Excited and nervous. That’s how I felt when I awoke on the morning we were to depart for our shakedown cruise to Kekova. Excited because it was the first time in five months that we’d be taking A B Sea out of the harbour for seven days to a lovely part of Antalya. Nervous because we would be departing the safety of Kaş town harbour and heading for the deep blue sea. And what could possibly go wrong?
After breakfast, I made a couple of chicken sandwiches for an easy-grab lunch on the go and then Baz and I got our yacht ready before sailing; he performed the usual W.O.B.B.L.E. on the engine looking for leaks, checking the fan belt etc, and checked all systems for sailing were in order. I made down below safe for sailing; putting away everything that would fall over or slide off surfaces when heeling. Computers got stowed under bedding in the aft cabins, the large ‘tv’ screen put safely under the duvet in the princess suite. All dishes, galley and bathroom utensils that are usually left out (dish washing liquid, liquid soaps etc) were put away in cupboards, and the kettle was emptied and stashed under the sink. I closed all hatches and seacocks just before we were ready to leave.
I also get out any clothes I figured I may need on passage, because while it may be warm in harbour, it can get cold under way, so long pants and jacket, also wet weather gear as it looked like rain, and safety harness for easy reach if needed. As it was still early in the season (April), I also got out a beanie and scarf handy just in case.
Did I turn off all the seacocks? Yes. Did I close all the hatches? Yes. Nerves made me double think everything.
Our friend Mike Stewart came down to the harbour to help us slip the lines. We’d changed the mooring lines out for the slip lines earlier and removed the midship lines. The final two jobs that had to be done before we could leave were bringing in the passerelle and putting the dingy back onto the davits.
The passerelle, which is a bulky, wobbly, awkward bastard at the best of times didn’t let us down in our expectations and was a bugger to bring in. The screws that held the hand rail in place had managed to tighten so Baz couldn’t get them undone and he needed a pair of pliers to assist.
At this point I think we were both beginning to feel the nerves and of course when that happens to me, I end up making mistakes like Mr Bean. When we brought up the dingy on the davits, I pulled my end up too far too fast while Baz hauled the heavy end (with the outboard motor). Of course, the lines on my side then got caught on the pulley and Baz had to do a balancing act to get it unstuck as I couldn’t reach. He told me off and I just felt stupid.
“You don’t pull it up that far!” he snapped.
“I thought we did.”
“I’m sorry.” In that moment, it felt to me as if Barry had captured all the rights to Competency, and all I was left to work with was Dumb. It didn’t help that lovely Mike who has decades of sailing experience was watching and of course, my thinking brain decided to go into marshmallow mode. So for the rest of the dinghy raising I couldn’t think fast enough and my physical reactions turned to slow-mo. I basically had to be spoon fed instructions by the now frustrated captain – Baz.
Willing myself not to spiral into self-deprecation I stayed on the job and in my feelings, and eventually we got the dingy on the davits and cross braced so it wouldn’t budge when we heeled.
“Stand by to release the slime line,” Baz said. I knew that taking the slime line off the forward cleat was something I could manage easily and I honestly couldn’t wait to go to the bow and regain my composure. (I’d released the starboard slime line earlier). As soon as Baz gave the command, I let the big heavy line go and when I saw it had sunk to the harbour bed, I shouted back to Baz that it was clear. He put the engine into slow ahead and both waving goodbye to Mike, A B Sea gracefully moved out of the harbour. Returning to the cockpit, I brought all the fenders onto the deck and stowed the slip lines in the lazarette.
Shortly after leaving the harbour, with the wind in our favour, Baz brought out the sails and we had a very enjoyable passage almost all the way to Kekova.
Losing our Autopilot and GPS
Up until this point, the pre-loved Raymarine ST6002 autopilot that we’d had installed a couple of weeks earlier, had been working well. It was such a joy to be able to let it steer towards our chosen waypoint automatically. It freed us up to enjoy the experience of sailing, feeling the wind, listening to the gentle rhythm of the boat gliding through the waves, while simply keeping an eye out for traffic as we went along. We enjoyed lunch, and filmed some footage for our YouTube video, and generally recaptured the essence of why we’re living this life aboard A B Sea.
Things continued well, until just before arriving at Kekova. Baz decided to bring in the mainsail and pressed the autopilot buttons to steer in the right direction. The autopilot then seemed to oversteer and the boat got overpowered with the wind in the sails. At this point the autopilot stopped functioning. I had to hand steer and hold the outhaul line to keep some tension on it so Baz could furl the mainsail away without it jamming. All the time, the autopilot kept beeping at us. It was all a little bit unnerving.
Eventually Baz got the mainsail away and took over at the helm, attempting to fix the autopilot. He rebooted it and it held for a while, but then it failed again. When it failed, we also lost GPS which shows our boat’s position on our chart plotter. So now, although we still had the chart on the chart plotter, we had no way of knowing our exact position on that chart. That was a problem because there are a lot of rocks under the water around Kekova and we’d been heading to a bay that we hadn’t sailed to before. It was now becoming very unnerving.
Baz made a quick decision to change course and instead of heading towards the unknown bay, we’d turn into Kekova Sound as we’d sailed there before and had a rough idea of the layout of the land. He decided that once we entered the Sound, we’d turn west and anchor in a fairly large bay which was pretty clear of rocks and appeared from the chart to have a safe access.
I remembered that I had the free version of Navionics on my phone so I pulled that up, which gave us our GPS position. So between hand steering and checking the phone and the chart plotter, Baz was able to take us into the bay where we anchored safely.
Well, as Baz said on our chat to the video camera, that’s what the shakedown cruise was all about – discovering any problems so they could be fixed before we head out for the summer season to the Greek islands.
The following morning he tested the autopilot and the GPS and found that if he took the autopilot off line, the GPS functioned. That was a huge relief. We weren’t too happy that the autopilot had failed after only half a day’s sailing though. We’d have to see if we could get it fixed in Marmaris on our passage north a couple of weeks later.
Climbing through ruins
Realising there wasn’t anything else we could do, we dropped the dingy – yeah, I got it right that time – and headed over to the mainland where we’d heard there were some excellent ruins to be explored about a half an hour’s walk further west. We tied to a little wooden jetty for one of the two little restaurants that hadn’t yet opened for the season and made our way along a track through a valley and past a herd of cows, heifers and bulls. Also a tad unnerving, but I reckon the cows had seen their share of tourists and while the biggest bulls kept a close eye on us as we passed by, they looked benign enough.
Turkey’s countryside is beautiful and here the light blue-grey rocks, bright green foliage dotted with bright red poppies and other wild flowers was eye candy. There was a welcoming light atmosphere, the sun shone and the well signposted path (rocks painted with red and white lines) made for an enjoyable walk. Soon the ruins of tombs and massive stone buildings built up into the hillside came into view. We scrambled to the top and eventually found a great vantage point with stunning views over the aqua-blue bay. The water was so clear that we could see evidence of sunken walls on the sea bed.
Of course, Baz is an intrepid explorer and can’t keep to the beaten path for long, so we were soon scrambling down through the ruins (why take the easy route?) to the water’s edge. I don’t have the same goat genes in my DNA as Baz does, so I lagged behind a little. However, in my more sedate descent, I did spot some wild herbs – sage and oregano – which had a much stronger, livelier smell/taste than shop bought herbs. I picked a few sprigs and packed them carefully away in my backpack to use in a couple of recipes a few days later. Yum!
We eventually got down to the beach, knees intact and were ready to stroll back to the dinghy when we came across our first disappointing sign of humans since we arrived in Kekova. Plastic. Bottles. Pool noodles. Thongs. Lids. All washed up on shore. And this was just one tiny beach. Projecting out globally the amount of plastic waste that we’ve managed to jettison in few decades onto Nature’s pristine beauty is a scary thought. How long will it take to clear? And importantly, what can we use in place of plastic? If you know of any viable solutions, do let us know in the comments below.
The following day we headed to the middle of Kekova Sound and met up with our friend Jens on his yacht Dilly Dally. He was entertaining a couple of friends from Germany and we rafted alongside his yacht and enjoyed some lively conversations, laughs, nibbles and drinks. A couple of hours later we left them to head towards a more sheltered bay further north west as there was strong wind predicted.
We anchored in the bay west of Kaleucagiz which is a little village nestled around a small town harbour. After we’d anchored we took the dinghy to shore to wander around the village. While we were there we met Hassan, who is famous in this part of the world for his fish restaurant. He and his wife were delightful, so we stopped there for lunch and had a very tasty sea bass, salad and chips. Hassan advised us to move closer towards the western end of the bay to get the best protection from the coming wind, and when we returned to A B Sea, we followed his advice.
Hassan’s advice proved correct and we can’t say exactly what the wind speed was because we didn’t have any cups on the wind speed indicator (we were waiting for a friend to bring some back from the UK with him), but we were glad to be in the sheltered bay and our Mantus anchor held us firmly.
Checking the weather, we saw we had a good window opening the next day. It looked as if the wind would be fairly strong and possibly blowing more on the nose than on the beam, but it was our best opportunity to return to Kaş, so we made plans to up the anchor and head off.
How did we do without an autopilot and having to hand steer and tack in strong winds and rain? I’ll let you know next week.