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Monday, September 30, 2013

September 14 – 26, 2013 – American Visitors, Some History Lessons, a Scare from the Turkish Navy, and a Dreadful Storm…

Two happy men at Wall Bay
Jaime and Christine Tate, formerly of s/v Morning Light, came for a visit. We covered quite a lot of ground during their short time here and packed away some precious memories.
Cleopatra's Baths by Wall Bay
Of course we spent several days in the Gocek/Skopea Limani area. Jaime wanted to float like Frank in his birthday photo, which pleased Frank immensely. 

While at Wall Bay we noticed several yachts shining huge spotlights onto the shore area the first night. The next morning we asked them what that was about. This bay is home to giant porcupines that come out at night, raid the rubbish of the restaurant and often abscond with their watermelons. A watermelon-stealing porcupine you ask? They must be massive! And they are. We sat vigil the following night, and eventually one of the spotlights illuminated a huge creature that in my mind resembled ALF from the TV series, at first I thought it was a large boulder on shore, but it soon began to amble about. I jumped up and pointed, “There’s one! My God, he’s enormous!” There were actually two of them, but the lights frightened them away, so I only got a quick glance. Frank, Chris and Jaime razzed me, saying I must’ve been either hallucinating or exaggerating. No porcupine can be that large. Well…we went hiking the next morning, and as we approached the area around Cleopatra’s Baths Jaime bent down to pick up something. It was a porcupine quill about a foot long. Now they believed!

Jaime's quill find


 Next stop was Amigos for wild boar casserole and fresh baked bread, and then Fethiye. There is so much rich Christian, Lycian, Byzantine and Roman history here it is mind-boggling.

We then sailed down to Kas where Bill and Judy had recommended that we rent a car and drive south one day then north the next day to the ancient towns and villages of the Lycian way; 1) Myra/Demre, home of the church of St Nicholas and ornate tombs built into massive cliffs, the once the capital of Roman Lycia, and a well preserved Roman Theater, 2) Patara the alleged birthplace of Apollo and St. Nicholas also home of a beautiful sand beach where St. Paul boarded the ship for Rome (I think to attend his trial), 3) Xanthos and Letoon a UNESCO archeological site that is astoundingly large and intact. Great advice! We spent two full days touring these areas and enjoying the scenic drives after spending a day discovering lovely Kas with its ancient winding streets, markets and cafes.

J & C in Kas

Stones at Myra

Myra Tombs


Emperor Frankin Myra Amphitheater


Dome at St. Nicholas Church

Walking Patara Beach where St. Paul walked

Patara Beach from the road above

Tombs at Xanthos

Xanthos


We then sailed down to Kekova Roads where the water is crystal clear and you can see an underwater city. The surrounding hills are peppered with sarcophagi. It was wonderful except for three things that nearly dented our fun.  We were swimming around, marveling that there were no dangerous sea creatures in these waters when Jaime shouted, “OUCH!” A small fish had bitten his nipple! It really did hurt him and his nipple swelled up but we couldn’t stop laughing long enough to feel sorry for him. After that we were wary of the wicked Nipple Biter Fish! Not long afterward an intense windstorm suddenly came along nearly ripping our canvas awning to shreds before we could get it taken in and move the boat into a safe cove that was so overcrowded with yachts rushing for shelter we nearly met with catastrophe. Then to top it off, poor Jaime got stung on his finger by a bee, causing it to turn black and swell up.


Relaxing at a Kekova Roads cafe


Poor Jaime!

We departed Kekova roads early two days later for another day in Kas. On September 23rd, I made the following notes in my journal:
“Turkish Navy Monday, Sept 23, 2013
We had some big excitement this morning - we left Kas for Kalkan hoping the winds and seas would be kind for the trip back up and actually picked up some fantastic sailing wind and were flying! As we passed Kalkan, Frank decided we should go for it and get as far as the good weather would allow when all of a sudden a Turkish warship started heading toward us. Our cockpit mic is out so we didn't hear them hailing us at first "sailing yacht on our starboard side, this is Turkish Warship calling" they got more urgent until we realized they were calling us! I ran down to the VHF and answered them. They told us to turn immediately to 180 degrees for 10 miles and then we could turn to 270. They are clearing the area for live fire exercises. They diverted all traffic up and down the coast from Kalkan to ??? We heard them talking to lots and lots of yachts. Several were asking permission to go into Fethiye or Gocek and permission was denied because of the exercises, so we know it went at least as far as Gocek for 10 miles off the coast. Frank is angry and insisting that we must at least get into one of those ports because we had guests on board who needed to catch a flight tomorrow. They couldn’t believe we were arguing with them and we couldn’t believe our rotten luck. Having no choice we diverted, and can hear the booms of weapons fire from time to time.
At least we caught a good angle and now are sailing again - amazing to be sailing back up the coast! It's awesome!!! At 2 PM they finished the exercises so we are all heading back toward shore. We can see at least 5 warships out here. We are wondering what they are preparing for…is something going on here we should prepare for?”
 
The Warship that hailed us
We never found out whether that was just a standard exercise or an emergency drill. We did make it to tiny Gemiler Island. On arrival a man and woman came along in a little boat offering to help us stern-tie to shore. Afterward they cooked up some golzeme pancakes for us for a few TL each. We relaxed a bit and then wet exploring. During the Byzantine period the island housed 4 churches, one dedicated to St. Nicholas who was rumored to have lived here, ruins of tombs, houses and hostels for weary travelers. It’s really beautiful. We hiked all over this little island that rises straight up out of the water to a high peak that gives magnificent 360° views of the bay and beyond.




On the 25th we returned to Gocek, sliding in on the toes of a nasty looking weather system. Bill and Judy had BeBe berthed there on the wharf at Skopea Marina and had made a reservation for the 6 of us at Blue. Tonight was two-for-one dinner night. We dinghyed into the Skopea dinghy wharf, and all looked fine and good, weather-wise. We wore our foul weather gear just in case. While at dinner, however, the storm we had hoped to avoid hit Gocek with massive intensity. We watched as yachts slammed against the town quay, praying that Destiny was ok out there on the hook, not giving any thought to the safety of our dinghy. The storm was not showing signs of letting up any time soon so we bundled up and headed out to check on the yachts. We arrived to utter chaos. The dinghy wharf was in splinters and our dinghy had been slammed up under a small bridge and was repeatedly pierced by jutting nails sticking out of he concrete. We felt physically ill watching it deflate to nothing, the motor barely above water. Frank managed to fish the painter out and walk it to shore but there was no way we could use it to get back to Destiny. Bebe was getting bumped by yachts on both sides, and her stern was slamming up and down violently. Judy and Bill managed to board her and to get the lines secured while trying to fend off the Russian catamaran that was wildly tossing about on Bebe’s stern side with the crew and passengers drinking and partying not worried a bit about damage. They were pretty far-gone, stoned or drunk and could care less. It was a hellish scene. The temperature had dropped several degrees, and there we stood freezing and in shock. The night was pitch black and we couldn’t lay eyes on Destiny, nor did we have a way to get back to her. Eventually the captain of one of the super yachts offered to give us a lift to our boat when it was safe to deploy his tender. Getting into his tender took monumental effort in slamming waves that drenched everyone. We found Destiny still afloat but furiously bucking the anchor chain. We nearly broke our necks trying to board her but did manage to get aboard safely. No one slept well that night until the storm finally abated in the early morning hours. Gocek’s wharf looked like pick up sticks the next morning, and our dinghy was a mess. But the skies were clear and the day was beautiful for Christine and Jaime’s departure. They got a cab to the airport and we sent Destiny to the dinghy hospital.



The little bridge that ate our dinghy. looking closely you can see nails sticking out of the bottom.






Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 2 – Sept 13, 2013 – Happy 65th to Frank and exploring Gocek to Fethiye

Wall Bay is the perfect setting for relaxing in the crystal clear, cool water. This is exactly what Frank did for his 65th birthday, floating on his inflatable lounge chair with cigar and beer in hand tethered to the stern. The weather is glorious! 


In the afternoon we sailed – yes! We actually sailed into Fethiye, berthed at the Yacht Classic Marina, and gathered Bebe, Scallywag and our friend Riza together to celebrate Frank’s birthday dinner in YC’s rather famous dockside restaurant. Bill and Judy prepared a doozie of a gift pack for Frank. They presented him with “Entitlement wine”, an official certificate of entitlement (welcome to the Old Fart’s club!), a disc of their favorite movies and a gourmet birthday cake. I wish I had a photo of the certificate but took it home to Texas, so I can’t show it here. I brought some tacky noisemakers, a sparkly hat for Frank to wear, and treated everyone to dinner. We had a grand old time roasting the Captain. Bill and Judy’s granddaughter Elizabeth was with us, probably wondering what she did to deserve the company of this wacky, childish bunch of adults.



Bill Rouse reading Frank's certificate to Riza

Elizabeth and Judy

Paul and Glor (catamaran Scallywag)


We took Bill and Judy’s advice to book Yacht Classic marina for our winter berth. The price is great and we really like Fethiye. Their market is by far my favorite of anywhere we’ve been and the town has everything we need. Although larger than Marmaris, it feels homey and much less touristy. 
A few days later we took off to explore the coastal anchorages of this gorgeous area, and to do some recon because guests would be arriving soon.  We sailed down to Kas, visited with Laura and Mark Pitt (s/v Sabbatical III). It is just beautiful with a lovely town and nice marina but too far from any airports for us to have considered wintering there. We spent the majority of our time in the Gocek/Skopea Limani  and Fethiye areas because the anchorages around there are just perfect for hiking, swimming and eating. Nearly every bay provides homemade fresh “village bread” and olive oil or honey for sale. In many anchorages a small boat will putter up beside you to cook made-to-order golzeme (sweet or savory). There is even a market boat that makes daily trips out of Gocek, selling a little bit of everything from fresh fruits and veggies to alcoholic beverages. Speedboats in the area offer parasailing, kayaking, skiing; you name it! It is Utopia.


Fethiye waterfront

Lunch on our boat
Love all the fresh fruits and veggies here! 

Destiny with her tent up and Scallywag at Gemlier Island

market boat in Ruin Bay

Ekincek

Just to the NW of Gocek  is “My Marina” at Ekincik. Great swimming area; med moor to the wharf, which is free if you eat in the very pricey restaurant.
Gemlier Bay on the way to Kas from Fethiye, with the island full of ruins of churches and a monastery that is said to be the home of St. Nicholas. There is nothing there but good hiking through the dilapidated monastery and the tombs. We med-moored to shore, backing up over sunken homes. Around the corner are several good restaurants.
The downside – great hiking but the trails are basically goat trails with sharp rocks in many places. I blew out my good New Zealand trekking sandals.

Med mooring is very stressful because the wind invariably catches you abeam making it nearly impossible to back up with our full keel. Watch for sea urchins when mooring to shore or coming into shallows.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 21, 2013 - My arrival in Gocek and Destiny getting some TLC

I’m back with Frank and Destiny.
Sadly I spent the entire month away tending to my parents’ home and was hardly able to spend any time with my daughter and grandson. But at least I managed to get part of the house cleaned up and some repairs done. We will return in November and with Frank’s help I may complete the task and then spend a lot of time with them.

In Gocek we first stayed in the small apartment for a short while awaiting Destiny’s completed repairs and subsequent return to the water.


Frank in the apartment

On recommendations from Bill and Judy Rouse (s/v BeBe), Frank hooked up with Riza of Emek Marin for work on Destiny. Riza is actually the Amel rep in Turkey but they trust him, and so shall we. Frank has already established a wonderful relationship with Riza and his crew.

With Riza having a Turkish feast
Our first Turkish Pide in Gocek - the best we've ever had.

They are giving Destiny quite an overhaul. During transit the ship had encountered seriously bad weather at sea - waves coming up over the yachts! Sustaining two monsoons, the Clipper Aurora had to go in toward shore a few times during the passage to get out of the treacherous conditions. Destiny has some very large custom canvas pieces that enclose the gooseneck portion of the boom and mast, and pulpit at the helm. Both are shredded from the sandblasting of the desert storms the ship encountered when cruising close to shore. Right now we have more critical matters to address before replacing those.
Many, many workers are crawling all over inside and out getting us back in shape. I’m reminded of ants coming and going.
Although the boat is watertight we are finding a dusting of very fine sand, like talcum powder coating the entire interior. When we splash I’ll empty every locker and cabinet for a deep cleaning. A job no one enjoys!

It is very hot but Gocek is a wonderful little village with everything we need: great restaurants, good shopping and a fabulous Sunday fresh market with booths for home goods and DVD’s for 3 TL each. The USD is strong over here so we are getting a good conversion rate. Gocek is home to Skopea Marina, which is one of the mega yacht marinas in Turkey. We have seen some phenomenally massive yachts come in here.
During times that we were awaiting parts to arrive we would cruise the stunning 7-islands area where the water is crystal clear and swimming is great! There is probably no safer place to swim because these waters are nearly devoid of sea life but for the urchins attached to the shallows and wharfs. Nearly every bay or cove has a taverna/cafĂ© where you can berth for free as long as you dine there. We sometimes do but the charter boats come en masse and just cover us up so we prefer the hook.  Our favorite anchorages were Wall Bay (an ancient wall comes right down to the bay), Tomb Bay (where you can see tombs carved right into the cliffs above), and 12-Fathoms cove where a little ship restaurant called Amigos serves the best darn home cooked casseroles we’ve ever tasted. They specialize in wild boar. 

Our biggest challenge is med-mooring to shore; we drop the hook or grab a mooring ball, and then back up toward shore taking stern lines to a bollard or boulder on shore to hold us in place. This is essential because the bays are too crowded to swing anchor, and are also often too deep to do so. Trying to do this with any wind or current at all is nearly impossible for us. We may never master this!

We managed to do a little sailing with Endangered Species, Bebe and Scallywag in the area, before they eventually moved on, as we would frequently return to Gocek when parts arrived.
Frank loves him some Efes Beer!!

Sundowners in Gocek with Judy, Bebe, Bill, Paul, Glor

Thursday, July 18, 2013

June 20 – July 16, 2013 - Phuket, Turkey, & Destiny’s Journey to Turkey


Frank stayed in Phuket where it rained torrents every day until he flew to Istanbul on June 26th. He spent one night in Istanbul before flying to Dalaman, which is the closest airport to Marmaris where Destiny will be unloaded.

Here is a note Frank sent on his arrival in Istanbul:

“After my 1st 12 hours here are are a few of my thoughts.

I have to preface this with from where I am staying and the neighborhoods  I have been able to ride or walk through.

Everything is very clean.  No litter to speak of, sure there is a little here in there but mostly very clean.

The streets are in good repair and there is a continuous sidewalk.  

More people in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand spoke some English.  Very rare if you find someone who speaks English here. The TV is almost all Turkish or some other language I don't understand. There are over 70 channels and only about 2 are English. There aren't even English subtitles. Oh, that's right I am in a foreign country I forgot.

No bars or nightclubs.  No beer or anything else served at the restaurants. When I went out to dinner tonight I thought for sure there would be some joint that had beer.  Not happening at least in this area.  The only American food place was Burger King and Popeye’s. Everything else is their stuff.  Instead of bars there are a lot of bakeries. Beautiful stuff and all fresh.

The weather is down right perfect. A breeze and a high of about 80.  I didn't feel any humidity.  No smoke in the air.  

I think you can say we are back in civilization.  Hurry and get here I miss you a lot.”

The Clipper Aurora would be Destiny’s home for nearly a month. The crew finished loading all of the yachts on June 21st and then set off for The Maldives where a few more yachts were waiting to load before transit up the Indian Ocean, through Pirate Alley and the Red Sea into Turkey. We were in a very anxious state because the shipping date has moved well past what is considered safe for this transit. Pirate Alley is extremely active with daily reports of incidents. Without any detail we have been lead to understand that to some degree during the voyage there will be protection on board the m/v Clipper Aurora. Monsoon season is now in full swing and desert sand storms sweep out to sea from Africa. All we can do is pray that all goes well.

Marieke Derks of 7Star (we call her our Angel) kept us apprised of Destiny’s status the entire journey, from loading and departure from Phuket to arrival in Marmaris. She would forward us the reports from the home office in Amsterdam. Here is a copy of the first report we received:

Sent: Monday, June 24, 2013 3:42 PM
Dear Sir / Madam,

Mv Clipper Aurora is on route but is suffering from the bad weather caused by the Monsoon. The vessel cannot maintain her speed and is delaying as result.

schedule is than as follows:
ETA @ Male pilot station: 27th of June, 2013 @ 22:00hrs  AGW WP
ETA @ Marmaris, Turkey pilot station: around 10th of July, 2013 AGW WP

Note that ETA Marmaris is July 10th

Frank got to Marmaris and waited for Destiny’s arrival. While there he had plenty of time to get to prepare for the arrival & plenty to do with paperwork and red tape.

Meanwhile we received another report from the Shipping Company… I’m including the full detail to show what we were seeing.

Amsterdam, June 26th, 2013

Dear Sir / Madam,

Mv Clipper Aurora is on route but is suffering from the bad weather caused by the Monsoon. The vessel cannot maintain her speed and is delaying as result as cargo safety is first priority in these conditions.

Following received from the master of mv Clipper Aurora:

Date of report                        : 26-06-2013
Time of report                        : 08:00 (GMT+6)
AAA. Position                       : 05-08 N / 081-32 E
BBB. Course                         : 263  Deg
CCC. Speed                         : 10.0 Kn
DDD. Distance for 24 hrs  : 256 Nm
EEE. Daily average speed  : 10.7 Kn
GGG. Distance to go       : 483 NM
III. Wind/Sea/Swell       : SW-6/WSW-4/WSW-3
JJJ. ETA to next port     : Male 28-06-2013 08:00 LT wp agw
LLL. Comments             :     Ship's cranes are on starboard side.

Vessel is pitching & rolling heavily, ETA may be changed considerably.
Cargo checked, all in good condition.

ETA @ Male pilot station: 28th of June, 2013 @ 08:00hrs  AGW WP
ETA @ Marmaris, Turkey pilot station: around 11th of July, 2013 AGW WP. Discharge will take place on the anchorage.

We continued to receive similar reports, as the monsoon season threw gales at the ship constantly. The Aurora had to at one point go into shore to hug to coast because of severe seas, and while coastal cruising, got hit with severe sand storms.
Meanwhile I received updates from Frank as well. He was pretty miserable in Marmaris. He had booked a nice hotel online, but when he arrived it was closed for renovation. So he was put elsewhere. The new room was above a disco that roared all night long and his bed was wall to wall in the room. So he changed again as you will read:
“Ok this morning I have been very busy.  I changed hotels, that was #1 on my list.  The hotel situation has been a total fuck up.  The manger of the hotel that I was supposed to be staying in asked me if I had looked at the rooms of the hotel I was going to?  I told him it was twice as big as advertised with a balcony at half the cost of where they put me. I ask him if he had seen my room and that any thing in town including backpackers would be a step up. So I got to go back down there to work out the financial arrangement.  I know I'll get screwed on that but at least I will get a night of sleep.

Took my clothes to the laundry.  I am sure I wasn't pleasant to be around. I will pick that up this afternoon.

Talked to Soner our agent. We will get together for coffee tomorrow morning.

Having dinner with Brian and Isabel on Wasabi this evening.

I might need to take a nap I’ve been so busy. Take care and I will send some pictures.

Love F”

Poor Frank! We continued to receive scary reports form 7Star and then the reports just stopped. Apparently when in the heavily pirate-infested areas the boats go Radio Silent. We heard nothing until July 13th when Frank got word that the Clipper Aurora was at the Suez Canal. Sweet Blessings! She made it through Pirate Alley!

July 16, 2013
Hooray! Destiny is reunited with Frank after a dreadful passage that lasted just shy of a month! She is caked with salt and desert sand but as far as Frank can tell, we only lost a canvas cover from the anchor locker hatch, a cockpit instrument cover and the use of our wind instruments. The crew broke our swim ladder on the stern using it to board to check the boat from time to time, since she was in the very front during two Monsoons and a Sahara sand Storm. The goosneck cover and pulpit covers are completely shredded. A few areas of our stanless are cracked and everything looks sandblasted. Frank has not surveyed the damages yet but we paid for extra insurance for this.

Unloading was first delayed by the presence of a cruise ship in the Marmaris port, but as soon as Clipper Aurora got the thumbs-up to begin unloading, he said it all happened so quickly he didn't even have an opportunity to snap pictures because Destiny was second off the ship. Once on board, he immediately deployed the mainsail and headed south to Gocek where he'll worry about getting her cleaned up and re-dressed as she is getting her bottom scraped and repainted on the hardstand.  I'm really looking forward to joining them soon.


Friday, June 28, 2013

June 19th, 2013 - Destiny loaded!


Desinty did finally get loaded the afternoon of the 19th. Frank had a rough time of it and so did our boat. He is exhausted. I will write more later as he relays his experience to me. I had a very long trip home and hate being so far away from them. Frank took footage for me - the wind was a real problem for them. My nerves would have been shot watching this live.





Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 17, 2013 Shipping Destiny…Loading Day!

This is really happening! The skies are clear and the seas calm for the first time in ages. The ship is here, Destiny is first to load in about an hour - Whoop! Whoop!
We thank God and any of you who have been sending prayers and kind thoughts our way for this amazing window of good weather.
Well just as we got close to the ship the wind kicked up now it's blowing like crazy - too rough to load so they're moving the ship hoping to find a calmer spot.
Destiny did not load after all. We were nearly to the ship, they were preparing the deck with our cradle and then the winds began howling, seas kicking up and it became too rough to load. We circled for a couple of hours but it worsened and storms came along. They finally called it off around 1:00, telling us tomorrow will be worse than today so not to expect to load before the 19th.

I'm in a hotel room at the new little Nai Yang Beach hotel, just by the airport market until 9:30 tonight. I fly home tonight at midnight. My poor little mom is fading and I have to see her. I'll meet Frank at Marmaris in a few weeks. Frank is stuck on the hook by the beach outside Ao Pao, and will have to move to the deep water port (Panwa??) on the 19th to load. Then he'll stick around here for a week and take it easy before heading on to Turkey.
Oye! What a world - huh? Love this cruising life - it makes great stories :)

SevenStar was going to feed everyone but obviously there were no others out there today so when they aborted, they dropped off 8 sandwiches for him! They told me I had to leave then and there or be stuck on the boat until the 20th! So I got a hotel room for 8 hours near the airport to wait.

June 16, 2013 - No ship yet

We have been told the ship will be here tomorrow. Destiny is to be at the ship at 9:30 to begin loading. I'm flying out tomorrow night for Texas. Our plans of a trip to Hong Kong have been cancelled. I have to go home and take care of personal family matters. My parents’ home has to be put on the market and my job is to clean out 40 years of accumulation. They are not capable, as they are both in a memory care facility now.

Frank will be staying around Phuket for about a week before flying on to Turkey to meet Destiny on her arrival there.


The weather here is absolutely dreadful - we now get massive storms every day that bring very high winds and hard rain. Three of the yachts to be loaded require fairly calm conditions for the straps to be attached, so the loading process here may take a fair amount of time as they dodge the storms. Destiny is scheduled to load first. Fingers crossed - and lots of prayers going up for everyone on this shipment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 6, 2013 – More Venting & Another Visa extension to Singapore!



We are having real problems here. Boats only get 6 months in Thailand before they have to be "imported". Destiny's 6 months runs out the 20th, so if we aren't gone by then I don't know what we'll do.  Most of the other cruisers booked on the transport are European and have flown out to their respective homes, leaving 7-Star to hire captains to load their yachts at 7-Star's expense. There is no way we are going to leave the sealing and  loading of our boat to anyone else.

We are so disappointed and a bit angry - have spent beau coups $$$ fooling around with the darn visa extensions, and only had until June 11th on our final one. Now the ship is not due here before the 16th. So we were trying to figure the easiest and least costly way to extend from that date. We found that the minimum cost (just a couple hundred $) would be if we rent a car and drive to the Thai border, take the boat to Burma (again), but will only get 15 days, and that is a horrible trip. We never want to do that again! Meanwhile the others who are really griping and making a fuss are getting all kinds of things paid for, such as extended marina fees and so forth, by 7-Star. We really don't know what amount they are getting but do know that paying for a captain to load their boats and paying their boat fees here in Phuket are not cheap.

That's not our style, but finally we told the local 7-Star Rep. about our issue with the visas. She called Frank and told him they had a surprise for us for my birthday. They said they would pay for our air ticket to fly to Singapore to get our passport stamped for 30 more days. That was a very sweet gesture and one that we appreciated, but if we had done it ourselves, we were just going to fly to KL, in and out in one day. We want to spend our money on a trip to Hong Kong on the way to Turkey during our 3+ weeks off the boat while it's being shipped.

7-Star booked the plane ticket for us (we did not get a choice of where or what airline or date - probably b/c they were looking for the cheapest airfare from Phuket). They booked us for an overnight stay - out on the 5th and back on the 6th. Frank asked if they were going to pay our hotel, airport transfers and meals and they said NO.

For some crazy reason we had a real hard time finding a hotel for one night in Singapore - everything was booked or required minimum 3-night stay, except for some backpacker hostels in Chinatown. We finally found a room at the Swissotel. That plus meals plus all the airport transfers ended up costing us over $500 (and we used the train - no taxis!!!). The air ticket that they paid was under $300 for us both on Tiger airways. We have never been on a plane with seats so small. Frank's knees would not fit into the back of the seat in front of him because his legs were too long! He had to sit sideways. Our ticket was not upgradable or refundable. He was NOT HAPPY.

I know they were trying to be helpful and in spite of the frustration, we did have a good time (at least I had a nice birthday), but Frank grumbled the whole time about this being our most expensive visa extension and not what he would have planned. Frank said my present from him was the hotel. Now we are back in Phuket waiting and waiting. I sure hope that getting to Turkey is worth all of this because right now, we are ready to ask for our money back. It would have been so much cheaper and less stressful if we had sailed back to Penang that second week of May and sat out the season in the nice marina there, where at least I could do my own laundry and be in walking distance of groceries, etc., which was our original 6-month plan. But then we thought we would have been shipped between the 14th and 25th of May too.

OK, so we did really enjoy our quick trip to Singapore. Enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the Singapore River. Our room had a nice river view, and we visited the astounding Botanical Gardens before returning to Phuket.
views from our room of the river






travel docs for Singapore