to share with you some early thoughts on how cruising here is different from cruising in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. We will also update you on some new additions to our home.

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Cooler Weather Makes Our Machines Happier
The ambient temperature here is 20 degrees F lower than in Thailand, and this makes a big difference for how efficiently our machines work. As I’ve mentioned before, Sophie is simply a collection of different systems packaged together, and if the machines in these systems are happy, then Sophie is happy. We use Victron energy charger/inverters to charge our main battery bank, and they now run with up to 50% more efficiency in the cooler weather here, producing a peak charge of 180 amps (at 12 volts) compared to 110 amps in Thailand. The photo above shows 180 amps flowing into our main battery bank. This NEVER happened in the Pacific or in Asia. Never. The Victrons have internal sensors that reduce their charge when the machines get hot, and these sensors are apparently enjoying the cool Turkish spring. On the load side, our batteries are lasting longer between charges because our 2 refrigerators and 1 freezer aren’t working as hard in the cooler weather. Fewer people are opening up the fridges for cold drinks, and the machines’ compressors don’t have to work as hard to maintain their temperatures. Our watermaker also appears to be quite happy in the cooler weather, with less growth gunking up its filters. In Thailand we had to swap out the external filters every 2 weeks due to algae growth, but we haven’t had to change a filter since we passed through the Suez Canal. Our water tastes much better as well!

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No Tuna, But Plenty of Turtles and Goats
We have been trolling for fish since we left Cyprus but have experienced exactly zero fish action. We have not seen any offshore fishing boats, either. There are some small fishing boats using hand nets right outside of harbors, and the tourist restaurants all serve grilled fish that look like little sea perch. The village retail areas also have fishing stores that sell $500 fishing poles and buckets of lures to the tourists who come here to pursue their dreams. But there are no big pelagic fish. None. There are, however, thousands of sea turtles along this stretch of coast. No one ever told me that we would see more sea turtles in Turkey than in any other country on our adventure so far. Turtles are everywhere here. We have to dodge them in the dinghy. Some of them are big suckers, measuring more than a meter across. Apparently June is turtle egg-laying season, and there are many egg-laying beaches nearby. There are also goats on every hillside of every harbor and every bay. They seem to enjoy eating right next to where we tie our shore lines. I haven’t seen any gnaw marks on our lines yet, but I remain alert to the danger.

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Fewer Cruisers, More Boats
There are a lot of boats out on the water here in Turkey, but almost all of them are charters or tour boats, and the people who charter boats use them every day. From our anchorage right now I can see three boats out sailing in the afternoon breeze. By comparison, I think we saw three sailboats during our entire passage across Indonesia. But we haven’t met any long-term cruisers since we were in Israel. It’s still off-season, and we are hopeful we will connect with some fellow cruisers soon. It was easy for us to do so in places like Thailand, because when you walk into the cruisers bar by the marina, there were … cruisers there! But it doesn’t seem to be the same here, at least so far. Also, most of the charter boats here in Turkey are US-flagged, because apparently our country is a tax haven for people who purchase and operate charter boats in Turkey.

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Our Lawn is Gone!
For the last three years we’ve had a patch of bright green seaweed growing at the end of our our stern transoms. Apparently the extra weight of all our systems, machines, and batteries pushes the last bits of transom into the water, and in the tropics the resulting warm water pools sitting in the bright sunshine become perfect growth environments for sea grass. This stuff was a bane of my existence throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans.  All the scrubbing, scraping, chemicals, and antifouling in the world couldn’t prevent this stuff from continuing to grow. We lovingly referred to these grass patches as our lawn. But now that we are in the Med, the lawn is suddenly … gone! Our transoms are bright and shiny. We hope this is due to the colder temperatures and not to the presence of some new type of poison in the water.

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Dust in the Wind
When we transited the Suez Canal, the boat became covered in a heavy layer of brown grit that blew in from the nearby desert. We assumed at the time that this was a minor price we had to pay for the convenience of sailing directly into the Med. However, we’ve been in the Med for a couple of months, and there is STILL a layer of brown dust that blows in from the nearby hills. Now that we are out anchoring, it seems crazy to run the watermaker for a couple of hours to produce enough fresh water to rinse off the boat if the boat will become covered with dust again in two days. It briefly rained last week, and the raindrops contained dust. In the Pacific, Sophie’s deck was clean due to the frequent rain, but Sophie’s waterline and back porch had a layer of green growth. In Turkey, the boat is dirtier due to dust-born wind, but the waterline and back porch are sparkly white. I am not sure which is better.

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We Finally Filled Our LPG Bottles!
We use LPG for cooking in our galley and on our barbecue. We use US-compliant LPG bottles, but unfortunately every nation has its own standards (meaning non-US compliant) for the fittings used to fill LPG bottles. This wasn’t a problem for us in the Pacific because the presence of so many American boats guaranteed that every port had the correct gear to refill US LPG bottles. We also didn’t use LPG as much due to the tropical climate. 100 degrees of ambient heat in the cabin is a great motivator to not bake. In Southeast Asia, it was more of a challenge for us to fill LPG but we always seemed to find a way. However, no one in Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, or Eastern Turkey could fill our LPG bottles. We were starting to worry, cutting back on our barbecues and use of the oven. I wandered Turkish ports with an empty LPG bottle in my backpack, visiting different shops hoping someone could help us out. For two weeks I had no luck. But I finally found someone in Göcek who could help (on my third stop of the day, no less!), and we now have enough cooking gas to get us to Italy. I think the girls plan to bake later today.

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No Dinghy Covers
In the Pacific and Southeast Asia, EVERY cruising dinghy has a canvas or Sunbrella cover over it’s tubes to protect the material from sun exposure. Here in Turkey, no one does this. It makes Sophie’s tenders stand out in a crowd.

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Produce is Cheap, But Marinas and Restaurants Are $$$$$
We can go to a produce market here in Turkey and fill a big blue Ikea bag with just-picked tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, mint, basil, lettuce, peaches, green beans, and cherries for just 3 Euros for the entire bag. A loaf of fresh bread from a bakery costs 50 cents. On the other hand, a night on a dock in a marina costs over 100 Euros, and the nearby restaurants can charge that much for a meal for the 4 of us. Needless to say, we are enjoying our fresh produce while floating at anchor.

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We Love Love Love our Big Yellow Shorelines
When we lived in Seattle, we purchased a length of 20 mm floating polypropylene rope for stern tying to shore when we cruised Desolation Sound, the area back home that looks just like this anchorage. Specifically, I went to Fisheries Supply and asked to buy 100 meters of this type of rope. They had a brand new spool of 200 meters and offered to sell me the entire spool for an extra $25 dollars. I agreed, used the rope for a summer cruise in Canada, then buried it in Sophie’s forward lazarette for the next 6 years. Well, Turkey is shore tying country, and we are putting our 200 meters of floating rope to good use, doing so with a great deal of love and respect. It is quite easy to work with, especially when shore tying in a strong crosswind like we did the other day. We secured the line to a bollard on the cliff, had 100 meters of slack in the water while the wind blew Sophie parallel to the cliff, got the line onto one of our big genoa winches, and then cranked Sophie snug up to where she was supposed to be. It was awesome.

Well, that should give you a sense for how cruising in Turkey compares to cruising in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. It’s not better or worse, just different.

Here is an update on some of the projects we’ve been working on this past week:

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New Pasarelle
A pasarelle is a fancy name for the gangplank sailors in the Med use for getting on and off their boats when they are stern tied to a pier. Since all boats in the Med stern tie to piers while in harbor, pasarelles are mandatory equipment for cruising boats. For Sophie, we purchased and installed a 2.6 meter carbon fiber folding pasarelle made by GS-Composite in Slovenia.

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Its features include a nonskid surface, carbon fiber rails, a weight under 8 kilos, and a compact carrying bag for storage.

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We installed a stainless steel mount for the pasarelle on one of our port transom steps and then spent some time playing geometry with the supporting halyard to make sure that the windmills don’t chop away at the halyard during a sudden wind shift. Hazel would like to use the pasarelle as a diving board.

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Bilge Pump for the Big Dinghy
Our friends (and fellow successful Indian Ocean and Red Sea passage makers!) Terry and Christine on Tekanova have the same model Highfield dinghy we have, and they installed an electric bilge pump on theirs. Jenna and I realized that we should probably do the same.

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While we were back in Seattle last month, I found a low profile Rule model that fits in the dinghy’s bilge without having to permanently prop open the dinghy’s little bilge grate.

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I did the wiring and installed a switch the other day. The new pump works great, and it means we will have a cleaner dinghy, because we will be more willing to hose it out when it’s in the water.

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Raymarine GPS Woes
Since we left Israel, we have been intermittently losing our GPS signal on our Raymarine G Series multifunction displays. These are our primary navigation computers, and this new problem is annoying. We have multiple backup GPS units on board, including a redundant set of Navionics charts on Jenna’s iPad, so technically this is not a dangerous situation for us. Our overall Raymarine system is 8 years old, and we increasingly find ourselves having to reconnect various connection points on the proprietary SeaTalk and SeaTalkng networks that connect all of this stuff together. (The more I cruise, the more I realize that marine electronics problems are usually due to a faulty connection somewhere.) We’re still tracking down where the bad connection is for this problem, and I even disassembled the Raymarine GPS antenna and replaced its lithium battery, but that does not seem to have completely fixed the problem.

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The Fleet is Out
Now that we are back in slow cruising mode, Jenna and the kids continue to focus on making great progress on Sophie School, and I continue to work through my list of boat chores and projects.

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At this point we have our entire “fleet” of cruising toys out on Sophie’s deck and ready to use: both paddle boards, both kayaks, both dinghies, and all four bikes. We call our small dinghy “The Baby”, and we haven’t used it since Thailand.

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In Europe, The Baby will be the main vehicle the kiddies use for getting to shore on their own, most likely starting today once school is over.

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Next Steps for Sophie
We plan to slowly move ourselves along the Turkish coast for another couple of weeks before we meet some Seattle friends in Greece. We will spend a month in Greece, then head up to Montenegro and Croatia for July and August. We would like to spend the fall and winter in Italy and will try to get visitor visas for Italy to avoid the restrictions of Shengen visas (where you can only stay 90 out of every 180 days in most EU countries.)

As usual, time seems to be going by way too quickly. We are very very lucky to be spending our lives doing this. It’s all good.

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