Leg 8 – Corsica to Villamoura – Royal Armoured Corps

Sunday 7th June

After an horrendously early start, a weary group of travellers arrived at Gatwick Airport for a 06.00 start, guided together by the fail safe combination of the infamous black grip, short back and sides and dubious regional accents. Met by the man, the myth, the legend-Lt Col Leigh ‘Jacko’ Jackson- we boarded the flight united in ‘tour stash’, a variety of Ex Gallipoli 2015 black polo shirts, ideal for the hot Meditteraenean sun.

Touched down in Ajaccio airport and after an encounter with a taxi driver who saw himself as a Corsican Felippe Massa, employed only the use of second gear and had no qualms whatsoever about taking city corners at a casual 65mph, we arrived in record timing to be met by the glorious sight of Kukri, our home for the next two weeks and our skipper, Major Steve Taylor aka Barnacle Steve. We then settled in for an afternoon of safety briefs, boat maintenance and the like.

Monday 8th June
The usual standard mix of skills and drills, Steve quickly realised he was dealing with a crew of unparalleled sailing ability, a well oiled machine at one with the high seas. Josh ‘the slayer, Crisp quickly established himself as master of the helm, premier tier of bowline knots-some knew him as myth, others heard it as gospel, last seen fighting the Loch Ness monster- we knew he would be invaluable on the treacherous sea passage to come.

Tuesday – Thursday 9th-11th June. Corsica to Mallorca
After 75 head sail changes, 17 spaghetti bologneses, we found ourselves just loosing sight of Corsica as we begun to realise the sheer impracticalities of sailing without any wind…at all. The poem below represents a concise and informative description of this passage at sea.

11 men came together as a team, for Gallipoli 2015
Red Rocket sailing far and wide, many dolphins swimming side by side
Sail changes, hard and fast, two reefs upon the mast
30 knots of wind upon the sea, not another spag bowl, let it be
The boys became a crew, friends forever through and through
Engineers, reme, ld, yorks and lancers, what a bunch of absolute prancers

Friday – Saturday  12th-13th June. Mallorca to Alicante.
With absolutely no sore heads in any way whatsoever, we embarked on a ’18’/31 hour journey to our next destination , Alicante. As we soared past the North coast of Ibiza, the younger crew members agonisingly came to terms with the fact that the Balearics were slowly disappearing into the night behind us-except Jordan ‘the cabin boy’ Bracken who had somehow already booked flights for summer leave, without consulting 0A.

‘Gorgeous’ George moulded himself into the bow until man and boat ceased to become separate entities. Our head sail guru and destroyer of waves relished the opportunity to style his ‘wet look’ in the salty water. By this point, the crew had become adept with changing sails with the flair and pastiche of an Americas cup winning team.

Alicante to ? 13th June to ?
We left Alicante with the hope of reaching Gibraltar in two and a half days, however fate naturally conspired against us with the weather reminiscent of the Perfect Storm- this was to test our firm crew cohesion to the limit.

Bashing against waves at the pace of a snail, came the foghorn-like voice of barnacle Steve – a voice honed by a diet consisting purely of sea water and Marlboro Reds. ‘Man Overboard’ Griffiths was thrown over the side of the boat and with casual disregard for his own safety ‘Horatia’ Hugo’ our resident naval officer, pulled back the colossal Griff, saving him from the depths of Davy Jones locker and an eternity on The Flying Dutchman.

Due to slow progress and dissipating morale, rations, water and fuel- the skipper made the decision to dock in Almeria for the night, a town internationally renowned for its mediocrity in second division Spanish football. After a textbook berthing by our skipper, our 55 ft yacht soothed herself effortlessly into a space no bigger than a smart car and the crew had a well earned and much welcome rest.

Almeria to Gibraltar 16th to 18th June
‘Dolphin’ Danny from Essex was in his element on this leg of the trip, completely fabricating numerous Dolphin sightings at every available opportunity. With it becoming an all to familiar ‘boy who cried wolf” situation, out of nowhere emerged a pod of 20 Dolphins sensensually caressing the bow of the boat, Pilot whales bimbled across the stern flipping the tails like an ocean greeting to fellow sea goers. This leg also saw perhaps the most saddening and unfortunate incident of the trip so far- the jack brew. In a miserable values and standards failure, Red watch (‘Horatio’ Hugo, Ash ‘the Pirate’ Patel, ‘ man overboard’ Griffiths and the recently entitled  ‘Jack brew’ Rob)  failed to make brews for Green watch leading to a potential mutiny only pacified by the ardent professionalism and maturity of Green watch in the face of such a horrid violation of the sea goers code.  After sailing across the flattest and calmest seas to date, out of the horizon rose the Rock of Gibraltar, the pillars of Hercules. Gorgeous’ George was to realise the dangers of fraternising with the local monkeys, after a vicious bite wound to the hand.  As Jacko and Horatio watched the sun descend into the horizon from the cockpit of the newly named ‘Red Rocket’,  the Spanish whaling fleet pulled up alongside and began to dismember a humongous tuna. Jacko ceased the opportunity to scrounge tuna, not out the tin, cut fresh from the beasts body.

With this morning arose and we bid our farewell to Gibraltar and its 80’s slick back ‘levanta’ and we  began the final leg of our Odyssian journey.

Gibraltar to Villamoura 18th to 19th June
With perfect Easterly winds driving us to Villamoura,  ‘Barnacle’ Steve took to the helm like a kid at Christmas, grinning from ear to ear, exclaiming ‘this is why I joined the army’- a statement at odds with a predominantly land based force. He sailed us thought the Straits of Gibraltar, with Africa in touching distance,  into the Atlantic abyss. ‘Horatio’ Hugo awoke the crew to a toast with Nelsons blood at midnight as we passed the Cape of Trafalgar, reminiscing on the Royal Navy’s finest battle, a battle which began the era of British supremacy at sea and heralded in the age of the Empire.

We berthed in Villamoura at 6 in the evening, our final destination and the epic finale to Leg 8 of Gallipoli 2015. Villamoura was everything and more than we expected it to be, the holiday destination of choice for Europes bold and beautiful, the glitterati jet set. It provided no obstacles in making the most of our final time on shore and we closed the trip with the same style and finesse exhibited in abundance over the last two weeks. The last thing remaining was to clean out and handover the Red Rocket to the next team, a bittersweet symphony and a tearful goodbye to a cruel mistress.

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Leg 7 – Malta to Corsica – Infantry

On the 24th of June we left the UK, heading for Valletta, the capital of Malta and the start of the 7th leg of Exercise Gallipoli. Arriving in the late afternoon at the Royal Malta Yacht Club we were met by HMSTC Kukri, our home for the next two weeks. We had been tasked with with sailing her from Malta to Ajaccio in Corsica and for the next two weeks we would live, sleep and eat aboard the yacht, taking it in turns to cook and clean up, and sail on four hour watches. Aboard were members from a whole host of regiments, including the Yorkshire Regiment, Grenadier Guards, Royal Anglian Regiment, the Rifles, and the University of London Officer Training Corps. Some of us were also here to earn their competent crew qualifications and would therefore have to learn all the basics of sailing, including knots, nautical terms and parts of the boat, how to cook aboard a boat and more.

Valletta

Our first task upon arrival was a safety brief and allocation of safety equipment and foul weather gear. Thereafter we had to choose a select few personal items to store in our small personal lockers before stowing our bags in the very inaccessible aft storage compartment. At that point we called it a day and left Kukri to go sample some of the local cuisine.

The next day we spent going over the basics of sailing and then went for a short sail, practising casting off, raising and lowering the mainsail and headsail, tacking, man overboard drills and finally coming back into port.

Before we set sail on the third day we decided that it was time to explore the beautiful walled city of Valletta. Here we visited Casa Rocca Pccola, which provided a unique insight into the customs and traditions of the Maltese nobility over the last 400 years. After that we made our way towards the Saluting Battery, arriving just in time for the daily gun salute marking midday.

Valletta to Riposto

Upon returning to Kukri we sent a team to do some last minute shopping and then set sail for Sicily on a 24 hour passage. The conditions were good and the wind favourable. Several hours into our voyage we came across HMS Bulwark, which is currently in the Mediterranean carrying out its mission – Operation Weald – to rescue migrants who have become stranded at sea fleeing fighting in Syria and Libya. We sailed through the night, changing watch every four hours and arrived in the late afternoon at our first port of call, Riposto, a small town on the East coast of Sicily. Towering above Riposto Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, disappeared into the clouds and on the next day we made it our mission to climb it.

Riposto

We awoke early the next day to catch a train to the town of Catania, where we boarded a bus that took us to Sapienza Refuge at 1900 metres. The weather during our ascent was quite poor, with cold winds and light rain, and as we reached the top of one of the craters, having ascended a further 1100 metres, we took cover from the wind, only to to notice that the ground was radiating heat. Feeling slightly too under dressed to remain at the top of the crater for long, we began our descent, only for the weather to clear up immediately and the sun to appear from behind a cloud. Typical. Still, we were now able to explore more craters and admire the breathtaking view as we descend the mountain to Sapienza Refuge to catch the bus and then train back to Riposto. Upon returning we decided it was too late to start cooking and found a nice little restaurant on the seafront to enjoy some Sicilian cuisine.

Riposto, Sicily to Naples, Italy

The next day we woke early and sent a team to the local supermarket to stock up on supplies before our 36 hour passage to Naples. As we set sail the weather was beautiful, but there was little wind and as a result we spent most of the time under motor. It did however give us plenty of time to practise drills, such as putting reefs in. Those who had yet to earn their competent crew soon found themselves clambering around on deck as they put reefs in and then shook them out moments later, all to the amusement of the others. As the hours ticked by we soon found ourselves sailing through the busy strait of Messina, sticking to a narrow, predesignated, channel to avoid being fined by the Italian coastguard. As night fell we passed the small volcanic island of Stromboli, and several crew members swore that they could briefly see a faint orange glow coming from the summit. As dawn broke and the sun came up above the horizon and large pod of dolphins appeared at the bow of the vessel and proceeded to race alongside us, weaving in and out of one another and then leaping into the air all to the enjoyment of the crew. Arriving in the Bay of Naples the following evening, having spent most of the day under motor, we set about planning an excursion to the ruins of Pompeii to get some much needed culture in our lives.

Naples

We woke bright and early the next day in order to make the most of our trip to Pompeii. The group split up, some of choosing to walk, others taking a taxi. Having made it to Pompeii we wandered the ruins, admiring how well preserved they were, especially some of the wall paintings and mosaic floors. At the time of our visit a new exhibition had just opened, focusing on the excavation of the ancient ruins and displaying casts of some of Vesuvius’ victims in their final moments. We were all amazed at how big the ruins were, especially considering only one third had actually been excavated, the rest having been left untouched to better preserve it. Although the ruins of Pompeii were big, they still felt overcrowded, as large groups of tourists surged from one site to another. Having spent a good portion of the day in Pompeii beneath the baking sun we headed back to the marina, were some us spent a few hours by the pool before supper.

Naples, Italy to Rome, Italy

Before leaving port the next day for our 24 hour passage to Rome, we learnt about the different types of anchors we had aboard and how to prepare them. We then practised how to lower and raise them, as our skipper had planned for us to make a quick stop at one of the many beautiful islands en route to Rome

After having sent a team via taxi to the nearest supermarket we set about preparing the boat for sea and set sail upon their return, leaving the bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius behind. As we rounded the headland our skipper set a course towards two nearby islands and we soon found ourselves anchoring in the shadows of the beautiful cliffs of Isola d’Ischia. Here some of us went swimming whilst others got the tender out and went ashore to explore the island. Upon returning to Kukri we had our evening meal and hoisted the anchor to continue our journey to Rome. As we sailed up the Italian coastline towards Rome the winds were forever changing direction or dying down to then return moments later, usually just after we had lowered the headsail. It was however good practice.

Rome

Arriving in Porto de Rome late afternoon the next day we wasted little time, immediately heading for the nearest train station to take us into Rome proper. Here we wandered the streets of the old city, admiring the ruins that lay in amongst the bustling city. Top on the list of places to visit was the massive Colosseum followed by the Vatican City on the opposite side of Rome. Having seen as much of Rome as time allowed, we caught the train again and headed back to the port to have dinner and get some sleep before our early start the next morning.

Rome, Italy to Bonifacio

Our passage from Rome to Bonifacio would be the longest of the whole voyage, taking 39 hours. We left the port after having completed the necessary restock of supplies from the local supermarket which was not as local as we would have preferred. We also found that we did not have a Corsican courtesy ensign. A party was soon dispatched to the local chandlers to remedy this, only to return with disappointing news that the chandlers had decided that normal opening hours did not apply to them on this day. Instead we raised the French courtesy ensign and set sail. The going was good at first and we made a lot of progress, but as the night fell so did the wind and soon we were chugging away under engine. During the night and the early hours of the morning we encountered our first traffic of the leg as large cruise ships, ferries and cargo ships cut across our path heading south, providing a good lesson on the maritime rules of the road.

Bonficaio

As we came into the port of Bonifacio we could not help but admire the beautiful cliffs that flanked it and the impressive castle that sat high upon them. After having walked through the beautiful town and admired the impressive view it gave of the port bellow we split into groups, some went off to explore the German WWII bunkers dotted around the town and hidden in the cliffs, whilst others took the tender out to explore the coves and beaches around the port. Upon this particular groups return they managed to get sand in the yacht’s cockpit, something that did not impress the skipper the next morning. As a result they soon found themselves scrubbing the aft deck and cleaning the cockpit before we set sail for our final passage. On a positive note we did finally manage to get a Corsican courtesy ensign to fly as we sailed up the coast.

Bonifacio to Ajaccio

Our final passage to Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, lasted 18 hours and was blessed with strong winds. After having had a short photo shoot as we left the port by two of the crew in the tender, we were tacking up the coast of Corsica, making good progress. During this final part of the voyage the mate tested the soon to be competent crew on the names of parts of the vessel and then knots, making sure that they fulfilled the requirements for the qualification.

 

Ajaccio

The final destination of our leg. Got into port during the afternoon and immediately set about cleaning the hull by sending a team out in the tender. Miraculously no one fell in, that is until they were back on the pontoon and someone was pushed in. After having cleaned the hull and put the boat to bed we set out to find the nearest bar, something that did not take long. The following day we set about giving Kukri a deep clean. Cleaning the entire interior and exterior, making sure that it was up to the standard that we ourselves would like to receive it.

Having handed over HMSTC Kukri early on Sunday we headed for the airport, happy to be heading home after the most amazing two weeks of adventures training.

Leg 6 – Istanbul to Malta – Royal Engineers

DAY 1-2

After an epic journey involving 5 hours by minibus and 4 hours by plane and the inevitable waiting in between, the crew arrived in Istanbul to meet HMSTC (Her Majesty’s Sail Training Craft) Kukri our home for the next 2 weeks in Atokay marina only a few miles from the Airport.

After discovering how little storage space each individual actually has to live in while at sea we made ourselves at home, were detailed into the two watches, received the obligatory safety and equipment briefs and were issued oil skins and life vests it was time to resupply the boat. This meant braving the local supermarket, or a least would if we could find the place, it turns out it is incredibly hard to mime ‘supermarket’ to non English speakers. But never mind after doing battle with turkish drivers we found it, and the next problems started. The initial plan had been to identify the food by the pictures on the packaging or buying brands we recognise from home, this plan came apart rather quickly but we cracked on regardless muttering such things as “it has a picture of a cow on it that must mean it’s cows cheese not goats” or “We’ll just risk it!” Perhaps this was not the best way to go shopping however we seem to have made only one mistake but come on who sells soured milk! The crew were soon weighed down which what seemed like tonnes of food a resembled pack donkeys carrying it all back to the marina, however eventually the supplies were stowed away, this seemed enough to feed a small nation but in reality wouldn’t last 11 hungry squaddies very long at all. After a slap up meal ashore it was back to the bunks to recover from a busy day.

Day 2 was opened by the discovery that we had in fact purchased soured milk and as we hadn’t bought the bread yet, another expedition was sent ashore to find supplies for breakfast and they promptly discovered most shops in Turkey don’t in fact open until after 10 o’clock, oh dear! The lucky discovery of a corner shop selling milk and bread saved the crew from disaster or at least a missed breakfast. Following a slightly late breakfast it was time to become more familiar with the Kukri and what followed was a crash course of nautical terms which baffled the uninitiated (why I ask you would a rope be named a sheet?), lessons on how to actually sail the boat when we get it out on to the sea and tour below deck to identify all the little cubby hole and the kit stored in them.

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Training being conducted aboard before leaving port.

Another trip to the Supermarket to collect the rest of the required stores topped up already groaning selves. Three trolly loads later and nearly 30 mins of packing away the boat was finally provisioned. It was my turn to cook this evening (not sure how that worked but ho hum) chicken pasta with Parma ham, chorizo sausage and a tomato sauce did nicely.

Plans were hatched to leave the marina at 9 o’clock the following day and start our journey along the sea of Mara through the Dardinell straights and out into the Aegean and eventually to Malta via the Greek Islands.

DAY 3 – Istanbul to Marmara Island – NM sailed 65

After awaking bright eyed and bushy tailed (ish) there was time for a quick but thorough lesson covering raising a collapsing the main and fore sails and several of the procedures we would use out on the water, and it was time to leave, berthing fees were paid and documentation collected and it was off! Or nearly so just a 20 min wait for the marina launch to escort us out.

However soon we were out and among the massive oil tankers waiting their turn through the Bosporus to the Black Sea. After motoring through all this traffic we reached the sea lanes and it was time to put into action all the things we had been taught over the last two days, we were assured by the veteran sailors that the sea was smooth but you could have fooled us, each movement felt enough to throw us overboard but eventually we became proficient if not adept at raising the two sails. After practice of the tack, jibe and heave too manoeuvres it was time to raise a No 3 Genoa foresail and crack on.

Almost as soon as we left the marina we saw a pod of dolphins but they kept their distance but they were close enough that we could see them breaching the surface. Once we properly got underway under sail the pod rejoined us and started to play under the bow of the boat, a few of the crew went forward to the bow and they seemed close enough in the clear water to touch.

After consulting the charts it was decided that we would make our way in a SW direction towards the island of Marmara which gives this stretch of water its name. As soon as we were under way some of the crew began to feel the effect of sea sickness and after an hour some of them really began to feel the effects and several individuals could be seen hanging over the side revisiting their breakfasts.

By mid afternoon the wind and sea had both picked up with a NNE wind blowing up to 22 knots and waves growing to between 1-2 meters, while this may sound relatively calm but for novice sailors like some of us it didn’t bloodly well feel that way and for those who hadn’t managed to get their sea legs under them it just prolonged their pain. The island of Marmara was spotted at around 10 past 5 in the afternoon, By 7 o’clock in the afternoon out temporary safe harbour was chosen the anchor and sails were dropped and stowed ready to be raised later.

That evening after a meal of rice and chicken wraps an anchor watch was established and we were briefed that tomorrow was an early start and we intended to be at one of the Gallipoli beaches by the afternoon to early evening of day 4, only Time will tell if we will keep to this estimate.

Day 4 – Marmara Island to ANZAC Cove – NM sailed 65

At 3 o’clock in the morning the crew emerged stumbling and bleary eyed to set the sails and catch the wind, well unfortunately there was no wind after valiantly trying to coax every last bit of speed out of the wind it was decided that travelling at 1 knot would get us to Malta in time! So the bullet was bitten and the Diesel engine was started and a steady 5 knots was achieved. So a course was set towards the Dardanelles straights. The traffic was light however a Turkish Navy frigate did buzz past at a rapid rate of knots.

After a few hours we past the headland and entered the Channel proper catching our first look at the route the allied Navies tried to force in 1915, consulting period maps we were able to plot Turkish gun positions and approximately where the strings of sea mines had been placed and as we passed. Once we reached the mouth of the channel we could place the resting places of several of the ships sunk during the action.

On the Starboard side East of Helles point the Turkish war memorial could be seen built on the position of one of the few British successes on the first day of the invasion. As we passed the other beaches a running commentary was maintained by the better informed member of the crew.

Including V beach where the ex-collier the SS River Clyde which had been converted into an Assault ship with Sally port cut in the side, filled with troop from the Royal Munsters and the Middlesex regiment. The plan had been to ram the ship ashore and for the attacking troops to charge across and pier constructed from various small craft and assault the Turkish forces defending the high ground surrounding the landing point. The plan went to pot almost immediately as the defending forces cut down any one emerging from the Sally ports even the efforts of the naval ratings manning Vickers machine guns mounted behind sand bags on the prow of the ship. After several attempts to get ashore suffering heavy casualties it was decide to wait until nightfall to come ashore.

We continued to motor along the shore line keeping an eye on the depth. A quick conversation was held and it decided that rather than anchor off the shore at ANZACS cove we would moor up in a small harbour just a mile or so South. As we entered the harbour confusion reigned with several different individuals shouting out completely different instructions all of which turned out to be wrong, the harbour master came running over gesticulating like mad and after somehow managing to breach the language barrier he managed to get across that there were some Naval vessels on there way and we need to shift out of the way. As per instructions we tied up along side a sea going tug and prompted informed that if we weren’t out of the area by 5 o’clock the next morning we would be stuck for several days while the Turkish navy carried out live exercises in the surrounding sea, this put paid to any idea of visiting ANZAC cove the following day so it was decided we would stay the night and the following morning retrace out steps and visit the British and turkish memorials before clearing turkish immigration and start our journey onward to Greece.

DAY 5 – ANZAC Cove to Canakkale – NM sailed. 35

After making our unscheduled early departure from ANZAC Cove at 3.30 in the morning we found yet again that there was little to no usable wind and after several sail changes including taking out the reefs (lines that make the sail smaller therefore more controllable to heavy seas) and fitting a larger head sail all to avail and though it was rather pleasant to amble along at 1-2 knots it doesn’t make for rapid passage making so the decision was made to yet again start up the engine and make our way under horse power rather than wind power.

After a couple of hours we rounded Cape Helles and dropped anchor on S beach where British troops landed in 1915 to support the main British attack on Cape Helles. Once we had the boats dingy pumped up we made our way ashore to visit the Turkish war memorial it was an impressive structure, basically a massive marble looking slab about 15m square and about 4-5 meters high supported 40-50 meters up by 4 columns, on each column is a carved image portraying certain aspects of the operation from the Turkish perspective. The area was very busy, filled with both school visits and coach parties of several nationalities.

Standing on the cliffs looking down at the passage below we could watch the Turkish navy heading out on their exercise this included several frigate sized ships a few smaller patrol sized craft and 2 submarines running on the surface.

The opportunity was offered to walk over to the British memorial on Cape Helle I which took, the walk took about 30 minutes. The memorial was built on the bluff above V beach and looks out to the point where the SS River Clyde came ashore, like most commonwealth war graves memorials this one had stone tablets with all the dead listed by regiment and rank, the memorial itself was a stone obelisk about 30m high with stone plaques detailing the units involved and the ships sunk. Also nearby are the remains of one of the coastal batteries the Turks used to bombard the British ships putting the troops ashore, this one was knocked out just prior to the assault. There were several. Other reminders of the action including a machine gun pillbox and some excavated trenches to give visitors a turkish defenders view of the invasion beach, it wasn’t pretty.

Once I had rejoined the rest of the crew on board we lifted the anchor and set off for Canakkale to reprovision, refuel take on water and clear from Turkish immigration. The opportunity was taken during this time to take those members of the crew sailing for the first time through the modules they require to learn in order to earn their Competent crew qualification.

After attempting to moor up in the marina in Canakkale and finding it to be full we dropped anchor outside the marina but inside the break water and settled in for the night, some of the crew used the dingy to go ashore but were back early. Tomorrow the intention is to get the boat ready to leave turkey and start the passage across to Malt via the Greek Islands.

Leg 5 – Thessaloniki to Istanbul

Day 1:

Touched down in Thessaloniki on Sun 26 Apr 15 at 1000hrs and got our ten minute taxis to Kukri’s mooring. We received the boat in good order and did some familiarisation for the crew of mixed ability. After an early start and been Air, Land and Sea we soon thought it sensible to try the local delicacy before the following days voyage.

Day 2:

Kukri was filled to the gunwales with supplies and some last minute checks before heading south to Skopelos some 110 Nm. We had a fine sail under the No 2 genoa and full main sail at 7 knots. We sailed through the night under a clear sky (we were able to pick out the Plough, Cassiopeia and the North Star). As the wind came onto the nose we raised our staysail and increased our speed by a knot.

Day 3:

After day break we saw a large pod of Dolphins playing on the port and starboard side of Kukri. Out of the mist we saw the 700M peak of Skopelos and later the small bay of our destination opened to view. In Skopelos harbour we initially went starboard side to but finding no water or electricity were available we tried to Mediterranean moor but seen off by an angry Greek who said they were his private shorelines. However, a more friendly Greek offered us to moor alongside his boat which we successfully did. So we were able to replenish with water and everybody charged their i’stuff! The skipper in true charming fashion networked the harbour of Skopelos and invited the friendly Greek (Bibulous) and the only Kiwi girl on the island for a drink and in return give the crew their local knowledge of the area.

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Day 4

Armed with some fantastic local knowledge Kukri set sail from Skopelos around 1000hrs having negotiated some large ferries coming into what was a fairly small harbour. We slipped out and soon caught the wind as the horizon opened up. This gave some excellent sailing on a broad reach. Sadly this wasn’t to last our entire journey to our first destination of the day – Ormos Tzortzi Bay. Soon after lunch we arrived at the memorable swimming spot. There was however great anticipation of the water temperature until the Skipper’s Mate (Lt Col Damien Pealin) led by example and gave a perfect demonstration of the ‘bomb’! Once all in, there was a 400m swim to the beach before returning and raising the anchor to get to our overnight location – Steni Valla (see photo 1). Getting in to this extremely quaint harbour took the crew a few hours of deploying the dingy with the depthometer paving the way for Kukri to glide in elegantly. On the berth being prepared, Kukri was given the green light to come in over the radio. Once in place there was a gap just too big to leap to the shore and so a willing crew member deployed his snorkel and mask to see if Kukri could come back a few more inches. As luck had it and some hand signals above the water, Kukri was able to go back to a more crew friendly spot. The bar/shop opposite our mooring was owned by some extremely friendly Greeks who offered us showers after a hot day on the water. A superb fish restaurant was recommended to us and the easy decision was made to eat out and delge ourselves in some lovely Waitbait, Squid and Goat (for those non fish lovers!).

Day 5

The objectives for the day were to allow the more inexperienced crew members to start showing off what they learnt and started by pulling away from anchor and setting the day’s course on the Electronic Chart Plotter (SATNAV for those who spend more time in cars!). Once out of Steni Valla there was a fantastic sail North to the island of Ormos Kira Pagangia (see photo 2). On the southern side of the island we had been told that there was an idyllic spot for an anchor which we did and now feeling more confident in the water we swam, had lunch and even some delicious birthday cake secretly made by Gaby in the Galley for Duncan (see photo 3). The island is inhabited by one monk whose previous posting was in London but sadly we were unable to see him and find out if he enjoyed his time in London! Now full of energy the crew was introduced to Man Overboard drills before setting off for our overnight mooring on the northern side of the island. On the way we were to practise what we’d learnt and although we thought it might have been a good substitute for birthday bumps the Skipper decided on throwing a buoy overboard instead! This all went to plan before heading in to our overnight mooring which was entered by a small channel in and then opening up with high ground all around for shelter. This was a perfect natural harbour but sadly still no sign of the monk. Once the anchors were set the mother watch (crew is divided into three rotating watches – mother, on watch and off watch) performed magnificently and soon a sausage stew with mash potato was coming up through the hatch. Throughout the trip the skipper has been getting the crew around a map to reflect on where we’ve been and nominates a group leader to explain the following day’s leg (see photo 4).

Day 6

A stunning start to the day as we crept out of our sheltered natural harbour (see photo 5). Sadly the compromise for the stunning scenery was to be the very light wind from NW (3-4 Knots) so we were forced to motor-sail our way to Lemnos some 50NM to our North East. The sails adding 25% to our speed while saving diesel. Through the clouds the town of Myrina on the western side of Lemnos was ahead of us with again some Dolphins escorting us in to our Port side (see photo 6). Once berthed there was time to have a drink in the cafe opposite (doesn’t always dictate our berthing location!!) and a cool down swim for those who are now turning a rather rose colour. After supper we had games on board (uno, an aggressive form of snap and another physical card game called Spoons!). Being a Greek Bank holiday the bars were busy with loud music coming across the harbour but Kukri’s crew remained professional and didn’t get led astray!

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Day 7 (Sat 2 May 15)

A civilised start to the day with the odd lucky crew member getting a cup of tea in bed (this is probably more to keep them out of the Galley!). The morning was spent investigating what Lemnos had to offer with the main tourist attraction being the stunning castle over looking the town of Myrina (see photo 1 with Kukri in the bottom right corner!). Kukri set sail around 1400hrs on a NE heading to Turkey and in particular for Suvla Bay. The sailing was good coming out of Lemnos with and excellent Goose Wing using the No3 Genoa. The winds tend to die down through the evening so sadly not able to keep this all the way to Suvla Bay. As we entered Turkish waters it marked the start of the Gallipoli Battlefield phase with Maj Edward Boag setting the scene and introducing the crew to the reasons why the 1915 Gallipoli campaign came about. Edward was then followed by Lt Col Toby Keppel-Crompton who gave the account of the Naval campaign which was the Allies first attempt to breach the Dardanelles in 18 Mar 1915 in the hope to get to Istanbul and force Turkey to surrender and be no longer a player in the First World War.

Day 8

The anchor was dropped at Suvla Bay around 0200hrs where Kukri stayed for the rest of the morning. The significance of Suvla Bay was that it was the location for the third and last attempt by the Allies to breach the Dardanelles in Aug 15. The second attempt was the landings of Allied troops at Helles point and the ANZAC’s at the unintended Ari Burnu point further south but all attempts were halted by the Turkish Army. On wishing to get ashore and see one of the many Suvla Bay memorials we sailed around the corner and went to see the Lala Baba Memorial (see photo 2). There was time for a quick swim after lunch before heading south down the western side of the peninsula to Kabatepe Harbour. On the way we had fantastic views of the ANZAC landings and the perfect opportunity for Lt Col Ingrid Hall and Capt Gabi Sleeman to give their presentations on the landings and trench warfare (see photo 3). The plan for the next 24hrs was to stay at Kabatepe Harbour with the next day going inland to see the battlefields. The harbour had few amenities but we did find a bar for a quick ‘run ashore’ before bed!

Day 9

Only after having squeezed into the two taxis with rucksacks packed (and Edward in the boot!) for a day of scrambling over the ANZAC battlefields we were met by the local border authorities who said we must book in through the authorities in Canakkale which was some 70NM around the other side of the peninsula. The change of plan meant we immediately sailed south around Helles Point and then NE up the strait of Cannakkale towards the Dardanelles. The sailing was good down to Helles point with excellent views of the beaches where the Allies landed in Apr 1915 (see photo 4 and 5). We had to be mindful of one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes through the strait of Canakkale (all ships heading in and out of the Aegean Sea up the Dardanelles, into the Sea of Marmara past Istanbul and the Bosporus to get into the Black Sea). We made our way up the European side of the strait and once in line with Canakkale we crossed the shipping lanes at 90 degrees and into a snug berthing spot between an Australian crew and fello Brits on the other! The plan now was to base ourselves here and do the battlefield tour of Gallipoli the next day once officially checked in through customs. Canakkale is the most bustling of towns we have visited thus far and the home of the legend of Troy which is nearby (see photo 6).

Day 10

We got a Ferry first thing from Canakkale to the peninsula where we were met by a minibus to take us to Helles point to see the British memorial (see photo 7) and Lt Col Duncan Atwell gave the crew an account of the landings at V and S beaches. On the higher ground overlooking the Allies objectives of the town Krithia and the hill Achi Barba, Capt Will Greig gave an overview of the landings at W, X and Y beach on the western side of the peninsula. This was then followed by Capt Charlotte Walsh (very smitten about the fact the Royal baby had been named after her!) gave the account of the three Krithia battles to try and brake the statement between the Allies and the Turkish Army from May – Sept 1915 (see photo 8). The next stop was Lone Pine (see photo 9) where the Australians saw their fiercest fighting. There had been a large memorial service the week before to mark the centenary. On the way to the New Zealand memorial at Chunuk Bair, Maj Will Waller gave his account of the Allied extraction phase which began on 18 Dec 1915 and all off the peninsula by 9 Jan 1916. Having all now walked the ground and heard the fascinating accounts of what happened throughout the campaign it was time to get the ferry back and have an early night before continuing our sail up the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara.

Day 11

An early start to continue our route to Istanbul. The wind was kind and we were immediately able to sail NE up into the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara. This time sailing on the Asian side of the water. The overnight location was to be the Yigitlar Harbour on the island of Turkeli. The sailing was fantastic all the way up (60 NM) with most of the wind allowing Kukri to sail on a broad reach. By mid afternoon the island of Turkeli came into view and we were staying on the eastern side of the island (see photo 10). On arrival to Yigitlar Harbour the old boys that had deployed to Bosnia felt that they had gone back in time and although met by some very pleasant locals it was hard to be overly complimentary about our evening stay location! However, a fine supper on board by ‘Mother’ watch and some cards down below.

Day 12

An early start to get to the Island of Marmara which was only 6NM to the north. There was sadly no wind so it was an hour on the engine. Once eventually alongside in the harbour of Marmara the crew soon ‘bomburst’ to discover the local attractions (see photo 1). The competent crew members (4 people) had to demonstrate to the skipper that they could row the dingy before being classed as competent! Sadly no photo to show but just to say after some practise they all passed with flying colours! The crew were, by early evening, reunited with drinks and nibbles on deck before ‘Mother’ watch passed another delicious supper up through the hatch followed by cards and bed.

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Day 13

A very early start to get to Istanbul before dark. The journey started on the engine but the crew weren’t allowed to relax for long before a weather front came in and gave us our best sailing day of the trip. The No 2 Genoa was soon down and replaced by the No 3 Genoa (smaller sail). With the gusts getting stronger and Kukri on her side the skipper soon ordered 2 reefs in the Main sail (making it smaller). The Mate (Lt Col Damien Pealin) revisited his racing days on the foredeck getting very wet in the process (see photo 2)! As Istanbul neared, the shipping lanes narrowed, and we had to be on constant watch as well as using the Automatic Identification System which showed the ships in the area (see photo 3). Kukri was on her berth in one of the world’s smartest harbours (Atakou) by 2000hrs and the crew soon asleep for the day ahead of sightseeing.

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Day 14

Under our own arrangements the crew found their way into Istanbul city centre. This was via ferry, bus, tram and taxi with the odd local giving pity on those how couldn’t work out the ticket system and paying on their local equivalent of the Oyster card! The main attractions were the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and the Turkish Baths to get beaten up (see photo 4)! We compared notes over a dinner out in the harbour as well as wishing Gabi a Happy Birthday!

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Day 15

An early start to cleaning the boat in our ‘watch’ groups and handed over the boat to leg 6 (Maj Jerry Smith for the Royal Engineers leg to Malta) and start the homeward bound. We compared notes at the airport and wished Will Waller a Happy Birthday this time! All in all we visited 14 different stopovers and covered 463NM, 19 night hours and max wind force 6 – thank you Kukri.

Valetta to Thessaloniki – more to follow!

Apologies for the shortage of recent news on the exped, the editor has been on exercise in France but is now back in the seat and raring to go.  Kukri made it up to Thessaloniki with the REME YC and I’ll post their news and photos shortly.  She’s now en route to Istanbul with a crew from Support Command and she’s expected in the Dardanelles shortly.  Thanks for your continued support – please keep it up!

Palermo to Valetta

Kukri left Palermo slightly unimpressed with the city but in good spirits with excellent weather. Despite the weather, there was a lack of wind, so the motor was fired up and we aimed for the volcano islands; importantly Stromboli, for sight of an active volcano. Kukri arrived at Stromboli at about 0100, to witness a spectacular natural firework display and to see the lava flowing down the mountainside. In fact, it was so good that we about turned about and went for a second look. Once the memories had been absorbed, we headed South towards the Messina Straits.

Passage through the Straits was a lesson in avoiding small fishing vessels and large container ships in a very narrow channel, but the fun was yet to happen. Once the Messina Straits opened up, the wind was pulled through the narrow gap directly behind us. 41kts (Force 9) was measured at one point taking Kukri’s reefing to the limit. Whilst Port-Watch were up on deck putting in this third reef, a wave rudely sent Stew and Derreck flying, thankfully being held only by thier safety harnesses. Despite the sun and weather, the sea was constantly throwing testers at the crew to keep us on our toes. To our West mount Etna loomed, with her snow capped peak providing a great back drop for many picture opportunities.

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Malta became ever closer on the charts and a quick dash across the straits were made, contending with the famous choppy seas. At 0130 Mark decided to make an in optimistic enquiry about Scuba diving in Malta, as a post passage treat, but funnily enough received no immediate reply!

Entrance into the famous Valletta harbour was impressive, with all the historic bastions and forts used to guard the island for centuries. We arrived at our mooring and to finalise our final yachting skills we tried to med Moor on lines too short for Kukri. A manoeuvre made hard once our line had been caught around Kukri’s prop, queue Alice masking up and having a dip to free up this up. Kev was also on an adventure to be hoisted up the mast to free up and fix the stb’d signal burgee, which he had incorrectly hoisted the night before. He assured us the ‘wedgie’ was not worth it.

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Mark, our on board BSAC Scuba instructor, received a positive reply from the Cresta Dive Centre with a dive spot on a wreck that afternoon. Along with Matt and Kayley, both with dive experience, off the three went towards the Dive Centre in St Julien. The dive thankfully ended up being of great significance to the expedition, considering they walked around 10 km to and from the dive centre. The wreck was called a Coralita class water lighter and lay between 5 and 22m in the harbour itself. The vessel was layed down in 1915 as a motor landing craft, 1 of 200 others to be used in suppot of the Gallipoli landings to ferry supplies in behind the advancing troops. This vessel was then employed as a utility vessel in Valletta harbour during WWII working in vicinity of the famous hospital, when she was bombed in mistake for a British submarine. The wreck is now a preserved site and the only remaining barge of her class. A great history lesson and an excellent addition to the Gallipoli 15 exped.

With Friday held as an ashore day, for cultural visits; and Saturday reserved for a deep clean of the vessel, this brought to a conclusion the Int Corps leg of EX GALLIPOLI.

All Crew are most grateful to the generous support of ICA, which made this exciting trip more affordable for all.
Mike and Gerry are also thanked for their contribution as RYA Instructors, enabling four new Competent Crews to be added to the ICSA roster.

Sardinia to Sicily

From The Perfect Storm to to paradise on the open seas.

Kukri left Carloforte on a lovely (day 5) morning ready for another passage across the Med to the home of the Sicilan Mafia. There were warnings of a further Gale Force 7 winds, for after once the island headland was cleared. “Force 7? The crew laughed”. The sun came out in patches and the wind decided not to blow as hard as expected. The novices amongst the crew took this opportunity to run through some of the RYA Competent Crew syllabus. The day passed with very little to report save a brilliant sunset and an equally impressive night time, the one downside was the necessity to motor due to lack of wind.
Day 6 dawned, with a great sunrise appearing through the silhouette of the yacht “goose-winging”; yet another new skill taught to the crew. As the sun rose the clear blue sky and warm weather brought all the crew onto the deck regardless of watch. In the afternoon, we were treated to a pair of dolphins playing off our starboard bow and rapidly the horrors of the previous stormy passage were hastily forgotten. That night Mark served up a gourmet steak complete with all the trimmings, and the crew settled into night routine contented after a relatively relaxed day.

An early arrival into Palermo with beautiful weather had the crew excited to be back on dry land and prospect of a decent wash, but not before Derrick and Micky’s breakfast: the mighty Kukri Burger. Beef, ham, cheese, fried onions, cheese, lettuce, tomato and ‘Micky’s Special Sauce (???)’. The land of the Godfather awaits the crew for a decent clean out and restock for our final stint to Malta.