Log #30a Istanbul to the Black Sea

July 3, 2003 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 30 Bosporus & The Black Sea, The Logs

Toronto, Canada

July 3rd, 2003

Hi Folks,

Yes, we are back in Toronto, and this happens to be the fifth anniversary of our departure from Toronto in 1998. However, we are back, to be with Judy’s parents at this stressful time. We just got word on June 26th when we were in Sinop (42 01.4N, 035 08.9E) in the middle of the Black Sea coast of Turkey, that Judy’s mother’s ovarian cancer had flared up, and the prognosis was uncertain, but not good. In addition, a couple of weeks earlier her dad fell and broke his thigh, and is walking around the (three story) house on one of those four legged walkers. Judy of course was quite distressed and wanted to get home as soon as possible.

However we were at the farthest we have ever been from a marina (Istanbul 325 miles to the west) where we could leave Veleda, since crossing the Atlantic. In addition we had a friend who was already en route to join us at our next port in Samsun on July 3rd (today) as well as friends who were going to join us in August and September. This was crucial! No question; we were going back home! So after some frantic phone calls and an e-mail message we had informed out “would be” guests of our change in plans.

Where to leave Veleda? The fishing ports on the Black Sea were not acceptable (no facilities and no security) as we knew we would be away for a considerable period of time (from a few months to a few years). Atakoy Marina in Istanbul was fantastically expensive at over $6000.00 (US) a year on the hard. Fenerbahce, a southern suburb of Istanbul, was a bit better at $3500.00 (US) a year, but the best rate would have been in Marmaris at about $1500.00 a year. However, Marmaris would have meant an extra week’s sailing time beyond Istanbul, and frankly, we didn’t know if we had that much time! So, Fenerbahce it was. We departed Sinop at 1700 June 27 for the 320 miles to Istanbul.

However, enroute, we discovered Veleda was developing serious engine problems. The engine was leaking fuel oil from the engine filter. We identified one of the vent screws as somehow having sheared and leaking badly. We did not want to take time to try to find a mechanic to try to fix it. There was of course no Yanmar dealer in Sinop. We possibly could have ordered a new filter from Istanbul and it might have arrived in a day or two, or might have to have been ordered from Japan or Europe. We tried to epoxy the screw in place, then tried the old usually reliable duct tape, and even electrical tape, to no avail. So we disconnected the filter, and because the fuel pump was linked to it, we had to disconnect that too and bypass both systems, going direct from the fuel line into the engine. Fortunately our fuel tank is higher than the engine, and gravity feed was OK.  We have two Racor fuel filters and we filter all our fuel through a Baja filter from jerry cans as we put it into our tank, and so we were not concerned with the cleanliness of the fuel by passing the final filter on the engine. It worked!

On top of the fuel line situation, we had developed another problem which became worse as we travelled; air was getting into our fuel line! The engine conked out and we had to bleed the Racor filter. We did not want to take time to return to Sinop to sort these two problems out and so we continued knowing we would have to periodically bleed the Racor from air accumulation.

Murphy’s Law was acting accordingly. When we were coming from Istanbul eastward, we had no winds or light easterly winds against us. While we were in Sinop, the winds changed to westerly! The first evening, we anchored by a park bay at Aklimani 13 miles from Sinop to sort these engine problems out. After deciding to continue on, we left next morning at 0405 hoping the westerly would not get up too high. So we motorsailed continuously for the next two days, stopping only twice for fuel. The first 20 hours we motored into a light westerly wind, then it changed a bit to light southwesterly. We started off having to bleed the Racor filter every six hours, then every three and by the time we approached the Bosphorus, every hour. Going down the Bosphorus we had to bleed it twice. Each time involves putting the engine into neutral if it hasn’t conked out, for about three to five minutes while we take away the companionway steps to get access to the filter, remove the top of the Racor, and press the squeeze bulb to force fuel through, dislodging the air, then seal the filter again. Lots of fun!

I will give more detail about this race for Istanbul in the appropriate log, but we made the final 310 miles in less than 60 hours including two short stops for fuel. Fortunately for the last 24 hours the wind switched back to easterly, and we had over 18 hours of wing on wing exhilarating motorsailing to arrive at Fenerbahce by 1730 on the 30th. We kept the engine on continuously for the extra speed.

The manager at Fenerbahce was extremely helpful, arranging: our flight next day (at a very economical fare), haul out and bottom cleaning (the day of our departure, but after we left), a six month renewable contract for storage on the hard, an agent to do the paperwork to leave the boat in Turkey beyond our three month visa, a laundry service (we didn’t want to leave dirty clothes and sheets on board for several months or years as the case may be), distribution of our leftover perishable food from the boat, and a taxi to take us to the airport at 1100 next day! Needless to say, Judy and I had to work hard to pack, and get Veleda ready to be hauled out to leave her for an extended period of time. It worked out and we left for Toronto, 18 hours after arriving in Fenerbahce.

We arrived in Toronto at 1930 on July 1st, Dominion Day, or Canada Day, Canada’s birthday (Confederation in 1867). Judy’s parents were extremely happy to see us. Her mom is going in for chemo and we hope we have both of them around for a long time. We can’t plan anything from here, but will just enjoy them for the time we have. Maybe I can get caught up on my logs and get my pictures organized. I will send out logs taking us across the Black Sea to Sinop and back to Istanbul, and I have several logs never completed from earlier parts of our voyage that I will also periodically send out.

For now, we are back on land.

All the best,


Log #30a Istanbul to the Black Sea   

June 25, 2003

Sinop, Black Sea, Turkey

We left Istanbul’s Atakoy Marina on June 2 at 1000 to catch up with Cache Cache and Danish Delight. We had wanted to get a final shower and a few supplies from the local market before departing. We overtook them before we got to the Golden Horn, and recommended staying on the European side according to our charts, sea map computer program, and some local knowledge-based advice we had from the harbourmaster. The other two boats deferred to our material and followed our suggestions. Crossing the junction of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn was … interesting, as there were dozens of ferries crisscrossing this busy waterway, but the currents were with us and we made good time.

Passing the Dolmabahce Palace and the Deniz Muze (Sea Museum) that we had visited a few days ago, we made our way close inshore up to the first bridge (built in 1973) between Europe and Asia, Bogazci Koprusu, (Bosphorus Bridge). Shortly beyond the bridge we crossed over to the Asian side to take advantage of favourable countercurrents and continued past the old, large, magnificent waterfront homes on this side. After admiring the Rumeli Fortress on the European side, built in 100 days for Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 AD to control the Bosphorus preparatory to his conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) from the Byzantines, we made our way under the Fatih Mehmet (Mehmet the Conqueror) Bridge built by the Japanese in 1991. This is the narrowest location on the Bosphorus, where Darius the Persian crossed the strait on a floating bridge in 500 BC. Just past the bridge we crossed over to the European side to just past the suburb of Tarabya, and then back over to the Asian side to shorten the distance around the bend, past a Turkish Naval Station with a dozen or more missile patrol ships alongside. We stayed on the Asian side for the shorter distances, experiencing minimal currents of only 1½ to 2 knots against us up to our first anchorage on the Black Sea, Poyraz (41 12.3N, 029 07.8E). Cache Cache and Danish Delight went bows to on the breakwater while we anchored off, noticing that Eagles Nest, whom we met on the Sea of Marmara, was also at anchor, both of us still inside the protection of the harbour breakwaters.

The 21.4 nautical miles from Atakoy west of Istanbul up the Bosphorus to Poyraz on the Black Sea took only 5 hours. By skirting the shorelines we were able to take advantage of countercurrents and minimal currents to effect a 4.5 knot speed up the Bosphorus. No problem!

We took Sprite over to Eagles Nest to have a short talk with Valerie and Jack who are going along the Black Sea coast of Turkey too. We will probably see them off and on, on our trip. Then over to Cache Cache for a pleasant get-together for drinks, to return cameras, and to give to Finn a floppy disc with two pictures of Danish Delight that we took coming up. The two boats were returning down the Bosphorus next day to Istanbul, and then out into the Aegean. Danish Delight was ultimately off back to Denmark, and Cache Cache to explore more of the Aegean. We didn’t bother going ashore as it would involve a hike up a steep slope from the few harbour restaurants, up into the town.

Next day we all left about the same time, 1000, except that Cache Cache after casting off dropped anchor in the middle of the harbour. When we motored over to see if we could help Brigitte informed us that Anders was down below dealing with a throttle cable problem. As Danish Delight was circling around to stand by, we bid them a farewell, and headed off the 24 miles under engine to Şile (41 10.7N, 029 36.3E) where we again anchored in the southwestern corner of the well enclosed harbour. Both Prima and Eagles Nest were alongside.

This was to be a frequent technique, anchoring inside the large harbours, as there is plenty of room and only small fishing boats coming and going. We were impressed by the size of the breakwaters and harbours even in small communities, and we noted a couple of “new” unfinished harbours remote from any coastal community, but being built in, we assume, anticipation of tourist developments. Anchoring in the harbours usually provides good holding and good protection from the wind and sea. We were quite comfortable at anchor here in Şile (pronounced Shee-leh), and a good thing too, as we were to stay at anchor there for nine days. I had to make an emergency trip back to Canada to take care of some bureaucratic business, and left Judy alone on board. Turkey is so safe a country that she and I had no qualms about her staying at anchor by herself for a week. Sprite even co-operated and started readily for her; Judy sometimes has trouble starting the outboard.

The hike up into town above the harbour was good exercise, although on one of our trips up we were given a ride by a local fisherman. As I had to get back to Canada, we went to the internet café in town to surf the net for the best prices from Istanbul to London, then London to Toronto. What a frustration! The machines were so slow we had to spend over 5 frustrating hours trying to identify flights, which we managed, but then to book them became an impossibility. The problem was that it would take up to 10 minutes to switch from one page of the process to the next one. In the meantime we did not know whether the computer was just spinning its wheels and nothing was going to happen, or to continue to wait staring at a dumb screen that was doing nothing! We finally managed to identify a Turkish Air flight from Istanbul to London that would dovetail with a British Airways to Toronto, from the same airport. However, when we came to try to book the London flight to Toronto, each step took so long that the website timed us out before all the steps could be completed! Talk about a “Catch 22”! We went through this cycle two or three times, wasting another two hours in the afternoon until I exploded and strongly told Judy to forget trying the computer and let’s try phoning the online company directly. OK, we got their phone number from their “help” menu on the home page and called the UK to make reservations for the flights we had identified.

No problem, the customer service representative was quite accommodating and yes we could book the flights identified at the same prices quoted. However! When we had booked everything and came to pay with VISA (which they accepted) it would not go through as our home address was in Canada and they could accept VISA transactions only from VISA with a UK address! Aaarrgghhh! However, we were then told that we could contact British Airways directly and book through them and at the same good prices as identified on the computer. OK, thank you what is their number?  When we dialed the number given, it was the wrong number! Aaarrgghh!

Rather than try the computer again, I demanded (of Judy) we go to a travel agency to get the number of Turkish Air and British Airways. No travel agency or tourist agency in town! Let’s try a local hotel. Finally she agreed to this (a suggestion I made two hours ago at lunch time!). We went down the hill to the Grand Hotel which we pass on our way into town. There we were treated quite cordially, asked into the manager’s office for tea as he and his secretary looked up phone numbers for British Airways and Turkish Air. We got the numbers, and as an added bonus, the British Airways number was at the Istanbul airport too. We thanked him very much and finally headed back to Veleda, where after only ten or fifteen minutes on the phone, the flights were booked and tickets arranged to be picked up and paid for at the airports, as the flights were next day. Whew!

We were told there was a bus to Istanbul leaving at 0700, and so to be sure we left Veleda at 0615 to hike up the hill to town. Fortunately we arrived at the small “Otogar” at 0627 to enquire when the next bus was going to Istanbul – 0630! We had the wrong information, and had I missed that bus, I would have missed my flight etc…. Thanks, Judy, for your compulsiveness in getting us up there in lots of time!

However, the bus did not go to the main “Otogar” in Istanbul! Instead it ended at a large, busy street side ferry terminal in Űskudar across the Bosphorus from Istanbul. However, I still had three hours to get to the airport, and so I took the local ferry across (cost only 1,000,000 TL, $1.00 CDN, or 65 cents US and 15 minutes crossing), under the Galata bridge into the entrance to the Golden Horn to Eminonű, in the ancient bazaar centre of Istanbul. I still had time and so I felt adventurous and rather than hailing a cab to the airport thought I would try local transportation. However, I could find no bus amongst the 30 or 40 there going to the Hava Limani (airport). When I asked the third or fourth person, none English-speaking, about it, I heard a familiar term, “Metro”. Aha, the Metro bus company would go to the Otogar and I could catch a cab from there. So I got on the local bus (the bus driver was told where I wanted to go and would let me know when to get off) and through downtown Istanbul I was let off at the “Metro”, a subway stop!

The subway is modern and is well signed, so I saw where it went, and the last stop was the airport. In addition, I saw it also stopped at the Otogar; so for future reference I know how to catch the subway from the airport to the bus station. In addition it also stopped near the tramway which goes into the old downtown Istanbul. It feels good to be able to make my way on public transit in a foreign city. Imagine what it would be like for a non English speaking person to be dropped off at a ferry terminal in Brooklyn, and have to make his or her way out to Kennedy or La Guardia Airport around New York City by public transportation.

I made the airport OK, and picked up my tickets for the British Air flight from London to Toronto; then I inquired about a flight from Istanbul to London. It would have been cheaper than the Turkish Air flight from Istanbul to London. In addition when I picked up my Turkish Air tickets to London, they cost $100.00 more than we were told over the phone. However, the total price seemed OK, about $1400.00 Canadian return on only a couple of days notice.

I made the trip back to Toronto, and took care of the business matters OK. I had a fortunate weekend as my sailing club, the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club was having its “Sailpast” that weekend, and so I had a chance to meet many of our old sailing friends and get out on the waters of Lake Ontario off Ashbridge’s Bay  in the east end of Toronto for the first time in five years. The return trip was uneventful, except it was a close race from the airport to the ferry and across the Bosphorus to catch the last bus at 1930. Had I missed it I would have been stuck overnight. As it was, Judy met me at the fishing docks of Sile at 2130 on June 11th and we left next day heading further east on the Black Sea coast of Turkey only to run afoul of a navy exercise outside of the harbour! More of it in my next log.

When we go back to Toronto at Christmas we are thinking of spending some time on the continent and London visiting friends we have made over the years before our return, as next year we will start our voyage out of the Med, and will be leaving European waters.

At present our plans are to winter in Crete, or Kalamata on the Greek Peloponnesus, or possibly try to get as far as Rome by November. We have heard of a reasonably economical marina near Rome which would be a fantastic opportunity to tour the city, the rest of Italy and get up into the continent for a month or so before returning to Canada for Christmas and our winter visit. Next year we are thinking of the Aeolian Islands, the west coast of Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, then over to the south of France, and winter some place in Spain for 2004/2005. Then we are not sure whether to head past Gibraltar, across to the Canary and Madeira Islands and “across the pond” to the southern Caribbean or back into the south of France. From there, we would enter the Canal du Midi to go up to the Bordeaux area of France on the Gulf of Biscay for another season and work our way south on the Atlantic coast across Spain and Portugal before “crossing the pond” in January or February of 2006. Decisions, decisions! A rough life, but somebody has to do it! More later.