The Trip to Black Sea 1998

Black Sea, Chapter A
I was inspired to plan this trip when I read Odysseas, a Ship from Ithaka, 1837-1841 by Yiannis Vlassopoulos. This book records the trips, 150 years ago, of a Greek sailing cargo ship from the island of Ithaca to the Black Sea. It was my pleasure to meet the author at an international conference on the island of Chios in 1994.

I also had read the book by Marianna Koromila The Greeks of the Black Sea. This book further kindled my desire for such a trip.

Note: At the bottom of this webpage there is a map that shows in detail the route of “Faneromeni”.

May 24, 98 Departure at 06:10. We arrived, with good weather, at Psara at 13:00, having covered 55 nM. We were welcomed in the harbor by the en-tire male population. After mooring and stepping ashore, I was approached by a few of the ilocals and one of them posed to this unusual question to me: "Is this caïque the 'Faneromeni'?" I replied: "Certainly, after all this is the name written on her stern." They continued: "Yes, but, is she the Pera-ma 'Faneromeni' that was a cargo ship belonging to Fanouris?" I answer affirmatively, and the man who first asked the question turned to the others and said: "You see, I was right! But you did not believe that she really is the caïque that belonged to Fanouris." Following this exchange they explained to me that this caïque, in the old times when there were no regular supply ships, was supplying the island with foodstuff and that they owe a lot to the “Faneromeni” that fed them! After “Faneromeni” was recognized, I became the person of honor on the island. The next day we went with the inflatable dinghy to Antipsara for spear-fishing. There, for the first time, Argos taught little Naxos how to swim. We returned in the afternoon with a good catch and I gave all the fish to the taverna in the harbor. This gesture was trans-mitted through the town like lightning and my stock with the inhabitants of Psara had a steep rise! Under these conditions we stayed in the island one more day.

May 27, 98 Departure from Psara at 12:15 under calm seas, and after 49 nM at 18:20 we arrived at my favorite stop on Levos, Plomari. During the next two days we took on supplies (diesel fuel, water, provisions) and did various tasks. Of course, we did not fail to visit the famous ouzo bars and fish taverns of Plomari.

May 30, 98 Departure at 10:50 for Mytiline. Distance 21 nM. Arrival in Myti-line at 13:30, where Rozina and Naxos were due to depart and my brother Vasilis was to arrive and board “Faneromeni” to sail as far as Istanbul.

My brother Vasilis also describes this 1998 trip from Lesvos to Istanbul on his website.

May 31, 98 After Vasilis' arrival we occupied ourselves with formalities in preparation for our sail to Turkey. Police, passports, Customs, Coast Guard, and other ‘pleasant’ tasks that took great effort, patience, and sev-eral hours to complete. After finishing with the bureaucracy we decided to depart next morning.

“Faneromeni” moored in the harbor of Mytiline.
Lesvos Island, May 1998                  (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

June 1, 98 We were preparing to depart in the morning, as planned, when we discovered that Argos had run away. I combed all of the harbor region with the small Honda motor bike that I keep on board. After much effort and time, I discovered Argos strolling around with a pack of other dogs, without a worry in the world. Finally, after Argos' recovery, we departed Mytiline for Turkey at 11:10. After 19 nM we arrived in Ayvalik (Αϊβαλί in Greek). In the meantime I had raised the yellow pratique flag.

All vessels entering a foreign country should proceed to the nearest port of entry/exit, flying the yellow flag (Q). This way they indicate that all passen-gers and crew are healthy and request free entry (pratique) from the au-thorities (Harbor Police, Police, Customs, Health Service, etc.) This way they request admission into the country based on the principle of free tran-sit.

We arrived in the small Marina at 13:25 where we were very kindly wel-comed. We were told at the marina office that they could handle for us–– without our getting involved––all the entry formalities: Police, passports, Customs, Harbor Master, Health Service, etc. Further, they told us that we were not obliged to stay on board until the formalities were completed but that we could visit the town, a short walking distance from the marina. So we walked to the town center by wandering through the narrow alleys of the old town. While walking I remembered Fotis Kontoglou's book, which I have onboard, Το Αϊβαλί, η πατρίδα μου (Ayvali my home town). We ended in a nice restaurant, literally over the sea since half of it was on posts over the water. After we enjoyed a pleasant seafood meal we returned to the ma-rina.

When we got onboard the caïque I read passages from Kontoglou's book, including the following:

"It was truly a secret world, surrounded by a bay and further out, as if they were guarding it, many islets, most of them uninhabited. These were called in antiquity Hecatonisia (Greek: Εκατόνησα) that is, “islands of Hecatos,” a name for Apollo. Maybe they were also called “islands of Hecate,” that is, “islands of the moon.” The place is like a peninsula, like a scythe coming out of the Anatolian coast and turning to the north."

In the meantime, all our papers, passports, boat documents etc. were ready! This made a great impression to us, especially keeping in mind yes-terday's runaround for the same formalities in Mytiline.

June 2, 98 Departure from Ayvalik at 06:55 with destination Tenedos. After 58 nM and with good weather we entered Tenedos harbor (Bozcaada in Turkish) at 14:30. After mooring we went ashore to explore the island.

“Faneromeni” moored in Tenedos harbor.
Turkey, Tenedos Island, June 1998.               (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

On the quay, waiting to welcome us, was Mr. Panayiotis Ovalis, one of the few remaining Greek residents of Tenedos. Mr. Panayiotis, to our great pleasure, gave us a guided tour of the town and provided us with a lot of information about the island.

Article 14 of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) exempted Imbros and Tenedos from the large-scale population exchange that took place between Greece and Turkey and required Turkey to accommo-date the local Greek majority and their rights. Specifically:

The islands of Imbros and Tenedos, remaining under Turkish sov-ereignty, shall enjoy a special administrative organization com-posed of local elements and furnishing every guarantee for the na-tive non-Moslem population in so far as concerns local administra-tion and the protection of persons and property. The maintenance of order will be assured therein by a police force recruited from amongst the local population by the local administration above provided for and placed under its orders.

Subsequently, the islands were to be largely autonomous and self-governing, with their own police force. Turkish policy consis-tently undermined both the spirit and letter of this commitment: Schools were required to teach exclusively in Turkish, and the lo-cal Greek population was marginalized in multiple ways. From Wi-kepaedia.

Mr. Panayiotis Ovalis with his daughter and “Faneromeni's” master Turkey,
Tenedos Island, June 1998              (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

During his guided tour Mr.Panayiotis did not omit to proudly point out the old Greek school that today is operating as a hotel. 

The old Greek School Turkey,
Tenedos Island, June 1998                               (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

The next day we were to sail heading for the Dardanelles.

June 3, 98 We departed Tenedos under calm seas at 06:10. When we were almost at the entrance of the Dardanelles channel I observed this: a plastic jerry can used as a buoy was afloat but it was not stationary as is usual; instead it was moving in a definite direction with an unusual speed. I pointed this out to my brother and we followed it for sometime, trying to un-derstand what it meant. The can, which was tied to a line, continued to move forward. I thought that it was most likely part of a fishing line that had caught a large fish. I proposed that we use the boat's hook to catch it and bring it aboard. My brother agreed to that and so we approached the can, caught its line with the hook, and with great difficulty pulled it aboard and tied it on one of the fore cleats. Although I had gradually reduced the caïque's speed, to our surprise the line, instead of slacking, was growing more taut. I reduced the speed further but the line became even more taut. I put the engine into neutral and the can's line started to tow the “Fan-eromeni” towards the shore without any reduction of can's speed. Finally we shut off the engine with the thought that perhaps its noise was frighten-ing the fish. To our surprise the caïque's speed was four knots––just by be-ing pulled by the line and without the engine! Our imagination ran wild. How was it possible that a fish, no matter how large, could tow the 50 ton caïque at four knots? We decided to pull the can's line with the windlass and so to incrementally reduce our distance from the mystery and make it surface. We did this. In the meantime, however, we were being towed towards the shore without any speed reduction. The depth kept becoming more shallow and had reached about 10 meters, a fact that made us somewhat nervous. With the windlass we kept hauling in the line and reducing the distance be-tween us and our quarry. Time went by. It was now almost an hour since we began to be towed and nothing had changed. Our towing speed was undiminished! Our excitement was great. The windlass kept bringing us closer to the mystery. By now we understood that, whatever it was, it must be close to the surface. First of all, the amount of line that we had hauled in was several meters long and secondly by now the line’s angle to the sur-face was almost zero––that is, vertical. Our attention now was heightened. We continued, now slowly, to haul the line with the windlass. But suddenly the line broke!

So the mystery remains unsolved…

We continued on our course entering the impressive Strait of Dardanelles. There was a lot of traffic with all sorts of vessels from small fishing boats to monstrous tankers. Here we left behind our familiar Aegean Sea and head-ed for the Sea of Marmara.

We arrived at Çanakkale at 10:55, having covered 34 nM from Tenedos. We moored at the marina with the help of the hospitable Ali, a very capable and smart seaman who is the boss of the Çanakkale Marina. Back in Plo-mari, Lesvos, I had bought two cases of ouzo so that I could give bottles as gifts when the occasion arose. Greek ouzo is much appreciated in Turkey. Now the first small bottle was removed from one of these cases and given as a tip to Ali. It was well received…

In the meantime, a crowd gathered to see the Greek caïque.

In Çanakkale I also had a pleasant surprise. After mooring and stepping onto the quay I was greeted by a Swedish friend of mine and his wife whose boat was also moored a few slips away from the “Faneromeni.” When they saw her entering the harbor they came to welcome us. I had met them a few years ago, with their lovely Hallberg Rassy 35 sailboat, in Myrina, Lesvos. There they had some difficulty with their anchor dragging under a particularly strong wind, and I went with “Faneromeni's” dinghy and helped them set a second anchor. So now we met again and that evening had dinner together at a pleasant seaside taverna. A few years later I was to meet them once more in Simi, on another cruise. We had a good time together that time as well.

“Faneromeni” in the Çanakkale Marina.
Turkey, June 1998.                               (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos) 

Next day we drove to Troy with the boat's small motor bike. This visit to Troy was very emotional! When one contemplates that he is standing on top of the ruins of a city described in Homer's Iliad and remembers what happened here, he is overtaken by awe.

A picture from Troy.
Turkey, June 1998.                                 (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

Our next expedition, again with the motor bike, was to Gallipoli (Gelibolu in Turkish), not to the city of Gallipoli but to the site of the famous battle. Gal-lipoli is on a peninsula in Europe, in contrast to Çanakkale which is across the strait but on the Asian side. We crossed the strait by taking the small ferry-boat that connects to the opposite European side.

This motor bike is a Honda type Z and is part of “Faneromeni's” equipment. It plays a decisive role during land expeditions.
Turkey, June 1998.                                    (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

We visited the area where the historic Battle of Gallipoli took place. In the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I the invading allied forces of the British Empire and France were defeated by troops of the Ottoman Empire. Among the soldiers representing the British Empire were those of the Aus-tralian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC); their participation in this campaign is still proudly commemorated today in both Australia and New Zealand. Imposing monuments were erected at Gallipoli commemorating the many soldiers who fell. Casualties for the allies are listed as 141,029, 251,309 for the Ottoman Empire.

The Monument of Gallipoli.
Turkey, June 1998.                                          (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

The defeat of the allied forces by the Ottoman defenders was a turning point leading to the emergence of the modern country of Turkey. Of course the outcome of this battle also had many serious and long-lasting conse-quences for Greece. It was also a very important step in the career of Mus-tafa Kemal Ataturk.

Mustafa Kemal was given the task of organizing and commanding the 19th Division attached to the Fifth Army during the Battle of Gallipoli. Mustafa Kemal became the front-line commander after correctly anticipating where the Allies would attack and holding his position until they retreated… From Wikipeadia.

We were very impressed by the inscription, signed by Kemal, dedicated to the Mother of the Fallen Soldier.

The famous inscription by Kemal Ataturk on the monument in Gallipoli.
Turkey, June 1998.                             (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

After we completed our visits to Troy and Gallipoli, we returned rather tired to our home the “Faneromeni”. It was long day that began at 06:10 am with our departure from Tenedos.

June 4, 98 The day began with obtaining diesel fuel, water, and provisions. Next we said good-bye to the Swedes and to Ali. In addition to the usual tip, we gave Ali our rope-trophy from our entrance to the straits. He re-ceived this with particular appreciation. Eventually we departed from Ça-nakkale at 14:20. A short distance out of the harbor we encountered a strong contrary current which kept with us until we reached the strait of Sestos and Abylos, known in antiquity for the myth of Hero and Leander. At 19:55 we were outside the small harbor of Kemer, a typical fishing village.

The distance from Çanakkale to Kemer is 44 nM. Although the small harbor was full of large fishing boats, the hospitable fishermen welcomed us and helped as moor alongside of one of their large caïques.

“Faneromeni” anchored in the Çam Limani (Greek Πιτυούς) cove.
Heybeliada (Halki) island, Sea of Marmara, Turkey, June 1998.    (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

The next day we decided to leave the caïque in Çam Limani (Greek Πιτυούς) where she was safely anchored and go exploring with the dinghy to the Pringipos (Büyükada) Island. Later we were to sail with the “Fan-eromeni” to Istanbul.

June 7, 98 We left, as planned, with the dinghy and went across about 1 nM to Pringipos (Büyükada in Turkish).

Approaching Pringipos Island.
Sea of Marmara, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

The island is very picturesque with well-preserved old houses, most of them summer mansions belonging to wealthy people. Years ago most of the owners of these mansions were Greek. Cars are not allowed on the is-land and this contributes to the serenity of the place, a serenity and atmos-phere belonging to an era long past. We hired a one-horse carriage and had a guided tour of the island. The coachman was very informative. Fol-lowing our tour we returned with the dinghy back to the “Faneromeni” in Halki.

Finally we departed from Halki at 14:45. We intended to tour around the Bosphorus and then to go to the Ataköy Marina in Istanbul (Constantinou-ple).

Approaching Constantinople, Saint Sophia in the background.
Sea of Marmara, Turkey, June 1998.    (Courtesy Vasilis Riginos)

Although it was fine day, the weather suddenly started to seri-ously deteriorate. A bad squall hit us. Visibility went down to zero. It felt as if ten buckets of water per second were falling on your head. The radar only showed a dark smudge. We had ap-proached the European shore and were heading to the Atakoy Marina. In that region there were many large commercial ships. Most of them were anchored off but some were under power. In addition, the depth was about 10 meters, far too shallow for com-fort, and as a result our anxiety level was very high. Also, all these ships were blowing their horns as a warning because of the low visibility, thus increasing our tension level. Because of the low depth we were afraid of running aground. All this was compounded by a very strong wind. Under these conditions the danger level was very high.
This lasted two hours, but they felt like twenty…

Slowly the weather started to clear. The appearance of the Hagia Sophia on the skyline from the Bosporus during that moment was a sight beyond description. It was a moment of intense emotion. Our emotions, overwhelming since our visit to Troy, had now reached their peak. This is the moment when you feel that all your travails and tribulations were worthwhile.

We communicated with the marina via the VHF (Very High Fre-quency radio used by ships) and secured a slip for the caïque. As soon as we were at the marina entrance an inflatable with uniformed attendants met us and guided us to our slip. Eventually we moored in the marina af-ter covering 29 Nm from Halki. We were met warmly and were given a slip to the left of the marina's entrance on the central quay where the most distinguished yachts were moored. We were provided with water, electricity, and telephone. We were even offered a cable TV connection. The marina is fully guarded by uniformed professional guards who patrol even at night with flashlights. Absolutely no one is admitted to the marina unless they are with a registered boat or have a permit.

June 8, 98 Monday morning, everything was very good.

Note that when traveling, the “Faneromeni” always flies a large Greek flag on a post attached to her tiller. This morning we observed intense activity next to our caïque. Cars, policemen, well-dressed gentlemen (not the usual sailors), etc. We concluded that a new arrival, perhaps with a VIP, was ex-pected at the spot next to us, unoccupied at that time. Indeed, after a while a large motor cruiser moored next to our caïque. It was then obvious that “the unusual activity” had to do with her arrival. Once the motor cruiser was moored, we saw, to our surprise, the Patriarch Bartholomew disembark.

After he greeted the group of bystanders on the quay, he walked towards the “Faneromeni” with her large Greek flag and came aboard. We rever-ently kissed his hand and he blessed us. He told us that he knew about our arrival because he also came today from Halki where he had gone for a visit. The abbot there, Apostolos, Bishop of Agathonikea, had informed him of our visit during the past few days to the island. We spoke for a while. The Patriarch told us that he was impressed by our trip since it is very rare for a small boat to come to Istanbul (Constantinople) all the way from Greece. He said that he admired the “Faneromeni” and that, as an islander himself (he was born and raised on the island of Imbros), he loves old tradi-tional boats.

I gave him a book that was given to me by Father Konstantinos Strati-gopoulos of the Church of the Assumption in Glyfada (a suburb of Athens, near my home). Father Konstantinos had come to bless the “Faneromeni” before this trip, and he entrusted this book to me so that I could give it to the Patriarch when I would visit the Patriarchate in Istanbul (Constantinople). The Patriarch knows Father Konstantinos well because he was born and raised in Constantinople.

Finally, before leaving the “Faneromeni,” the Patriarch invited us to the Pa-triarchate and the church of Ayios Yiorgios on Thursday, June 11, where there was going to be a special service and a celebration honoring the day of Saint Bartholomew after whom the Patriarch is named.

On the morning of June 11 I was by myself. My brother Vasilis had left the previous day, I spent that day touring many of the sites in Istanbul. On Thursday I went with the motor bike to the Patriarchate and attended the very impressive service, officiated by the Patriarch himself. Byzantine opu-lence! I will never forget this service. On that day, in the Patriarchate, I also met Messrs. Ananiades, father and son, who had welcomed us last Satur-day in Halki.

I spent a week in Constantinople and I had an unforgettable time. I owe my thanks to my old friend Alkis Kourkoulas and his wife Marinela, who had lived in Istanbul and had me under their guidance for the week. Due to their warm hospitality those days are memorable. On Saturday my friend Kostas Damianides came from Athens; our plan was to continue on to the Black Sea. Added to our company were my Turkish friend Hüseyin Coban and his wife, who were to accompany us as far as Amastra.

The total miles covered by “Faneromeni” since out departure from Marina 4 in Glyfada to the Ataköy Marina in Istanbul was 495 nM and 73 engine hours. The trip lasted 23 days.



(To continue go to Chapter B)

“Faneromeni’s” route from Marina 4 in Glyfada to the Ataköy Marina in Is-tanbul. For a larger view click on the picture, for a more detailed view click on Google.