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Fethiye to Rhodos

The passage from Fethiye to Rhodes was quite a lesson for us beginners!

Our first passage of "only" 40 miles to Rhodes was an exhausting experience. With the right wind you can make it in 7 hours. With the wrong wind it can take you more than 2 days. And we happend to experience the latter!
We started from Fethiye on a very early Tuesday morning. There is no wind in the morning, so we left the bay with the engine hoping to leave the gulf before the wind would pick up. The weather forecast said southwest 3-4. We had it on the nose, but wanted to sail high up northwest and use the engine on the usually calm nights. To make it to Rhodes. We knew it wouldn’t be easy.

First everything was all in order. We considered stopping at a bay after 10 miles if the weather would not be on our side and if the swell was bad outside the bay, but it looked all right and we continued to sail. That was maybe wrong.

When we left the Gulf of Fethiye, the wind picked up and changed more to the northwest. We could not sail up to the northwest , so we tacked south west instead. After some time the wind changed westerly and we sailed up northwest again. More north actually, and not any mile closer to Rhodes. Slowly our optimism was fading. Looking at the chart we decided to hide behind a little rocky island in order to get some rest.

There was little rest, because the swell rounded the island and we could hardly sleep. We hoped the wind would drop at night and it actually did. The night was very calm and even the swell was now little. First the anchor winch would not work, but I realized very quickly that a cable to the relays was the problem. Case solved. We fired up the engine and took course Rhodes. Only 25 miles to go.

After 5 miles the engine decided to stop. Damned. We could have done it in this calm night, but now we drifted all night. I was just to tired to have a look at the problem.

Early in the morning I gave it a try and had a look at the engine. It started again, but went off after 5 minutes. I figured that there was air coming into the fuel system, but could not locate the leak. It started and went off again. I have just to less experience with diesels and did not know what to look for.

There was not much time to think about the problem, because the wind started to blast very early in the morning from northwest. All right we could sail hard on the wind making some distance good. The swell became more forceful, with step and short waves, slowing us down everytime we hit one of the bigger ones.
We were stupid to tow the dinghy. We did not take it up, because we had planned to stay in a bay after 10 miles from Fethiye. But when we changed the plan, we forgot about the dinghy. Very stupid and a lesson to be learned the hard way. I was coursing myself a few times, because in this swell there was no way to get the dinghy up on deck.

I was looking back right at the moment, when the dinghy's front side broke off. Not the rope broke, the dinghy had a now a hole, were it ones was tied up and slowly drifted away from AMBERELLA. How should we take up the dinghy now, in these conditions?

The gales were up to 7 and the swell was not too high but step. We tried something. This was the right time to try a man over board maneuver without engine.
Within seconds the Genoa was down and we set only the self-tacking jib. We sailed up to the dinghy. But how to take it up? The only way was to enter the dinghy and ty a new line to the "left over" clamps. But this was not an option in these conditions. Nina would not let me do it and I did not like the idea either. After a second try to pull it with the hook, we realized that we had to leave it.
Frustration was the result. Again the wind changed slightly against us to the west.

Far in the distance and mist we saw Rhodes, but on our course we would miss it. It was already the second day sailing and we suddenly realized that if the wind would play its game like this all day we would not make any mile closer to Rhodes. I had to get the engine running for a probably calm night.
When we sailed up north east again. Now we saw the gulf of Fethiye far in the mist. Nina wanted to give up and run down to Turkey, but I was not ready yet.

Now we had some luck. But we did not know about it yet. With a strong breeze now from southwest we could stick to our plan and sail up as high northwest as possible. The little jib only was holding our course and we could leave the tiller. And we made it. We saw the Turkish mainland near Marmaris. At least we hoped it was it.
Without GPS we were not quite sure what we saw in front of us, but it was certainly a rocky coastline. Something the chart told us to be near Marmaris, Turkey. We must have made it pretty far up northwest, with now Rhodes in the south. The wind dropped at night and I had a look at the engine. Nina was worried that we would drift against the rocks, on the coastline.

As I said, I have very little experience about diesel engines. So I did not really know what to look for. But the problem was the fuel. If I pumped fuel by hand into the system, the engine would run for some time, but stop after a while without reason. I begged that it was not the injection pump. I took the filters apart. They looked all right at first look. But that did not make it any better. Why does all this happen on a single journey?
We managed to run the engine for half an hour. We came clear of the coast and the wind picked up at night. We sailed south. Finally closer to Rhodes. Very far in the distance Nina saw some lights. She said that it must be Rhodes. I could not believe it, and for over 1 hour I saw no light while she did. Imagine our arguments. But we knew a little later for sure to be on the right course because we saw the airplanes preparing to land at Rhodes airport.

At four o-clock we had the whole town in front of us, figuring what would be the harbor entrance, bacuse there were lights everywere.

Now it was time to have a plan, how to get in. If somebody pumped continues fuel by the hand pump, I could run the engine some time longer. We might make it with the engine into the harbor.

We prepared the stern anchor and hoped everything would turn out to our luck. We cruised 2 hours in front of Mandraki harbor, but with the sun coming up, we gave it a try. Nina was pumping the fuel, sitting near the engine, while I sailed and steered. The little jib came down as late as possible, in case the engine would fail again.
The marina was overcrowded, it was blowing strong and I was about to anchor with the bow for the first time, with no help from Nina, who was busy pumping fuel into the engine.

When I saw an empty spot and had to try it. The anchor dropped and I slowly came closer to the dock. There was a big motor yacht to our port side and a little one to starboard. But a gale did blow usto port and I had to leave the first attempt. The second try was better, but again we were blown to port, touching the bigger yacht with our bow slightly. Luckily the owner came out and gave us a hand. He tied us bow to bow. I winched the stern anchor in and we had some time to rest and think.

After half an hour, George from SY Isenisca, who was in Rhodes too, came up and helped us getting the boat in. He was taking care of the anchor; Nina was fending us from the motor yachts and I steered. The engine was running alone. Luckily. The motor yacht guy was only shaking his head when he saw our unpainted deck beside his brand new cruiser.

Just when we made it into the spot, we were told to leave because it was private, reserved for charter yachts. But after a few words with the owner, and some tales of our journey, we were welcome to stay and fix our problems.

There were a lot. The hydraulic gearbox did loose all its oil and I still wonder how it worked without. The fuel system of the engine needed to be checked. We had to get a new dinghy and sew the sails.
It turned out that there was water in the fuel tank, I took it out and cleaned it. The gearbox got new gaskets and I got George's second dinghy, gave him a solar panel instead. We would meet later and change back. That would give me time to look for a second hand dinghy.

But the story is not over. When the big motor yacht left the marina. It hit our frame for the wind generator. There was no damage at first look, but when the generator turned in the wind one day later, the wings hid now a to close bend clamp. All three blades have now splintered ends. It still works and even made 25 Amps yesterday. But I need to change them in order to safe the bearings. Luckily I can switch it off in stronger winds.
Within two days Nina and I managed to repair all the damage and we left the expensive Mandraki marina and sailed off to Faliraki beach. It's not a perfect anchorage; some rocks pop out here and there, but free and safe as long we have westerly winds. The wind blows here from June to August from the west. Always say the Greeks.. maybe:) if we are lucky:)

Frank for the crew of AMBERELLA (back to top)

© AMBERELLA diary 1999