The Trip to Black Sea 1998

Black Sea, Chapter B

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

June 14, 98 The day started with provisioning of diesel fuel and water. “Faneromeni” departed at 10:50 from the Ataköy Marina, with Kostas Da-mianides, Hüseyin Coban, his wife Nurcham—professor at the Istanbul University—and, of course, the faithful Argos. The weather was good but slightly cloudy. After 5-6 nM we passed in front of Saint Sophia and entered the Strait of Bosphorus.

Saint Sophia from the sea, as we are approaching the Bosphorus.
Bosphorus, Turkey, June 1998.      (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

The transit of the Bosphorus was fascinating. Also, we had Turkish guides in the persons of Hüseyin and Nourchan who are quite knowledgeable concerning Istanbul. Our conducted tour of all the sites was first class. One such site is in the next picture.

The imposing Çırağan Sarayı palace that has been converted to a luxury ho-tel.
Bosphorus, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

The huge problem for a small boat in the Bosphorus strait is the traffic from all sorts of vessels. Big tankers, ferryboats, small ships carrying passen-gers, pleasure boats, day-trippers with tourists, large fishing boats, small boats, etc. The problem is compounded because most of these vessels do not follow the navigational traffic rules, and as a result there is a dangerous amount of confusion about who has the right-of-way. Even when constantly concentrating on the traffic you cannot help but feel that you are in danger.

Along both coasts of Bosphorus, European and Asian, stand large wooden mansions. Most date to the 19th century and provide a fascinating pano-rama today.

The Huber yali mansion on the banks of the Bosphorus. It is one of the typ-ical mansions lining the strait. These were summer residences of wealthy residents of Istanbul, many of whom were Greeks. Most of the extant man-sions along the banks of Bosphorus were built in the 19th century and were called yali, from the Greek word yialos (γιαλός - seaside).
Bosphorus, Turkey, June 1998.    (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

On the European bank of the Bosphorus there is a small cove-harbor Ta-rabya (Θεραπειά in Greek). This was the old Constantinople suburb of The-rapia. Many Greeks lived there. In antiquity the area was called Pharmakia from the poison that it was said Medea poured on the Thracian coast. Ac-cording to tradition, the area was subsequently renamed Therapia by the Patriarch Attikus, either as a euphemism or because of its climate. We made small detour and entered Tarabya. We did this not only because this site was especially interesting for the Greeks on board but also for an addi-tional reason. In this small harbor there was a replica of Golden Hinde, the ship of the famous pirate Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596). This replica was built in the Hüseyin Coban shipyard in Amasra on the Black Sea.

The replica of Golden Hinde, the ship of the famous pirate Sir Francis Drake in Tarabya.
Bosphorus, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

After this detour we continued our transit of the Bosphorus and finally we exited into the Black Sea. Immediately the scenery changed drastically. During our transit of the strait scattered clouds covered the sky, but now it-was overcast. And it was dark. Although it was early afternoon, our visibil-ity was substantially reduced. In addition to the darkness there was a strong wind and there were considerable waves. The conditions were rather unpleasant, especially considering the pleasant cruise through the Bosphorus just a short time before. I then realized why it is called the Black Sea. During such conditions having radar on board is essential. Until re-cently “Faneromeni” was not equipped with radar. But while planning the trip to the Black Sea I decided that installation of such an instrument in the inhospitable seas of the Pontos (Black Sea) would provide a useful aid. This was a wise decision because in just a few days the radar had already “paid for itself.” The first time was on June 7, while approaching Istanbul.

After a while the weather worsened and conditions deteriorated even fur-ther, with the result that we were relying almost completely on the radar to guide us to our destination. Eventually, and after considerable hardship, we arrived to the harbor of Şile (Χηλή in Greek) at 17:17 having traveled 45 nM from the Ataköy Marina.

June 15, 98 The weather in the morning was definitely better than the day before but not good enough for us to venture outside the harbor, especially when we recalled yesterday's discomfort.

The small town of Şile is now a summer resort for many of Istanbul's in-habitants (it is only 70 km from Istanbul). The name is a corruption of its old Greek name Chile (Χηλή). The Greek population of Şile was exiled in 1922 and a large part of it moved to Alexandroupoli. There they continued build-ing their typical and handsome fishing boats that are called Chiliotises (Χηλιώτησες).

The first stop of “Faneromeni” in the Black Sea was the harbor of Şile.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

Around noon conditions improved and so we decided to depart. Finally at 15:35 we sailed from Şile.

Şile is now behind us.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

After we were about 2 nM from Şile we saw a small Turkish naval ship at a distance. After a while we noticed that she was heading towards us. We immediately changed course to avoid her. But they too changed course, heading again towards us! I changed course again but they also readjusted their course towards us and in addition they increased their speed. I then realized that their intention was to intercept us, so I reduced our speed. At the same time a military airplane appeared and we heard explosions. We became very agitated. It was not at all pleasant to be on a Greek vessel, flying a large Greek flag at her stern to boot, in definitely Turkish waters and to be pursued by a Turkish naval vessel! And in addition to that, a mili-tary airplane was flying low just over your head.

Hüseyin undertook to contact them via the VHF (Very High Frequency ship's radio).

A short time after “Faneromeni’s” departure from Şile, a fast Turkish naval ship is speeding towards us on an intercept course. For a while we were very worried.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

In the meantime, the naval ship had arrived very close to the “Fan-eromeni”. Hüseyin managed, after several attempts, to contact them, but the radio connection was not very good and they could not com-municate. It was clear that they wanted something from us. So I put the engine in neutral and waited for them to come. Within a few min-utes they were next to us. Via megaphone they explained that a mili-tary exercise was underway in the immediate region and that we must, without any delay, return to Şile. We should stay in the harbor until 17:00 when the exercise would be over.

The Turkish naval ship is almost abreast of us. She orders us by me-gaphone to immediately return to port because of an ongoing live ammunition military exercise.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

So we returned to port at 16:15 after 4 nM. We anchored in the middle of the harbor to avoid complicated mooring at the quay and waited un-til it was time to depart again. We departed Şile once more at 17:17 heading for Kefken Adasi. When we were half way there the weather started to deteriorate but not as much as it did yesterday afternoon. We ar-rived in Kefken Adasi, Thinia (Greek Θυνία of antiquity) at 21:00 and after 30 nM. We again anchored off. There is no longer a village on the island, only a large lighthouse and some harbor installations. Nourchan undertook to cook pasta and while doing this she managed to use all the caïque's pots and pans! After dinner the skipper washed the dishes and all the pots and pans. We went to sleep at 02:00 in the morning.

Returning with Argos to the “Faneromeni” from Kefken Adasi (Thinia).
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

June 16, 98 We departed from the island at 06:15 with not very good weather. The waves were relatively large but without a corresponding wind. Unfortunately the waves were from our side and as a result the boat was lurching considerably. Later it drizzled. We were patient. Around noon the weather started to gradually improve. After sailing for 55 nM we arrived at 13:40 to the harbor of Ereğli (Heraclea Pontica - Ηράκλεια Ποντική in Greek).

Approaching Ereğli (Heraclea Pontica).
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

Ereğli (Heraclea Pontica - Ηράκλεια Ποντική in Greek) was established on the shore of the Black Sea (The Hospitable sea - Euxeinos Pontos – Εύξεινος Πόντος in Greek) by colonists from Megara in 560-558 BC. Ac-cording to Greek mythology it was the location of the entrance to Hades that was guarded by the three-headed dog Cerberos. The name derives from the mythological hero Hercules, who captured Cerberos during his 12th labor.

We were welcomed here because they were expecting the arrival of a tradi-tional boat from Greece. They had been notified about our passage from Şile! A delegation was waiting to welcome us––a considerable crowd ga-thered to see this curious boat from Greece. Included was a large group of kids who were admiring us. After overcoming his amazement, one of the boys asked us if he could come aboard the caïque and dive into the sea. We let him do so. Immediately a second kid asked if he too could dive. Within a few minutes the boat was full of kids. At the beginning it was inter-esting to watch the children diving. But soon it seemed that half of the child population of Ereğli was on board the “Faneromeni” and ceaselessly jump-ing into the sea. Finally we had to move the caïque away from the quay to discourage this activity.

Later we went ashore and met several Pontians of Greek descent. We ate kebab at a classic Turkish restaurant. During our night stroll we met a young man, also of Greek descent, whom we had a hard time understand-ing. He accompanied us all the way to the boat wile speaking in the Pontic Greek dialect with a heavy accent and using many archaic words. When we asked him what his religion was, he answered that, although he is a Muslim, whenever he is in Istanbul he goes to the Patriarchate and makes his devotions. Also, just in case, he always lights a candle in each church he visits!
Our plan for the next day was to sail to Amasra, a fair distance from Ereğli. So we decided to depart rather early and allow for the full day ahead of us.

June 17, 98 We departed at 05:40, the weather was better than yes-terday. Under relatively benign conditions we made good progress. At about half way to our destination we sailed by the city-port Zonguldak (the ancient Sandraki - Σανδράκη).

Traveling along the coastline we passed by the city of Zonduldak (the ancient Sandraki - Σανδράκη) and saw its extensive industrial installa-tions. Zonduldak is a major port in an industrial region known for its coal mines.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

The city of Zonduldak was the main port for loading the minerals ex-tracted from the mines in the region. It was established mainly during the 19th century and is today, with over one hundred thousand inhabi-tants, one of the largest coastal cities along the western Black Sea.

As the day progressed the weather kept improving even more and so the trip was pleasant. Because of the benign weather conditions, I voiced my wish to swim in the Black Sea. We decided to stop for a while at a nice beach to swim. We dropped anchor in a very imposing location. An endless sandy beach and at the edge of it a huge moun-tain, typical scenery for this region. Swimming in the Black Sea was an unusual experience.

Because many large rivers from Europe drain into the Black Sea, for example the Don, Dnieper, and the Danube, it receives 24% of the drain water from the European Continent. Because of that its salinity is much lower than that of the Greek seas and so is the buoyancy of a swimmer. Another peculiarity is that when you come out of the water there is no need to rinse yourself because there is very little salt! And the water of the Black Sea also exhibits the following phenomenon: while the surface layer of the water has a small amount of salt, its lower layers (maximum depth is 2,210 meters) are just the opposite, having high salinity. In fact, they are anoxic!

For Argos, of course, none of this mattered nor was he prevented from enjoying his swim or his exploration of the beach. After this brief pause we departed and resumed our course.

The River Bartin, called Parthenios - Παρθένιος in antiquity, drains be-tween the cities of Zonduldak and Amasra. This river used to be navi-gable, at least as far as the city of the same name located deep into Paphlagonia. Near its estuary there used to be large wooden plat-forms used for loading minerals from the region's mines into ships.

The estuary of the River Bartin, called Parthenios - Παρθένιος in an-tiquity. One of the old wooden platforms is visible.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)
After about 15 more miles we approached Amasra, our final destina-tion.

Approaching Amasra.                                      (Courtesy Costas Damianides)
Amasra (Amastris - Ἄμαστρις in Greek) is one of the oldest coastal cit-ies of Paphlagonia. The city was founded at the end of the 3rd century BC by queen Amastris after consolidating the smaller towns of Sisa-mon, Teion, Kromnan, and Kytoron. Amasra during the Byzantine times was a major base for the imperial fleet and had substantial forti-fications. Many of these Byzantine fortifications still exist. In 1261 Amasra became a Genoese colony but was surrendered to Sultan Mehmet II. Immediately the Ottomans replaced the Greek population with Turkish from the greater region.

The harbor of Amasra.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

Eventually we entered the harbor of Amasra at 13:30, having covered 62 nM from Ereğli. We were greeted enthusiastically in Amasra because this is where Hüseyin comes from. His co-inhabitants considered it an honor that a caïque sailed to their harbor all the way from Greece! We stayed two days there and I will never forget these days thanks to the hospitality of Hüseyin, Nourchan, and all the other Turkish friends.

“Faneromeni” moored stern-to in the harbor of Amasra.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

June 18, 98 The day started early by getting fresh diesel fuel, water, changing the engine's oil, and getting provisions. In the meantime, the Coban couple had organized a day trip by car to Safrabolu (Safraboli - Σαφράμπολη in Greek). The Safrabolu region is famous for its trade in saffron (collected from the stamen of the crocus flower), from which the city derives its name. As soon as all the boat-related errands were completed, we were on our way. Safrabolu is a UNESCO World Heri-tage Site since 1994 because of its impressive Ottoman monuments and its old houses of typical Ottoman architecture. The drive was im-pressive through mountains and virgin chestnut tree forests. It was un-forgettable! Eventually we arrived at our destination. The city is fasci-nating, belonging to an older era. You would think that time has stopped here. We had a first-class conducted tour of Safrabolu from Hüseyin and Nourchan.

One of the best preserved Caravanserai in central Turkey is Cinci Han in the center of Safrabolu. Caravansaries or khans are were caravan stops along their overland routes.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

On our return we stopped at the seaside village of Tekeönü in order to visit Hüseyin’s Shipyard. In the village of Tekeönü and in the nearby city of Kurucaşile are many shipyards specializing in wooden boats.They build both traditional boats as well as modern sailboats and speedboats. In all the yards they use the wood of chestnut trees from the local plentiful forests.

Hüseyin Coban’s Shipyard in the village of Tekeönü. According to the local lore, the village is at the site of the ancient city of Kromna.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

One of the boats being built at Hüseyin Coban’s Shipyard in the vil-lage of Tekeönü.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

After our return to Amasra, we visited the Archeological Museum. Among other things we saw a remarkable inscription written in Kara-manli (Turkish written in the Greek alphabet). Karamanli was devised for the Turkish-speaking orthodox Christians of Asia Minor who lived mostly in the regions of Cappadocia and Karaman.

A funerary tombstone with an inscription written in Karamanli. Amasra, Archeological Museum. Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

We then visited another worthwhile monument. Inside the fortified Amasra citadel are two preserved Byzantine churches which were converted into mosques immediately after the Ottoman occupation. One of the two, known as Kilise Mescidi (the inner sanctum is visible in the photograph), has been recently restored (but after our visit to Amasra) and it is now an archaeological site.

The Byzantine church Kilise Mescidi.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

We next went to a picturesque place in Amasra. The city is so located as to provide for two protected natural harbors. This is significant be-cause in Paphlagonia there are very few coves that can be used as natural anchorages. Amasra, at least during the Hellenistic times, had two organized harbors (the western and the eastern), as well as a for-tified citadel. During the Byzantine Era, Amasra also had state-operated shipyards that continued into the Ottoman period.

A picturesque place in Amasra.
Black Sea, Turkey, June 1998.     (Courtesy Costas Damianides)

Finally we returned to our home “Faneromeni” to rest and prepare for tomorrow’s return journey.

The sum of the miles covered by “Faneromeni” from Istanbul to Ama-sra in the Black Sea was 196 nM. Engine hours: 29. The trip lasted for 5 days.


(To go continue go to Chapter C)

“Faneromeni’s” route from the Ataköy Marina in Istanbul to Amasra in the Black Sea. For a larger view click on the picture, for a more detailed view click on Google.