Monday, June 17, 2013

Sailing the Aegean (REPOST)

My computer hard-drive crashed and burned 2 weeks ago so I now have a new computer complete with Windows 8. I'm still getting accustomed to's slow going. When Matt set up my new laptop, he made my photo album from our sailing trip in Turkey in September 2007 the wallpaper and screensaver slide show. The pictures are bringing back wonderful memories, so thought I'd repost my original blog account of that adventure here.


Sailing the Aegean
The Aegean Sea: Sun, sand, warm breezes and clear blue waters, or, as Homer  more accurately described it, "The wine dark sea." Throw in  some ancient ruins, modern cities, phenomenal food and a welcoming crew that  cater to your every need and that was our perfect sailing adventure in Turkey with Azure Odyssey (
Us, on board the Azure Dolunay

Matt and I, along with our friends Todd, Donna, Nadine and Ted, started and  ended our adventure at the Su Hotel in the bustling seaside resort town of  Bodrum on the southwest coast of Turkey. We were picked up at the Bodrum airport by the hotel van for the 30 minute drive into town. Our excitement grew as we passed palm trees and resorts, crested the hill into  downtown Bodrum and wound our way through narrow streets and dark alleys. Our excitement changed to concern when our driver parked and we proceeded on  foot down a bustling, narrow side street and into a dark alley. Where was  he taking us? When we opened the gate into the courtyard of The Su Hotel (, we knew - paradise!
The Su Hotel is a group of beautiful, bright white Mediterranean-style  buildings just a few blocks from the waterfront, but hidden away from  everything by vine-covered walls. It’s an oasis of tropical vegetation - hibiscus, bougainvillea, golden trumpets and palm trees. The hotel cat  greeted us and led us into the main courtyard, where the invitingly lit pool sparkled and begged to be swum in. The buildings and rooms are  trimmed in bright, primary colors. Turkish mirrors, plates, pictures, amphorae and urns line the walls, enticing you to explore every nook and  cranny. The dining area is a large courtyard with comfy cushioned seats and benches around long white tables. The delicious aromas coming from the kitchen were fully matched by the great food that followed. The staff made us feel right at home, except Matt doesn’t get service and food quite this good at home!   
Matt taking photos of the Su Hotel courtyard and pool

There are great sites all around Bodrum. We explored the bazaar for spices, clothes, plates, tapestries and beautiful materials, pillow-covers and bedspreads.  Vendors sell fresh seafood along the waterfront, and there are loads of treasures to be found in little shops down all the twisty alleys. The bright, intricate designs of the pottery drew us into Vivaldi, a shop specializing in pottery and ceramics using traditional techniques and designs, as well as exploring new methods and patterns ( The Bodrum Castle sits prominently looking over the harbor and we spent most of a day exploring its collections on history, culture, shipwrecks, and art. 
Me and Matt at Bodrum Castle

As great as the shopping and sightseeing in Bodrum are, the focus of our trip was our cruise.  Azure Odyssey has a fleet of four traditional Turkish sailing vessels (gullets) ranging in size from 19 to 30 meters that can comfortably accommodate 12 to 18 people (2 per cabin), depending on which vessel you choose. Our fantastic crew – Captain Yavuz, Sailor Mustafa, and Cook Comhur – welcomed us about the Azure Dolunay, a 22 meter gullet with six passenger cabins (each with its own head). Once aboard and settled into our cabins, we headed out to sea.
Azure Odyssey has a helpful and detailed web site that lets you plan out your own itinerary, selecting archaeological and historic sites, natural areas for snorkeling, swimming or hiking, or whatever your interests are. We weren’t that motivated, so we let the crew know what we were interested in (a little bit of everything, but not too much of it), and left the planning up to them. We were lucky to have the boat’s owner, Darlene, with us. She’s from Endwell, NY (small world!) and we worked together at NOAA in Charleston for a while.  She’d told me about Turkey back then, and I’ve wanted to go on this cruise ever since. She answered all our questions about history and culture, food, language, people, the boat, shopping, sightseeing and everything else we could think – a real bonus for us!

Our five day cruise took us around Gökova Bay. We visited secluded coves at Oraklar Island, Tekerek Harbour and Tuzla Bay for snorkeling and hiking, a small island with ancient ruins and a white, sandy beach (Sedir  Island, also known as Cleopatra’s Beach), and a tiny harbor town (one store and a few houses) that served as a departure point for an overland trip to the busy port town of Marmaris for shopping and sightseeing.  We kept up a relaxing daily schedule of eating, snorkeling, eating, hiking, eating, swimming, eating, occasional dancing, and more eating.  Each morning started with our wonderful crewman, Mustafa, bringing us coffee, followed by breakfast. After only a day or two, we were plotting ways to lure Comhur back to Germany with us so we could continue to eat the great meals and snacks he prepared. What a cook!
Exploring a secluded beach.

Although the snorkeling in this area doesn’t offer the abundance of marine life found in the Caribbean or other sailing destinations, we did see a variety of fish, eels, urchins and lots of fried-egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata). These jellyfish are a yellow with an orange circle in the center, thus their name. Unlike most jellyfish, they don’t have stinging cells and are active swimmers, moving to sunny areas to keep the algae that live in their tissues happy.  We also spotted a brightly colored Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), yellow wag tails (Motacilla flava) and other common sea birds (gulls, cormorants and heron), and a flock of geese that made their home along the docks in one harbor. Sadly, the most abundant thing we found snorkeling was trash – newspapers, cans and bottles and potato chip bags. Darlene is on a single-handed mission to clean up the waters they sail and returned from each snorkeling trip with a bag or two of garbage she’d collected. We occasionally tore ourselves out of our food-induced lethargy and picked up a can or two in support of her efforts, too.
A fried-egg jelly, Cotylorhiza tuberculata.

Our best wildlife spot of all was Badem, a Mediterranean Monk Seal, one of the most endangered mammals in the world. Badem was found along the coast in December 2006 when she was 4-6 weeks old. She’d been separated from her mother, she was rescued and cared for by Underwater Research Society – Mditerranean Seal Research Group (SAD-AFAG, in its Turkish acronym). A local businessman, Mustaca Koç, and his family, covered most of the rehabilitation cost of the orphaned seal and have led efforts to ensure residents, boat crews and visitors help ensure the future of Badem and the remaining monk seals in the region. The Turkish Coast Guard and SAD-AFAG monitor Badem’s movements and try to minimize interactions between Badem and people so that she’ll more quickly adapt back to her natural way of life. Badem has other ideas.  She’s decided that people have better sleeping accommodations than rocky beaches and frequently jumps into the dinghies of anchored boats for her afternoon nap! She also likes to play with snorkelers. The boat crews help the protection efforts by letting their passengers know not to approach or try to touch Badem, she is, after all, a wild animal and will bite if threatened. But, she has no qualms in going for a ride as she showed us when we met her in Tuzla Bay where she was napping in a neighboring vessel’s dinghy. The captain rowed her over to our boat so we could ooh and aah and take pictures while she slept on. It’s illegal to approach her, touch her, feed her or harass her in any way, but she sure makes it difficult not to! (For more information on Badem, go to:

Badem, settling in for an afternoon nap.

All in all, we had a fantastic time and learned many valuable lessons. Todd won’t drink his bourbon starting at 9 a.m., Lynne won’t drink turkish coffee--ever, Matt won’t dance with Comhur, Ted will get a bigger lens, and Nadine and Donna will try to avoid men with big lenses! And we’d all HIGHLY recommend a blue cruise with Azure Odyssey to all of our friends!

This post first appeared on our European travels blog:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

2013 Lowcountry Splash--Completed!

I completed my third Lowcountry Splash on Saturday, June 1. Although I didn't have my swim-buddy Tom with me, I still managed to enjoy the event and survive. Not like open-water swims are conducive to socializing anyway...except for the outstanding party that the Splash organizers host at the end of the event...but more on that later!

Click HERE to find out more about the Splash!

Of the three Splashes I've participated in, this was by far my favorite. The conditions were fabulous---no wind-induced chop, no harbor waves, no feeling like I was being tossed around in a washing machine once I passed under the bridge. We started at 7:30-ish, so almost slack tide. A little more push from an outgoing tide and the river current would have been okay, but the smooth conditions more than made up for that.

What a GREAT morning for a swim! (photo courtesy of Lowcountry Splash)

This year, the Splash included a 5-mile swim, along with the usual 2.4 miler. I did the latter, shorter swim, but 107 brave souls headed out from Daniel Island 30 minutes before our start for that race. To all of them, CONGRATULATIONS! A pretty spectacular feat. And, since many of the faster women who would have been competing in my age group swam that instead, THANK YOU! Because of that, I finished 5th in my age group (out of 15).

In the 2.4 mile race, I finished 186 out of 389 with a time of 52:03. Not my fastest, but because of changing current and tide conditions, it's impossible to compare times from one year to the next.  My relative ranking, right around the middle of the pack, has stayed consistent from year-to-year, right around 47-50%. My first year (2010, where I'm listed in the results as Lynn Hinkley) I had a 58:08 and finished 197/399, and in my second year (2011), I swam it in 48:25 (229/490). You can see from the times what a big difference conditions can make. The waves were horrendous in 2011--everyone felt like they'd been beat up--but times were fast thanks to a big push on the fast-moving outgoing tide.

While we didn't get much push from the current this year, it was still there, most notably at the start when we were trying to stay behind the start buoys and had to continuously swim back upstream. This years start struck me as all-sorts-of-different from previous years. I don't remember the starting area being so shallow. Lots of people walked through the mucky bottom to get there. A little too oozy for me and Lindsay Shuler, who I started with (and who beat me by 2 minutes in her first Splash swim--congratulations, Lindsay!) We moved out into deeper water. The start was single-wave, all 389 swimmers at once, rather than in 2-waves, based on estimated finish time, like they'd done in previous years. I think this was because of the 100 5-mile swimmers coming toward us. Whatever the reason, the start was more chaotic than I remember! It took a lot longer for the crowd to spread out than I recall from past swims, but maybe I always feel that way and block the horror of the mass-swim-starts from my mind!

And we're off! (photo from the Lowcountry Splash Facebook page)

Once I did have a bit of elbow (and leg) room, the swim was great--78 degree, smooth water, a sunny, mild day, and doing my favorite activity, swimming. What's not to love?

At the end of the race, the Splash organizers put on a great party, complete with music by Eddie Bush, lots of good food, beer (yes, breakfast beer at the 9:00-ish post-race party! Hurray!), dancing, and games. A good time was most definitely had by all!

The finish line at Patriot's Point Marina. (photo from the
Lowcountry Splash Facebook page.)

The Splash supports some great causes (The Logan Rutledge Children's Foundation and the Charleston County LAPS program, a learn-to-swim program for area schools) so it's  not only fun, but helps out a lot of people, too! I hope you'll all think about joining me in next year's swim--who knows, maybe I'll even try the 5-mile swim for my entrance into the 50-54 age group since I'll be aging up for next year's event!

For Splash results, and more info on the annual Lowcountry Splash, click here.

To see pictures from the Splash on Facebook (and to "like" their page), go here.

See you all in the pool!