Log #25h Touring Mersin & Iskenderun

July 24, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 25 EMYR, The Logs

Polemos Buku, Kekova Roads, Turkey
36 10.0N, 029 48.2 E
July 24, 2002

Hi Folks,

Here is my Log #25h about Mersin and Iskenderun. Right now we are at anchor at the west end of Kekova Roads. Last night we were at anchor in Gokkaya Limani on the east end of the roads. It was a gulet parking lot! In the evening I counted over 25 gulets at anchor around the islands and rocks of that lovely “sheltered” area. I put sheltered into quotation marks as we were not exposed to any stretch of open water and were well anchored. However!

Just after midnight the light variable wind changed direction to blow from the northwest and increased to gale force. We were anchored between two large gulets with a stern line tied to shore. The wind started thrashing us beam on. The boats heeled frighteningly with the gusts that went up to 45 knots. At 0130 we took down the sun shade we had covering the boat and the windscoops that funnel air down our hatches. The gulets beside us slipped their shorelines and motored out to be able to swing on their anchors. The wind was still buffeting us beam on. At 0200 we slipped our shoreline to allow Veleda to swing into the wind, thus presenting less resistance, hoping the anchor would hold. As we swung around on our anchor, we were only about 100 feet from rocks astern and fifty feet from the rocks ashore beside us. If the anchor dragged we would have to respond immediately, otherwise we would be on the rocks. We didn’t want to relocate as there were the 25 gulets, several of whom were under way relocating their anchors. The anchorage is a complex body of water with several islands, rocks, and submerged shoals. The thought of navigating around that restricted anchorage in 45 knots of wind in the dark with 25 gulets and some smaller sailboats did not appeal to me. Had we needed to move, my strategy would have been to wend my way outside the islands, a known and safe route, and take my chances on the open sea, or head up into Kekova Roads. So, we stayed at anchor where we were.

We kept an anchor watch. The wind increased, reaching over 60 knots in several gusts. Judy was whimpering with fear. We couldn’t do anything but hope the anchor would hold. The wind died at 0330 and we both went back to bed, only to get up again at 0400 with the same northwest gale force winds. They came howling out the mountain valley right across the open stretch where we were anchored. There was only a fetch of a half mile from land in that direction, so we did not have any buildup of waves. However the wind was strong enough that it whipped spray from the water. A side benefit is that it helps the wind generator charge up the batteries. I can identify the charging levels on my E-meter, and at one point in a 50 plus knot gust it was charging at 21 Amps. Free energy!

Veleda was veering back and forth at her anchor first one way then the other. The anchor was holding, but I was afraid the seesaw motion of the boat swinging back and forth would dislodge it from the mud. I got into Sprite and went over to the shore to get the line we cast off earlier. I saw two lines, ours and one that a gulet had left, so I scooped them both up and headed back to Veleda. Then one of them caught in the prop, and I had to lift the motor out of the water to clear it. All this in 45 to 50 knots of wind at 0530.

I cautiously motored out to Veleda trailing the two lines which were still tied to rocks on shore behind. However our line was about two feet too short to reach Veleda! I surged Sprite towards Veleda and holding both lines in one hand, grabbed Veleda’s toe rail with the other and tried to pull Veleda closer to the lines to tie the shorter one on. However the wind was blowing Veleda one way and the bow of Sprite the other. I lost my grip on the toe rail and grabbed the genoa sheet, still being blown away from Veleda. I hollered for Judy, who came up stark naked, and was able to give her one of the lines. She bent on another line and was able to get it secured to a bow cleat. The second line I had was secured to a rock downwind of our bow; it would be of no use as a shore line. However I kept it on board as I knew the gulet would be looking for it in the morning after the storm ended. Our shore line helped reduce the swinging that Veleda was doing and stabilized her much better, actually taking some of the strain from the anchor. It was like having two anchors out in a wide vee pattern. It worked well. The storm lasted until about 0700.

Of course it had not been forecast. The weather forecasts have been quite standard for the past month indicating: no gale warning, winds from southeast to northwest force 2 or 4. We have gone south from Kemer for two overnight trips and each time have gone into south winds. The day we went north, we had — north winds. What’s new?

However we are enjoying the 40 C weather, the warm Mediterranean, and the beautiful countryside of Turkey, and will do so for the next month or so until going into the Greek Aegean some time in late August.

I’m not sure when I will be able to send this, but I have it ready to go from my laptop via AOL or SuperOnline, the new service we are trying out before we drop AOL. Or, I will save it on a floppy disc and send it from an internet café. The formatting may be a bit scrambled from Turkish systems. Let me know if you have problems downloading these logs from Turkey.

All the best,
Log #25h Touring Mersin & Iskenderun

Gokkaya Limani, Turkey
36 12.5 N, 029 53.6 E
July 23, 2002

We made the 110 nautical miles from Girne in Cyprus (35 20.6 N, 033 19.3 E) to Mersin in Turkey (36 47.4 N, 034 37.5 E) in 21 hours, arriving at 1130 on May 21st. We were helped alongside by white-clad Coast Guardsmen who were quite helpful. Shortly after arrival we were given the schedule of events in Mersin, plus a lovely long stemmed red rose and a Mersin Pennant for the boat, and an engraved invitation to the reception at the Navy/Coast Guard base that evening, put on by the Mersin Chamber of Shipping, and to the poolside dinner next evening at the Mersin Hilton. I must add that the Mersin Chamber of Shipping was an excellent host, and is very conscientious about its public relations. They are in the process of developing another marina along the Mersin waterfront and have an active commercial shipping port. Because of my personal interests, I have been recommending to the EMYR to set up some local visits to warships, cruise liners, or large merchant ships such as bulk carriers, container ships or Ro-Ro ships which may be in port at the time.  I think most cruisers would find it of interest to tour any of these vessels, and Mersin as a large Turkish port would be willing to arrange such.

The evening cocktail party at the base was enjoyable, with enough finger food to suffice as a meal, complimentary drinks, a lovely seaside navy base atmosphere, and an enjoyable band and singer for dancing. Next day we were on the buses (one for English only, and the other for French, English and German) for a full day tour (cost $25.00 US per person) of Tarsus, Kizkalesi, and Kanlidivane, lunch included.

Tarsus, the home of the Apostle Paul, is one of the few cities in Turkey that has kept its original name for 2500 years. It was a major city during the Roman era, and in 41 BC was the city in which Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) met and plotted with Cleopatra in his power struggle and civil war with Rome. We saw the Antic Road, recently unearthed, which dated back to the time of Paul, and his house was identified as being a hundred metres or so from it. The Roman technology of sewers and water systems built into their ancient cities, as evidenced in the excavation of this main road, I find fascinating. Meandering through the old city of Tarsus, we visited St. Paul’s Church, originally built in the beginning of the 19th century, and now being restored as the St. Paul’s Memorial Museum. We were ushered into this colonnaded church, and invited to a mass offered by the presiding priest from Italy who is overseeing the project. There were enough of us who said yes, that a short service was conducted, and ably assisted by our sailing companion from the Mission for Seafarers in Toronto, Father David Mulholland, followed by the sacrament of Holy Communion. Beside the fully frocked priest, he looked a bit incongruous in his faded pink tee shirt and shorts, but it was a moving service in the city of one of the major Apostles of the Christian church. It was surprising the number of us who seriously participated in this impromptu service and mass. When the numbers who would take communion was asked only about 12 of us said yes; but when the actual mass was performed more than thirty of the boaters came to the alter, to the extent the priest had to break the wafers into pieces to go as far as possible, then had to shrug and confess he had no more. When we left in 1998, we had our friend Father David Mulholland perform a blessing of Veleda and all who sailed in her before we left Toronto. We often had him come to our home sailing club, the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club, at our annual Sailpast beginning the sailing season each year, to bless the boats. Perhaps the EMYR might think of some optional ecumenical (Christian, Moslem and Jewish) religious/cultural services at the beginning and/or end of the rally to bless or wish well the boats and all who sail in them.

After a lovely shoreside fish dinner we went along the coast to see Kizkalesi Castle, a Byzantine fortress a few hundred metres off shore. We did not go out to it, but used it as a rest stop and photo op, as the castle was quite dramatic in its off shore isolation. From there into the ruins of Kanlidivane, a Byzantine city with the remains of a tower gate, palace, monastery and church around the edge of an abyss over 200 feet deep and 300 feet in diameter. Etched in the side of the chasm are wall tombs and sculpted bas relief figures of a prominent family. Next stop on that hot sunny afternoon was a walk up a rough dirt road strewn with stones to the ancient city of Korykos, now known as Kizkalesi. These Byzantine ruins are on a hilltop, the remains of ancient churches arches, and sarcophagi strewn in abandoned farmers’ fields. When David and I walked on ahead to see more sarcophagi, we noticed one peasant farmer hand hoeing his field around a large sarcophagus in the middle of it. These tombs had emblems of Rome and Christian Byzantine symbols. These ruins had the similar history of being Roman, then Byzantine, Arab and finally the Ottoman Turks.

Many of us were asleep on the ride back to Mersin, and then we had to get ready for the formal reception at the Mersin Hilton. It was a good party, wonderful food, and the same dance band and singer we had the night before at the navy base. The singer knew us and helped in the singing of the Rally Song to the tune of “Those Were the Days”. After the presentations to the local dignitaries and the boats that were leaving the rally from Mersin, we enjoyed dancing, including the Mambo #5, a favoured group dance that became popular with those of us who wintered at Kemer.

Next morning before leaving the group leaders and Hasan met at the new Mersin Chamber of Shipping offices with the general manager and a couple of his assistants. We thanked them again for their hospitality, and heard more of their plans for Mersin shipping and the new marina to be built. The idea was suggested that if it were ready for next season that the EMYR 2003 could participate in its formal opening festivities. This is one of the functions of the EMYR, to help communities and marinas to encourage boating and good will.

Incidentally, while we were in Mersin, we arranged to have our passports stamped for leaving Turkey, even though our next port was still Turkish. Since our 90 day visa expired on the 23rd, as we returned from Toronto on Feb. 21, we would be in difficulty if we overstayed our visa and checked out in Iskenderun in a few days time as the rest of the rally would do. To renew the visa for only three or four days would be ridiculously expensive, as to renew a visa within Turkey is more expensive than receiving one on entry ($45.00 US per person for the 90 day visa). So our passport says we left Turkey at Mersin on May 23rd.

We left at 1400 on May 23rd for the 80 mile trip to Iskenderun. We were actually able to sail for over eight of the sixteen hours the trip took. We provided a four part relay for Lavant, a German boat whose crew spoke little English. They were quite concerned as they had an engine problem, and were uncertain and anxious about it. We were contacted by Agapante about this problem, as they were unable to reach their group leader. We in turn contacted Jo Ho in our group as they spoke German and were able to reach Lavant by VHF. When John on Jo Ho contacted us to explain their concerns, we then contacted Hasan who suggested we inform the Coast Guard boat #103 to advise them of the potential difficulty, which we did. However nothing came of it as Lavant finally got their engine going, and no further action was required.

There were some warnings of fishing boats operating along our course line. There was a brisk wind and a heavy following sea, which caused us to reef our sails for a few hours. There was a bit of a wait outside Iskenderun harbour as many boats arrived at the same time. We had Umut, the friendly assistant manager at Kemer and rally secretary, who joined the rally in Mersin, on the VHF directing the boats in. This time we were not helped by friendly capable Coast Guard personnel, as we had been in Mersin. In addition the boats had to use their own anchors for Mediterranean mooring, but were helped in by willing rally crews. There were no facilities on the jetty; no water, no electricity, no toilets or showers, as it was not a regular marina but just a fishing port. We appreciated the fishing boats that moved from the one pier to make room for us.

More about Iskenderun in my next log. I have pasted below the write-up I put in the rally bible about Iskenderun so you can anticipate some of the tours in my next log.
3/       Iskenderun, Turkey

Arrive – Fri. 24 May (am)                    Depart – Sun. 26 May (pm)

After rounding Karatas Burnu and crossing Iskenderun Korfezi, we come to a new port for the EMYR, Iskenderun, the terminus for the Iraqi oil pipeline and main port for the southern province of Antioch. This region was given to Syria after WW I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and is still indicated as part of Syria on Syrian maps, but was taken by Turkey in 1939.

Students will be available the day of arrival to escort participants around Iskenderun or to the market or other suppliers needed by the yachts. Buses will be available at 1930 to take us to the reception.

Next day, we are off to the city of Antakya (Antioch), which was the main city of the Roman province of Syria in 64 BC. Antioch is referred to several times in the New Testament, as the first Christian community was established here by St. Paul, and the use of the word Christian originated from here (Acts, chapter 11, verse 26). The archaeological museum of Antioch is a must see. The Church of St. Peter, a natural cave sanctuary, was used in 47 AD so the worshippers could clandestinely listen to the apostles St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Barnabus. Antioch, founded by Seleucus, an officer under Alexander the Great, in 301 BC, was seized by the Romans in 81 BC, the Arabs in 638 AD, the Byzantines in 969 AD, and the Crusaders in 1096 for a base to go on to Jerusalem. In 1268 the Mamelukes of Egypt took control, but left it in ashes. When the Ottomans conquered the area in 1560, it was a ruin ignored by them. Antioch owes its renaissance to Ataturk and the agricultural development in the region.

A labyrinth of busy narrow alleys shaded by stately Ottoman or Syrian houses, old Antioch, on the eastern bank of the ancient Orontes River, overflows with Oriental charm. The Archaeological Museum features one of the best collections of mosaics in the Levant, as well as exquisite Roman statuary from the 2nd to 4th century AD. The Antioch Fortress from the Byzantine period perched atop a tall rocky peak provides a stunning panorama of the area. We will see the church of St. Peter mentioned above. A visit to Seleucia Pieria will take us to a 250 metre long tunnel conceived by Vespasian in 79 AD to supply the city with water and to serve as a diversionary channel for the river when in flood. The dimensions of this structure are breathtaking. Beyond them lies the necropolis with rock tombs and a church. A bit of a hike will take you around rocks, grass, and wild goats, up the mountain to the remains of the ancient water source and flood control dam.