We didn’t fully intend to go into the Gokova Gulf when we did. Ours summer plans were all over the place and changed daily, but on leaving Knidos we’d intended to head over to Bodrum and decide from there whether to head inwards or not. The wind had other ideas.
The theme of this blog is: the weather forecasts are not to trusted around this area. We set off expecting light winds that would be westerly later on. At 7am we had only just rounded the Knidos headland when the wind met us head on, blowing a steady F4. We plugged onwards thinking maybe it was just an early morning phenomenon. Nope. The winds increased and the seas frothed up and soon we were bouncing and splashing waves over the sprayhood. Continuing to Bodrum seemed like a foolish thing to do, so we decided to sail with the wind and divert for Cokertme. With just the genny out we were soon making a much more gentle motion through the waves as we headed downwind.
Just before we arrived at Cokertme something strange happened. The wind around us died to nothing, yet just a 100m or so away we could see it was still blowing full on from the state of the sea. We were in a flat calm wind hole but could see no reason why it had formed there. Well it made it easy to get the sail away. Turning into the bay it wasn’t too busy. We did a depth recce around the two bays to see if we could swing but it would have had to be in deep water. Time to try some stern mooring!
Our last stern moor was a rushed effort to nab the last spot on the customs quay at Cavtat when we checked out of Croatia last summer. We weren’t staying long so it hadn’t needed to be good. Before that had been in the Ionian in the summer of 2015 when during our handful of stern moors we’d been boarded by a rat, had our anchor picked up several times and had boats squeezed in tight beside us. It is no secret that we think it’s an awful method of mooring. However, it looked like we were going to have to try it again.
And happy days it all went well. With no wind Emerald went backwards without wandering off sideways and we were soon tied off. It was reassuring to see that the Turkish boats didn’t like to crowd in like they do in the Ionian, everyone leaving a pleasant gap between each other. And so it stayed for the next two days.
Then, after a walk ashore the wind became gusty from the west, right on our beam. We swam out to the anchor and could see that rather than being buried in as it had been, it was now rocking side to side in the gusts with hardly any of the nose buried. Colin had noticed a power boat bobbing about off our bow earlier in the day but thought nothing of it, the winds were light and the anchor had little strain on it. Now we suspected that power boat had snagged us. We had no choice but to reset. To add to the fun of going backwards in the gusts, we had a yacht swinging at anchor right in front of us, sitting close to where we needed to pick up and drop. Stress levels were high but we managed it without them swinging into our bow. Now we had to go backwards to where the lines were tied off to buoys. No chance. A gust arrived at exactly the wrong moment, pushing the bow around and exacerbating our port prop walk so that we were almost sideways to where we wanted to go. Colin tried to push the stern with the dinghy but our wee 4hp was no match for the gusts. A Turkish guy came to our rescue in his far more powerful RIB and got us back on line again. He helped with picking up the lines and soon all was good.
Well, for about an hour. We realised we were getting closer to our neighbours, a friendly bunch who were bobbing about having a swim. We had to go through it all again, although this time the swinging yacht had gone. Our Turkish helper assisted again and just as we were getting sorted our friendly neighbours anchor gave up as well! Our helper had his hands full assisting them too. Third time lucky worked and we didn’t budge for the remainder of the day.
We had hoped to visit one of the restaurant pontoons whilst there but found many of them had gone. Buoyed moorings had been put in replace some of them.
Degirmen Buku – English Harbour
The next day we moved on to English Harbour, a gentle motor NE in light winds. We try to remember that day to prove that there can be light winds in this gulf…. The two coves seemed a bit too cosy for our liking, so we picked a spot just outside English Harbour under some very tall, straight pine trees. The anchor seemed rock solid when we dropped and once again with no winds, Emerald behaved impeccably going backwards. We were in!
English Harbour now ranks high on my list of favourite anchorages. It seems we were in an ideal spot for shelter from the wind, those tall trees blocking most of it and leaving us sat in a calm pool of water, whilst just a little way off the bow the gusts could be seen rustling the water. Just behind the trees ran a dirt road which led to many more dirt roads and we covered 25 miles of them as we explored the forest. People drove down the tracks to picnic and swim, every vehicle we passed while out walking would pip or wave at us. Either they are all very friendly or thought we were nutters for walking in 35c. We were surprised to find several rivers with running water in them which explained why the area was so fertile.
Whilst we were there we were “the only English boat in English Harbour”. The cove has been given the name from when British torpedo and gun boats used it as a base towards the end of WWII whilst conducting raids against German foes on the nearby Greek islands. When we arrived on a Thursday, the coves were moderately busy both with gulets and yachts, although with ample space between each boat. Many of those boats left on the Friday and the weekend was quiet. The number of boats rose again towards midweek but it still never felt crowded. We saw only a handful of foreign flagged yachts (other than the Delawarians, there must be so many of them in Turkey that the state of Delaware itself is deserted) – where is everyone?
The water was not quite as bracing as it had been at Datca and Knidos but still pleasantly cool in the heatwave that arrived whilst we were at English Harbour. The sprayhood windows had their sunglasses on but still the cockpit temperature rose over 40c, the hottest we’ve experienced on the boat. Each day was a challenge to keep as much heat out of the boat as possible. We found that keeping the deck hatch closed in the aft cabin with a shade over it helped during the day, then when the sun was close to setting we’d open it up full to let the heat escape. Even our cream painted decks were burning our feet.
Thousands of tiny fish surrounding Emerald’s hull, glittering away in the sun like jewels. Occasionally a bigger fish would arrive and send the shoals skittering away and leaping out of the water to escape. Whilst swimming around I also saw a few small flatfish and a baby ray skimming along the muddy seabed.
The ice-cream boat visited, as did the pumpout boat. A small market had some supplies but we chose to trek 5km to Sogut for the promise of a larger shop. It was a slog involving a very steep hill, especially the return leg but we did get a lift from an off duty policeman some of the way who told us he’d once got very drunk in London.
Across the bay at Okluk Koyu are a couple of restaurants with pontoons. We visited Denizkizi Kaptan restaurant to buy a few bits from their shop and later for a meal. The restaurant is name after the bronze mermaid statue that sits on a rock just outside the cove. She was designed by a sailor named Sadun Boro who was the first Turkish sailor to circumnavigate the world and lived in the bay on his catamaran. He died in 2015 and now a photographic likeness of him stands watching over his mermaid from the shore.
Sehir Adalari (Snake and Castle Islands) & Cleopatra Beach
After a week cocooned in English Harbour, it looked like we had some favourable weather coming up to allow us to leave. Before heading back west however, we went for a look at Cleopatra Island and to swing at anchor. With light winds going NNE in the evening we felt there wouldn’t be any problems and all seemed to be going to plan as we dropped the lines, stowed the dinghy and picked up the anchor thanking the protective trees that had given us shelter from the wind.
Out into the gulf and winds were from the N but light. Two gulets and two yachts were anchored at Cleopatra but there was loads of space so we found a spot far enough away from the pontoon – we didn’t want to get in any trip boats way. Holding was fantastic and we went ashore confident there wouldn’t be a problem. It didn’t take very long to look at the ruins and unfortunately you couldn’t stand on the sand without going in the sea and we hadn’t brought swimming things. Ah well, a paddle had to do instead.
Looking out we could see there were now white horses romping up the gulf. When did that happen? The winds had gone from light to full on in an instant. The anchorage turned into a slop of churned up water from both the wind and the trip boat wake.
We pondered moving to a more sheltered bay but apathy won and as the winds eased at sunset the seas eased a little too, although an occasional big roller still found it’s way in.
North Cove – Yedi Adalari (Seven Isles)
Next morning we were away early to head down the gulf 15nm to North Cove. We left with a favourable forecast of light winds from the NNE which would be perfect for our direction. Maybe not enough for us to sail but still blowing us in the right direction. As we left the anchorage at 7:30am the wind was light from the N making gentle ripples on the sea over a low swell rolling in from the west. By 9am the wind was howling again setting up a chop on top of an increased swell and we were glad of our early start. A gulet was just leaving as we arrived into the calm of North Cove and we tied up successfully to the north wall, avoiding the mooring balls. As a heavy boat we generally trust our own anchor over an unseen mooring.
After a walk ashore we went to use the showers at the restaurant – such a treat to stand under running water for so long – before having a meal there. It was good, but the prices were higher than what we have experienced elsewhere.
Another early start for the grand push to Bodrum, after a check of weather forecasts, lines were dropped at 6:20 and we nosed out into a slightly rippled sea with a low swell rolling in. We’d only been going half an hour when the wind switched on, from nothing to F5 with the sea quickly building with it. Stuff motoring into that for 7 hours! We diverted around to Amazon Creek where there was only one other boat. We managed to tie back whilst the cove was relatively sheltered, but a slight wind shift not long after had the wind blowing straight in. We scoured the weather forecasts again and found nothing that matched reality. F6 gusts regularly blasted us throughout the day.
The creek looks like it’s had some trees chopped down on the north side, making the steep slopes bare and leaving not much to tie back to. It certainly didn’t look very jungle like. Maybe the creek gets it’s name from the landscape further in which did look a little more verdant. With the wind blowing strong on our beam all day, we decided against exploring further in in favour of making sure Emerald stayed safe.
North To Bodrum
We left at 5:30am with the full moon setting and the sun rising to replace it. The wonderfully cool morning soon heated up.
What a weird journey it was. Wind, then no wind, light ripples to white horses. Swell with no wind then swell from a different direction to the wind, our speed up to 6.5kt even with headwind then down to 4.7kt with no discernible change in conditions. We just plugged on, dodging gulets as we went. Up behind Karaada (Black Island) the winds eased but we did meet lots of boats going the other way, most of whom didn’t know or didn’t care about passing port to port.
We didn’t bother looking into the anchorage under the castle having read about the disco noise, instead we decided to try Gumbet, which although still reported as being noisy, we hoped wouldn’t be as bad. We were surprised to see barely any private boats anchored. Parascending boats and fast RIBs wizz around the bay, but as were amongst moorings they didn’t come near us. We watched a struggle to get one parascender down in gusty winds. The poor person kept being taken back into the air between frequent dips in the sea and being dangled precariously close to the beach umbrellas before they were finally winched in. Either the person was whooping in joy or fear!
Our plans for an afternoon snooze to compensate for the early morning were rudely spoilt by the Sunday afternoon disco. It was loud! Our hopes for some sleep seemed to be in tatters…. But after a couple of hours it stopped and the noise levels returned to a more acceptable level. They picked up again later in the evening but not to the afternoon’s levels and we managed to successfully block them out by closing the aft deck hatch and putting our Caframo fan on; the gentle whirring lulled me to sleep and covered up any remaining boom boom.
The next day we walked half an hour into Bodrum (dolmus are also available) to run a few errands. Those done we went to explore the castle. An impressively large castle it is too, with many turrets, a dungeon and some interesting underwater wreck displays.
In the afternoon we walked along the beach at Gumbet and had a beer or two whilst people watching. It’s a very busy holiday resort although we didn’t see any of the English pubs or fish and chips signs mentioned in the Heikell cruising guide. Shame as we fancied some fish and chips!
Maybe after that first night we were more immune to the disco music, whatever it was, night two we slept very well before beginning our push on north.
What Did We Think?
I loved the gulf and it ranks highly on my list of favourite places. The weather is tricksy but if you have the time to wait there are periods of calmer weather between the stronger wind. We reckon that if the wind is blowing down the Aegean, it’s going to be blowing down the gulf too.
We found the gulf be uncrowded, peaceful and abundant with beautiful nature and scenery. One downside is the need for tying to shore in many places, but staying each place for a few days stretches out the periods between the faff needed to tie back.
Definitely worth the effort to spend some time there in my opinion.
26th June: Knidos to Cokertme – 35nm travelled (11nm sailed)
Tied to shore in position 37 00.267’N 27 47.233’E
29th June: Cokertme to English Harbour – 20nm travelled (6nm sailed)
Tied to shore in position 36 55.187’N 28 09.498’E
6th July – English Harbour to Sehir Adalari – 7nm travelled
Anchored in sand, good holding in position 36 59.66’N 28 12.506’E
7th July – Sehir Adalari to North Cove – 15nm travelled
Tied to shore in position 36 52.903’N 28 03.337’E
8th July – North Cove to Amazon Creek – 9nm travelled
Tied to shore in position 36 49.84’N 28 03.184’E
9th July – Amazon Creek to Gumbet – 36nm travelled
Anchored in sand in position 37 01.649’N 27 24.252’E Good holding, no problem with weed but check around for old moorings just under the surface.