Through the Dardanelles to Istanbul

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Sat 27 Jun 2009 09:36
We tied up in Atakoy Marina, Istanbul, on Tuesday 9th June in the late afternoon, exactly a year after leaving Bucklers Hard in Hampshire. Sailing to Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul was as interesting and full of incident as all the other stages of our fantastic voyage.

We had sailed east from Boscaada Island towards the Turkish coast, and were soon at the entrance to the Dardanelles, the narrow stretch of water separating Europe from Asia. Such a strategic site, where in places the channel is only 1500 metres wide, is famous in history. The ancient city of Troy was on a hillside on the Asian side. King Xerxes of Persia brought his huge army across the water on a bridge of boats in 481 BC in his vain attempt to invade Greece and Alexander the Great brought his armies across and conquered Persia and the Near East in 333 BC.

As we sailed into the channel, accompanied by some curious Turkish warships and helicopters, we saw the monuments to the dead at Gallipoli on the European side. The campaign, in 1915 at the beginning of the First World War, is recognised to have been a disaster and led to the deaths of 130,000, mostly young, men and casualties estimated at half a million men. The invading allied troops were made up of troops from France, Britain and the British Empire, and is particularly remembered in Australia and New Zealand as nearly 12,000 A.N.Z.A.C. volunteers died.

We tied up in the port of Cannakale on the Asian side, which is a bustling place and the starting points of pilgrimages to the battlesites of the Gallipoli campaign, and to the remains of Troy. To visit Troy we took a bus through beautiful farmland which reminded us of the English home counties. The site where the remains were discovered in the nineteenth century is near a village called Hisarlik where an English family, the Calverts, owned a farm on which they believed Homer’s legendary town was situated. Francis Calvert, an amateur archaeologist, attracted the attention of Heinrich Schliemann, another amateur archaeologist from Berlin, who had the resources to buy the site and conduct a huge excavation, which led to the discovery of a series of cities which date back to the Bronze Age and earlier. We spent a marvellous day wandering around the site, which was fairly empty of people, but full of ruined walls and temples, butterflies and birds, with a view to the sea, and the sound of a tractor ploughing in a neighbouring field.

After Cannakale we sailed for two days and nights through the Sea of Marmara, as it was a full moon and the captain thought it would be fun, especsaillyu as we had Theo on board to help with the watches. On the first night the sea was very smooth and the moon looked beautiful through a faint haze. During the day the Sea of Marmara was so vast you could not see any land; it was emerald green and very warm, 30oC, and we would have swam if it had not been full of huge jellyfish. On the second day we had to cross the busy shipping line but at the same time the sea started to get very sprightly and we were soon in 20-25 knot winds which continued for the afternoon and night. Rather than sail into Istanbul and see the Golden Horn at sunrise, we dropped anchor in the early hours of the morning to recover our strength.

We arrived in Istanbul after the storm had died down and tied up in the welcoming Marina, from which we could see the mosques and minarets of old Istanbul in the distance.

We are now back in England. Ian is returning to the boat and moving her back to the Aegean after some more Byron research, and he will continue the blog until I return at the end of August.