We spend a day hiking in Finike. There are many hills surrounding the town and we head up the one with a big Turkish flag painted on it. It was very hot. We followed a dirt road, but eventually turned off for a goat path up to the top. Well, we thought we would get to the top, but it proved elusive. There were many false summits that day. After a good hike we stopped for a picnic of bread and this delicious hazelnut spread (think nutella but without the chocolate). Below us was a view of the northern part of the bay we had crossed, the few buildings and hotels clustered up by the waterfront and the obviously fertile, flat valley stretching out to the northwest. We climbed a bit higher and found a spot that was high enough to call “the top”.

Along the way we passed some goats and the crude buildings of the goatherd’s camp. At the top, I had that feeling that I had on the Golan Heights hiking trip that being in nature is just good for my soul. It’s one of those lessons that you keep getting to learn and each time it’s a happy surprise. We returned to the town. Bought some provisions in the local supermarket and returned to the marina.

After a quick rest, we headed out to find the hamam, or Turkish bath. There’s a sign for it in the marina that says it’s one kilometer away. We get there eventually. It’s a typical Turkish bathhouse. We pay the short, half-bald owner and change into towels. One enters this octagonal room with a high domed ceiling and a large raised stone in the center. You throw some water on yourself and then lie on the central stone. It is hot. I was a little scared to lie down at first it was so hot. But you can do it, it warms up your bones and you start sweating. Then the owner comes in, in his towel now, and thy start this process of cleaning you. First they splash some water on you, then they scrub you with a scouring mitt (romney?) and then they soap you up. There was an assistant for the soaping up bit and he even does a little massage-like rubbing. They soap up your hair even. It made me feel like I was a little kid getting a bath. Finally, you can go from the hot room to a cool pool. I went back and forth a few times. The owner was anxious to have us finish after a while, but was gracious enough (after receiving his tip) to invite us to have some tea. My first experience with a Turkish bath, and it was incredibly pleasant.

Especially after a good, long hike. We then crossed the diesel-polluted canal to have dinner at a little place clustered with other in a grassy area. We ate these pizza-like pita things. When we asked her for the check , the waitress thought we said chai and brought us all tea. We went back to the boat to wait for Joe, but called it a night when he phoned to say that he would most likely get there in the morning. Joe does eventually get there the next day. Almost as soon as he does, we set off for Simi.

Joe is a big, affable guy. Somehow he was a lot different than we were expecting – I think I confused him with one of the other applicants. He’s a gentle giant it seems; massive, yet soft-spoken. He does a great job of sailing, of course. That day he starts in teaching us little things as we’re doing them. I think it’s going to be a mutually beneficial and fun experience to sail with him for a while.

We sail all day that day along the Turkish coast. Felix and I whip up an awesome chili despite only having curry to spice it up. We do two-man shifts of three hours each. There are variable winds at night and we do a few accidental gybes as the autopilot is caught off-guard. (When the boat changes direction or sail trim dramatically, the autopilot can’t keep up. So, it tries to get back on track after things have settled down, but now it has to do something equally drastic. It’s somewhat like using cruise control in a car and suddenly coming to a steep incline.)

The next morning we motor, having tried to sail only throughout the night. Some hours later, we get the sails up. We’re passing by the fractured and fissured cliffsides of Turkey. There are other sailboats around now, cruisers and charter boats. Now the wind start really picking up. We are all sitting outside when the wind gets up to 25 knots. This is a Force 7 on the Beaufort scale. We still have our full main and jib up and we’re heeling enough to put the port toerail in the water. We decide to reef in the sails in case things get worse. Andrew is upset that we were heeling that much anyway, a sore point he has with Joe. You could definitely say that the boat was overpowered at that point.

Well, it turns out that it was good that we did reef, because the winds did get even higher. We pulled in close to the shore for some calmer seas and followed other boats that were making their way along to the NW. We had 30 knot winds and even higher gusts. We crossed into Force 8, which is technically called a gale, and even had a gust over 40 knots. There were places up against the sheer cliffs where waterspouts, like mini-tornados, were trying to form. We were still sailing along. We had to adjust things accordingly, but we weren’t in any immediate danger. After a while of beating into the wind and not making too much progress, we decided it would be better to just tuck into a little nearby anchorage and wait out the night there, It turned out to be a great idea.

There was more than just a place to drop the hook. The little bay had a couple of restaurants that set up docks. You don’t pay anything to tie up there, but you have to eat at the restaurant. The place we went to was called Ali Baba, imaginatively enough. The cool thing was that there were ruins of a small citadel up above this place. We climbed up and walked along the walls. Everyone was feeling a god deal of discombobulation as we tried to get our land legs back. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t such a smart idea to walk along the broken stones of the walls next to the sheer drop in that condition.

Not only did we not die falling off the walls, we even managed to have a very pleasant dinner. The fish was a bit dry, but the location and the company made up for everything. A few last Turkish beers (Efes) didn’t hurt either. That night we turned in early so that we could get an early start to Simi the next day.

July 6 – We get up at 05:45 to cast our lines at 06:00. The sea is very calm in the morning and the winds are gentle. We motored mostly over to Simi, which wasn’t that far away. (It still would have been a pain to get there by sail the previous day) We entered the bay that Simi town is nestled in a few hours later. The town is an incredibly picturesque collection of pastel-colored block-like houses piled up in the contours of the hills. We had a little trouble getting our anchor set. This was our first Mediterranean mooring. The clutch on our windlass seems to give out under pressure. It will be pulling along and then suddenly release all the way, dropping the chain. We got it to a suitable point after a few tries and tied up the stern to the quay. Andrew’s adopted parents from the kibbutz he worked on were there waiting for us.

Itai and Alisa had arived the night before. We were all quite happy to have use of their shower. We had all gotten our fair share of splashes and saltwater spray in the Force 7 and 8 blows. Joe had also been busy trying to unclog the aft head which he had used that morning. Andrew couldn’t believe that he would be the one to break it. He (Joe) struggled mightily with it, but didn’t get the problem fixed. It may have been that the valves for the pipes leading out had become partially closed in the rough seas. Whatever happened, the head was out of commission for a while, a real shame with Itai and Alisa coming on as passengers just then. We took care of the showers and went about getting the official paperwork.

Some Greek dude thought it would be a good idea to put the Port Police, Immigration Police and Harbormaster in three different buildings equidistant from each other around the c-shaped bay. There were other boats here and even a good number of yachts – like motoryachts with uniformed crew and very rich people lounging about on them.

Felix and I grabbed a bite to eat at a small gyro shop and we had fresh juice at the cafe just across from where we had moored. Then, we were off. Our passengers seemed to adapt well and got themselves all settled. We were all having a good time sailing.

The boat was well-balanced and felt good even as the winds approached the same levels as the day before. The difference was in the current which was with the wind at this point instead of against it. Joe explained that when the current and the wind go in opposite directions, the sea crumples up as if you pushed a flat fabric together with your hands. This means choppy seas and less than comfortable conditions. When the current and the wind go together, everything is much smoother. That day it was smooth, but we were still beating into the wind. We tacked back and forth, but then realized that goal of the islands of Nisios and Thilos might be a ways off.

So, we consulted the charts and decided to pull into another Turkish harbor. This one was actually a small town called Hiyat Buku, near Dotce. We got one of the best spots on the little pier where 10 or so other boat were lined up. A coule on one of the other boats recognized us from Ali Baba’s the night before. The place was amazing. Surrounded by mountains and rocky cliffs, the blue water of the bay was remarkably clear. Felix and I went swimming, while Andrew went for a hike and Itai and Alisa took a walk through the small beachfront. This was our first swim since we left Israel if you can believe it. The water was slightly cold, but perfectly refreshing. We broke out the snorkels and peeked around, but there wasn’t much to see underneath. Joe and Andrew both looked at the bottom of the boat using the other mask.

Then we had dinner on the second-floor terrace of a popular restaurant. They had tables on the beach right up to the water. I had pan-fried octopus and a salad with feta and tomatoes. The waiter addressed us individually as “gentleman” and then came over to ask us each in turn how our dish was. The food was great. My octopus was done just right and the peppercorns mixed in were soft enough to be edible. Some more Efes washed it all down. Then it was another early bedtime to get ready to leave at 06:00 the next day. Our objective would be the island of Astipalaia.