Log #23L The glories and frustrations of Rhodes

March 17, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 23 Greece, The Logs

Kemer, Turkey
March 17, 2002
Re: Log #23l

Hi Folks,
It’s a warm (26 C at 1100 am) sunny day here in Kemer as I sit down to get caught up on a bit of coresponde3nce and my logs. However, I note that I don’t think I sent out this Log #23l about Rhodes. I wrote it shortly after we got into Kemer, but on my Mac laptop with which I was having trouble with the keyboard mouse which was not operational. I had all the material transferred to my new Dell laptop, but don’t think I sent this out while I was in Toronto, so here it is.

I’ll have another Log #23m summarizing our transit of Greece from Corfu to Rhodes that I hope to send out in a few days if I can get the time to key it in.

We will be extending our contract here at Kemer to stay another month, as our original one was for only 4 months from Nov. 19 to March 19. The weather is nice and we could take off on the 19th, but we still have some work to do, and enjoy it here at Kemer, as well as having  several social activities we want to participate in and some touring of the area before finally departing. We will do a few day and overnight sails, returning here until 19th of April when we will finally depart to work our way over to Bodrum, and join the East Med. Yacht Rally (EMYR) there and rendezvous with David Mulholland, a naval friend of ours who will join us for a couple of weeks of the EMYR. We will be coming back through Kemer May 16th, and if any of you have mail, pictures, cards etc. you want to send us, we can be reached here until then, C/O SV Veleda IV, Park Kemer Marina, P.O. Box 208, Kemer 07980, Antalya – Turkey.

If you want to find out more about the EMYR we are going on, the website is www.kemermarina.com and it will give the itinerary and other info about it.

I am enjoying my new computer. It is nice to have a disc drive as well as a DVD player. Right now as I key this in I am listening to some nice quiet jazz music. The DVDs over here in Europe work on this North American laptop, and we have watched a few. We were concerned that there would be a different system over here that might not be compatible with North American machines.

I’ll put this log on “Send Later”, and send it off tonight.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #23L The glories and frustrations of Rhodes

Kemer, Turkey
Dec. 9, 2001
Covers the period Nov. 12 to 19, 2001

Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese, about 60 km long and 25 km wide, with a population of close to 100,000. It is the most popular tourist destination of the Greek isles. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Greek mythology indicates that Helios the sun god chose Rhodes for his bride, bestowing light, warmth and vegetation on it. It is a verdant island, especially after seeing the dry barren islands as we traveled across the western and southern Greek waters. However, we were shortchanged on the sunshine while we were there.

Although there were Minoan and Mycenaean outposts on Rhodes from at least 2000 BC, it wasn’t until the Dorians arrived in 1100 BC that a millennium of power and greatness was started. In 408 BC the city of Rhodos was established by the co-operation of three cities on the island. The result was an organized city planned by the architect Hippodamos, considered the father of town planning, and was reputed to be one of the most harmonious cities of antiquity. Shifting alliances between Athens, Sparta, Persia, and conquerors such as Alexander the Great and later Ptolemy, Rhodes faced its greatest battle when in 305 BC it was besieged by one of Ptolemy’s rivals, Demetrius Polioketes. To celebrate the victory of repelling this onslaught the 32 metre high Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was built. Tradition says it straddled the entrance to Mandraki Harbour, but most authorities now think it was located at the temple of Apollo in the grounds of what is now the Grand Master’s Palace in the Old Town. It stood for 65 years until toppled by a severe earthquake.

A period of cultural, military, and economic supremacy followed until Greece became the battleground upon which Roman generals fought. (My Judy sarcastically says, “Think Afghan warlords!”) It sided with Julius Caesar until his assassination in 44 BC, after which Cassius (Remember Caesar saying in Shakespeare’s play that Cassius “has a lean and hungry look”?) besieged Rhodes, destroying its ships and taking most of the artworks to Rome. In 70 AD it became part of the Roman Empire, and after that was divided in 395 AD part of the Byzantine province of the Dodecanese. After attacks by the Goths, the Persians, the Saracens, and the Turks, the Crusaders gained independence for Rhodes. The Knights of St. John arrived in 1309, building great fortifications to withstand major offensives by the Turks in 1444 and 1480, until finally ousted by the Ottomans under Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1522. In that siege Suleyman had 200,000 troops against 600 knights, 1000 mercenaries and 6000 Rhodians.

Rhodes was under Turkish domination from that point until the Italians occupied it in 1912, getting it as a “protectorate” after WW I. The Germans occupied it in WW II, after which it became part of Greece along with the other islands of the Dodecanese in 1947. Who knows, had Turkey allied itself with the allies of WW II instead of a German biased neutrality, it maybe would have been awarded the Dodecanese islands, as they lie right off the Turkish coast, a logical geographic division. The Italians, intent upon recreating the glory of Rhodes, embarked upon a grandiose rebuilding program, restoring the Grand Master’s Palace and the fortifications of Old Town to the extent that Rhodes has the best preserved medieval fortifications in Greece.

The wall surrounding Old Town is intact, with its dry moats and inner curtain walls, bastions, gun ports, and several impressive gates leading into this vibrant living relic. Some quarters, individual houses, and ancient mosques are still in ruins, but the whole inner town is as it was 600 years ago and earlier. The Knights of St. John made the greatest contribution to the fortifications, as they did when they arrived in Malta 350 years later. The Grand Master’s Palace is truly grand, dominating the hill where the Temple of Apollo and the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. From there the Avenue of the Knights still exudes a noble and domineering aura with its wide cobblestone street lined by the auberges or inns once housing the knights from England, France, Germany, Italy, Aragon, Auvergne, and Provence. As the Lonely Planet Guide says, “Its lofty buildings stretch in a 600 metre long unbroken wall of honey-coloured stone blocks , and its facade is punctuated by arched windows and huge doorways…” leading into ornate courtyards with stairs ascending to upper levels and roof gardens.

Narrow side alleys reveal old houses and shops, interspersed with ancient ruins or derelict walls. Several town squares bring a harmony and sense of community to the area. Most of the town is a pedestrian area, but motor scooters abound. The walls are up to 12 metres thick with roadways along the top of many of them, reminding me of the Great Wall of China. The moats are dry and many are converted into pleasant parks outside the walls. In many areas of the moats and throughout the old town are large round stones, about two feet in diameter; hundreds of them, left over from the siege of 305 BC when they were flung at the defenders of Rhodes by Polioketes, and his gigantic siege machine. According to Rod Heikell’s Greek Waters Pilot, “The contraption was estimated to be nine stories high, weighed perhaps 125 tons and rolled up to the city walls on giant oak  wheels. It sprouted huge catapults, drawbridges which could be dropped down to release troops, a nest on top for archers, and was shielded against enemy arrows.” I would rate Rhodos as the most impressive town we have been to in our voyaging so far.

By local bus, we went down to Lindos, 47 kilometres, two thirds the way down the east coast, to see the acropolis, the ruins of the 4th century BC Temple of Athena, and the white 17th century houses nestled into the mountain side. Unfortunately some of the columns of the Acropolis restored by Italy in the 1930’s have already deteriorated due to weathering, and are part of a longer term restoration program presently being undertaken. The bay looked like a good anchorage. Of course it should be, as it was the most important harbour on Rhodes between 2000 to 1000 BC before Mandraki Harbour and Rhodos were developed. Even St. Paul landed here, actually the next bay south, en route to Rome.  The trip allowed us to see how lush the vegetation is, a contrast to the dry rocky landscape of many other Greek islands.

The harbour situation in Rhodos is confused. The bay adjacent to Mandraki Harbour, Limin Emborikos, was filled with local fishing boats and a large commercial pier. The next basin, Limin Akandia, has a yacht basin in which a marina was to be built, but the project has fallen through, without even the docks being in place. There was a heap of concrete blocks in the middle, and a large boat yard on shore, but no slips for visiting yachts. We were OK at the pontoons in Mandraki Harbour, we thought!

We were a bit concerned when a coast guard official came to the pontoon shortly after we arrived and asked for a crew list. Warning bells sounded as we still had not purchased a cruising permit, as EU boats should not have to have such in EU countries. However, as I mentioned in an earlier log, we had not been asked to get one when we entered at Corfu, and had not been asked for one at any of our landings. (Pilos might have had we stayed.) However a Brit boat next door suggested they were only checking because a shipload of asylum seekers was apprehended off the island of Kos, NE of Rhodes. We completed a copy and gave it to him with instructions from him to check with immigration and the coast guard office before leaving.

Three days later, the gales started. On the 16th we had a force 7 from the NNW, one of the few directions from which it could roll down the harbour, creating a dangerous surge on the pontoons. In addition to our port and starboard bow lines and our stern anchor out, we put port and starboard midships lines to the pontoon to ease the sideways strain created by 30 knot winds and 1.5 metre seas pounding on our starboard quarter. The gale continued all night and next day went up to force 8, gusting to 9. I’m not sure what I would have done had my stern anchor started to drag, blowing me down on the boat to my port side. I had scouted the other docks for ferries and tour boats down the harbour in case I needed to cast off and go alongside in the lee of one of them. However, there was not space to do so between most of them, and others had lines between them making any mooring alongside impossible. There was also no sheltered bay from NNW winds except 25 miles away, south west at Lindos. Going out into a force 8/9 gale and a five hour passage, albeit downwind, was not appealing. Let’s hope the anchor holds.

It did. The storm did not let up until late that night. It was an uncomfortable 60 hours. We were considering leaving early the day the storm started, and had even gone to immigration to get our crew list copy signed off by them, but we would have been in trouble had we left and been at sea in that maelstrom for the 30 hour trip to Kemer in Turkey.

Now the storm was over, we wanted to get going before the next one came through. We were getting uncomfortable with the number of heavy winter storms coming through, and were looking forward to getting into a nice safe and secure marina with electricity, and showers, and no more worries about storms, or weather windows to dash to our next sheltered island. Over we went next morning to the coast guard to sign out, hoping they wouldn’t object to the crew list completed two days earlier before the storm. They didn’t, but they nailed us for the transit fee, even though we were leaving the country and would not need it further. I was angry. The coast guard flunkies were just bureaucratic clerks concerned only with administration. Not one of them came across to the pontoon during the storm to check on the safety of the boats there, and no one offered to arrange hooking up to power; just the money! I hope the Cruising Association and the Royal Yachting Association are successful in getting the passed EU legislation down the tube to the petty administrators who are still collecting this illegal fee, and arranging for refunds to those illegally assessed the fee. This left a very bad taste in my mouth for Greece. It was only 18,000 drachmas (about $80 Canadian), but frustrating all the same. I was glad to leave the place!

This ends our Greek logs as we embarked on a 30 hour passage of 140 miles to Kemer in Turkey