Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Nothing Goes to Weather Like a 747

We're home on the north coast of California. Beautiful weather here, cool, clear and sunny with a breeze off the Pacific. The house sits on a heavily wooded bluff two hundred feet above Clam Beach and the view out to sea  is worth the long trip  from Marmaris.
Haul out at Marmaris Yacht Marina, Marmaris, Turkey
Marmaris Yacht Marina is where we left the boat. It's where we started our time in the Aegean after shipping the boat from Singapore last spring. All in all I believe it's the best place available to haul out the boat, leave it over the winter, get the usual haul out work accomplished and get back in the water early next May. There's nothing unusual to be done. The boat came through the season in pretty good condition. We've got a reputable guy checking on things regularly when we're gone and he'll have a few of the projects done before we return. At least that's the 'plan'.
Under full sail, heading north
And the plan for the season just completed worked fairly well. We planned to work our way north along the Turkish coast with the weather and then move over into northern Greek waters before the Meltimi kicked in full blast. We'd mess around in the north out of the Meltimi until it was time to move on and then use the Meltimi to sail southwards through the Dodecaneses and home to Marmaris. Of course there were times when a big southerly would make life difficult in the Turkish anchorages. There were times when we had to wait out the Meltimi for longer than we wished or get beat up a little going anyway. There were times when we wished we were somewhere else. But almost the whole season went by without a real scare. More about the "almost" later.
Restored mansion in Symi town
For Americans and most other non-EU type people our time in the EU is governed by the "Schengen Agreement" which gives us a ninety day multiple entree visa that is good for one hundred eighty days. You can spend ninety days out of one hundred eighty days in the EU. Come and go as often as you like but you only get ninety days. This is BS for a lot of reasons and since Turkey is not part of the EU and it's citizens are subject to "Schengen" the nation of Turkey reciprocates (read "retaliates") by enforcing its own rules exactly like the Schengen countries. The significance of all this to us cruising types is that out of one hundred and eighty days we can spend ninety in Turkey and ninety in the EU, Greece for instance. Sounds OK right? You spend ninety in Turkey and then go to Greece. Then you spend ninety in Greece and go back to Turkey. Or various permutations of the above. If you watch the dates you'll never exceed the ninety-in-one eighty day provisions of your visas.
View from the Symi fortress towards Pethi
Beyond that, for us boat owners, a non-EU documented vessel can remain in EU waters for eighteen months before becoming subject to "VAT", a tax on an "imported" vessel. This is a very hefty tax but can be pretty easily avoided by leaving the EU for any length of time, one day  in Turkey would do, and then the eighteen month clock is restarted. Not a huge problem.
Church in Symi
Ahhhhh, but we had much to learn about the mindset of the international bureaucracy. And that after I thought  with a working life of international flying, travel and some sailing we were pretty darn sophisticated  travelers.

We actually spent eighty-eight days in Turkey before checking out. We then checked into Greece and spent eighty nine days in Greece before checking out. We spent a couple additional days "at sea" before going from Symi, Greece a few miles over to Bozburun, Turkey to check back into Turkey. The Meltimi was blowing hard but on our tail. We had a customs agent there for only 30 euros to handle the check-in. Bozburun is a lovely place. Everybody was very sweet. Even the customs guy was nice when he informed us, through our English speaking agent, that we had only two days left in Turkey and had to leave "tomorrow"! What! This was the 28th of September. We weren't hauling the boat until the 5th of October and weren't flying out until the 9th. We could not understand, we had only spent eighty eight days in Turkey and it was now one hundred eighty days and each day that passed we would only have eighty eights days out of the last one hundred eighty in the country. What was the problem?

The problem is that the international bureaucracy chooses to interpret the agreement by looking back one hundred eighty days, seeing how many days you've spent in the country and then issuing a visa for only the number of days less than ninety you have left. We'd spent eighty eight days in the country ninety days ago so we had two days left! Pretty unbelievable, especially since we'd been told it worked the way we thought it did by the agents we used coming into Turkey the first time.

Eventually, and the Turks were really very nice about it, they just said to forget we were  there. They disposed of the new paper work. We would go "somewhere" and come back in eight days which by their calculations  we would have accumulated ten days to be in the country and have enough to to do what we wanted and depart legally. The problem was not with them but there would be big problems at the airport when we flew out if we did not change the situation. So we upped anchor and departed Bozburun to "somewhere". Of course the obvious 'somewhere' was back to Symi and the anchorage at Pethi we had departed that morning, a short but very wet ride back against thirty knots of Meltimi.
Pethi in a calm
So what the hell, Symi is a very nice place and we now had eight more days to kill before heading back into Turkey. We hiked around the town every day. We found a breakfast place in the hills with the best carrot cake I've ever enjoyed. We socialized with a few other boats in the anchorage. We were hooked up solid for seven days with no dragging in an anchorage with a poor reputation for holding. 

The seventh day the winds swung 180 degrees and of course we swung with it and got a little closer to the beach than I liked. We re-anchored a few hundred feet further out and hooked up solid again. It was gusty and there were bullets coming in off the surrounding mountains but I watched the set for over two hours and we seemed very secure. Janet felt like just lazing on the boat but I talked her into going ashore for a hike around Symi and  carrot cake with some English friends we had been seeing every morning for the last week. So we had one last prowl into Symi and then took the bus back to Pethi.
Pethi anchorage, Airstream at the far right
Coming over the mountain from town we could look into the anchorage in the distance and I couldn't see the boat. I said to Janet " It makes me crazy when I can't see the boat somewhere." The anchorage is only partially visible from that point and we'd had trouble spotting the boat from there before. She said, "Aw,  it's there." So we trundled on down the mountain for the last time in a bus where we had gotten to know the driver and some of the other regulars. We got down to the anchorage and off the bus and looked around and the boat was nowhere to be seen! No boat! Not on the anchorage, not even washed up on the beach! No boat! Believe me your cruising life is not complete until your boat has gone missing. Pretty darn shocking. About the time that was really sinking in we heard a whistle behind us and one of our friends was waving to us from the wharf. Our first question was, of course, where's the boat. He pointed over to the other side of the bay where a new concrete wharf has been under construction for years but not completed. There was Airstream tied up safely. Big relief.

The story was that about a half hour after we left there were some really viscous gusts in the anchorage and the boat broke loose and began to drag. In fact it dragged very close to the beach and near the one taverna in the bay. A very sharp and experienced South African businessman and sailor who  lives in the village above Pethi got in his dingy with one of his Greek workers and went to the boat. They started it up and motored off the beach. They got the anchor up by hand, they couldn't find the windlass controller. And with the help of our other friends moved the boat over to the partially completed wharf where some other boats had gone after dragging earlier that morning. What a relief. No damage! We were very, very lucky.
With Nicholas Shum. Thank you Nic!
So we spent our last night in Symi with friends and a new South African friend who was definitely the toast of the evening. It could have been very bad but it wasn't and that's usually the case with the cruising life. We had dodged the bullet.
Mike and Tracy of SV Rio Luna

The rest is history. We went back over to Bozburun and checked in again with the same Turkish customs people. There were a few laughs all around. We spent a night at Bozuk Buku which was one of our favorite anchorages on the way north.  We got into Marmaris as planned and enjoyed a little more time with Berni and Di and other friends while we got the boat hauled and put to bed for the winter.
Back in Bozuk Buku
So the "plan" for next year is yet to be defined. The vagaries of the "Schengen" agreement are certainly a consideration. We can get residence permits for Turkey that eliminate the problem there. But if we get a residence permit for somewhere in the EU the boat can only be in EU waters for thirty days, not eighteen months,  without becoming subject to VAT. We know many countries in the Med look the other way with cruising yachts and the agreement. But the problem comes when you want to fly out from an EU airport. The airport customs people often do not "look the other way" and people get fined heavily and then refused entree back into the EU for two years.
See you next spring
So we're working on ideas. In the meantime we're home after a very interesting season. Thank you for following this blog. We'll be updating again in the spring when whatever we do starts up again.

Love to all,
Bill and Janet
SV Airstream


Anonymous said...

I hate it when you come back and the boat isn't where you left it! Had one of those episodes in Mexico. Talk about heart stopping!

Anon Y Mouse

Cresswell said...

Ahh the vagaries of the Turkish bureaucracy! Loved your missing boat tale. Been there once two. as for visas, as always, its the people inside the system that do rational things to save us from irrational systems. (and sometimes its the other way around!)
Nice to have a send off word with you in the bar in Marmaris before you left. We will be there with Conversations for the winter too, though in the water. Heading down to Marmaris in two weeks from Istanbul to button the boat up for the winter.
See you in the spring! Cresswell