As I write this we are currently passing through one of the world’s busiest waterways the Dardanelles. This is the mouth of the long passage that leads directly to Istanbul and from there through to the black sea. Every week hundreds of boats from all over the world pass through this narrow stretch of water and today Miss Catana happens to be one of them. Our destination is Canakkale Bogazi, first stop on our journey to Gallipoli and then Istanbul. Our departure point was the Turkish island of Bozacaada, approximately 20 nautical miles from the entrance and 30 in total.
In the channel our path is on the starboard side, as it is our responsibility to get out of everyone else’s way and this is as far away from the shipping highway as we can get. Every 30 seconds to 1 minute my AIS alarm alerts me to a vessel near by, and channel 13 is abuzz with Captains and the port discussing who can do what and when. Each captain is asked if their vessel is operating well, where have they come from, where are they going, what is their depth and length, what are their call signs and are they carrying any dangerous goods.
Conversation on channel 13 is constant, the good thing is no one currently wishes to speak to us.
As We Travel
Our main sail is up to assist with our speed (and it makes us easier to see) we have only just taken our genoa down. Our motors are on and our speed is approximately 6 knots but we are dealing with a significant 3.5 kt current against us. Nail biting stuff at the beginning but the further we go the more relaxed we are both starting to feel. Alert but not alarmed as this water way is surprisingly bigger than the map and pilot book pages suggested prior to arrival. In total our journey to the port of Bozaccaada will take just over 6.5 hours, with initial head wind, traffic and current it is not a quick passage.
At the entrance to the Dardanelles there is a white lighthouse on the northern side and the Turkish war memorial is conspicuous. Four massive 80ft/24 m high square pillars topped by a flat square roof make this monument easy to see. It reminds us why we have battled head on wind and rough conditions for much of the past 6 days as we have travelled north to come this way.
We Have Come To Remember
2015 is the 100 year anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli.
100 years ago during the first world war tens of thousands of young men, lost their lives fighting for the piece of land we call Gallipoli. For those readers who aren’t Australian, ANZAC Day is the most significant day besides Australia Day on our national calendar. It has always seemed significant to me that this massive day of lives lost, sacrifice and horror is remembered as it is. Few other national days mark defeat in the same way as ANZAC Day.
I don’t know if many other countries hang much of their national identity on a day of bloodletting and loss.
To put Gallipoli into perspective by the time the Gallipoli campaign ended over 120,000 men had died, every single one fighting for what they considered to be the right side. More than 80,000 Turkish soldiers, 44,000 allied soldiers of which 8,709 were Australian and 2,721 were New Zealanders. The remaining numbers were English, French and Indian. Of this total figure around a quarter of those deaths happened at the landing on the Peninsula. The starting force was 70,000 strong.
Every country involved paid dearly.
I quote something I read from an Australian soldier. “It was an absurd sacrifice of young men by old men sitting in stuffed chairs in London.”
We Hoped To Be There On The 25th of April
Over 18 months ago we put our hat in the ring to win a place from the national ballet to be able to attend the ANZAC 100 anniversary. For 2 spots of the 8,000 available spots, we managed to be around 9,000th on the waiting list. Like most of the soldiers on the actual battle ground we were losers as well. Still we are so close and this was too important a place in our country’s history not to make the pilgrimage here, hence the journey through this busy shipping lane.
Regardless of the day of our arrival, still coming to Gallipoli felt important.
As you do when moving towards something that has been held out in front of you for a long time, I was feeling reflective of what it is and means to “celebrate” ANZAC day. I was sitting on the seat at the very front of the boat feeling melancholy in my thoughts. Turkey has always been my biggest bucket list country, however for many reasons my enthusiasm has waned . Then as if my thoughts had moved across the water, a small pod of Turkish dolphins came out to cheer me up and welcome me to this place. These are the first dolphins we have seen in Turkish waters and are only a handful of sightings we have seen over the past year. Their presence seemed significant and deliberate, a sign that lifted my mood with Turkey as well.
It will be interesting to see how our visit to this part of the world goes.
I will keep you posted
PS My friend Walter would love this place with the number of ships that have passed by us