The Dardanelles and Canakkale, Turkey

Photo: Hollywood version of Trojan horse in Canakkale, Turkey. Photo by Lisa Borre.
Hollywood’s version of the Trojan horse is on display just outside the marina gates. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Logbook Entry

Dates: 5/3/2010 – 5/6/2010
Distance: 27 nm
Sailed from: Bozcaada
Lat: 40°09.1’N
Long: 26°24.2’E

Europe and the Gallipoli Battlefields are to port. Asia and ancient Troy are to starboard. Thousands of birds are migrating through as we make our way against the current in the Dardanelles, a narrow strait connecting the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

We were wondering what was going on in the Dardanelles because we did not see a single ship for our entire passage from the island of Bozcaada to Canakkale today. At first we thought it was the submarine ahead of us, but we didn’t figure it out until we were near the harbor entrance. About fifty small boats were bobbing in the water from one side of the channel to the other. A couple of official looking boats were zipping back and forth. Lisa spotted a big “FINISH” sign on the Asian shore.

It looked like a race, but we didn’t see any boats. She looked closer at the surface of the water and saw the thrashing arms and splashing kicks of swimmers crossing the Dardanelles. The shipping lanes were closed for several hours while a small group of brave souls swam from Europe to Asia on the 200th anniversary of Lord Byron’s attempt of the same feat in honor of the legend of Hero and Leander. As the story goes, Leander swam across the strait to be with Hero, his priestess lover.

Lucky for us, the race was just beyond the place where we needed to turn into the marina in Canakkale. It was a bit of a challenge docking downwind, but as we watched others attempt the same, we didn’t feel so bad. At least we didn’t end up lying against the wall like some of the others. We took a day to organize trips to see Troy and Gallipoli and were glad we decided to take guided tours of each.

On our visit to Troy, we were prepared to be underwhelmed based on reports we’d heard from others, but we were pleasantly surprised at what we found. Perhaps arriving by boat and having read so much of the history helped us appreciate the site more than most people. These ruins are not famous for Roman columns and Greek temples, but a more ancient history of a powerful city which might still be great today had its harbor not silted up. From the hilltop location, we could visualize the legends of the Trojan War and appreciate why this was such a strategic spot.

In the afternoon, we took the ferry to the European side and visited the World War I Gallipoli Battlefields with a group of tourists from Australia and New Zealand. Our guide from TJ Tours brought the history to life with his vivid explanations and personal stories about the people who fought on this narrow peninsula. It was a somber experience to see the steep, sandstone cliffs, the mazes of trenches and the numerous well-tended gravesites of those who lost their lives here. Scenes from the movie Gallipoli flashed through our minds. After a long day of sightseeing, we were ready to push on to Istanbul.