The power of the tide

Sam Fortescue experiences a sticky reminder of the influence of the tide.

Sam Fortescue experiences a sticky reminder of the influence of the tide.

It was the first time I’d been sailing in Turkey for about 20 years, and I was returning to our old cruising grounds around Bodrum. In late September, it was decidedly the tail end of the season, and we flew in on the wings of one storm (and out on the vanguard of another). But the temperature was reassuringly in the mid-20s and the sea was warm.

We boarded our little Sunsail 32 in Turgutreis and set off south as soon as we could for Knidos, nestling behind a wild outcrop on the end of a long peninsula. It was a town of 80,000 souls in antiquity, but no more than two buildings and a handful of dogs these days. However, the number of visiting yachts is enough to support a large (and expensive) restaurant here. The real draw is the ruined city on the hill with its two amphitheatres and a dozen temples.

After the bustle of a night here, we were looking forward to more tranquillity. We set sail north, round the high rock from which the ancients used to fling their miscreants, then turned east down the long, narrow Gulf of Gokova. Our destination was Yedi Adlar, the seven islands, about 20 miles away.

Deep deserted inlets

The coast here is steep-to and there are very few hazards to worry about (charted ones, at any rate). We enjoyed sliding quite close to the shore to peer into deep, deserted inlets and behind islands fringed with turquoise shallows. In places, mountains rise to over 600m, though the peninsula is no more than a few miles wide.

The usual Meltemi wind from the northwest had been countered by a southerly and in places the two cancelled each other out. In other spots we found ourselves switching from a port tack to starboard, without changing course, as the two winds battled each other. In places, high turbines whirled – this is always a windy spot, even in midsummer.

Approaching Yedi Adlar, the wind began to drop. There are several narrow passes between the islands, strung like a barrier across the mouths of several bays. The echosounder dives from 150m-plus to less than 10m in the batting of an eyelid, but in the day’s calm conditions, there was nothing to fear. We furled the sails in seconds.

Even the shallowest bay offered an inviting place to go stern-to in the setting sun. But knowing that the wind was due to return to the NW in the morning, we tucked ourselves in behind a spit at the entrance to the deepest cove, which loses itself in reeds and mud (and, no doubt, clouds of mosquitos). It was as well that we did, because there was 20 knots blowing by the morning and after lunch, a steep sea had developed outside. We remained perfectly sheltered, though, and made the most of good snorkelling and a quiet beach.

A month later and firmly back in the UK, we had the chance of a weekend sail in our Sadler 34. We took her from Poole up towards the Solent, basking in the brittle sun of a late autumn day. It felt thoroughly stolen from under winter’s nose.

Plenty of water...

We ducked in behind the spit at Hurst and angled in towards the buoys marking the entrance to diminutive, eerie Keyhaven River. I grew up sailing scows here and was keen to anchor once more in the pool behind the river entrance, where the only noise comes from the bickering of the oystercatchers and the curlews.

“It’s shallow,” I told Alex, my wife. “But there’s plenty of water once we’re in.” No sooner had I spoken then the boat lurched and came to a halt in the putty – an unhelpful reading of 0.3m on the echosounder. We spent 20 minutes trying various kedging off techniques, but she was soon bobbing at about 20 degrees off the horizontal so, with low water only half an hour away, we settled down to wait.

It was hard not to reflect on the experience, comparing it to our Turkish holiday. Different elements of the weather dominate the cruising, but how quickly one forgets the power of the tide where there is none!

Sam Fortescue, Editor Sailing Today