April 28, 2019    |   Nisyros, Greece - It's Orthodox Easter Sunday so it seemed appropriate to visit an Orthodox Church - at the summit of an active volcanic island.




 


 
   
Day 4,347 - Symi, Greece
08:47hrs - April 26, 2019
Opa!

We're anchored on the Greek island of Symi, stern tied to a stone quay in the picturesque pastel-colored village of Yialos. A town so absolutely idyllic and harmoniously composed, you would think it the work of Aristotle.

It is a Med mooring experience at its very best, one where you step from the transom of your boat right into a Mediterranean postcard - a local cafe or taverna just a few feet from your cockpit, where chairs and round tables draped in white cloth rest on cobbled streets warmed by the sun, and depending on the time of day or your mood, one can order a cup of coffee accompanied by a warm loaf of sweet tsoureki freshly pulled from a stone oven, or a glass of chilled retsina, local wine, perhaps accompanied by a few olives and a little pita snack, and with an immense pleasure completely relax into the moment, feeling the pace of life in a tiny Greek town while just five steps away, your boat tugs gently on her stern lines.

Med mooring is a technique of berthing in the Mediterranean Sea that, due to the vast number of boats cruising the region and the absence of any discernible tidal range, allows vessels to anchor and tie stern-to a dock or quay, and most likely, with the region's ancient maritime history, in a harbour at the very center of a community which rests on foundations that date back to the time of the Titans.

This is our first stern-to mooring in a Mediterranean town, and it is already an unforgettable experience. By sheer proximity you feel a connection to the community, and after just a few days, when locals recognize you as being more permanent than the day tourists arriving by ferry from Rhodes, they begin to include you in their day, sharing smiles, pleasantries, local walks and island secrets. One merchant offered his car should we feel the urge to explore the island, and a store owner included a free bottle of local red wine with our groceries. We already feel at home here.

It's early in the cruising season so there are only three other yachts berthed alongside Dream Time. During summer months dozens squeeze together on the quay which is filled past capacity, jostling for room with barely fender space to spare, while the sidewalks resemble New York's Fifth Avenue more than a quaint Greek town with just 2,500 residence. But it's spring now, the cafes and quay are unhurried, and whilst relaxing in the cockpit locals and tourists study your boat, smile and nod down to you as they pass, some stopping to ask questions about your voyage. And the relaxed intimacy of feeling connected to a small seaside community, is one of the great pleasures of a Mediterranean mooring. But it can come with a price.

'Opa!' is a Greek term traditionally reserved for smashing plates or shouting loudly after stubbing your toe on a deck cleat. But over the years its meaning has evolved to also express joy and celebration. But as Med mooring can be a tricky business, more often than not, especially when berthed in Symi, the traditional use of Opa! can regularly be heard echoing across the amphitheatrical bay as new arrivals or departures struggle with their ground tackle.

Symi harbour is moderately deep and at its center the mud and rocky bottom, which a local pilot book describes as poor holding, can be found between 40-60 feet below the surface. The seabed drops off quickly on both sides and the narrow harbour means that anchors must not only be carefully placed to avoid crossing the chain of your immediate neighbors, but also aligned to avoid snagging the anchors and chain of boats berthed on the opposite quay.

Dropping the anchor in exactly the right location is a mild challenge, but backing your boat towards a crowded quay whilst paying out chain and negotiating your stern into a space barely the width of your beam can seem almost impossible, especially if you've had little practice with the maneuver and your boat is like Dream Time - a full keel, no bow thruster, and stubborn as a mule when going astern. Let's just say that the potential for an enthusiastic Opa! runs high.

Local officials seem happy to add to the chaos, blowing whistles to get your attention before loudly shouting orders (in Greek) at arriving captains, and heckling those they deem incompetent or take a dislike to. And if that's not enough to make you clench your jaw, all this typically happens under the amused gaze of hundreds of spectators sipping Mythos or glasses of retsina lounging in the cafes and tavernas that line the quay within perfect viewing distance.

With great relief Dream Time's arrival was one that found an almost empty quay and just a light cross wind. We dropped the anchor in 45 feet and with a scope of 4:1 had both stern lines passed to a local official and secured to bollards in just a few minutes and only one blast from the whistle. Other captains were not so lucky - one foreign yacht flying a rather weathered Greek courtesy flag was spectacularly reprimanded and ordered to immediately purchase a new one from the local chandlery. Another yacht lost their mooring pole when attempting to free a snagged chain, and after finally freeing themselves miraculously managed to snag another. While the captain of a smoky Hallberg-Rassy attempting to berth alongside Dream Time was openly mocked by an official line handler not only for the poor condition of his diesel engine, but also for the placement of his anchor across those already settled resulting in the snagging of our neighbor's chain - and all this excitement occurred in just a single afternoon.

Dream Time, unfortunately, did not manage to fully escape an Opa! Frustratingly when our neighbor departed, and due to a poor placement of their ground tackle the night before, dragged us away from the dock before relocating our anchor just off our bow, shortening our scope to a measly 2:1 and requiring us to completely reset our berth. But weather conditions were favorable and it was all good practice, and we later learned, a part of the colorful Med mooring experience, and during summer months, is expected to be a daily occurrence. So much so that many Mediterranean captains carry a 'chain thief' - a nifty hook with a quick release line to easily secure then free snagged ground tackle.

Captains here seem mostly skilled in the art of unfouling ground tackle with a simple technique that involves looping a rope under the snagged chain to take the load, and after freeing the anchor releasing the rope to allow the snagged chain to fall back to the seabed. Considerate assailants will attempt to drop a lifted hook back to where they found it, if not it'll mean the victim having to reset their anchor and scope, much to the amusement of those ashore cheering from the comfort of a lounge chair in a taverna.

Our second Opa!, and one experienced by all the yachts berthed in Symi, occurred at 0700 when a car ferry entered the harbor along with a spectacular wake which cascaded around the stone walls causing all the boats to surge forward and aft over six feet. Boats with shorter stern lines and passerelles (gangplanks), and perhaps berthed a little too close, collided with the quay where swim platforms and fiberglass transoms crunched against stone before captains and crew, most fresh from their berths and wearing very little, started engines and engaged transmissions.

Dream Time survived unscathed thanks to a giant fender ball we've been carrying around the world for twelve years and, until Symi, have only used once - while transiting the Panama Canal. Our outboard engine, however, which was clamped to the stern rail, clipped the wall resulting in a mildly bent propeller. But we think this is a small price to pay to be stern-tied to one of the prettiest towns in all of Greece - Opa!



 


April 23, 2019    |   Symi, Greece - The picturesque pastel-colored port of Yialos washed in afternoon sunlight, and Dream Time anchored / stern-tied to a local cafe.






April 16, 2019    |   Marmaris, Turkey - Farewell Turkey! A sunny forecast for our 25-mile passage to Greece.









April 15, 2019 (Day 4,337)
Quick Fix: 36° 51.0 N / 28° 16.0 E
Marmaris, Turkey

Historic Road Trip
After riding wind bullets of 40 knots stern tied in the lee of a 2,000 year old Lycian wall we sailed to Marmaris, rented a car, and for 2 days drove 500 miles, traveling back in history to explore the ancient cities of Hierapolis and Ephesus - built by the Greeks and then, over 3,000 years, ravaged or ruled by the Lydians, Persians, Egyptians, Romans, the Ottoman Empire and Mother Nature. Sitting on warm stone amongst the red bloom of spring poppies it was easy to drift back in time, imagining sandaled feet shuffling in vast numbers on gritty stadium steps, and the ruling civilizations that thrived here for over a millennium. Today much of the site is arranged in carefully stacked piles, perhaps awaiting reassembly; larger foundations rest in their original foundations; and some buildings, like a portion of the Library of Celsius, was carefully reconstructed over 8 years - an historic jigsaw puzzle of dusty granite blocks and fragments of marble columns. And it is still magnificent.

           






April 15, 2019    |   Ephesus, Turkey - The entrance to the Temple of Hadrian in the city of Ephesus - one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.


 


April 15, 2019    |   Ephesus, Turkey - This frieze depicts the story of the foundation of Ephesus (built in the 10th Century BC).







April 14 2019    |   Hierapolis, Turkey - Catch a show at the 15,000 seat theater in the ancient city of Hierapolis.






April 8, 2019    |   Kapi Koyu, Turkey - Bad weather out there, but we're anchored in a protected bay, shielded by mountains, forest and a 2,000 year old Lycian wall.



 





April 6, 2019 (Day 4,328)
Quick Fix: 36° 42.6 N / 28° 56.0 E
Yassica Adalari, Turkey

Practice Makes Perfect
With a nifty yellow spool, procured from a local chandlery, hanging over the quarter deck and wrapped with 300 feet of our pristine parachute sea anchor rope, we set out yesterday from Fethiye to find our first Turkish Isle on which to Med moor. With almost no tidal range and shorelines that regularly fall away from 5 feet to over 50 in under a boat length, the Mediterranean Sea is a region where stern tying is a commonly employed berthing technique, and if you don't want to embarrass yourself pulling into a busy marina, one that's worth practicing. We've stern tied before but not with any regularity so yesterday we were fully prepared to host a gong show (which was why we selected an uninhabited spectator-free island). But conditions were ideal: we dropped the hook in 60 feet, backed down into the wind to a shallow shoreline, and secured our stern to a handy bollard with nary a fuss. As it's still too cold to swim we celebrated with a toasty beach fire instead, right in our own back garden. Perfect.

               

 


April 5, 2019    |   Yassica Adalari, Turkey - Anchored and stern tied to our first Turkish Isle, with a bonus - a toasty beach fire to warm our bones.

 


April 5, 2019    |   Kas, Turkey - An eye for good. Watch out bad vibes, Dream Time's got a Nazar Boncuğu. These talismans have been around the Med' for 3,000 years.



 





April 3, 2019 (Day 4,325)
Quick Fix: 36° 37.4 N / 29° 05.6 E
Fethiye, Turkey

Turkish Delight
Life in Turkey, at least the southwestern corner we're exploring, operates at a delightful pace (assuming you're not in a hurry). Relaxed business owners seem to break regularly for Turkish coffee and endless games of backgammon. Vendors routinely offer us tea, allowing time for an exchange of pleasantries before business is discussed. Even the local chandlery, where we purchased new hoses and a ball valve, offered us apple tea while we waited - this never happened in West Marine - and we rather like it. We've explored much of the area, bartered with rug merchants in the old market, we visited 2,000 year old Lycian rock tombs, and took a two hour hike with friends to Kayakoy, a 'ghost village' abandoned by a Greek community during a relocation exchange after the war. We had lunch at a local 'restaurant' in the hills which only served one dish and one customer at a time - hand rolled pancakes cooked slowly on a single hot plate over a wood burning fire, and it was perfect.

           




 


     
   
Day 4,323 - Fethiye, Turkey
10:39hrs - April 1, 2019
A Med' Moor

Fresh from its packaging and still showing fold marks, our first Mediterranean courtesy flag is flying from Dream Time's spreaders. After her 5,000 nautical mile voyage as a passenger on cargo vessel Annette, Dream Time arrived in Turkey last week and splashed two nautical miles from the town of Fethiye, which lays just 360 nautical miles north-northwest of the Suez Canal.

The voyage from Thailand to Turkey took Annette only fifteen days, which included collecting a mega yacht in the Maldives and nine heavily armed security guards to discourage opportunistic Somali pirates from boarding. Dream Time arrived in reasonably good condition coated only with a thin layer of salt and dust as proof of her transit, along with hundreds of tiny rust specs on her coachroof - presumably from crew grinding metal somewhere on Annette's superstructure during the passage. The unloading process was complete in just two hours as we watched the Sevenstar crew release Dream Time's deck straps, lift her from the hard stands (which had been welded directly to the cargo deck), before carefully swinging her up and over the railing to meet chilly Mediterranean waters.

I wasn't sure how I would feel processing this transition. Would the sudden change in region seem unnatural? Would our voyage feel somehow interrupted? Would it seem like a defeat to be transported after having sailed every passage for twelve years? But just seconds after we clambered down the rope ladder hanging over Annette's freeboard, stepped onto Dream Time's decks, fired up the Yanmar and motored across the bay to Fethiye, I felt immediately at home, as though there had been no disruption or interlude in our voyage. In fact twenty minutes later, whilst tying up in Ece Marina, it felt similar to our 2009 arrival in New Zealand after leaving the warmth of tropical Tonga behind only to arrive in a country that was being swept with gale force winds and freezing rain.

So it's business, mostly, as usual on Dream Time, except the temperature has dropped a bone chilling thirty degrees. The sea here is 56 degrees Fahrenheit with morning air temperatures not much warmer, and the backdrop, rather than palm trees and towering limestone karsts dripping in tropical jungle, is a crisp panoramic of mountainous snowy peaks.

It will probably take us a few days to acclimatize and we have a little work ahead to prepare ourselves and Dream Time for this new climate, like: how to pronounce teşekkür ederim ('thank you' in Turkish), finding all our warm-weather gear that's buried in the aft cabin, and plotting a route through the hundreds of Greek islands between here and Athens.

Our first challenge of the day: How to Med' moor a full keeled yacht with no bow thruster into a marina space with a twenty knot cross wind and barely enough room for fenders. Welcome to the Mediterranean!