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.

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