Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Recommended Anti-Seasickness Drug

We left Kos late Thursday afternoon, around 4 p.m., and had good strong north winds for our 175 NM sail. We arrived around 1:30 a.m. at night on Saturday.

It blew 20 to 25 knots for much of the ride. Waves were about one to two meters but short and choppy. For stretches, winds would abate to between 15 and 20 knots. We had the main under one reef, the staysail up and a bit of the jib flying. It was a sweet sail plan that allowed Phoenix to gallop along at up to 7 knots at times. Overall, during the 33-hour passage, we made an average of 5.22 knots.

Our crew member, Taylor, got the experience he was looking for. His first night sail and with conditions of an ocean passage. He saw his first freighters at sea up close and personal. We hailed two of them on the radio since we were crossing in front of their bows at about 1 NM. Freighters are happy to oblige us little guys and they altered their courses to allow us to pass.

Taylor was good crew and as a great story teller of his many adventures, great company. His quest to see the grittiest parts of the world on just a couple of Euros a day, is a reflection of his curious mind and adventurous spirit.

Taylor Booth, the indefatigable hitchhiker.
Jennifer and I anticipated the "washing machine" conditions of the passage and took Stugeron. It is a wonderful seasickness drug which is, for some mysterious reasons, unavailable in the United States. (I assume it is a pharmaceutical trade issue, since I believe Stugeron is manufactured by a non-US company.) We readily found Stugeron at the first pharmacy. It is an over-the-counter (non-prescription) drug and cost 1.50 Euro for a package of 50 tablets at 25 mg. each.

Most European sailors are familiar with Stugeron. According to Wikipedia, it is the most common anti-seasickness drug in the British Royal Navy. It is recommended to take a 25 mg dose an hour or two before uncomfortable conditions and then 25 mg every 8 hours. (Or 75 mg per 24 hours.) The unique aspect about it efficacy is that it is the only drug (I know) which works on the causes of seasickness rather than the symptoms. It expands the capillaries in the inner ear, allowing greater blood flow there. Or something like that.

Anyway, it worked like a charm with none of the drowsy, woozy side effects of the American equivalents.

We are off to explore Rethymno.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Just as we were about to head out yesterday evening, the sky darkened and lightning started flashing in the wider area around us.

Lightning is not necessarily deadly to sailors even if it hits the boat. But you will almost certainly lose most of your electronics. And you might end up with a hole in your boat. That's not so good.

I'm not as freaked out by lightning as many sailors, but we stayed in port because I didn't want to write a blog about a disaster that started with "we headed out into a lightning storm."

So now we expect to arrive saturday. Taylor is a refreshingly bright, conversant young man who is entertaining us with his wild stories of hitch hiking through northern Iraq, And every "Stan" including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Float Plan

In the parlance of sailors, a "float plan" is the equivalent of letting your parents know who you're going out with that night, where you're going and when you expect to be back.

I have filed early float plans with my family and some key people who would know who to call and what to say in the event we never arrived at my destination. But in this day and age of blogs, is this not as good a place as any?

We are in Kos, Greece right now. For a few weeks we have been debating which way to get to our winter port, Rhythmnon, Crete. The direct route is about 175 NM southwest. At our average cruising speed of four knots, that comes to about 44 hours.

The alternative is to hop along islands, each about 40 NM apart until we are directly north of Rhythmnon and then do a 70-mile passage.

Without getting into all the advantages and disadvantages of each, we have chosen the direct route. But in order to avoid a two-day watch schedule of two-hours on, two-hours off, we have decided to invite another crew member to join us. That will give each of us two-hours on, and four-hours off.

We found our crew on the website. It's a great website for exactly this kind of networking. Here's a link to his listing:

Taylor seems to be an adventurer of a unique class. At the following website you can see that in his world travels over the last few years, he has slept under the stars or at newly-met people's homes, barns, work places, cars, and similar settings for all but only two nights in the last two years.

As I write, Taylor is hitch-hiking from Iznit, Turkey where he was olive-picking, to Bodrum where he will catch a ferry and meet us here in Kos. He didn't arrive on this morning's ferry, so we presume he'll be on tomorrow's. If so, then the weather window is looking good for a departure on Wednesday around 1400. That would make our estimated arrival in Rhythmnon Friday, at 1000.

So, there's the scoop on our date. We promise not to drink and drive. And, yes, we'll use protection. (That would be tethers.)

P.S. Sorry I can't update the map on this iPad. Once we get to Crete, I'll have my beloved MacBook Pro back and can work on the blog's frilly delicates.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

There's No Place Like Ithaca

Today I sat on the bowpulpit, all the way forward on our boat. I was like a figurehead on Phoenix. This far forward, no motor exits, only motion. No occupation with digital displays of position, speed and wind direction. The only sound is what wind ruffles past my ears and the waves splashed by Phoenix’s way through the water.

The Turkish mountains slid by slowly, sunned to a dark yellow, almost ruddy color. It suddenly struck me that the landscape was receding, passing. I was now returning home. The voyage was not developing but entering its long end. We had reached the apogee of our voyage, the point most distant, and now we were on our return.

“Wish for the road to be long,” wrote the poet Constantine Cavafy.

Our road had reached its furthest point. Not at Fethiye, our last harbor, but farther east. We had reached our apogee without me recognizing it as such and yet remembering it vividly. It was when we had taken the overnight bus to Cappadocia. And once there, were taken by jeep at dawn to a launching field for a hot air balloon ride. At the point where the balloon lifted us into the heavens, I remember looking over the edge of the basket at the dry dirt. As the balloon lifted just inches from the soil I said, “It’s inshallah now.” We were in God’s hands.

It is beautiful and more inspired than I ever could have designed myself to have our furthest point from home on this sailing voyage manifest after traveling west by land and returning east through the air. More often than we can appreciate life provides us with beautiful geometries of perfect balance.

Now, sitting on the bow, was our first westward passage by boat.

There is a mixture of sadness and joy at this time. Sadness that this is as far as we will go. Joy that with each passing day, I will be closer to home and family and community and a life that is more marked by what I know than what I don’t.

It wouldn’t really matter how far we went. I wondered, as I watched the ruddy cliffs and undulating blues and whites in the water below, if I would feel any differently if we were circumnavigating. Even then, I concluded, I would have – in my over-intellectualizing way – figured out the meridian of polar opposition and had the very same thoughts.

“Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.”

So continues Cavafry.

I will try not to hurry the voyage. I am enjoying the new people I meet. I am enjoying the new customs I am learning. I am enjoying the new landscapes.

But it is hard to deny allthe other feelings accompanying this point in time. I miss Ithaca and all it represents. You, who live there, take it for granted. It’s human nature to do so. I’m sure that once back, I will too. But for right now, I urge you to appreciate your Ithacas. Your homes. Your routines. Your knowns. Your easy’s. Your boredom. Your laundry piles. Your ugly grocery stores. Your lists. The regular news cast. The fridge that doesn't close without an extra umph. The same old coffee. The same old choice of three favorite restaurants or something quickly shoved in the oven. The dog to be walked. The trash to be walked out. Staring out on your bare branches waiting for snow. Waiting for inspiration. Waiting for spring. The shoes that always clutter the entrance. The language you know. The signs you hate. The short cuts which are no longer short enough. The cars. The streets. The people. The politics. The pretension.

Thank you. Thank you for thinking of all that right now as good and comforting and providing structure and routine. Even the things we don’t like give us something to fight against.

Because you thought of those things, you reminded me of them. You reminded me of how much you deal with them every day. And how much you have grown weary of them. By thinking of them, you reminded me that what I have out here is different.

I will be with you in Ithaca soon enough.

For now, I am reminded to enjoy the Turkish mountains sliding by and the reflective colors in the water creating Rorschach patterns.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Underground Cities Of Cappadocia

Once upon a time, more than a thousand years ago, an old man sat in the square under a tree on a sunny day.

This story might be from One Thousand And One Nights. Or maybe I heard it from a carpet dealer with whom we sat for a few hours drinking chai. Or maybe I dreamt it. I can’t remember.

Anyway, the old man had served as a soldier in the Persian army but his fighting days were long over. He sacrificed one eye to the empire and all the straightness in his spine. Despite being Muslim, he drank wine and so his respect was as effaced as his clothes were ragged. He sat under the shade of a tree in the square when a young soldier took rest next to him.

“Off to fight the Christians?” the old man asked.

“Yes,” the young solider answered, looking, then double-taking a glance at the decrepit man.

“I was once you. I know you can’t imagine it now, but once I could take you with one hand tethered to my belt. Ah, we were a strong and rowdy bunch, ready to fight in the name of the Lord. Wait, wait, don’t go! You need to hear my story. It might save your life. I won’t be long. Do you have a cigarette? Thank you. So where was I? Ah yes, we were off to fight the Christians.

“Our campaign was swift and glorious for the first few months. Word spread of our victories and it was more than one village that met us naked and on their knees, offering obedience and devotion. We accepted. At a price of course. The village elders needed to be sacrificed. And our men needed satisfaction, if you know what I mean. No, no, sorry to offend. And I never. Truly. Please stay and listen, this is important. Do you have another cigarette? Thank you. Where was I?

“Eventually we came upon Kapadokiyeh or Valley Of The Horses. We had heard it was haunted and a place of evil magic. But we were inked by the blood of victory. Unbeatable, invincible, indomitable.

“We approached the village of Derinkuyu, which I think in their language means “deep well.” We made camp outside the village. We saw the villagers scurry and rush to gather their animals. The locked themselves in their homes and we watched as the village went quiet and the sky dark.

“I was commanded to the third watch. We expected them to surrender at dawn. With the first light we expected a dozen naked men to walk out and kneel.

“I remember that dawn: It broke like a fire set ablaze by a bolt of lightning. The clouds were aflame in ridges of reds, deep oranges and yellows. Then, as if upon seeing our camp of men and horses, the sun itself retreated behind clouds and the day became dull and moist.

“We mustered and waited for the call. It went out and we thundered into the village, weapons drawn, running, riding, screaming to build up our own courage.

“I was among the first to reach the houses. Surprised that no one had yet come out, we wondered if they were planning some kind of surprise attack. We flung open their doors and rushed in.

“What we saw stopped us in our tracks. What we saw was nothing. Nothing and nobody. There was some furniture, tables and chairs, but no people. Nothing in the homes. No food, no dishes, no clothes, nothing. We went from house to house, finding the same nothing. We kept searching, expecting that perhaps they had gathered somewhere to commit suicide. But the only thing that greeted us behind every door was nothing.

“They had vanished. Disappeared. Like some magic trick. Some of the men starting retreating, saying this was the work of evil forces. I tell you, I myself felt strange. I had seen the men, women and children the day before. I knew my comrades on the night watches and so I knew no one could have escaped the village without our knowing. My skin was crawling with goose bumps. I felt like an animal sensing it is in a trap.

“That afternoon was grim. We, of the night watch, were summoned. We were questioned, beaten and questioned again. It was clear. There was only a single answer: We had fallen asleep and didn’t see the villagers escape. We had failed our duties. We had failed the empire. And this failure could not go unpunished.

“As punishment for not seeing the enemy escape, our sight was to be compromised. And so it was that I, and all my comrades on the night watch, had our left eyes taken from us.

“I know, now you are looking at me differently, aren’t you? But I swear to you as I swear on my one remaining eye, I tell you that not a single villager ever walked from that village that night. We had it completely surrounded.

“No, don’t go yet! I want to tell you something more. Something even more important for you. Surely you have a moment more? No? Then please, do you have a cigarette? Thank you. Come back tomorrow, and believe me, I will tell you what I heard from a soldier who returned not too long ago from a campaign through Kapadokiyeh. He told me about caves under the village. No, wait, it is true! Come back! You must hear this. It might save your life."

* * *

Fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.
For three days, Jennifer and I visited Cappadocia, the region of Turkey near its center. It is a unique landscape, with flatlands that served as Turkey’s bread basket, grapes are plentiful here, and a combination of volcanic deposits, soft stone and hard rock have formed wavy dunes of stone and magical rock towers called fairy chimneys.

It is not known who first carved into the soft rock and towers. Was it the Hittites who ruled the area from about 1,400 to 700 BC? Or was it the Phrygians who followed them? I imagine it started by someone scraping a recessed area for storage. Another family, not to be outdone by the Jones, dug deeper still into the rock to create an entire shelter. Eventually entire complexes with extensive connecting tunnels were created.

A tower outside of Göreme, Turkey.
Cappadocia is warm and sunny in summer and snow-covered in winter with temperatures dropping down to zero Fahrenheit. (-18 C.) Long before creating livable caves, they must have discovered the moderating effects of stone. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter. The expansion of life into these caves was natural and a self-evident development.

A small portion of the ancient village of Zelva, Turkey.
More surprising is what happened in the flatlands of the same region. In the flatlands, the people began doing the same scratching into the firmer but still scratchable bedrock. Did they first start with fire pits? Then, perhaps, storage cellars for food? Or, did they simply apply the cave carving of the neighboring hills to the ground beneath their feet?

A larger of the underground rooms. This would have been a meeting room or communal room of some sort.
Who knows. What we do know is that slowly, room by room, entire villages were created underground. All connected by tunnels, all well-ventilated by shafts. The astounding extent of these complexes is evidenced in the stalls created for horses, cattle and sheep. Carved into the rock are feeding troughs. Tether points are drilled at each trough to keep beasts in their places. Other large rooms were designed for grape-pressing and wine-making. In addition to food storage vaults and living quarters, there were churches and refectories.

Perhaps the largest of the underground rooms. This one was a refectory, possibly also used for worship. Small "student cells" teed off this room about 30 feet long.
This was a batismal well, with a few steps descending into basin fed by a stone spout.
Over two dozen of this underground cities are known to exist throughout Cappadocia. It is assumed there are many more. We visited one in Derinkuyu. It has about 200 discovered living quarters in a labyrinth extending seven floors and some 50 meters below the Earth’s surface. There could be more undiscovered parts of the complex. Working on the assumption of about four to five people per living quarter, the underground city could accommodate about 1,000 inhabitants. Some estimate that some underground cities were inhabited by twice that and more.

These large rooms are at the first level. This one was a stall with holes in the walls for feeding troughs.
Contrary to first assumption, these villages did not develop for defensive purposes. Later, however, during the 5th to 10th Centuries, these villages were expanded and became critical refuges for Christians escaping invading forces. Deeper tunnels were dug with defensive designs. At the bottom of long sloping passages were huge round wheels of stone that could be rolled into place as impenetrable doors. In the middle of each stone was a small hole for shooting arrows at the enemy. Above the tunnel, areas with small holes over the passages for spearing the invaders from above.

Long, low, narrow tunnels descended to the lower rooms . This tunnel is so low we had to walk in a crouch, and even then my backpack was scraping along the roof.
The underground city of Derinkuyu's lower rooms were small, maybe 8x10 feet, and supposedly bunked four people.
Escape tunnels were devised as well. It is said, though not proven, that villages as far as ten kilometers apart were connected by tunnels.

I am on the lower, and thus safe, side of a closed tunnel entrance. By my crouch, you can see how low these tunnels were. 
A closed entrance in the tunnels of Derinkuyu. This one didn't quite roll into place perfectly. In the guide literature, there is a gruesome drawing of invaders trying to pry themselves into the open space and getting their limbs hacked off by the defending inhabitants.
During summer, this shaft, extending down 55 meters acted as the well of Derinkuyu, which means "deep well." In winter, it was the ventilation shaft for the underground city. Smaller ventilation shafts were disguised. This one was simply presumed to be the village's well by invaders. They would have found the village empty, dumped poison down the well, and moved on.
It is hard to fathom, in this day and age of instant communication, Google searches and global travel, the extent of isolation, lack of communication and the resulting dearth of information 1,000 years ago. An invading army might never have known about these underground villages. Even if they had heard of them, it was hard to separate truth from superstition.

There might have been stories from old soldiers, but were they believable? Or just the tales of One Thousand And One Nights? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Beauty of Cappadocia

We shut the port lights on Phoenix, turned off the batteries and boarded an overnight bus to Cappadocia. This odd and unique landscape is stunningly beautiful.
I woke with the morning call to prayer, and in the pre-dawn dusk, hiked to a bluff behind our hotel to get this sunrise shot of hot air balloons over Göreme.

From the bluff, there was a clear view of Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia. The city explodes out of the ancient caves in the mountain.
To the east, a set of "fairy chimneys." These were hollowed out and used as homes, storage silos and -- during the Roman era -- as tombs.

Undulating sandstone.
The area is rife with wild grapes. Cappadocians have been making wine for thousands of years. I can attest to its delicacy.
Many homes and popular hotels still are half in caves and half-built out.

A rock cave hotel similar to the one we are lucky to stay in. Notice the right hand "fairy chimney" is half collapsed and exposes an old internal cave wall into which shelves were carved in a checker-board pattern. All the way on the right you can see more original cave rooms.

In the countryside, people lived in these hill caves without modern amenities until 1952 when the government built a new village for these inhabitants because there had been too many deaths and injuries from collapses and earthquakes.