Yesterday was the day boat owners, crew and passengers dread.  It felt like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Fortunately, we won’t have to resort to cannibalism, coconut bra bathing suits, or generating electricity with a stationary bicycle.

In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad. But, in the moment, it felt like I was living a nightmare at sea!

We had a long day planned, leaving Kalkan at the crack of dawn to cross the open water in front of Patara Beach on our way to the day’s destinations of Butterfly Valley, Ölüdeniz and Gemiler Island.  Even with the early-morning start, the sea was rough and high winds made for a colder and rougher-than-normal journey.

The nightmare begins

About mid-way past the long expanse of Patara beach, without any warning, the engine quit.  The crew hustled into action, trying to determine and rectify the problem.  It appeared we’d run out of fuel – which was surprising because we had filled the tank the day previously.

We weren’t truly in danger.  The boat was afloat, we could have used the sails to slowly return to Kalkan, but the engine was not running and we didn’t really know why.  (It turns out something technical, mumble, mumble, turbo booster, mumble, mumble, diesel injector, ??? In short, the engine was burning fuel at an astronomical rate and we ran out of fuel several times before making it to a safe anchorage.)

While waiting for emergency assistance, we were tossed too and fro on the open water – destroying glassware, a potted plant and all sense of dignity and “luxury service”.  And, to add to the chaos of the day, while powerless, we drifted into an area being used for the military’s “gunnery exercises” and were warned off by a military helicopter – twice!

On the plus side, no one was hurt, our electrical system was fully operational, we had wi-fi, and it didn’t rain.

All’s well that ends well

I am thankful to everyone who offered support and assistance, particularly:

  • The Captains and crew of the gulets who stopped and shared their diesel with us
  • The guys on a local watersport boat who ferried additional diesel from Ölüdeniz while we floated near Patara Beach
  • Our mechanic and his assistant who pulled Neşko’s engine apart last night, ordered the required parts, and will return over the weekend to complete the repairs
  • Our guests from San Francisco warrant special mention, graciously taking the adventure in stride, understanding our decision to cut their trip short by a day, and return them to Fethiye by car
  • And, of course, the crew who managed to keep us safe, well fed and in good spirits throughout the nightmare

A semi-happy ending

We are currently “stranded” at Gemiler Island until the repairs can be completed. I am happy because it is a photographer’s paradise. The crew are happy because they can swim, dive and fish. And, of course, the mechanic is happy because he’s going to earn a small fortune from this ordeal.

Like Giligan et al, we are safe and have ample food and water to keep us entertained and comfortable. We probably won’t have to resort to cannibalism, coconut bra bathing suits, or generating electricity with a stationary bicycle.

My worst nightmare at sea

Our nightmare at sea: stranded on a deserted island like Gilligan and friends.

Here’s hoping that we got a full season’s worth of problems in a single day and the rest of 2014 is uneventful. Until our next episode…


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Even with a rigorous preventative maintenance program, things can (and do) go wrong on a boat.  When it happens, our top priority is keeping everyone safe. Have you ever had a nightmare day at sea?  How did you keep your cool and get everyone safely back to harbour? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

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