Cruising the Mediterranean from North Cyprus by David Gerrard – 17/9/2010

Kekova

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Captain’s Log
Star Date: 17 September 2010
36 11 N 29 50 E

At anchor in Kekova Roads

Well it took us some time to leave Alanya; it was true the weather was not at its best, head winds and an unpleasant sea. It was true that two of our best friends, Nev and Beth on Taralee, just happened to arrive on the afternoon of our forthcoming early morning departure. It was true that we had torrential rain one night and we got up late. The real reason was that we were just enjoying ourselves, both in Alanya itself and the marina.

For those who are not familiar with Alanya, it’s a hustling bustling tourist town but also is a regional centre with very very good shops, market, restaurants and an excellent Sanyai (industrial centre, workshops etc.) I like the town very much. When I first came here in 1970, on a ferry from Paphos, there was not much other than the castle and a collection of small shops, locantas and houses grouped around the hill.

To say it has changed would be an understatement; it now is a major holiday destination and with the airport now open in Gazi Pasha the transfer times from Antalya have been cut by half.

It also has a fairly large ex pat population of German, Irish, British and Scandinavians and lately the nouveauriche Russians and East Germans. What this does mean is that in addition to the excellent range of local products carried in the supermarkets many of the goodies that everybody is used to at home are available. I like the Sanyai, it carries every conceivable item you may wish for and at a price sometimes a third less that you would buy in the UK; long gone are the days when all you could buy were cheap Chinese copies. Turkey is also now producing its own excellent standard ranges of tools and consumables.

It is the town that impresses you most; clean, large open green spaces and a well laid out road system, with pedestrianised areas where applicable. True, there is the element of duplicated shops selling the designer?? gear and the ubiquitous döner kebap shops but on the whole it is fairly well done, and clean!!

Alanya Marina is one of the success stories, the marina’s basic sea walls and concrete hard standing was built by the government and so it lay like that for a number of years, home to fisherman the odd wandering yachtsman and gullets and tourist boats. A group of local investors bid successfully to further develop the marina, putting in the offices, pontoons, workshops, restaurants etc. This work has taken over two years to complete and under the watchful eye of coordinator, Hasan Kacmaz, has now virtually been completed. I have watched this marina being built and since my last visit in May of this year I feel they have done a magnificent job. They did have a small problem regarding an unpleasant surge in the marina last winter but only when the wind blows from one direction. This problem is now being addressed; after a study by fluid engineers from Ankara a wave breaker has been designed. This will be, I am informed, installed before the winter.

The marina boasts clay tennis courts, a fitness centre with all the latest gadgets, mini market, a pub selling snacks and a good restaurant with a swimming pool. This is complemented by a large hard standing for wintering yachts, a new travel lift and the associated technical services. Alanya is quickly setting the benchmark that other marinas will be measured by.

I just wish that someone in Kibris had the same foresight as these gentlemen and put the much needed finance into a similar project. We desperately need more marinas in North Cyprus and none more so than in Kyrenia. Altan Hussain has one planned at Port Cyprian. The Karpaz gate marina is due for completion early next year but it is in Kyrenia that we need one. The excellent Delta marina is limited by physical constraints to expand further but it wouldn’t be a large scale scheme to extend the existing breakwater on the castle side, enclosing an area in between which could accommodate up to 600 yachts. Despite many overtures to the government by Delta’s existing owners, yachtsmen, and the EMYR Rally, it still falls on deaf ears. The amount of income, as well as employment, that this sort of project could bring can easily be counted in millions. You only have to look at Marmaris; 15 years ago one small marina, now somewhere in the region of 3000 wintering yachts and the associated repair, refitting and supplying makes a considerable input into the local economy. Anyway I better get off my soapbox and back to the sailing.

I could delay the departure no longer; weather looked fair, sea was acceptable, sun was shining and distant ports beckoned. A five am start saw us motoring across a flat calm sea heading for Cineviz Limani. Although the wind teased us most of the day; blowing a little then dropping, we had the main filled most of the time, but it wasn’t for the last twenty or so miles that the Genoa was really able to be used to its full. We were then able to turn off the engine, sit back and relax and the coast closed all too soon; we dropped the sails and motored slowly into this magnificent anchorage.

I have been here many times before and I am still in awe of this place, nestled under the cliffs of Musa Dag on one side and the rocks and pine trees and on the other a small shingle beach and the summer house of the local goat owner; this really is a peaceful place. There where on this occasion two gullets sharing the anchorage but luckily the loud music and generators running didn’t materialise and as dark fell it was as if a spell of utter peace had been cast on us. We were at peace with the world.

The morning dawned fair, little wind and as the sun cleared the distant Mount Olympus we were soon motoring for Kekova Roads. The rock scenery along this coast can only be described as splendid;  continous swathes of rock sweep unbroken to the water’s edge, in many colours ranging from copper green to virtually brilliant white. Small inaccessible beaches and caves adorn the shoreline and there are also a small number of rocky islets just offshore.

Motoring along quietly, taking in the scenery, when the boat gave a clunk and started to vibrate. Throttle back, still vibrating. It could only be one thing; we have picked up something on the prop. It was a calm sea although we had about ½ a knot current with us, having a crew meant that on this occasion I didn’t have to subject myself to an underwater battle with whatever it was. This stretch of coast is notorious for large plastic sheets just below the water, lots of greenhouses and polytunnels adorn the areas around Finike and unfortunately after any sort of blow some of it gets deposited in the sea. Kim was dispatched overboard and after two or three attempts managed to extract, now wait for it, not a length of rope, not 100 metres of plastic, but a baseball hat!! That was all it was, a cheap promotion type baseball hat but it managed to stop us in our tracks. The final island known to us as Walt’s Gap’ marks the end of this stretch of coast.

We named it thus because of close sailing friends of ours, Walt and Evelyn on the boat Neater. Some years ago we were sailing in company with them; having spent a most uncomfortable night in Cavus Limani with the swell knocking us from side to side. We left early in the morning for Finike and just as we left the bay Walt’s engine failed. Not to be petered, he decided that despite little wind he could sail to Finike marina where he could fix the problem. That was OK until he reached the last gap. What he didn’t account for was the counter current against him and he was wallowing around making no headway when a Turkish gullet hailed him and said ‘dangerous place this.’ I know said Walt, OK the Gullet captain replied, I will tow you through. The camaraderie of the sea is still alive and well in Turkey. So to us it will always be known as ‘Walts Gap.’ He is now back in the States sailing and I wonder if he still remembers that day.

Soon we were again on our way across the bay and close into the coast, we passed the town of Demre near to Myra the home of Santa Claus (St Nicholas.) His bones were there until some Italian pirates stole them and they now reside in Rome. The water is only about 6 metres deep a mile from shore; beautiful sandy beaches with no one using them. A windless day meant that we had to continue motoring all the way to Kekova Roads.

Anybody who has sailed in Turkey will have at some point visited this place. It is probably the best known of all anchorages, maybe not as pretty as Keci Buku or Gocek but it has a charm of itself. We always initially make for the inner anchorage, Ucagiz Limani. The small village in the bay is much as it was a hundred years ago or so, that was till the government decided to improve it.

There used to be a number of rickety piers belonging to the restaurants which adorn the waterside; maybe 4 or 5 at the end of these piers. The owner would stand and as soon as he saw your boat he would pick up the relevant national flag, wave it vigorously and tempt you to tie up there and of course avail yourselves of his menu of the day. You were under little pressure to do so and we prefer to anchor and make our own mind up which if any we wished to use that evening. Now things have changed, a large concrete pontoon has being installed, complete with water and electric, the old rickety piers have gone, along with some civic improvements and the cobbled streets and gravel paths have been replaced with soulless concrete pavers in red and grey.

I am not sure this is a good thing, but I suppose times have to change and I may think differently on a winter’s morning when a home owner there wouldn’t have to wade through mud and water to the one shop. The pontoons have changed the whole concept of the village, the water frontage is hidden somewhat from the sea but the people don’t change and sitting last night in Ibrahim’s restaurant I asked him what he thought. He was very philosophical about it, yes it was good, no it wasn’t, only time will tell.

Kekova seemed very busy but certainly not as many boats at anchor as I have seen in the past and nobody we knew. A quiet night at anchor with a slight breeze from the land made it very pleasant. Kekova is an ancient Lycian site with a large number of ruins still remaining. At some time in the past the city suffered a major earthquake and sunk below the sea. You can still see sarcophagi half submerged. There are many local boats with glass bottoms that take tourists around the area to view the subterranean ruins. Tomorrow we hope to go across to the nearest Greek Island of Kastellorizon or Meis as it is called in Turkish, but tomorrow is another day.

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