Category Archives: 2021 – Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece

A Different Season

As we were back in the UK we took the opportunity to visit some yachty friends while Ian’s dad was in hospital.  Due to covid no one was allowed to visit to begin with and then it was limited to one person for one hour at a set time each day. 

Karen and Ronnie, our Mahe Mates, were now landlubbers living in North Wales.   They live in a pretty part of the world near to Conwy.  The town is overlooked by the impressive Conwy Castle which was built between 1283 and 1287 by Edward I.

We have been through a few straits over the last few years but this one we went across on the suspension bridge.  The Strait separates the Island of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland. Anglesey is connected to the mainland by two bridges.  The area between these bridges is known as the ‘Swellies” which has strong reversing tidal flows, rapid currents and whirlpools. 

Ynys Gorad Goch is a small island in the “Swellies” of the Menai Strait.  Access is obviously only by boat and has a main house and a converted smoke house. The size of the island varies between 0.5 acres and 3.7 acres depending on the range of the tide.

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch, and no I cannot pronounce it, is on the Island of Anglesey.  The name was supposedly contrived in 1869 as a publicity stunt so that the railway station had the longest name in Britain.  It is known locally as Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG.  The name translates in English as “St Marys Church in the hollow of the White Hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the Red Cave”.

We had a lovely couple of days with Ronnie and Karen before heading off to Southport to see Lin and Rob, who we’d not seen since Cartagena in 2018.  We stopped off on the way at Crosby Beach which is home to The Iron Men, an installation in the sea by Antony Gormley.  There are 100 cast iron figures spread across 3km of sandy beach, each weighing 650 kilos.  The men are made up from 17 body casts of Antony Gormley.  Some are placed further out into the water so all you can see at high tide is their head and then gradually more of the statue becomes visible with the recess of the tide.  It is a strange sight. 

One of Southport’s legends was Red Rum who was exercised on Southport Beach.  To commemorate this a mural of the three-time Grand National winner was commissioned as part of Sefton’s Borough of Culture celebrations for 2020.  We had a walk along Southport Pier too which is the second longest pleasure pier after Southend-on-Sea, near to our home town.  It was lovely to catch up with Lin and Rob but we had to head home trying to avoid the traffic on the motorways.

Ian, not one to be kept away from sailing for long, was invited to crew on a trimaran for the Multihull National Championships being held during Burnham Week and won the title.  This was one mean machine of a boat which reached speeds in excess of 25knots which made Ian realise that he maybe getting too old for this sort of racing. 

Ian’s Dad, John, after six weeks in hospital was finally discharged.  Sadly, he passed away on 19th September 2021.  Fortunately, covid restrictions had been lifted and so we were able to give him a good send off.  We held the wake, at the only place we could and that was at the Island Yacht Club, of which he was a Trustee and had played a big part in his life. 

One of the annual events at the Yacht Club is the Laying Up Supper.  There was quite a crowd of us that went along and we had pre and after dinner drinks at the Riches Household.  Apologies to the neighbours for the row we made but we did have a fantastic night.  A final farewell before we headed back to the boat.

February 2022

A False Start

Having arrived back to the Boat in April, we thought it would be a while before we got back to the UK again how wrong were we.  Unfortunately, Ian’s dad, John, was taken ill and so we came back just a month after arriving back at the boat.  Easy you would think, just hop on a plane but no, two days before we got the call Turkey had been put on the red list which meant all flights from Turkey were banned and anyone arriving from a red list country has to go into hotel quarantine.  Having joined a Facebook group solely for people in quarantine hotels or are looking to have to go into hotel quarantine, we didn’t relish the thought of being stuck inside for 11 days with no opening windows, which most hotels don’t have plus the cost of it.  So, we did some research and decided on going to Sofia, Bulgaria for 11 days which was half the cost.  The covid cases were dropping there so we thought this would be a safe bet.  We stayed in an apartment about 20 minutes out of the main city.  We didn’t go out everyday as we wanted to keep contact with others to a minimum. 

Sofia was about a 15 minute walk and there weren’t that many people about so we did venture out on a few occasions but we tried to keep our contact to a minimum.

We hired a car for a couple of days and drove up into the mountains which are quite stunning. 

We visited the Rila Monastery, the biggest in Bulgaria.  It was founded in the 10th century by John of Rila, who later became Bulgaria’s patron saint, known as Ivan Rilski.  There are still approx 60 monks living at Rila Monastery.

We, by chance, found a place doing PCR tests just around the corner from the apartment after wandering around Sofia trying to find somewhere with no luck.  We arrived back in the UK and stayed for the next few months.  We arrived back to Cuffysark in July in extreme temperatures, hitting the late 30’s early 40’s.  Now that’s hot even for me!  We left the marina after a few days to a wonderful anchorage just a couple of hours away, Kekova.

This is a very sheltered anchorage.  Kekova Island to one side with the castle and the village of Kaleüçağız the other. 

A lovely place to relax however, it wasn’t to be for long.  We had a call to say Ian’s dad had had a fall and been admitted to hospital.  Turkey was still on the red list and it would take us two weeks to get home so we made the decision we had to go back straight away as we didn’t have the luxury of getting home in a day or so in these covid times.  So off we went again, this time we went to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece.  As we were double vaccinated, we didn’t need a PCR test to get into Greece our certificates were sufficient.

We stayed in an apartment out of town but there was a bus stop immediately outside for getting into Thessaloniki.  Again it was very hot here. The temperatures in the med this year had been extreme, this is where we missed being out on anchor, as with a breeze it brings the temperature down.  However, much to Ian’s delight the apartment had air conditioning which he made the most of. 

The White Tower was built in the 15th Century.  It had various names, in the19th century it was known as the Tower of Blood (Kanil Koule), when it was used as a prison and for the execution of convicts.  In1883, by order of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the Tower was whitewashed and given the name White (Beyaz Koule).  After the liberation of the city in 1912 the Tower had a number of uses. During World War I, one floor was used to preserve antiquities from excavations by the Eastern Army Archaeological Service. The city’s air defence, the meteorological laboratory of the Aristotle University and scout systems were hosted on its premises.

Hagia Sofia of Thessalonikki – The church was built in the 8th century and followed the design of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  It became a mosque in 1430 when the Ottomans conquered the town.  It remained a mosque until the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912 when it reverted to being a Christian church again.

The Rotunda

The Rotunda  also known as the Church of Agios Georgios, was built in 306 AD by the Roman tetrarch Galerius.  In 1590 during the occupation of the Ottomans it was converted into a mosque.  In 1912 it became an Orthodox church.  The Rotunda has a diameter of 24.5 meters and its walls are more than 6 meters thick.

The Castle of Thessaloniki, also known as Heptapyrgion is situated on the top of the hill overlooking the city.  In 1889 it became a prison until 1989 when it was closed

We had to again, find a place to get a PCR test before flying back to the UK. There was a medical centre opposite.  We were waiting for the bus one day and I said to Ian that guy has just stuck something up that guy’s nose!! Hmm looks like he’s doing PCR tests.  Yes he was which was nice and convenient.

We made an appointment and they insisted we only needed to do the test the day before as they results come in six hours later.  Well it didn’t exactly go to plan! The results should have arrived after 5pm.  Mine duly arrived.  I kept checking and checking and still nothing for Ian.  The medical centre was supposed to be open until 9.30pm, so over we trot at 9.15pm all closed.  They opened at 6.30am the following morning.  I managed to drag Ian out of bed and we were there at 7.20.  After a 15 minute wait they found Ian’s result which was just as well as we were leaving for the airport at 9.30, nothing like a bit of extra added stress. 

January 2022