Bozcaada Island, Turkey

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Thu 4 Jun 2009 15:37

We are tied up in Bozcaada Bay on an island 5 miles west of the Turkish coast and 20 miles south of the Dardanelles, the narrow stretch of water which divides Europe from Asia Minor and through which we must pass on our way to Istanbul.  Bozcaada was once known as Tenedos, and according to Homer, was where the thousand ships of the Greeks anchored on their way to attack Troy, and bring back the beautiful Helen.   A few miles away on the Asiatic side of the mainland are the ruins of what was believed to have been Troy, although many different layers of ruins have been unearthed, and there have been many theories about which was the Troy of the legend, as the events, if they took place at all, are lost in prehistory.  Still, it will be interesting to visit the site, the story of which has been told since the beginning of our civilisation.

We zig-zagged our way here, from Khios to Cesme in Turkey, where Ian spent five hours in various offices completing the necessary papers to allow us and Vasco to remain in Turkey, then back to the island of Lesvos in Greece where we anchored in a beautiful quiet bay in the west of the island.  The scenery there was mountainous and rugged and everybody says Lesbos is a beautiful island, the third largest in Greece, but it has a certain notoriety as it was the home of the poet Sappho, who wrote love poems dedicated to both men and women,  which resulted in the word lesbian entering the language.  A few miles south of our anchorage was the small seaside town of Skala Eresou (pop 1560), where every year in September, according to our Lonely Planet guide ‘the lesbian internationale arrive to invoke the spirit of Sappho, much to the bemusement of the local elders and much to the excitement of their teenaged grandsons’. Ian is planning a visit then too.

We have had some glorious sailing since beginning the journey north, with strong southerly winds driving us along and with the excitement of sailing through the busiest shipping lane since we left the Atlantic, as freighters and tankers constantly make their way through these waters to and from Istanbul and the Black Sea.  A blob on the horizon, when investigated on the AIS system on the radar turns out  to be a vessel weighing 25000 tons which will be 300 metres away in 12 minutes.  Of course we will move out of the way before any ship gets that near, but we have also noticed the freighters themselves sometimes changing their course to avoid us, demonstrating the sympathy for sailors felt by the Greek or Turkish sea captains.

I loved Greece so much -  the landscape, history, kind and tolerant people, and it’s hard to know what I will feel about Turkey.  Certainly arriving both here and in Cesme, the first thing you notice is a huge, slightly ominous Turkish flag, bright red with a white crescent moon and star; and the number of minarets means the number of recorded, extremely loud ‘ Allah Akbahs’ you will hear at dawn and dusk (three in Cesme, two here),  but so far people have been very friendly and I am looking forward to a new experience.

Theo is again on board as he is still looking for a passage to New Zealand and had got as far as Athens when he contacted us.  Ian hopes to do some full moon overnight passages over the next week so we are glad of an extra crew member, although I don’t think Istanbul is actually on the way to New Zealand!