Side stepping to Rhodes and crew departures

Back in early September and still unsure of restrictions imposed by the 180-day Schengen Visa (despite fruitlessly asking several ‘officials’) we had departed Greece a little prematurely for our liking. Having barely touched the surface of the Dodecanese Islands, we jumped at the opportunity to sail a beam reach west from near Gocek, Turkey to the historical walled city of Rhodes, Greece. The prevailing northerly wind was still showing some strength making anchoring off the old harbour untenable – as demonstrated by an aging steel beater that had broken loose of her chain the first night we were there and was awash on the town beach.

Apart from the shelter of its crowded yacht harbour, Rhodes Town was not well positioned to provide protection from the relentless northerly winds and accompanying swell. A poorly designed modern marina just southeast of town was still a long way from completion and had apparently been that way for years. A dozen or so workers and a handful of rusting machines told that progress was still being made, albeit at a snails’ pace. During our walk past the partially completed development, we observed that substantial further investment was needed to lay an extra breakwater to block the northerly swell that penetrated right through the marina, sending its network of floating pontoons bobbing wildly to and fro. Not somewhere we’d want to pay hard cash to tie up.

All that aside, Rhodes Town was a fascinating fortified city with an intriguing history dating from Before Christ through medieval times, Roman Crusades, Ottoman, Byzantine and Italian rule. Well preserved through the centuries and battles, old Rhodes was a fusion of different architectural influences and religious and cultural remnants left behind by the various powers and sea traders that had landed on the island’s shores. Here Muslim mosques and Byzantine churches sat side by side. Built around 292 BC and recognised as one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, the 32-metre high Colossus of Rhodes once straddled the ancient harbour entrance. It was said warships would pass between his bronze legs upon entering the port – until a few decades later when he toppled over in an earthquake, lying in ruins for hundreds of years before being dismantled and the bronze sold in pieces.

Whilst the narrow streets and tourist eateries became a wee tight with a cruise ship or three berthed alongside the old town, the enchanting back laneways in the Turkish and Jewish quarters were begging to be explored. As was a long walkway around the old town walls, medieval buildings, a grassy moat and the green grounds of the Knights’ Quarter. Mike has always had his nose buried in some kind of fiction novel based on the Crusaders, Templars or other religious campaigns – so as you can imagine he was in his element reciting all manner of historical tidbits and hypothesis.

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After a few restless nights in a rolly Rhodes’ beach anchorage, we motored three hours northwest to the Dodecanese Island of Symi. Those last few days in Greece were bathed in sunshine (surprise surprise) and flawlessly calm weather. Surrounded by plunging rocky hills (like being back in the barren Cyclades) we anchored off the sleepy village of Pedi, listening to the putt-putt motors of local fishing boats, jingling bells of grazing goats and the morning echo of rifle gunshots from nearby rabbit hunters. Our dreamy Greek island anchorage was the ideal location to squeeze every last drop out of a dwindling European summer daze. We lingered there for three nights: sun lounging, swimming and lazing whilst Mike and I hesitantly counted down our last days of boat life for 2013. Those memorising blue vistas seen off the back of finally my darling were the visions I will gladly bottle up and transport myself back to whenever feeling the stress and pressures of everyday reality.

The neighbouring port of Gialos on Symi was a gorgeous deep harbour with cheerful cotton candy coloured homes cascading down both sides of the boat harbour. Almost at the end of sailing season, few yachts lined the quay, which must be shoulder-to-shoulder in the peak charter boat months. Pretty Orthodox churches and bell towers speckled the horizon above, as did dozens of darling petite painted fishing boats along the waterfront: the pride and joy of every Greek fisherman.

Our other ulterior motive for hopping over to Greece was to stock up on pork products, duty-free booze (both unavailable or expensive in Muslim Turkey) and for the guys to get their fill of gyros! Once those needs were well and truly satisfied, it was time to return to the lush green landscapes of Turkey.

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Marmaris Yacht Marina is dad’s chosen port of call to ‘winter’ the boat. So he and mum have several weeks to kill there before heading back home to the Australian summer in early November. Yet with a to-do list of boat maintenance an arm’s length long, time is sure to fill up quickly. Whilst they’ll miss Mike’s cooking, margarita making, repair and IT support around the boat and the essential hands of extra crew, I do hope they are enjoying the peace and added room onboard their dream boat – without the live-in kids.

Mike and my departure day from finally my darling was October 14th, a peaceful glassy morning in Marmaris to load our gear into the dinghy and bid farewell to mum and dad and to our dear floating home that has been the source of a loaded new chapter of adventure in the book of life. Lastly, we cannot give thanks enough to dad for living his dream and having us along for the ride.

We are now making our way back to Australia with a detour via our other dear second home of Canada (specifically Nova Scotia and Whistler). Next posts will include our visit to Istanbul and an update from dad on his progress preparing the boat for the European winter. Thanks for joining us on our journey this year – hope to see you back here soon!

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