Log #28a Winter at Kemer Marina, Maintenance and Politics

March 14, 2003 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 28 Winter in Turkey, The Logs

Kemer, Turkey
March 14, 2003

Hi Folks,

It’s been a long time since my last epistle, but this will bring you up to date partly. As this is a long one, this intro will be short. The last two thirds of the log are about the politics in Turkey. We feel quite comfortable here, and plan to visit the Black Sea, war or no war unless specifically advised not to by our government or restricted by military regulations. If you do not have time to read the whole log, please read my political summary and I would welcome your reactions or observations. I wanted to put some of my thoughts down before this possible conflict unfolds. I hope war can be avoided.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #28a Winter at Kemer Marina, Maintenance and Politics

Kemer, Turkey
March 5, 2003

This will be more of a journal rather than a log, as we have not taken Veleda anywhere since we arrived at Kemer on Nov. 1, 2002. Since then we have enjoyed the social activities of the marina, visited Cappodocia, done some maintenance on Veleda, and flew back to Toronto from Dec. 19 to Feb. 25.

The winter here in Kemer has been, according to the cruisers who stayed here on their boats, similar to what we are experiencing right now as I write this, cool, rainy and stormy. We had a few good days since we returned to Kemer, but it has been raining and stormy for the last two days. Our return trip from Judy’s parents’ home in Toronto, until we boarded Veleda here in Kemer took 40 hours.

We fortunately left home quite early and arrived at the airport before the check-in counter was open, when we realized that we left our carry-on bag in Henry’s (Judy’s dad’s) car. When we called, no one was at home yet. At the check-in, things should have gone smoothly as all out bags were within acceptable weight limits, and we had our return (to Istanbul) tickets and our new passports. However we were caught in a Catch 22 situation. Air Canada would not let us fly to Turkey unless we had ongoing or return tickets to Canada. They would not accept the fact we had our boat over there, and suggested we go and purchase another ticket out of Turkey, and then turn it back in for a refund when we arrived in Turkey. OK, so Judy went over to the ticket desk while I waited at the check-in counter.  Half hour later I went over to her to ask why the delay in getting another ticket. It had something to do with finding an open ticket that could be refundable. Another half hour later, Judy’s dad showed up with our carry-on bag that he discovered in the back seat. At last a ticket to Vienna was found that could be refundable. However, when the agent confirmed the ticket, she realized that Judy’s ticket to Istanbul was in her maiden name yet her passport was under Millard. Fortunately we had our marriage certificate with us, and that finally allowed the bureaucratic bound agents to give us a boarding pass. That process was two hours.

The plane was delayed with all of us on board, an extra hour before taking off. The flight to Frankfurt and on to Istanbul was long (12 hours), but the Istanbul leg was interesting as we had a good window seat to see the Alps as we skirted them flying across the Balkans. However we had no trouble clearing customs as there was only one unconcerned official reading his newspaper, and did not even look up as we walked through unquestioned. Istanbul was wet and snowy, and we had to wait five hours for the earlier bus to Antalya at 1730 local time. It was, unfortunately, a local not an express bus, and it was a 14 hour bus ride. However, Hasan, the marina manager, picked us up at the Antalya bus station, and drove us right to our dock at the marina. Thanks Hasan.

March 13/03 (Cont’d)

It was good to get back on board! We have been busy with major and minor projects as well as the whirlwind of social activities here at Kemer. Concerts in Antalya and at the Navigator Bar/Restaurant here in the marina (for me), movie nights (for me), quiz nights, farewell celebrations for an Australian boat heading back home, aerobics (for Judy) Turkish lessons (for Judy) – have kept us busy outside of the many maintenance chores. Judy’s definition of cruising is “Doing maintenance in exotic locations”.

We have spent several days installing our new hot water heater, with everything pulled out of the starboard cockpit locker. It should have been a straightforward task, but was frustratingly complicated when after the “first” installation we found it leaked! All the fittings we attached seemed fine, so we thought it must be the tank. Oh boy! It is covered under warranty, but to send it all the way back to the US would have been long and expensive, even though we would only have to pay for one way shipping. (Of course we had thrown out the original box!) However, Peter at Holland Marine where we purchased it in Toronto got right back to us by phone the next day after my E-mail suggesting we open it up and take off the insulation to identify the leak. Well, to make a long story short we had taken it out, checked it, and reinstalled it three times, only to find out that after the third time when we had taken off all the fittings, including the pressure valve to get the face plate off and remove the insulation, when we replaced all those fittings and filled it with water, it didn’t leak! We suspect that the pressure release valve was not screwed in tightly enough at the plant, and when I unscrewed it and screwed it back on tightly, it stopped the leak. So we reinstalled it again inside the starboard locker and it has been fine since. However, we didn’t need that aggravation.

Our next major project was/is our new electric anchor windlass. There was only one small hitch with it; they sent the wrong neoprene gasket. However the marina chandlery got some neoprene from a local diver and we made one to fit. Running the electric cables has been a chore, especially for Judy as she fits into the small spaces better to feed and mount the wires. We have ordered 60 metres of 8mm chain to fit the windlass and 30 metres of line to be spliced on it. So we have the same amount of our old 3/8th inch chain and old braided line to sell or give away as well as the old manual windlass. (We may keep the chain for forward ballast to counteract the weight of the dinghy on the stern.)We saved a bit of money (about $200 CDN) by not buying a remote hand held switch, but making our own for about $9.00 of material. All the wiring is done and tomorrow we finally mount the unit, and store the chain. We need to fix our decompression stop cable on the engine, as it is seized up, and so we cannot go out for a trial anchoring until it is fixed. Hopefully the day after tomorrow.

We are having new windows put in the dodger, and replacing a couple of zippers. I don’t know if I have mentioned it before, but if we had the time, money and skills we would install a hard dodger. We have hanked on our mainsail which was re-stitched, and our genoa which was re-cut to give us a higher foot and clew so we can see beneath the sail. For some reason our halyards are binding in the sheaves and pulleys so that hauling up the genoa was backbreaking work. Perhaps next year we will get a rigger to assess all the sheaves, blocks, pulleys and mast fittings, as I am definitely not happy with the tension needed to haul on several of our lines. Incidentally our main is the original sail that came with the boat when it was built in 1978, seams re-stitched several times and a few new panels and luff tapes, but still quite serviceable. We do have a spare if this one blows out.

Other tasks include; re-bedding a couple of stanchions and replacing the lifelines, varnishing all the wood fixtures on the upper deck, getting Sprite and our outboard motor operational, cleaning the waterline, washing the hull and fixing a couple of paint chips, replacing our wind vane indicator at the mast head, and finally, hopefully replacing all three blades on out wind generator.

We hope to be ready to leave the first of April, going down the SW Turkish coast for a couple of weeks, then into the Aegean at Kos. Up the Aegean to the Sporades and back over to Turkey to see Troy and Gallipoli, and go through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara. From there we will go to Istanbul for a week or so to do more sightseeing and wait for Judy’s visas to Romania, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. I only need a Ukrainian visa as Veleda and I will be doing the Black Sea on my British passport. We will do the north coast of Turkey, perhaps as far as Trabzon, before crossing to the Crimea in late July. After the Russian fleet review in Sevastopol the end of July, we will go up to Odessa, and over into the Danube, and along the Romanian and Bulgarian coasts until the end of August. We hope to get up to Kiev, Bucharest, and a few inland sights in that area before returning past Istanbul, and spending more time on the northern Sporades, Thessalonika, and down the Aegean islands, to get to Crete for the winter by late October.

We anticipate that any war the US may wage on Iraq will not restrict us. However the EMYR we went on last year may have problems, as Iskenderun and Mersin on the SE coast of Turkey are the ports where the main US supply bases are. This brings me to the “gutsy” Turkish parliament’s refusal to allow the US to use Turkey as a launch pad for a northern offensive in Iraq. Wow! It is democracy at work. What would happen in Britain and the US if the people could have a say and the parliament vote on the issue?  Britain would vote against it as most of the British oppose it. I’m not sure what would happen in the US. However, Americans over here are feeling more and more uneasy, and there is a lot of anti-Bush sentiment around in this part of the world.

I personally am against any war on Iraq at this time. The loss of human life, the destruction, the de-stabilization of the entire mid east, including the Kurdish situation in the north affecting Turkey, Syria and Iran, the clash of civilizations and religions, the neo-colonialism that the US intends to impose, the conflicts within the UN, the EU and NATO; all to replace one tin pot dictator, as the US will settle for nothing less than “regime change”. However, realpolitic demands a response as many countries cannot remain immune to the situation without affecting their relationship with the US, their economy, their place in the world, and the viability of the UN.

I am not sure of all of Canada’s position, but we cannot not show some support for our closest neighbor. I doubt if we would send troops over without UN sanction, which is now unlikely. However, I am not sure how fast we would withdraw our ships from there (I think we have four to six over there or en route). We will probably go ahead with Canadian troops relieving US troops in Afghanistan, releasing them for Iraq, but I doubt if the government would risk the fallout from sending ground troops to Iraq. So Canada will sit on the fence as best as possible.

I pity Turkey, as it is in a “no win” situation. If it sticks by the parliament’s decision to not permit the US to use its territory as a base for an Iraq invasion, it will experience the heavy handed blackmail of the US and the IMF (Moody’s is threatening to slash Turkey’s credit rating for failing to pass a second motion in government to allow US troops on Turkish soil). If it does not co-operate, the US will not allow Turkey any voice in the new Iraq, including Kurdish separatists in Northern Iraq, and could conceivably ally itself with the Kurds against Turkey’s interests. Kurdish militias from Iran are already setting themselves up in northern Iraq. (60,000 people were killed in Turkey as a result of Kurdish separatist terrorist attacks in the last decade.) In addition of course, Turkey would not get any financial assistance from the US to support it because of the economic fallout of one of Turkey’s closest trading partners, Iraq. Incidentally, Turkey was promised several billion dollars to compensate the economic fallout from Iraq in the Gulf War for Turkey’s assistance, which the US failed to produce. That is why this time Turkey has demanded a written agreement with the US which will be torn up if the parliament does not accept another motion. Some Turkish editorialists say that if a new motion is approved, Turkey should not ask for one cent more than the original agreement as too many people in the western world felt Turkey was just haggling as in an Arab bazaar for money. (It is offensive to call a Turk an Arab. They are not Arabs and do not particularly like them as a result of the Arabs turning against them in WW I.) So Turkey will be badly sidelined if it does not go along with the US.

If the new Prime Minister, Erdogan, who is the leader of the Justice and Development party (AK party), and who has just been elected to parliament in a by-election enabling him to assume the position, tries to present a new motion and is defeated it would be a serious split in his party, as 95% of the country is against the war. He realizes that for Turkey’s best interest it should participate, but to do so would cause destruction of his party and the government as well as massive street demonstrations. There have already been large demonstrations in Istanbul, Ankara, and even Iskenderun at the port still processing American equipment. So he and Turkey are in a bind. The moral decision would be to stay out and not allow the US forces in. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this complication was a factor in George Bush reconsidering the attack, and accepting the UN’s procedure of heavier and continuous monitoring of Iraq’s arsenal instead of war? Turkey would be a world hero for its moral stand; France, Germany and the EU and the UN would emerge stronger; and Bush, appreciative of British support, could take credit for forcing Iraq to continue disarming. I say George Bush, as I think he and his cadre of advisors has escalated this issue, and dragged the American public and government into this bellicose stand.

If Turkey does successfully pass a new motion permitting access to US troops, Turkey will get much needed financial assistance, will have a greater say in the subsequent events in Iraq and the mid east and be held up as a shining example of a secular, democratic Muslim state, and will have US (and British?) support for the Cyprus and EU issues. I think Turkey would have a moderating influence on developments within the Muslim world, and could be helpful in bridging the mid east and western worlds.

This brings up other issues that Turkey is presently losing. It was a slap in the face that Turkey was not accepted for this next expansion of the EU, whereas Cyprus (i.e. – Greek Cyprus), geographically closer to Syria and Turkey than to any part of Europe, has been unconditionally accepted. This unconditional acceptance put the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Turkey at a disadvantage, as they have everything to lose if a settlement is not made before May of 2004 when the ten states are formally admitted. However, Greek Cyprus and Greece have no pressure to compromise as the admittance to the EU for Cyprus is unconditional. Ominous utterances have come from the EU commissioner for expansion, Verheugen, that if no settlement of this 30 to 40 year old issue is reached by then, “Turkey would become a country occupying EU territory and its EU bid would be derailed”. Turkey disputes this on several levels. “Turkey was in Cyprus in conformity with the 1959 Treaty of Guarantee” In addition “Turkey has been opposed to the unilateral Greek Cypriot EU accession on the grounds that such a development would be a gross violation of the 1960 founding agreements of Cyprus which clearly state that the island cannot become in part or full a member of any economic, political or military grouping unless both Turkey and Greece were both members of the same organization.” (quoted from the Turkish Daily News, March 13, 2003, visit <ww.tukishdailynews.com> for its website) Some editorialists have said this issue is the most fatal mistake the EU has made in its history. Military conflict to defend the Turkish minority in Northern Cyprus cannot be ruled out, possibly pitting Turkey against the EU, a fine conundrum for NATO.

The EU has also recently criticized Turkey through its human rights court upholding a complaint by the PKK (the outlawed Kurdish terrorist organization, somewhat similar to Hamas) leader Abdullah Ocalan that he did not receive a fair trial in a Turkish court. (Could Osama Bin Laden receive a “fair” trial in the US?) Turkey, to comply with EU standards in its bid for membership, banned the death penalty a few years ago. Ocalan was the first to be reprieved from that sentence which had earlier been handed down, yet now he is making procedural complaints in Europe which are being accepted. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I would not be surprised to see this as part of some European interests’ attempt to discredit Turkey to justify the EU’s rejection of Turkey so as to keep the EU a nice Christian club, as advocated by France last summer. The EU will be losing an opportunity for greatness if it continues to reject Turkey, a moderate religious, geographic, democratic, bridge/barrier/buffer/border to its Asian frontier.

Of course a war in Iraq could change all the dynamics.

On another note, the Turkish economy is having a hard time already. Gasoline (petrol to you Brits) is now $1.50 Cdn per litre. The Canadian dollar when we left last December was worth about 865,000 Turkish Lira; now one Canadian dollar buys 1,100,051 TL. It is nice for us Canadians but bad for the Turks.

Turkey is in a bind. I like Turkey and the Turks I have met in the last year and a half. I admit I am biased in favour of Turkey. I wish the best for this developing nation.